Contrary to some beliefs, the Farm Act supports more than just agriculture in America. The Bill Energy Project programs provide critical support to companies and manufacturers working on innovations in renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels and other industrial biotechnology products across the value chain. These technologies create new jobs in rural America.
In order to understand the importance of these programs, the Office of Information Technology took the lead in advocating for biotech industries and ensuring that Congress would hear benefits early and often. BIO Chairman and Executive Director Jim Greenwood noted the usefulness of these programs in testimony before Congress when the first legislation on this important legislation was first introduced in 2017.
"Property ownership programs at Bell Farm have been incredibly successful in stimulating the biobased economy," he explained. "Because of the research, loans and grants offered by these programs, industrial biotechnology companies are developing new intermediates, industrial enzymes, biomass catalysts to convert biomass to advanced biofuel production, jet fuel, renewable chemicals and biobased products."
When negotiations began on the bill, BIO's call was twofold: to improve the Bill Farm programs to better support these companies while continuing to build a biotech economy and to ensure that these programs were adequately funded to be effective.
As a result, many improvements to the program have been introduced to the energy address due to BIO's experience and inputs, including the Biobased Markets BioPreferred program. The new bill directs the US Department of Agriculture to educate agencies on how to navigate voluntary labeling programs in federal procurement to ensure that the value of bio-based products is understood and priority is given to these products. In addition, the bill directs the US Department of Agriculture to develop a methodology for determining the amount of bio-content in products, and therefore the eligibility of products for the BioPreferred program and the US Department of Agriculture's "Biobased Product" label.
These improvements will allow more vital products to qualify for the BioPreferred program and raise awareness among government agencies of the value and usefulness of purchasing biotech products. The new Farm Bill also increases the funding of this program to $ 3 million annually.
BIO also called for improvements to the Biorefinery help program, which helps companies in rural America that build new biofuels – renewable chemicals, biofuels or other biological products – have secured funding.
Previously, the program required companies to produce advanced biofuels to qualify for the program, leaving independent renewable chemical plants outside. BIO has worked hard with the leadership of COAG to ensure that bill 2018 allows independent manufacturers of renewable chemicals, biofuels and bio-products to qualify for the program. The Office of Information Technology was also keen to ensure that the final report of the Committee on the mandatory funding of the program was presented.
Because of the invitation to the Office of Information Technology, the draft law also directs the Office of Budget and Administration to address all requests for the program within 30 days. This will provide a clearer timeline for applicants as to when they can secure potential funding and when they can start building their biological facilities.
Overall, the 2018 Farm Bill includes an amount of $ 625 million in mandatory funding in all energy ownership programs, and BioPreferred received an increase in mandatory funding compared to the 2014 bill.
Compulsory funding is crucial because without it, the effectiveness of these programs is at the mercy of Congress and the amount of discretionary funding allowed each year. By including mandatory funding for these programs, Congress provides the much-needed certainty to farmers, businesses, manufacturers, and others involved in building America's vital economy that these programs will continue to exist.
The Office also helped to ensure that algae could become eligible as eligible under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). While BIO was disappointed that the program did not receive mandatory funding, the bill authorizes estimated funding. BIO will work in 2019 to secure BCAP funding in the accreditation process.
Outside of the energy address, BIO worked to ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill provided a clearer description of what the vital motivations were and an inter-agency report on how best to organize them. As companies continue to develop this new class of enzymes, microbes and other chemicals to assist in plant and soil health, this clarification will dictate and improve their regulatory path to the market.
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Congress and BIO, Bill Farm Energy's programs will be fully operational in the new year. Improvements to these programs will be shown for years to come through the growth of the bio-economy.
BIO realizes that the road does not end here. BIO will continue to work closely with Congress and the US Department of Agriculture to ensure proper implementation and ensure more funding for these programs in the future.