University of Illinois agricultural economists have been calculating the costs for farmers to produce biomass energy crops, and as a result have created a feedstock cost and profitability calculator for farmers to make their own assessments using their individual agribusiness parameters.
Illinois Ag Economist Madhu Khanna says farmers can customize the costs based on their current farming operation, current returns on the land they are considering converting and determine what it would cost to put the land in production to grow an energy crop. Using these calculations, a grower can then determine the minimum price they would need to be paid in order to make a profit.
Khanna recommends farmers gather information about their current operating expenditures before using the calculator, such as the discount rate. She says if farmers are thinking of growing energy crops purely as an investment decision, then they should be interested in getting the same return from their investment in an energy crop over time as they would get if they put the money in the bank. That is the discount rate they should use, she says, so if the bank would give them four percent then they should at least get a four percent return on growing an energy crop instead.