As part of the Obama Administration's effort to promote production of fuel from renewable sources, create jobs and mitigate the effects of climate change, Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a series of measures during a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.
"Domestic production of renewable energy, including biofuels, is a national imperative and that's why USDA is working to assist in developing a biofuels industry in every corner of the nation," said Vilsack. "By producing more biofuels in America, we will create jobs, combat global warming, replace our dependence on foreign oil and build a stronger foundation for the 21st century economy."
The Secretary announced several measures, including the publication of a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Under the BCAP final rule, USDA will resume making payments to eligible producers. The program had operated as a pilot, pending publication of the final rule. Authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, BCAP is designed to ensure that a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops is established in anticipation of future demand for renewable energy consumption.
"The Obama Administration is aggressively supporting our nation's farmers, ranchers and producers of biofuels as they work to bring greater energy independence to America," Vilsack said. "BCAP will help the nation's power, biobased product, and advanced biofuel industries produce energy from sustainable rural resources and create jobs that will stimulate rural economies across the nation."
The BCAP final regulation reflects policies developed as a result of more than 24,000 comments received on previous Federal Register notices and a proposed rule, and knowledge gained by implementing a portion of the program in 2009.
BCAP uses a dual approach to support the production of renewable energy. First, BCAP provides assistance for the establishment and production of eligible renewable biomass crops within specified project areas. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts may receive payments of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops. Further, they can receive payments for up to five years for annual or non-woody perennial crops and up to 15 years for woody perennial crops. FSA is accepting project area proposals and, after project area proposals have been approved, eligible producers may participate by enrolling at their FSA county office.
In addition, BCAP also assists agricultural and forest landowners and operators by providing matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities. The facilities convert the materials into heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels.