An additional 9,000 acres in New York and North Carolina, and the expansion of an area in Arkansas, is being set aside as part of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project. USDA announced $9.6 million will be spent to fund this latest effort to use more non-food crops for the production of biofuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol:
“Increasing the production of renewable, home-grown fuels is vital to reducing our country’s reliance on foreign oil, while creating good-paying jobs and diversifying the agriculture economy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These projects are the foundation for an even stronger energy future in rural America. Because most energy crops are perennial and take time to mature before harvest, BCAP is designed so that sufficient quantities of feedstock will be available to meet future demand. Most importantly: these crops can grow where other crops cannot, providing farmers with new opportunities to diversify into more markets.”
In North Carolina, 4,000 acres is being put into Freedom® Giant Miscanthus and switch grass to support Chemtex International Inc.’s Project Alpha, a cellulosic biorefinery expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol and sustainable chemicals. Upstate New York will be seeing up to 3,500 acres in fast growing shrub willow to generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity for ReEnergy Holdings LLC. Finally, BCAP Project Area 2 in northeast Arkansas is expanding its enrollment up to nearly 8,000 acres of Giant Miscanthus, sponsored Missouri-based MFA Oil Biomass.
Under BCAP, producers get reimbursed up to 75 percent of what it costs to establish these perennial energy crops, plus five years of maintenance payments for herbaceous crops and up to 11 years for woody crops.
USDA officials point out that this program helps the Renewable Fuels Standard, which calls for 20 billion gallons more in just 10 years of non-corn based biofuels.