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Turbulence in the farm bill for "sustainable" aviation fuel

Illustrated collage of airplanes and shipping containers.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

There's a potential jurisdictional issue with the "sustainable" aviation industry's big ask for the farm bill.

Why it matters: Ethanol and aviation have teamed up to try to win big in Washington. But they're hitting turbulence.

Driving the news: House Ag Chair Glenn "GT" Thompson told Axios on Tuesday that the Farm to Fly Act can't be in the House's farm bill.

  • He said the Energy and Commerce Committee will also have to consider the legislation. E&C officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Catch up quick: We explained last week that airlines and ethanol industry reps wrote top farm bill negotiators requesting that the Farm to Fly Act be included in the final agriculture policy package.

  • The bipartisan bill would allow federal officials to use an emissions modeling tool, known as GREET, for the IRA credit and other programs. Ethanol producers prefer the model.

What they're saying: "It's not really in our jurisdiction, the entire [bill]," Thompson said outside the House chamber. "I think we're going to be supportive of the concept, [and] I'm certainly supportive of the bill."

  • Thompson added that he thinks "there'll be something in there that's supportive" of "sustainable" aviation fuel but didn't disclose what that will look like.

Zoom in: An outline of the Senate farm bill released last week included a reference to allowing "sustainable" aviation fuel projects to newly qualify for additional federal biofuel grants.

Both the House and Senate versions of the Farm-to-Fly Act have been referred only to the relevant Agriculture committees (it wasn't initially referred to House E&C, per Congress.gov).

  • Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper said in a statement that SAF issues like "carbon modeling" fall "squarely within the purview and jurisdiction of the Agriculture committees."
  • And Marli Collier of Airlines for America said, "[W]e remain hopeful that [Farm to Fly] makes its way into a final version of the farm bill."

What we're watching: Some industry reps have loosely floated to Jael an SAF amendment push around the farm bill, so we'll be on the lookout.

  • Tammy Duckworth, who sponsored the Senate version of Farm to Fly, said Tuesday that she's going to "keep pushing [the] GREET model into every bill I can."
  • Duckworth mentioned the NDAA as another target. "If you're not using the right model, it just undercuts American producers," she said.
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