BCAP miscanthus projects announced in Missouri, Ohio

| June 15, 2011

Northeast Ohio farmers looking to turn unused acreage into profitable land will now have the opportunity to grow giant miscanthus after the USDA’s Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding availability under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. While the $5.7 million available to farmers in the counties of Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga and Trumbull might be welcome news to Ohio, the announcement might be more important to the state of the BCAP program itself. If the Senate follows the majority vote of two committees that recently called for the elimination of BCAP, 2011 will be the last year of the program.

This news followed an earlier announcement by Vilsack in conjunction with Roy Blunt, R-Mo., earlier in the day in which Vilsack unveiled another project plan that will put 14,000 acres of miscanthus into production in the states of Missouri and Arkansas. During the joint briefing with Blunt, Vilsack commented that he believed the BCAP program will have sufficient funding for all the programs announced to date. “What we are trying to do,” Vilsack said during his media briefing with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, “is create lots of different opportunities and choices for our farm families.” This program, he added, gives landowners a suite of possibilities to choose from, while also noting that the land used for the production of miscanthus would have otherwise not been used at all.

“We are going to learn what size operations we get from the various states,” Vilsack said about all of the project areas awarded BCAP funding. “I think this is going to evolve over time.”

For Ohio, a state that Brown pointed out created the most clean energy jobs since the introduction of the recovery act, the announcement is a reminder of the importance of biomass production for use in renewable energy. “This project is an example of federal dollars being invested wisely to spur economic development and pave the way for future growth,” he said in a statement. “This investment will create jobs and support our agricultural heritage.”

Ohio Farmers interested in the program must apply by June 20 and, if selected, those farmers will work with Aloterra Energy, an energy crop developer. Aloterra will lease equipment needed to plant and harvest the miscanthus and also purchase the biomass, convert it (pelletize it) and even market the product. Under the program, the participating farmers will have three income sources coming from tonnage payments, carbon credits and profit sharing from a conversion facility. BCAP rent payments will also be issued and, for every ton harvested, BCAP will pay $45 for two years.