June 3, 2015
On Monday, June 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $19.5 million for the production of energy crops and the harvest and delivery of forest or agricultural residues to qualifying energy facilities. Farmers can apply for funding through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
BCAP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill as a new Title IX energy program, and the 2014 Farm Bill provides $25 million per year for BCAP. USDA may award between 50 and 90 percent of annual BCAP funding to producers to establish and produce perennial biomass, such as native grasses and forbs. The Farm Bill authorizes USDA to spend between 10 and 50 percent of BCAP funding to help producers connect with bioenergy facilities through the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of biomass residues (payments for these activities are referred to collectively as “matching payments”).
While the Farm Bill provides $25 million per year, FY15 appropriations legislation limited funding to $23 million and sequestration further reduced that level. Moreover, some BCAP funding is dedicated in advance for technical assistance agreements related to conservation and forest stewardship planning for applicants.
Of the $19.5 million available for FY 2015, $11.5 million will be allocated for matching payments while $8 million will be allocated for the establishment and production of biomass in project areas.
NSAC believes that the establishment and maintenance of new, perennial energy crops is the more important part of the BCAP and should consume the bulk of the farm bill funding for the program. We argued this point in our recent comments on the BCAP final rule, and will continue to urge USDA to minimize the portion of funding that goes to the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of residues such as corn stover. We hope USDA will provide the bulk of the farm bill funding for perennial energy crops grown as part of farm conservation systems starting with next year’s funding allocations.