USDA providing $9.6M to create 9,000 acres of BCAP project areas for non-food energy crop production
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $9.6 million for the creation of two new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas in New York and North Carolina, and the expansion of an already established BCAP project area in Arkansas. The announcement provides the opportunity to expand the use of non-food, energy crops for liquid biofuels and to help meet state mandated Renewal Portfolio Standards (RPS).
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers BCAP. BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, helps farmers and forest land owners with start-up costs of planting new energy crops that can take several years to reach maturity until harvest, a timeline designed to parallel the construction schedule of commercial-scale energy facilities that will use these crops.
One of the two new BCAP project areas is sponsored by Chemtex International Inc., targeted for the heart of North Carolina, where it will grow more than 4,000 acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus and switch grass. The crop production will support Chemtex’s Project Alpha, a cellulosic biorefinery with an expected annual production of 20 million gallons of bioethanol and downstream sustainable chemicals, as well as onsite biogas for power generation.
The crop propagations, planting and mitigation and monitoring plan for Freedom Giant Miscanthus, a crop based on strains developed by Mississippi State University, will be coordinated by REPREVE Renewables LLC. REPREVE Renewables, based in Georgia, also is the sponsor of the project’s accompanying environmental assessment. Enrolled producers will receive establishment assistance and five years of annual production support under BCAP.
The second new BCAP project area ramps up efforts in upstate New York to meet the state’s goal of sourcing 24% of electric and power generation from renewables by 2013. The BCAP project area, sponsored by ReEnergy Holdings LLC, seeks to enroll up to 3,500 acres in fast growing shrub willow to generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity.
ReEnergy Holdings LLC, has three committed facilities dedicated to purchasing from growers in the project area. This project complements USDA’s Wood-to-Energy Initiative; it seeks to build a forest restoration economy by integrating energy feedstock within the larger forest products sector to sustain rural jobs and prosperity.
Outreach for this Area will include access to the region’s “Come Farm With Us” campaign, which targets new & beginning farmers and the St. Regis Mohawk reservation located 15 miles from one of the committed facilities.
Additionally, BCAP Project Area 2 in northeast Arkansas will expand its area within three counties, bringing enrollment up to nearly 8,000 acres of Giant Miscanthus. This Arkansas BCAP project area is sponsored by MFA Oil Biomass LLC, in Columbia, Mo.
MFA Oil Biomass and partner Aloterra Energy LLC, operating in Ohio, will continue to coordinate the crop propagations, planting and mitigation and monitoring plan. These crops support the expected production of fuel pellets for export and in-farm heating and bio-based packaging. MFA Oil Biomass and Aloterra Energy are predominantly locally owned and have sponsored three additional BCAP projects in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, investing more than $6 million in the operation.
Producers in these 28 counties throughout Arkansas, North Carolina and New York who voluntarily sign up and enter into BCAP contracts are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the establishment costs of the perennial energy crop, and up to five years of annual maintenance payments for herbaceous crops and up to 11 years for woody crops.
USDA selected nine project areas in FY 2011, which resulted in the approval of more than 860 producer contracts to grow camelina, hybrid poplar, warm season grasses and giant miscanthus on almost 50,000 enrolled acres in project areas covering 168 counties in 10 states: Arkansas, California, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.
These crops, such as switchgrass, hybrid poplar and giant miscanthus, are the first-ever national investments in expanding US biomass resources to meet domestic energy needs. The total investment in those projects is estimated to be $55 million.
The sign-up period for the New York, North Carolina and Arkansas project areas will begin 18 June 2012. The deadline to sign up for the project areas is 14 Sept. 2012. FSA, administering the program on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation with conservation planning assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners, will enter into contracts with landowners and operators in these project areas. Producers interested in participating in the project areas should visit their local FSA county office.
On 18 Nov. 2011, Congress enacted the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, limiting the total amount of funding available for BCAP to $17 million, a reduction of 96% from funding levels available last spring.