The U.S. Department of Agriculture will resume a program to pay farmers for producing non-foodstock crops for conversion into biofuels and biomass-generated energy.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced publication of a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) during a speech Thursday to the National Press Club in Washington.
The BCAP program previously operated as a pilot, pending publication of the final rule. Authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, BCAP is designed to ensure that a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops is established in anticipation of future demand for renewable energy consumption.
BCAP uses a dual approach to support the production of renewable energy. First, it provides assistance for the establishment and production of eligible renewable biomass crops within specified project areas. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts may receive payments of up to 75% of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops. Further, they can receive payments for up to five years for annual or non-woody perennial crops and up to 15 years for woody perennial crops.
In addition, BCAP also assists agricultural and forest landowners and operators by providing matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities. The facilities convert the materials into heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels.
The Secretary also announced jointly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a five year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other "green" feedstocks in order to decrease dependence on foreign oil and stabilize aviation fuel costs. Under the partnership, the agencies will bring together their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation sector dynamics to assess the availability of different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels.
The agencies already have existing programs and collaborative agreements with private and public partners and resources to help biorefiners develop cost-effective production plans for jet aircraft biofuels.
The Secretary also discussed a biofuels report prepared by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)that says replacing more petroleum with cost-competitive domestic biofuels reduces crude oil imports, thereby lowering prices for energy and benefiting the U.S. economy.
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