In a letter to Farm Bill negotiators Friday, Congressional Algae Caucus Co-chairs Scott Peters of California and Darin LaHood of Illinois urged inclusion of key algae agriculture provisions in any compromise Farm Bill package. The letter is the latest indication of mounting support in Congress for an increased role for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in growing the algae agriculture sector.
Negotiators have been meeting this month to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of a Farm Bill package that would set farm policy and spending levels for the next five years. (The current Farm Bill is set to expire Sept 30th.) Among the items to be negotiated is the fate of several key policy proposals to ensure existing USDA programs fully support algae agriculture. The proposals were first introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators in H.R. 5373, the Algae Agriculture Act of 2018. One of the proposals (establishing a USDA algae research program) was included in the House version of the bill. Another (eliminating a restriction on algae in a crop assistance program) made the Senate bill. Friday’s letter calls for inclusion of these and two key additional provisions:
- Algae Research Initiative – Proposed in the Cornyn-Udall Senate floor amendment SA 3205, but not brought to a vote, the SA 3205 language improves on the Algae Agriculture Research Program language that was included in section 7208 of the House-passed bill (via Dunn Amendment #6 during markup) by providing specific research priorities and necessary authorization. SA 3205 should be included in the conference report.
- Crop Assistance for Algae – The absence of an established crop insurance program for algae production has been reported as the single greatest barrier to the establishment of new algae farms and the expansion of existing farms. Section 9 of House bill H.R. 5373, the Algae Agriculture Act, includes two key, no-cost provisions that would begin to pave the way for algae crop insurance. Modeled on provisions included on a bipartisan basis in the 2014 Farm Bill to lay the groundwork for crop insurance for sorghum, H.R. 5373 authorizes a study on development of crop insurance for algae and study adds explicit eligibility for algae under the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program. Section 9 of H.R. 5373 should be included in the conference report.
- Elimination of Algae BCAP Exclusion – Algae is inexplicably excluded from Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) payments under the Title IX Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). This exclusion is eliminated under section 9110 of the Senate-passed bill. Section 9110 of the Senate-passed bill should be included in the conference report.
- Recycled Carbon Fixes – Definitional changes are needed to ensure eligibility of carbon-recycled products made with algae and other biological Carbon Capture and Use (CCU), as outlined in section 8 of the H.R. 5373, the Algae Agriculture Act. The Bennet-Whitehouse Senate floor amendment SA 3342 – based on H.R. 6457, the Carbon Utilization Act – proposed to include these vital, no-cost fixes, but the amendment was not included in the final bill. SA 3342 should be included in the conference report.
With the September 30 deadline fast approaching, there is now growing discussion of a possible short-term extension of the current Farm Bill to give negotiators additional time to come to agreement, but ABO is continuing to work with algae advocates on Capitol Hill to ensure the best possible outcome for the industry. Be sure to contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to support algae agriculture in the Farm Bill by fighting for these important provisions.