After months of debates, revisions and holdouts, Congress finally passed the 2018 Farm Bill, leaving only President Trump between the political limbo it has made its home and its life as law.
The final version of the bill maintains the $50 million annual funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the popular subsidy program that provides farmers and agricultural workers grants and other financial assistance in order to “purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities, use renewable technologies.” The program has been so popular in the past, in fact, that requests for funds regularly exceeded available grants.
The new Farm Bill also establishes a provision broadening the types of support available for the installation of renewable energy systems, stating: “The Senate amendment allows for the purchase and installation of efficient energy equipment or systems to qualify for loan guarantees and grants provided under this section.”
Importantly, REAP’s $50 million dollar annual funding can not be lowered at any point in its lifetime, from fiscal year 2019 through fiscal year 2023.
A number of renewable energy advocates have commended Congress’ passing of the Farm Bill, including the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC).
“The Conference Committee produced Farm Bill wisely preserved the REAP program,” Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director told pv magazine.“We thank the Members of Congress who supported the program that delivers benefits to all agricultural sectors and every state.”
The passing of the Farm Bill marks the end of a tumultuous year for the bill and REAP. In May, the U.S. House voted to reject a proposed amendment to the bill made by Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ). Biggs’ amendment would have entirely repealed the program. Unfortunately for him, Biggs was never able to attain the title of REAP reaper.
In the summer, a version of the Farm Bill was passed in the House but failed in the Senate that would have also attempted to gut REAP and the Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative (RESSI).
However, as we stand today, none of that is particularly important. It’s December, the 2018 Farm Bill has passed and REAP is here to stay, at least until 2019. Not a bad early Christmas, or late Hanukkah present.