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Farm Bureau Opposes Blocking Funds for RFS

If you can’t kill it, starve it.

That’s a strategy Congress can always use to block unpopular efforts by any president, since it has the power of the purse. Tuesday, as the House considered a spending bill for the Department of Interior and the EPA, the debate over amendments was often partisan, with Democrats supporting the Obama administration’s administrative actions on climate change, for example, as well as the EPA’s rule on Waters of the U.S.

The 2016 appropriations bill for that part of the federal government would block spending for what the GOP views as overreach. But caught up in that battle is a possible amendment by Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) that would also keep the EPA from spending funds to enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard. Last week a group of biofuel trade groups came out strongly against it. This week the American Farm Bureau Federation followed with a letter from its president, Bob Stallman, to all members of the House.

“…Farm Bureau urges you to reject any proposals that amend, repeal, defund, or otherwise modify or interfere with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). We specifically ask you to oppose the potential amendment by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) that would defund implementation of the RFS,” Stallman wrote. “The EPA is currently in an open rule-making process that would set the volumetric targets for biofuel for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016; that process would be derailed by this amendment. Destabilization of the current regulatory and policy environment would impede further investment that drives innovation in the biofuels space and would have detrimental impacts to the rural economy.”

It’s not that Farm Bureau or any other farm group really likes the EPA’s proposals for those three years. The blending levels are regarded as too low. However, the Loudermilk amendment would kill the RFS altogether, at least for a year. 

The amendment wasn’t offered Tuesday, but the bill hasn’t been passed yet, either.

“It’s just poor policy right now to interject something like this in the middle of rule making,” Farm Bureau lobbyist Andrew Walmsley told Agriculture.com earlier on Tuesday.

Walmsley said that a Senate committee has approved a similar spending bill for Interior and the EPA, but it doesn’t have language that would starve the RFS. Yet, if the House does adopt an amendment from Loudermilk to block spending on the RFS, that language would have to be considered in a House-Senate conference committee that hammers out a final bill. That’s too close for comfort for the Farm Bureau, which is fighting to keep it out of the House bill.

Whether the bills on Interior and Environment spending go anywhere is also in question.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Tuesday called the House bill “just more political posturing.”

The bill would cut the budgets of the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency by $246 million below already insufficient current funding levels, the conservation group said. And, the last time Congress passed the Interior Appropriations bill through regular order before the end of the fiscal year was in 2005.

“Having a vote on a bill this loaded down with riders and so starved of funding for these agencies is just more political posturing,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Enough is enough. It’s time for both parties to roll up their sleeves and hammer out a real successor to the Murray-Ryan Bipartisan Budget Act that invests in conservation and rejects ideological riders that would hurt wildlife habitat and sportsmen’s access.”

 

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