- The Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30 and an agreement between the House and the Senate is unlikely to come before the midterm elections on Nov. 6, as reported by Politico. The latest version of the Senate's bill has multiple food waste and biogas provisions.
- These provisions include a study to evaluate how food waste is measured, funding to support "harvesting, processing, or packaging" donated agricultural items which can be used to fight food insecurity, and money for composting and food waste reduction pilot projects in at least 10 states. The bill also orders the USDA to create new guidance about protections under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that pertain to qualified direct donors, such as grocery stores.
- An amendment to the bill would also create an Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force that will coordinate policies, programs and research.
Whenever the proposed Farm Bill is eventually passed, it could pump a significant amount of capital and investment into the national biogas industry and help reduce food waste — both of which can be seen as a net positive for the waste industry as whole.
Now that it has expired, two key programs remain in place: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and crop insurance. Together, these programs make up 90% of spending, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Perhaps most relevant to the waste industry in this scenario is that incentives to encourage the production of biofuels from perennial crops will also expire.
Conversely, the proposed Farm Bill, if approved by both chambers of Congress after the midterm elections, could be a boon to both food waste reduction advocates and the biogas sector. These issues are said to remain a federal priority, in the form of a shared goal led by the EPA and USDA to halve food waste by 2030. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue reiterated he will make food waste reduction a priority during his tenure.
Many hope this topic can avoid becoming political because it appeals to be people on multiple fronts – job creation, economic development and environmental action.
With Congress sharply divided along party lines, bipartisan issues feel increasingly rare. An investment in biogas, however, could find broad bipartisan support based on recent activity. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Rep. David Young (R-IA) created a Food Waste Caucus in May; Rep. Elise Stefanik, (R-NY) has introduced biogas- and WTE-boosting measures in the past; and it's a Democrat, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who introduced the biogas amendments to the Farm Bill.