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BCAP is Back

On Thursday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the final rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program would be published in the Federal Register today. It seems he misspoke and it won’t be released until Wednesday of next week.
By Rona Johnson | October 22, 2010

On Thursday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the final rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program would be published in the Federal Register today. It seems he misspoke and it won’t be released until Wednesday of next week.

In the meantime, the agency has provided some helpful information about the rule on its website.

As anticipated, USDA included criteria to protect existing woody biomass markets, stating that eligible materials will not quality for matching payments if those materials are used for pre-existing markets, according to a USDA Fact Sheet.

USDA may have been trying to please environmentalists by requiring woody eligible material that is harvested outside BCAP project areas to “be a byproduct of preventive treatments that are removed to reduce hazardous fuels, to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation, or to restore ecosystem health.” And, of course, this removal must be conducted in a sustainable manner. This probably won’t allay environmentalists’ fears that our nation’s forests will be clear-cut to feed bioenergy plants, so it will be up to the industry to prove to them that it’s not their best interest to bite the hand that feeds it.

The final rule also ensures that participants in the program who qualified prior to the notice of funding availability, and may not qualify under the new rule, won’t be penalized.

USDA also released a summary report of BCAP funding for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation portion of the program from fiscal year 2009 to 1010 by state, which I found to be interesting. A total of 4,275 contracts were awarded and more than $243 million was spent. While Alabama had the most contracts with 568, Maine collected the highest amount of funding with $34 million. I was disappointed that North Dakota wasn’t a recipient, or if it was had less than four facilities or four contracts and didn’t make the list.

Another interesting report was on the types of biomass that qualified for the program and the corresponding number of contracts and payments. That report shows that nonfederal woody resources collected the lion’s share of the funding with more than $190 million, and coming in second was waste materials with nearly $40 million.   

Biomass Power & Thermal will continue to gather information on the final BCAP rule, and will be talking to people in the industry to get their reaction.

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