Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today $9.6 million for the creation of two new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas in New York and North Carolina, and the expansion of an already established BCAP project area in Arkansas. The announcement provides the opportunity to expand the nation's non-food, energy crops used in the manufacturing of liquid biofuels and to help meet state mandated Renewal Portfolio Standards (RPS).
"Increasing the production of renewable, home-grown fuels is vital to reducing our country's reliance on foreign oil, while creating good-paying jobs and diversifying the agriculture economy," said Vilsack. "These projects are the foundation for an even stronger energy future in rural America. Because most energy crops are perennial and take time to mature before harvest, BCAP is designed so that sufficient quantities of feedstock will be available to meet future demand. Most importantly: these crops can grow where other crops cannot, providing farmers with new opportunities to diversify into more markets."
USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers BCAP. BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, helps farmers and forest land owners with start-up costs of planting new energy crops that can take several years to reach maturity until harvest, a timeline designed to parallel the construction schedule of commercial-scale energy facilities that will use these crops. BCAP is the only federal program that ensures sufficient biomass is available to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce pollution and spur rural economic development and job creation.
One of the two new BCAP project areas is sponsored by Chemtex International Inc., targeted for the heart of North Carolina, where it will grow more than 4,000 acres of Freedom® Giant Miscanthus and switch grass. The crop production will support Chemtex's Project Alpha, a cellulosic biorefinery with an expected annual production of 20 million gallons of bioethanol and downstream sustainable chemicals, as well as onsite biogas for power generation. Project Alpha expects to create 65 direct jobs and 250 indirect jobs. The crop propagations, planting and mitigation and monitoring plan for Freedom® Giant Miscanthus, a crop based on strains developed by Mississippi State University, will be coordinated by REPREVE Renewables LLC. REPREVE Renewables, based in Georgia, also is the sponsor of the project's accompanying environmental assessment. Enrolled producers will receive establishment assistance and five years of annual production support under BCAP.