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Federal boost for farms' renewal energy in doubt

Something new is cropping up on farms across America: solar panels, windmills and systems that convert manure to electricity.

The move toward renewable and efficient energy is growing as farms and other rural businesses look for ways to cut costs and boost sometimes uncertain bottom lines.

But an increasingly popular federal program that helps fund such investments faces an uncertain future in the next farm bill.

Some conservative groups want to eliminate the Rural Energy for America Program, saying it unfairly favors renewables over coal and other traditional energy sources. The House version of the farm bill strips all mandatory funding for the program, while the Senate version retains much of it.

Supporters say rural areas need government incentives because of high poverty rates, business closures and a dwindling population.