January 20, 2010
Mr. Harte from USDA is quick to accuse, but the BCAP law is quite clear about where there is discretion that the Farm Service Agency should use. It is also clear where they are directed to do certain things. (Excuse me on the FSA’s proper name.)
Specifically, the definition of eligible materials is renewable biomass, as defined in Section 9001 to include materials from national forests and public lands “that would not otherwise be used for higher-value products.” Thus the law says FSA should not provide payments for materials from these lands that other industries can make into furniture and building supplies.
While it is true that the law first states that “in general” USDA shall make a payment for the delivery of eligible material to a biomass conversion facility, two sentences later it explicitly states that USDA “may provide matching payments… in an amount equal to not more than $45 per ton.” Clearly, FSA can decide whether to make payments and what the amount should be.
The manger’s amendment described the core purpose of the final bill this way: “The Managers also intend that the primary focus of the BCAP will be promoting the cultivation of perennial bioenergy crops and annual bioenergy crops that show exceptional promise for producing highly energy-efficient bioenergy or biofuels, that preserve natural resources, and that are not primarily grown for food or animal feed.”
Several Agriculture Committee members who supported BCAP have told us they were astonished to see the four sentences creating the collection, harvest, storage and transportation payments morphed into the monster subsidy it has become. Meanwhile, the four pages directing the FSA to implement the crop establishment program have received no action whatsoever. It is called the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, is it not? It is not called the Forestry Biomass Subsidy Program.
As for environmental requirements, the manager’s amendment did describe the House bill as saying “Forest land owners are eligible for this Matching Payment if acting under a forest stewardship plan.”
FSA should have taken the advice provided in comments to the agency to include the matching payments in the programmatic environmental impact statement now under review. The matching payments would then receive extensive environmental and economic analysis to guide effective rulemaking.
We stand by the article. Perhaps the time has come for FSA to realize that not everything is an entitlement.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment