The FY18 Omnibus provides $293,000 for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). A program which got its start in the 2008 Farm Bill as means to promote the development of next generation biofuels and non-food crop energy sources. The intent was to provide loans and grants to agricultural producers and small businesses to install renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency.
In 2011 the program was unilaterally altered by the Department of Agriculture to allow for the funding of blender pump installations, providing yet another subsidy to the ethanol [read: corn ethanol] industry. That same year several members of Congress introduced legislation to prohibit the REAP program from funding blender pumps, but it was not until the 2014 farm bill that a provision ending the use of REAP funds for blender pumps finally became law. By that time over $3.2 million had been spent on 66 blender pumps.
More recently, USDA has awarded funding through REAP to mature corn ethanol facilities for energy efficiency upgrades even though the farm bill energy title was intended to support the next generation of advanced biofuels from non-food crops. For these reasons, TCS has called for an end to the program. This would ensure taxpayer dollars are not being spent on first generation biofuels, for instance, that are creating numerous unintended consequences and doing more harm than good.