Includes updates for 2012 funding.
- What is biomass?
- What are potential environmental benefits of biomass?
- What is BCAP?
- How much funding is available?
- What projects are given priority for funding?
- How do matching payments work?
- What is an establishment payment?
- What is an annual payment?
- What crops are eligible for BCAP? (Specifically under final rule)
- What land is eligible for BCAP?
- What land is ineligible for BCAP?
- Who (producer) is eligible for BCAP?
- What are the harvesting and transportation requirements to qualify for payment?
- What are other BCAP eligibility factors?
- What is required for a complete BCAP project area proposal?
- What plans are required in a proposal?
- What is a conservation plan?
- Where does a project proposal get submitted?
- Where can application deadline be found?
- What criteria are used to review project area proposals?
- Who is my state-level contact person?
- Where can I go for more information?
BCAP Background Questions
“Biomass” is a renewable energy source originating from recently living organisms. Biomass is an umbrella term covering a broad variety of materials, including: wood, agricultural crops and residues, wood residues, and animal waste. The focus here is on energy crops grown for use in energy production and crop residues. Biomass energy products include: biodiesel, biogas, ethanol, space heating, combines heat and power, pellets, electric power, charcoal, and syngas.
When biomass is produced with sustainable energy crops, it can provide environmental benefits, including reduced soil erosion, improved air and water quality, and healthier human and wildlife populations.
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is authorized under Title IX of the 2008 Farm Bill and provides incentives to agricultural producers to establish, cultivate, and harvest biomass for heat, power, bio-based products, and biofuel.
BCAP has two primary components:
- Matching payments, which offset some costs for agricultural and forestland owners and eligible material owners related to collection, harvest, storage, and transportation (CHST) of eligible material for use in CHST qualified Biomass Conversion Facilities (BCF). Due to an interim rule published 9/15/11, available funds will be prioritized for establishment and annual payments for project areas, with remaining costs going to CHST applications. It is anticipated that there will not be any funds for CHST.
- Establishment and annual payments, which support establishing and producing eligible crops for conversion to bioenergy through the establishment of project areas.
Although funded at “such sums as are necessary,” BCAP funding was capped at $17 million for FY 2012.
Due to funding limitations, project area establishment is given funding priority over matching payments, as these projects will provide an ongoing supply of new biomass.
Matching payments for CHST will only be funded if resources are available after funding has been allocated to all eligible project area applications (unlikely, due to funding cuts).
A matching payment is a payment to an eligible material owner for eligible material delivered to a qualified biomass conversion facility (BCF). Matching payments are paid at a rate of $1 for $1, up to $45 per dry ton. (This program is indefinitely suspended.)
If a BCAP project area proposal is approved, FSA will pay up to 75 percent of the actual or average cost (whichever is lower) of establishing non-woody perennial crops and woody perennial crops specified in the conservation plan, forest stewardship plan, or equivalent plan. Establishment payments are not available for annual biomass crops. Application approval for contract acreage is subject to funding availability.
BCAP project area producers may be eligible to receive annual payments for delivery to an approved biomass conversion facility:
- Up to five years for herbaceous biomass
- Up to 15 years for woody biomass
Annual payments are subject to reduction based on the value of the crop and any matching payments received (see the Farm Service Agency’s BCAP Fact Sheet for more details).
- Eligible crops include renewable biomass, with the following exceptions: Harvested grains, fiber, or other commodities eligible to receive payments under the Commodity Title of the 2008 Farm Bill (the residues of these commodities, however, are eligible and may qualify for payment)
- Animal waste and animal waste by-products including fats, oils, greases, and manure
- Crops that have the potential to become invasive or noxious
- Food waste and yard waste
Eligible land generally includes agricultural and non-industrial private forestland (NIPF).
Ineligible land includes:
- Federal or state-owned land, including land that is owned by local governments or municipalities
- Land that is native sod as of June 18, 2008 (when the 2008 Farm Bill was enacted)
- Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, or Grassland Reserve Program
For approved project proposals, an eligible producer must meet all of the following criteria to enter into a BCAP contract:
- Be an owner or operator of agricultural or Non Industrial Private Forest Land (NIPF)
- Comply with conservation plan requirements for Highly Erodible Lands (HEL) and Wetlands Conservation Program (WCP)
- Agree to grow eligible crops on the enrolled acreage
Although there are no differences in the eligibility of materials under the Final Rule and NOFA, the materials must meet certain collection and harvesting requirements in order to qualify for matching payment
For a more detailed explanation, please see: Eligibility details
- Foreign producers are eligible
- No payment limitations
- No minimum acreage
- No cropping history requirement (but provides a possibility to begin a cropping history)
- No base acre reduction required
- No express conflict with NRCS programs: Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) or Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
At a minimum, BCAP project area proposals must:
- Delineate the geographic boundaries of the project using areas
- Include a description of the eligible land and eligible crops to be established and produced in the project, including potential limitations on crop type
- Include a letter of commitment from a BCF to use the eligible crops that will be produced in the project area
- Include evidence that the BCF has sufficient equity available if the facility is not yet in operation at the time the proposal is submitted
A conservation, forest stewardship, or equivalent plan is required for land enrolled under a BCAP contract or receiving a matching payment.
A conservation plan is a schedule and record of the participant’s decisions and supporting information for treatment of a unit of land or water, including a schedule of operations, activities, and estimated expenditures for eligible crops and the collection or harvesting of eligible material.
It also addresses natural resource concerns including the sustainable harvesting of biomass, when appropriate, by addressing the site-specific needs of the landowner.
Generally, NRCS or their technical service providers develop these plans in consultation with the producers and support from local soil and water conservation districts
For a more detailed definition of the conservation plan see the 1-BCAP handbook, Exhibit 2.
The sponsor must submit a complete proposal to the state FSA office having responsibility for the region anticipated for the project area. Proposals with land in more than one state should be submitted to the state office where the most land is located.
For more information about the application and any required forms please contact the FSA state office or visit the USDA Farm Service Agency website
FSA will issue a notice inviting project area proposals by a specific deadline, providing at least 30 days for applicants to prepare their proposals.
Any applicable deadlines for submissions can be viewed by visiting the BCAP Notice page.
While there is no established transparent ranking system, FSA judges project area proposals against a set of criteria, including (but not limited to):
- The dry tons of the eligible crops proposed to be produced in the proposed project area and the probability that such crops will be used for BCAP purposes
- The dry tons of renewable biomass projected to be available from sources other than the eligible crops grown on contract acres
- The anticipated economic impact in the proposed project area
- The opportunity for producers and local investors to participate in the ownership of the biomass conversion facility in the proposed project area
- The participation rate by beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers
- The impact on soil, water, and related resources
- The variety in biomass production approaches within a project area, including agronomic conditions, harvest and postharvest practices, and monoculture and polyculture crop mixes
- The range of eligible crops among project areas
FSA contacts can be found at: (link to FSA contact page)