Schock Pennycress Provision Included in Final Farm Bill
Today, the House approved Congressman Aaron Schock’s provision to make the emerging crop, pennycress, one of the highest research and development priorities at the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA). The amendment was passed as part of the Conference Report for the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (i.e. Farm Bill), expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama.
RMA is charged with carrying out the nation’s crop insurance program. Schock’s provision makes the development of a crop insurance program for pennycress a top priority at RMA.
“The passage of the Farm Bill is a win for farmers across the nation, preserving and strengthening the vital farm safety net,” said Schock. “The inclusion of my pennycress amendment is an additional victory for Illinois farmers, energy producers, and ultimately the economy. Pennycress is a versatile crop that can be grown during the winter months and converted into biofuel, increasing farmers’ crop yields and reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. Any time farmers plant a crop, especially a new one, they take an enormous risk. Making pennycress a priority at RMA paves the way for eventual crop insurance so that farmers have an important safety net to diversify their crop portfolio.”
Since 2009, Congressman Schock has been a leader in the commercialization of pennycress. In 2009, Schock secured the commitment of the National Biodiesel Board to help expand the cultivation of pennycress in Central Illinois. Schock’s amendment on pennycress first passed, with strong bipartisan support, during debate on the Farm Bill in June 2013, and was included in the final Conference Report that was negotiated between the House and Senate.
“Illinois Farm Bureau has been monitoring the progress toward making pennycress more attractive as a cash crop for farmers in this state. We appreciate Rep. Schock’s foresight and past efforts to expand research on the plant’s future as a viable feedstock for biofuels. Making pennycress eligible for crop insurance coverage is a logical next step,” said Rich Guebert, Illinois Farm Bureau president. “We congratulate Rep. Schock for getting this amendment in the farm bill.”
“Pennycress shows tremendous potential as a feedstock for biodiesel that will help us improve our energy security and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while also giving our partners in the agriculture sector more options for getting the most out of our farms in a sustainable and efficient way,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board. “It really is a win-win situation, and we applaud Rep. Schock for taking the lead in making it happen.”
Pennycress is a winter crop, which allows farmers to double their crop production without increasing land use. It can also be converted to biodiesel fuel and an acre of pennycress can yield the equivalent of about 90 gallons of oil. Pennycress has the potential to produce about six billion gallons of fuel per year. The Farm Bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support and provides 5 years of certainty in farm policy for America’s farmers.
Schock has been recognized for his continued work to advance production of biofuels. He has been named 1 of the 10 Most Important Advocates for Renewable Energy by Biofuels Digest, and has received the Fueling Growth Award, given to Members of Congress by Growth Energy for outstanding support of ethanol, in 2011, 2012, and 2013.