Not long after its joint announcement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regarding $47 million in funds that will go toward biomass research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made an announcement of its own about the establishment of the nation’s first Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Area. The program is intended to produce dedicated feedstocks for bioenergy and is being spun as another opportunity to reduce dependence on foreign oil and tackle the aggressively rising gas price issue.
The USDA says that the project area is comprised of 39 contiguous counties in the states of Missouri and Kansas. 50,000 acres of land in that area are to be used for establishing dedicated “energy crops” of native grasses and herbaceous plants that would be used for energy purposes. Interested parties, such as crop producers and bioenergy facilities, can submit proposals to the USDA to be included in the BCAP program.
The USDA says that selected crop producers would be eligible for reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the costs involved in producing a perennial bioenergy crop. Additionally, producers could reportedly receive up to five years of annual payments for grassy crops (annual or perennial) and up to 15 years of annual payments for woody crops (annual or perennial).
It is expected that farmers would plant mixes of perennial native plants, like switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. The idea seems to be that, by using these biomass products instead of fossil-based fuels, the nation would rely less heavily on foreign oil. Ideally, this would ultimately contribute to a reduction in gas prices.