Farm Bill Energy Crop Program Spurs New Growth

New and expanded project areas for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, were announced by the USDA on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. BCAP is a Farm Bill program that provides incentives to agricultural producers who establish, cultivate and harvest biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuel.

The new and expanded project areas include 7,500 newly enrolled acres in New York and North Carolina and three new counties in Project Area 2 in northeast Arkansas. The total BCAP project areas now include nearly 120,000 enrolled acres across 196 counties in 14 states. Here are some details about the announcement:

  • The new BCAP project area, sponsored by ReEnergy Holdings LLC, seeks to enroll up to 3,500 acres with a fast-growing shrub willow as the feedstock that will generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity. This project will create 144 direct and indirect jobs to supply three committed electric generation facilities operated by ReEnergy. The project will aid the State of New York reach its goal to produce 24% of electric power from renewables by 2013.
  • The second new project area is sponsored by Chemtex International Inc. of North Carolina. More than 4,000 acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus and switch grass will support Chemtex’s Project Alpha. Project Alpha is a cellulosic biorefinery with an expected annual production of 20 million gallons of biotheanol and downstream sustainable chemicals, as well as onsite biogas for power generation. An expected 315 direct and indirect jobs will be created.
  • BCAP Project Area 2 in northeast Arkansas will grow Giant Miscanthus in an expanded enrollment area to another three counties. Sponsored by MFA Oil Biomass LLC and Aloterra Energy LLC, the project area will support the expected production of fuel pellets and biobased packaging. In all, 750 new direct and indirect jobs will be created.

Since the beginning of its existence, BCAP has had Congressional supporters and critics. But as noted by the Biofuels Digest: “A broader understanding of how BCAP creates the biomass infrastructure that can be tapped into, should oil prices skyrocket or shortages occur because of supply disruptions, might be helpful. Here at the Digest, we like the term Strategic BioEnergy Reserve, more than we like Biomass Crop Assistance Program – makes it sound more like it is, a necessary hedge that the United States should build, rather than a government hand-out program.”