Senate to vote on future of REAP in Farm Bill

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A cloture motion, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky) reached the necessary support to hold a vote on the Senate Farm Bill, which will take place in just a few short hours. In stark contrast to its House sibling, the Senate bill looks to grow REAP, more than doubling the program’s operational funding from $20 million a year to $50 million for each fiscal year between 2019 and 2023.

The House passed its proposed 2018 Farm Bill on Friday, with a narrow 213-211 final tally. The bill was originally voted on last month, failing 198-213.

If the Senate bill passes, a conference committee will meet in order to reconcile the language of the two bills. Once a compromise is met, the final bill will go to the desk of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ann Mesnikoff, Federal Legislative Director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) commented on the differences of the two bills, saying: “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the flawed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

Andy Olsen, also of ELPC, spoke with pv magazine, sharing that the bipartisan support of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) in the Senate, as well as the limited support the program has in the House is reason to be hopeful that the program can be saved by the conference committee.

The House bill includes language that would entirely defund REAP and repeal the Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative (RESSI). REAP and RESSI are programs which provide grants and loan guarantees to farmers and other rural residents who look to develop renewable energy systems for their businesses. They are incredibly popular programs among the agricultural sector in the Midwest, with requests for funds regularly exceeding available grants. The House bill outlines that funds currently available for REAP would not be eliminated, but dispersed into different programs.

In a statement, Olsen relayed the damage that this bill would create:

“The House should have gone back to the drawing board on its failed Farm Bill. Gutting energy title programs including REAP will hurt farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses seeking to improve their bottom lines by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This bill also undermines important conservation programs that bring benefits to farmers across the Midwest including in the Driftless area.”

A re-vote was scheduled last month, after 30 members of the Freedom Caucus withheld their support for the bill. While they would prove to support the final vote, they requested that the House not hold a vote until after consideration of an immigration bill. That was not the case, the bill failed, a re-vote was scheduled, the the immigration bill was voted on and the re-vote was held.

This is not the first attempt made by the House to cut funding and support for REAP. Last month, the house voted down Andy Biggs’ (R-AZ) Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines Reform Act (FUEL) amendment to the Farm Bill. FUEL proposed the elimination of several energy incentive programs.