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USDA's list of BCAP qualifiers grows

By Anna Austin
Posted September 2, 2009, at 10:30 a.m. CST

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the USDA had made the first matching payment under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, a 2008 Farm Bill program, which provides financial assistance to producers or entities that deliver eligible biomass material to designated biomass conversion facilities for use as heat, power, biobased products or biofuels. And that list is quickly growing.

The first to make the list was Missouri-based Show Me Energy Co-op. The farmer-owned cooperative completed an agreement soon after the application acceptance deadline July 29, according to FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess. The co-op has more than 500 biomass producers supplying materials such as switchgrass, straw, corn stover, sawdust, woodchips and other biomass materials to produce biomass pellets and possibly biofuels.

Show Me Energy Co-op was joined by eight more biomass conversion facilities. According to Kent Politsch, chief spokesman for the Farm Service Agency, the list will continue to expand. Current qualifiers range from Wisconsin wood pellet producer Indeck Ladysmith LLC to the Sugar Cane Growers Co-op of Florida.

Under the BCAP program, the USDA will provide financial assistant to biomass producers who sell their crops to qualified biomass conversion facilities for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and planting eligible biomass crops within a BCAP project area. In addition, the USDA will provide annual payments to help compensate for lost opportunity costs until the crops are established, and will provide further financial assistance for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of biomass crops by matching the amounts paid to producers by the biomass conversion facility, up to $45 per dry ton.

Politsch told Biomass Magazine that the number of qualifiers should grow exponentially based on calls and other contacts. "I have been responding to about four calls per day, and they're new clientel for this agency, including small tree farmers and landowners who rent land to lumber companies and then are required to clean their land before a new planting can take place; very different from the traditional grain and livestock producers we normally deal with," he said.
The swift action on BCAP stems from President Barack Obama's directive issued May 5 to Vilsack to aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels.

For more information about BCAP, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/.
 

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