Ahead of Farm Bill, Bennet Introduces Legislation to Create Jobs and Build Rural Clean Energy Economy

Three Bennet bills—co-sponsored by Gardner, Merkley, and Whitehouse—would expand funding eligibility for clean energy projects

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced three bills to boost rural economic opportunities by expanding U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding eligibility for clean energy projects. This funding would help improve electric grid security, create more energy choices for businesses, and advance the development and deployment of low-carbon, clean energy technologies—all in rural communities throughout the country.

The bills include the bipartisan Promoting Cybersecurity for Rural Electric Utilities Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), the Energy Storage for Rural America Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and the Carbon Utilization Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies—especially in rural communities,” Bennet said. “We will work to include these energy provisions in the Farm Bill to provide funding for projects that create jobs, secure our electricity systems, and combat climate change. We must ensure that rural communities are included in the clean energy economy.”

Improve Electric Grid Security: The bipartisan Promoting Cybersecurity for Rural Electric Utilities Act, co-sponsored by Bennet and Gardner, would clarify that cybersecurity and electric grid security improvements are eligible for $5 billion of USDA Rural Utility Service financing.

Create More Energy Choices: The Energy Storage for Rural America Act, co-sponsored by Bennet and Merkley, would make energy storage technologies eligible for USDA Rural Energy for America Program funding and financing.

“The Energy Storage Association (ESA) strongly endorses the legislation introduced today by Senator Bennet, which represents a common-sense update to a program introduced before the widespread availability of energy storage technologies. We commend the Senator’s focus on improving access to capital so that rural cooperatives can deploy cost-effective energy storage systems to save money for their customers. Funds made available by this legislation will help cooperatives and agricultural businesses make more efficient use of their electric system resources and infrastructure while ensuring a more resilient and reliable, sustainable, and affordable electric grid,” said ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman.

Develop Low-Carbon, Clean Energy Technologies: The Carbon Utilization Act, co-sponsored by Bennet and Whitehouse, would allow emerging carbon utilization technologies, such as carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) and biogas production, to access USDA loan guarantees, research programs, and rural development loans. The bill also would create education programs and encourage interagency collaboration to advance these technologies.

“Farm bill energy programs help family farmers and ranchers improve their efficiency, lower their input costs, and access new revenue streams. These programs are also valuable tools in mitigating climate change, which poses significant and growing challenges for family farm operations. We applaud Senator Bennet for introducing this bill, which will leverage Energy Title programs to promote carbon capture and utilization,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.
“The Carbon Capture Coalition is pleased to support the Carbon Utilization Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. As diverse industry, labor, NGO and other advocates for carbon capture technologies, the Coalition supports provisions in the Bennet bill to expand the capture, beneficial use and geologic storage of CO2 in the production of renewable fuels, chemicals and biobased products that will benefit agriculture, rural economies and communities while reducing carbon emissions. We look forward to working with Senator Bennet to secure passage of this important piece of the broader carbon capture technology agenda,” said Carbon Capture Coalition Co-Director and Great Plains Institute VP for Fossil Energy Brad Crabtree.
“Algae and other emerging technologies are transforming carbon emissions from environmental challenge to economic opportunity. The Carbon Utilization Act recognizes the important role USDA can and must play in supporting farmers, small businesses, and rural utilities in the deployment of carbon capture and use  and the development of value-added products from recycled carbon. ABO thanks Senators Bennet and Whitehouse for their leadership and vision in introducing this bill,” said Algae Biomass Organization Executive Director Matt Carr.
“Carbon utilization offers an important pathway for developing the technologies, markets, and policies needed to build a growing economy that sequesters more carbon than it emits. This bill will support the early deployments, research, and educational activities needed to begin unlocking the promise of carbon utilization technologies today,” said Center for Carbon Renewal Executive Director Noah Deich.