The US House passed its version of the 2007 Farm Bill Friday by a vote of 231 to 191 – a vote largely along party lines on a bill that came out of the House agriculture committee as a bipartisan piece of legislation. Republican members of the committee withdrew their support for the bill when a tax increase on foreign owned businesses was added to pay for nutrition programs. House ag minority leader Bob Goodlatte led an unsuccessful attempt to have the bill sent back to committee to find more offsets for funding.
During a press conference last week, the chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research said he the energy title of the bill includes a loan guarantee program of about $2 billion.
“Everyone says we’re too dependent on foreign energy in this country,” said Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA). “This bill allows us to take a giant step forward to take advantage of our agriculture and natural resources for cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel with this loan guarantee program.”
However, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says all the money for cellulosic ethanol research in the House bill is discretionary funding, “which around here means you’ll never see that funding.” Johanns claims that the majority of the funding in the House bill energy title is set aside to buy sugar for ethanol production. “So taxpayers will be buying sugar at twice the world price and then selling it for ethanol.” Johanns says the administration is prepared to veto the farm bill if the final version turns out like the House bill.
The farm bill process is only just beginning. The Senate now must pass its own version of the bill, which is expected to be significantly different than the House version and then it will be on to a conference committee. The current bill expires at the end of September, but since the Senate will not even start work on it until after the August recess, a continuing resolution is likely to be passed to give Congress a few more months.
Meanwhile, the Renewable Fuels Association welcomed House passage of the H.R. 2419, the “Farm, Nutrtion, and Bioenergy Act of 2007.” RFA President Bob Dinneen said in a statement, “We are at a crossroads in this country with respect to our energy future. We can continue on with the status quo and become more vulnerable to the whims of oil cartels around the world. Or, we can invest in American imagination and hard work and move down the path of a more stable, secure energy future. This farm bill clearly takes a step down the latter.” Most major ag organizations have also come out in support of the House bill.