As agricultural and rural lands become increasingly important to the production of renewable energy, industries must assess the impacts of production on rural communities and the environment. Incentives should be tailored so that emerging renewable energy industries benefit family farmers and rural communities while safeguarding soil, water, and biodiversity, and prioritizing energy efficiency and conservation.
With its partners in the conservation field, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) helped develop the new Biomass Crop Assistance Program in the 2008 Farm Bill that provides project-based financial assistance to encourage the production of renewable biomass energy crops, including perennial polycultures, which show promise as energy-efficient bioenergy or biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol. The program is designed to develop new crops and cropping systems that preserve natural resources.
NSAC also helped environmental and energy groups win reauthorization of what was the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program but will now be known as the Rural Energy for America Program or REAP. REAP provides cost-share for energy audits and renewable energy technologies, as well as grants and loans for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems.