Biomass Crop Assistance Program Bottom Line
As proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program’s (BCAP) goal is to foster the diversification of America’s fuel supply by subsidizing “renewable biomass” alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. BCAP passed Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, which extends and expands many of the renewable energy programs originally authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill. Title IX of the 2008 law authorizes this program, among others, to develop access to raw materials and support transportation of those materials in order to jump-start a new renewable energy industry. Woody biomass was given high priority in the title. Ease
Congress wanted to aid loggers and farm-harvesters, who have a new challenge in collecting and transporting non-traditional types of woody materials, such as tops and limbs from other harvests and timber stand improvement “residue.” These collection and transportation challenges could raise operating costs and Congress wanted to be sure that the price is sufficient to inspire landowners to want to sell their products to these new “energy mills.” Hopefully, these combined efforts will facilitate the development of biomass conversion facilities as soon as possible.
In December of 2009, funding for BCAP was approved. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved $514.5 million for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation matching payments through March 31, 2010. The Farm Service Agency offices that administer the program at the local level were allotted an additional $2.86 million for technical assistance; a program total of about $517 million. However, apart from the small amount of matching payments that have already been activated, the BCAP program is now on hold until August 2010 or later, pending public comments on the draft program rules due April 9 and Congressional review of the final guidelines.
With the OMB decision to postpone funding, and without regulations for the statute, BCAP money is not yet available. FLA will monitor progress on this issue and keep our members informed.