USDA's designation of 30 counties in western Missouri as a project area for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program is good news for Missouri farmers looking for new opportunities in crop production.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced May 5 the establishment of the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program Project Area to promote the production of dedicated feedstocks for bioenergy. This project will help spur the development of next-generation biofuels and is part of Obama Administration efforts to protect Americans from rising gas prices by breaking the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
The project is a joint effort between the agriculture producers of Show Me Energy Cooperative of Centerview, Mo., and USDA to spur the expansion of domestically produced biomass feedstocks in rural America for renewable energy.
"Reducing our dependence on foreign oil and getting a handle on out of control gas prices will require investments in projects like we are announcing today," said Vilsack. "By encouraging production of feedstocks that can be converted into next-generation biofuels we are boosting the rural economy, creating jobs, contributing to America's energy security and protecting our planet. Investments like this spark creation of new industries."
Comprising o39 contiguous counties in Missouri and Kansas, the first BCAP Project Area proposes the enrollment of up to 50,000 acres for establishing a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and herbaceous plants (forbs) for energy purposes. Producers in the area will plant mixes of perennial native plants, such as switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. The proposed crops also will provide long-term resource conserving vegetative cover.
The program provides an opportunity for teams of crop producers and bioenergy facilities to submit proposals to USDA to be selected as a BCAP project area. If selected, crop producers will be eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost of establishing a bioenergy perennial crop, and can receive up to five years of annual payments for grassy crops (annual or perennial), and up to 15 years of annual payments for woody crops (annual or perennial). Bioenergy facilities are those facilities that produce heat, power, biobased products, or advanced biofuels from biomass feedstocks.
Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau president, says he supports American energy and an "all of the above" approach to reducing dependence on foreign oil. "Converting biomass harvested from our farm, ranch and forestlands into energy is one part of the equation, he says. "We congratulate Show Me Energy Cooperative and applaud its vision for using marginal lands for energy crops, providing a new source of income for participating farmers, and helping make Missouri a leader in the next generation of renewable energy."
Producers interested in participating in the project area should visit their local Farm Service Agency county office for additional information and application. Facts about BCAP also may be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap. The signup period for this project area will begin on Monday, May 9.
Sources: USDA and Missouri Farm Bureau