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ACGA applauds reinstatement of energy funding

(Thursday, July 17, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

WASHINGTON - July, 16, 2003- Keith Dittrich, president of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) applauded action this week by the U.S. House of Representatives to include a provision that reinstates funding for a renewable energy and energy efficiency program passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. The House passed its Fiscal Year 2004 Department of Agriculture (USDA) spending bill (H.R. 2673) by a count of 347-64, which included funding for the farm bill energy title previously eliminated in the President's budget request.

"I commend the leadership and initiative of ACGA's good friend, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development, who offered an amendment to provide $20 million in discretionary funding to the Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvements program (Sec. 9006) of the 2002 Farm Bill," said Dittrich. "Her leadership also helped partially reinstate funding for the Value-Added Agricultural Market Product Development Grants program (Sec. 6401)."

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program is a grant and loan program from the Energy Title of the 2002 Farm Bill. It provides grants, loans, and loan guarantees to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses for the development of renewable energy projects and energy efficiency improvements. The program is designed to help farmers develop much needed new income streams in the form of renewable energy, such as wind, biomass, and solar energy, and to help meet the nation's critical energy needs in an environmentally clean way.

The Value-Added Agricultural Market Product Development program was created to spur development of new uses for agricultural products, and the 2002 Farm Bill amended the program to include renewable energy. Under the value-added program, $40 million in grants in forty-three states were awarded by USDA in 2002, and several grants were awarded to bioenergy projects throughout the country.

ACGA, in cooperation with the Keystone Development Center, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and the Nebraska Ethanol Board is currently using matching funds from one of last year's grants to launch the Alliance for Renewable Energy from Agriculture (AREA) Project. The AREA project involves developing and distributing educational materials on ethanol and, where groups of producers are interested, giving the technical assistance needed to evaluate its feasibility and form producer-owned ethanol cooperatives.

"I cannot begin to say how pleased we are with Ms. Kaptur, a recipient of ACGA's 2001 'Friend of the Farmer Award,' and her colleagues for funding these essential components of the 2002 farm bill," stated Dittrich. "These programs will help to advance our nation's energy policy to be more reliant on energy that is diverse, decentralized, domestic and renewable."

The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. See http://www.acga.org .