Sustainable Aviation Fuels Plan Flaw Could Hurt Farmers

Cindy Zimmerman

In the rush to get as much spending in the massive Build Back Better bill as possible, Congressional Democrats created a new tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) starting at $1.25 a gallon and increasing based on the carbon content of the biofuel, but the plan could favor foreign imports over American farmers and biofuel producers in its current form.

America’s top biofuel and farm advocates are asking Democratic leaders to fix a “major flaw” in the House Ways & Means Committee text released Friday night for tax provisions of the budget reconciliation, which is set for consideration Tuesday.

Despite farm-friendly promises as recently as Thursday from White House leaders, the legislation under consideration would rely on foreign standards based on decade-old models, rather than updated lifecycling modeling by scientists at the Department of Energy who study the U.S. agricultural supply chain, including both direct and indirect land use.

“Without a change in these three bills before the House of Representatives, U.S. biofuel producers will not be able to participate in the SAF market, rural communities will be locked out from contributing to a cleaner climate, and our nation’s ability to decarbonize the airline fleet will suffer,” said the Renewable Fuels Association, Advanced Biofuels Business Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and the National Sorghum Producers in a letter Sunday.

USDA joined the government-wide Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to meet 100% of U.S. aviation fuel demand by 2050 announced during a White House roundtable on Thursday.

Under the plan, USDA will “support U.S. farmers with climate-smart agriculture practices and research, including biomass feedstock genetic development, sustainable crop and forest management at scale, and post-harvest supply chain logistics. USDA will also support fuel producers with carbon modeling components of aviation biofuel feedstocks.”

USDA will work to ensure farmers, foresters, small businesses and rural economies benefit from these opportunities with attention to cost, quality and quantity of agricultural-based feedstock for producing SAF. The Department will conduct research to support biomass feedstock genetic development, sustainable crop and forest management, and post-harvest supply chain logistics such as through transportation, storage, preprocessing and regional supply chain integration, optimization and greenhouse gas reductions.

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