The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated four project areas where it intends to promote cultivation of giant Miscanthus, a sterile hybrid warm-season grass that can be converted into energy for heat, electricity, liquid biofuels, and bio-based products.
More than 19,000 acres in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be designated to grow the grass under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
BCAP project areas provide financial incentives to agriculture producers to establish dedicated energy crops. Giant miscanthus is expected to yield 10-15 tons of dry biomass per acre.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says about 4000 jobs will be created. Each of the four project areas and conversion facilities are expected to earn about $50 million per year.
The USDA may also establish "green hubs" in the project areas where related green businesses are located.
Earlier this year, USDA announced a BCAP Project Area of 50,000 acres to establish a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and forbs (flowering plants) for energy purposes in 39 counties in central and western Missouri and eastern Kansas.
Teams of crop producers and bioenergy facilities are submitting proposals to USDA to be selected for the BCAP project area. Selected producers are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost of establishing a perennial bioenergy crop. They can receive up to five years of annual payments for herbaceous crops (annual or perennial) and up to 15 years of annual payments for woody crops (annual or perennial).
BCAP was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, however, House Republicans want to eliminate funding for the program in the 2012 budget.
Producers interested in participating in the project areas should visit their local FSA county office. The application process for the new project areas began on June 20, 2011; the deadline will be announced at a later date.
More information on BCAP: