Growing sustainable biomass (plant material, vegetation, and agricultural waste) for renewable energy production can be a win-win for farmers and our country as a whole. Thanks to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), farmers are able to receive funding to offset some of the cost of experimenting with growing crops for bioenergy production. BCAP is intended to promote the cultivation of bioenergy crops that show promise for producing highly energy-efficient, advanced bioenergy or biofuels, and to develop those new crops and cropping systems in a manner that preserves natural resources.
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Administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), BCAP provides incentives to help farmers grow advanced bioenergy feedstocks (crops that are well-suited to be turned into energy) and connect with relevant refineries in their area. BCAP is not intended to fund crops that are primarily grown for food or animal feed. Both farmers and bioenergy production facilities participate in BCAP through “projects.”
Farmers participating in a BCAP project will be eligible to enter into a 5-year agreement with USDA to establish annual or perennial crops or a 15-year agreement for woody biomass. BCAP provides:
Under the contract with USDA, producers participating in a BCAP project are eligible to receive the following types of payments:
USDA has the discretion to reduce an annual payment, if:
In addition to biomass establishment and production payments under a BCAP project, USDA also can also pay producers or other eligible individuals for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation (CHST) of an eligible crop on land under a BCAP contract. The payments are to be provided on a matching basis at a rate of $1 for each $1-per-ton provided by the biomass conversion facility, up to an amount not to exceed $20 per ton, for a period of two years.
Agricultural land and non-industrial private forestlands within a BCAP project area are eligible for funding. The following lands are not eligible for project payments:
In general, the term ‘eligible material’ means renewable biomass harvested directly from the land, including crop residue from any crop, such as corn, that is eligible to receive commodity payments under Title I of the 2014 Farm Bill. The following are not eligible for payments:
Under a BCAP contract, producers are required to implement a conservation or forest stewardship plan in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
For CHST, woody biomass may be collected from federal land if the person has rights to collect such wood and if the material collected is a byproduct of preventative treatment that is removed to reduce hazardous fuels or to reduce disease or insect infestation.
Since 2008, USDA has spent $63 million to help 880 farmers, ranchers, and nonindustrial forestland owners establish and maintain bioenergy feedstocks on 53,115 acres in BCAP project areas. USDA spent another $248 million on biomass collection, harvest, storage and transportation during this period.
BCAP funding has been used to:
Read more about how BCAP has helped farmers produce valuable biofuel crops:
A proposal for a BCAP project is submitted to the USDA by a project “sponsor,” defined as either a biomass conversion facility or a group of producers who own or operate acreage within a specified project area.
The 2014 Farm Bill limits mandatory funding to $25 million per year through 2018. Of that amount, USDA must use between 10 and 50 percent for CHST payments. The remaining funds are used to make project payments to producers and to provide technical assistance. The program will need new funding in the next farm bill in order to continue as a farm bill-funded program after 2018.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program Funds
|Fiscal Year||Total Funding Available (millions)|
|5 yr total||$125|
|10 yr total||$125|
Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2014 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committees decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.
Section 9010 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 9011 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 8111.
Last updated in October 2014.