Biomass Crop Assistance Program

Important Update:

Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill. 

Promoting the cultivation of biomass for bioenergy production

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.

 Learn More About BCAP!

Program Basics

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:

  • Annual incentive payments for the production of perennial crops, such as switchgrass or giant miscanthus, as well as some annual crops, such as camelina;
  • Establishment payments to establish perennial biomass crops; and
  • Matching payments to assist with the collection, harvest, storage and transport of a BCAP crop or certain types of woody biomass to a biomass conversion facility.

Under the contract with USDA, producers participating in a BCAP project are eligible to receive the following types of payments:

  • 50 percent of the costs of establishing an eligible perennial crop covered by the contract but not to exceed $500 per acre ($750 in the case of socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers); and
  • Annual incentive payments to be determined by USDA.

USDA has the discretion to reduce an annual payment, if:

  • An eligible crop is used for purposes other than the production of energy at the biomass conversion facility;
  • An eligible crop is delivered to the biomass conversion facility and paid for by the facility;
  • The producer receives a payment for collection, harvest, storage or transport (see below); or
  • The producer violates a term of the contract.

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:

  • Federal- or state-owned land;
  • Land that is native sod as of the date of enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill; or
  • Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program or Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, unless the contract will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

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:

  • Any crop that is eligible to receive payments under Title I of the 2014 Farm Bill – including corn, wheat, barley, grain sorghum, oats, upland cotton, rice, peanuts, and oilseeds;
  • Animal waste or byproducts;
  • Food waste or yard waste;
  • Algae;
  • Bagasse (sugarcane or sorghum residue);
  • Woody biomass that is removed outside contract acreage and that is not a byproduct of a preventative treatment to reduce hazardous fuel or to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation;
  • Woody biomass that would otherwise be used for existing market products; or
  • Any plant that is invasive or noxious or has the potential to become invasive or noxious, as determined by USDA.

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.

The Program in Action

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 has also spent hundreds of millions on biomass collection, harvest, storage and transportation.

BCAP funding has been used to:

  • help farmers plant shrub willow and perennial native grasses and forbs, such as Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, Illinois Bundleflower and Purple Prairie Clover, on tens of thousands of acres;
  • connect farmers with energy companies that use the feedstocks to generate electricity; and
  • leverage local resources to conduct outreach to local government officials, agricultural leaders, farmers and landowners about the opportunity to grow energy feedstocks.

Read more about how BCAP has helped farmers produce valuable biofuel crops:

How to Apply and Program Resources

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.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

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) 
2014 $25
2015 $25
2016 $25
2017 $25
2018 $25
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. In addition, BCAP is subject to automatic cuts as part of an annual sequestration process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. 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.

Authorizing Language

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 2016.