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June 24 2013

The Farm Bill: Meddling in Energy

Emily Wismer

Last week, the Farm Bill surprised Democrats and Republicans alike and failed to pass the House of Representatives. Now, lawmakers are back at the drawing board. 

But Thursday’s vote should come as little surprise. Long ago, the Farm Bill went off the rails and overstepped its original purpose. It was stuffed with congressional favors that manipulate our food supply and give unfair advantages to favored producers, while undercutting the competitive edge of others. What is a less known fact is that energy producers got wind of the Farm Bill’s freebies and managed to get some for themselves.

The House version of the bill, which failed last week, includes $243 million for energy, including handouts for biofuels and energy-efficiency programs. According to the Washington Post, the bill “also provides funding to help develop biochemicals and bioplastics industries, in an attempt to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels,” because, well, taxpayers can afford to invest in more expensive forms of energy.

The Senate Bill is even worse. According to Midwest Energy News:

The Senate bill… provides $900 million in mandatory funding over five years for the Rural Energy Assistance Program (REAP), the Biomass Crop Assistance Program(BCAP), and related programs. REAP supports a wide range of clean energy technologies: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and a wide range of science as well…

Examples of projects in the Midwest include solar panels for Pinehold Gardens in Wisconsin, wind power for Nobles Cooperative Electric in Minnesota, a geothermal heat system for the Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative, an energy curtain for greenhouses at Green Circle Growers in Ohio, and an anaerobic animal waste digester at Hunter Haven Farms in Illinois.

The problem is that instead of leaving competitive biofuel development to business developers who risk their own money and are adept at making these projects succeed, BCAP bureaucrats attempt to develop & commercialize the industry themselves, which rarely results in an affordable, sustainable product.

Here’s a better idea: instead of attempting to run industries using tax dollars taken out of the economy, Congress should liberate industries to compete. This would lead to a stronger energy sector and greater, not less, fiscal health.

Let’s not further complicate markets already distorted by thousands of regulations and subsidies—Let’s free them up.

Congress should remove wasteful subsidies and give energy producers and developers the freedom to do what they do best: find the best way to make a profit on the cheapest forms of energy.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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