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Farm bill's aviation X factor

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Apr 30, 2024
Illustration of an ear of corn with hundred dollar bills as the husk.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The farm bill is beginning to collide with the aviation sector's climate efforts.

Why it matters: The climate-smart ag money that's key to farm bill negotiations is relevant to the push to make more "sustainable" aviation fuel — and the IRA's benefit to industry.

Driving the news: Airlines and ethanol reps recently wrote top farm bill negotiators asking them to include the Farm to Fly Act. It would specify government use of a specific model for the IRA aviation fuel credit to let "climate-smart" ethanol blends qualify.

  • We're awaiting a final answer from the administration on whether it'll let ethanol into the equation. News may come as soon as today.
  • But for now it's clear that the farm bill is the industry's backup plan.

Between the lines: Aviation's unification with ethanol could create a potent political coalition for keeping climate-smart ag money in the bill.

  • The climate-smart money is already going toward "sustainable" aviation fuel projects, including a major effort from fuel startup Gevo.

As we've explained, Republicans have wanted to remove the climate requirements on the money and let it flow into broader farmland conservation programs.

  • House Democrats have dug in against the idea, telling Republicans in a memo last week obtained by Axios that the bill "must maintain the climate sideboards." (They bolded it in the doc themselves.)

What's next: Dusty Johnson, who chairs House Ag's commodity markets subcommittee, said he expects a farm bill before Memorial Day … though we've been talking about ETAs for a while now.

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