USDA supports 51,000 camelina acres in new BCAP announcement

By Erin Voegele | July 26, 2011

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the creation of four new Biomass Crop Assistance Program project areas to expand the availability of feedstock for biofuels. The new project areas set aside acres in California, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington for the production of renewable energy crops.

Two of the new BCAP project areas, targeted for California, Montana, Washington and Oregon, will grow camelina. The target for the project is 51,000 acres. According to the USDA, biofuel from camelina is an ideal jet fuel substitute. “The announcement of these projects coincides with the first anniversary of a joint announcement by USDA, the Boeing Crop and Air Transportation association on the initiative to bring sustainable and renewable aviation fuels to the market,” said the department in the announcement. Sponsors of the project area include Oregon-based Beaver Biodiesel LLC and Washington-based AltAirFuels LLC. According to the USDA, the project areas are near biomass conversion facilities in Bakersfield, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., and Albany, Ore.

The third new BCAP project area, sponsored by ZeaChem Inc., will encourage the growth of hybrid poplar trees in Oregon. The USDA notes the goal is to enroll up to 7,000 acres in the project area. “This project is part of a series of measures that comprise USDA’s Wood-to-Energy initiative,” said the department. “It seeks to build a forest restoration economy by integrating energy feedstock within the larger forest products sector to sustain rural jobs and prosperity.

The fourth new BCAP project area has been designated to grow up to 20,000 acres of switchgrass in areas of Kansas and Oklahoma. The project area is sponsored by Abengoa Biofuels and surrounds the company’s future conversion facility in Hugoton, Kan.

“The Obama Administration is committed to providing financial opportunities to rural communities, farmers and ranchers to produce biomass which will be converted to renewable fuels and increase America's energy independence,” said Vilsack. “The selection of these project areas is another step in the effort to assist the nation's advanced biofuel industry to produce energy in commercial quantities from sustainable rural resources. This effort will create jobs and stimulate rural economies across the nation.”

The Biotechnology Industry Organization has spoken out in support of the announcement and BCAP program. “Establishing bioenergy crops is a prerequisite for building commercial-scale advanced biorefineries for biofuels, biobased products and bioenergy,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section. “The Farm Bill Energy Title programs, such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, help growers, financers and biorefiners coordinate their efforts to build the industry from the ground up with a fully integrated supply chain. The rules for many of these programs have only recently been finalized, and we greatly appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s efforts to speedily implement them.”

Earlier in 2011 the USDA announced five other BCAP project areas covering 250,000 acres in 66 counties spanning Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio. With the addition of four new project areas, the BCAP program continues to grow. The USDA estimates that the new project areas will create more than 3,400 jobs in the biorefining, agriculture and supporting sectors, while providing feedstocks to produce more than 2 million gallons of biofuel annually when full production levels are achieved.

USDA has allocated approximately $45 million for contracts that range between less than five years up to 15 years in the four project areas for producers who volunteer to enroll in BCAP. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the establishment costs of the perennial energy crop, and up to five years of annual maintenance payments for herbaceous crops and up to 15 years for woody crops.

The sign-up period for these four new project areas will begin on Aug. 8. The deadline to sign up for the project areas is Sept. 16. The Farm Service Agency, 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.


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