NSAC's Blog

2011 Budget Drill Down: Biomass Crop Assistance Program

February 2, 2010

This post is the second in a series of commentaries by NSAC staff on the President’s 2011 budget, released on February 1st. To read the overview by Executive Director Aimee Witteman click here. Look out in the following days for more budget analysis on research programs, conservation, rural programs and more.

The President’s 2011 budget estimates spending in FY 2011 for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program at $479 million and $263 million for the current fiscal year.  These are pretty heady figures for a program that was assigned a total of $70 million in the Congressional Budget Office estimate for the 2008 Farm Bill, and are not immediately easy to match to the $514 million allocated previously by the Administration for the program in FY 2010.

The budget request failed to distinguish funding estimates for the “collection, harvest, storage and transport” or CHST portion of the program from the heart of the program, which funds projects to jumpstart the production of new bioenergy perennial crops in environmentally sound systems.  To date, only CHST payments have been made; the cropping system portion of the program is under environmental review.  We hope to learn more about the Administration’s assumptions from the USDA budget office soon.

As noted in an earlier post, the payments for CHST are turning out to be a boondoogle, with hundreds of millions of dollars reportedly going for the delivery of wood and wood shavings to timber mills which use the wood for energy.  The cabinetry and forest products sector is outraged with the payments, which they say are artificially raising the market price of wood for products.  USDA’s Farm Service Agency issued a warning on January 13 of possible fraud based on reports requiring farmers delivering biomass materials to mills pay kickbacks.

The issue has the attention of Rep. Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, who stated yesterday that if USDA regulations did not rein in the program, the Committee would consider revisions to BCAP.  As reported by Environment and Energy (E&E) News, Peterson said the program has turned into a big problem, adding “I am not very happy about what happened.  It is not what I envisioned.”  We applaud the Chairman for his concern and hope the White House, USDA, and Congress can get this program back on track.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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