Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of four additional Biomass Crop Assistance Program project areas in six states to expand the availability of non-food crops to be used in the manufacturing of liquid biofuels. The four project areas set aside acres in California, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington for the production of renewable energy crops. According to industry estimates, these projects will create more than 3,400 jobs in the biorefinery, agriculture and supporting sectors, and provide the feedstocks to produce more than 2 million gallons of biofuels annually when full production levels are achieved.
"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."
BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, helps farmers and forest land owners with start-up costs of planting non-food energy crops for conversion to heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels. BCAP is designed to ensure sufficient biomass is available to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce pollution and spur rural economic development and job creation.
Two of the new BCAP project areas, targeted for California, Montana, Washington and Oregon, will grow camelina at a significant scale. Camelina, an oilseed, is a rotation crop for wheat that can be established on marginally productive land. Biofuel from camelina is an ideal jet fuel substitute, and the announcement of these projects coincides with the first anniversary of a joint announcement by USDA, the Boeing Corporation and the Air Transportation Association on an initiative to bring sustainable and renewable aviation fuels to the marketplace. The project has a target of 51,000 acres. The sponsors are Beaver Biodiesel, LLC and AltAir Fuels LLC. The project areas are near biomass conversion facilities in Bakersfield, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., and Albany, Ore.
Another BCAP project area, part of an effort sponsored by cellulosic biofuels company ZeaChem, will encourage growth of hybrid poplar trees in Oregon. The goal is to enroll up to 7,000 acres. This project is part of a series of measures that comprise 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. The project area surrounds a biomass conversion facility in Boardman, Ore.
Additionally, a BCAP project area in Kansas and Oklahoma, sponsored by Abengoa Biofuels, has been designated to grow up to 20,000 acres of switchgrass. The project area surrounds the future facility's biomass conversion facility in Hugoton, Kan.
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. According to industry estimates, more than 3,400 jobs in the biorefinery, agriculture and supporting sectors will be created due to these new BCAP project areas, with more than 2 million gallons annually of biofuels manufactured when full production levels are achieved.
Earlier this year, USDA announced five BCAP project areas where energy crops will be grown on up to 250,000 acres in 66 counties in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio. These crops, such as switchgrass and giant miscanthus, are the first-ever national investments in expanding U.S. biomass resources to meet domestic energy security.
The sign-up period for these four new project areas will begin on Aug. 8, 2011. The deadline to sign up for the project areas is Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. 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. Information about BCAP may be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.