Bipartisan Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act Introduced in U.S. Senate

New legislation introduced in the Senate could bring good news for the biogas industry, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy efforts nationwide.

Through the new Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2017, legislation would renew efforts to appropriate Income Tax Credits (ITC’s) to biogas nutrient recovery systems—namely, biogas agricultural businesses with technologies working to retain organic matter nutrients for protecting groundwater, while slashing carbon emissions.

The same bill was introduced in the Senate last year in 2016, but did not go through.

The Act would represent a bipartisan effort to incentivize better nutrient management around the country, especially for dairy operations and family farms in high dairy-producing regions. Introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), it could be the leg up biogas efforts and aspiring anaerobic digester builders need.

Said Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council in their recent press release, “When we incentivize sustainable farming that includes recycling of organic material and nutrients, we create beneficial soil products, baseload renewable energy and jobs while protecting our watersheds.”

The goals of the biogas industry are to produce clean energy while reducing methane carbon emissions and nutrient runoff into groundwater. Through use of anaerobic digesters, recycling and processing of manure creates renewable and sellable energy.. The hitch: these digesters need considerable startup to be sustainable and self-funding over the long term.

While many dairy farmers want—or are mandated by law—to do their part cutting down emissions and runoff, most are not able to afford construction of an anaerobic dairy digester, nor are there any incentives to do so yet unlike the generous government benefits fossil fuel companies have received over the last century.

Fortunately with this bill, there is a very real recognition for a need for these incentives in Washington.

Said Serfass, “We thank Senators Brown and Roberts for their strong recognition of the need for clean waterways and more productive soils which contribute to healthier communities and a stronger economy. Biogas and nutrient recovery systems make these goals obtainable and this legislation will help incentivize those technologies.”

 

The bill would amend and extend the Internal Revenue Code to allow ITC’s for biogas businesses and projects. These ITC’s would be available through 2021 for “qualified gas property” and “qualified manure resource recovery” specifically. This includes anaerobic dairy digesters that capture methane for reuse as fuel, as well as costs from any facilities used or built to process that fuel.

This time around in 2017, we hope the renewed Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act will pass. This would not just incentivize anaerobic digester construction: it would also create renewable energy, reduce emissions, and lend to a fast-growing industry that could create around 300,000 new jobs.

Said Matt Carr, Executive Director of the Algae Biomass Association, “…the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act will help farmers recycle valuable ag nutrients back into their operations and reduce the taxpayer burden of recovering those nutrients downstream. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Senator Pat Roberts–(KS)

Senator Sherrod Brown–(OH)