The federal government continues to expand its Biomass Crop Assistance Program that provides financial incentives for producers of various biomass products. In one of the latest moves, the US Dept. of Agriculture announced July 26, 2011, it has selected project areas for growing camelina (an oilseed for jet fuel), poplar trees (feedstock for cellulosic ethanol), and switchgrass (also feedstock for cellulosic ethanol).
- "Secretary Vilsack Announces Biomass Production Projects to Promote Renewable Energy Development and Create Jobs in Rural America," Agriculture Department Release of July 26, 2011.
You may find a local story by looking at biofuel companies in your area. The project areas are in 6 states.
- Camelina: Target of 51,000 acres in CA, OR, WA, and MT, near biomass conversion facilities in Bakersfield, CA, Tacoma, WA, and Albany, OR; sponsors are Beaver Biodiesel and AltAir Fuels.
- Poplar trees: Target of 7,000 acres in OR, surrounding a biomass conversion facility in Boardman; sponsor is ZeaChem.
- Switchgrass: Target of 20,000 acres in KS and OK, surrounding a future biomass conversion facility in Hugoton, KS; sponsor is Abengoa Biofuels.
USDA has set aside about $45 million for the funding incentives that can cover various aspects of growth and production. Farmers who apply for the program by the Sept. 16, 2011, deadline and are selected will have contracts ranging from 5 to 15 years.
There are a host of issues surrounding each crop, regarding costs, potential funding cuts later this year as part of the overall federal budget crisis, geographic and soil suitability, environmental and health impacts, genetic modification of plants, education of farmers, market acceptance, and other factors. These federal jumpstart efforts provide a hook for covering both the specific projects and the big picture for each crop.
For one example of media coverage of the BCAP announcement, see:
- "Montana Farms Targeted for Biofuels Program," Billings Gazette, July 26, 2011, by Tom Lutey.
Previous Story: For information on other recent federal biomass incentive efforts, and more details about how the funding works, see the TipSheet of July 6, 2011.