On May 5, 2011, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the approval of the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project area, covering approximately 50,000 acres in 38 counties in Missouri and Kansas. the project area application was designed and submitted by the Show me Energy Cooperative of Centerview, Missouri, which now has more than 612 producer owners.
Individual farmers within the boundaries of the project area can now sign contracts with USDA to grow dedicated energy crops. Producers who sign contracts can receive payments of up to 75% of the cost of establishing a new energy crop, as well as annual payments for up to 5 years while the crop matures.
The energy crops should support environmental quality. According to Show me Energy, farmers in the project area will grow dedicated energy crops of native grasses on marginal land, “using best conservation practices to protect soil and water resources.” Show Me’s plant in Centerview will pelletize the crops into biomass fuel for space heat and electric power and, eventually liquid fuels that replace gasoline and diesel.
USDA’s approval of the Show me project area comes nearly 3 years after Congress approved BCAP as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and more than 6 months after publication of the final BCAP rule last fall. this serious delay in the implementation of the most critical part of the BCAP program, in addition to costly outlays for BCAP matching payments in 2009 and early 2010, has led some to call for Congress to scrap the program.
Eliminating BCAP would be a mistake, as there is no other comprehensive federal program dedicated to helping farmers and foresters reduce the financial and other risks of developing energy crops in a sustainable manner. With biorefinery plants now gaining traction and strong interest in biomass for heat and power, now is the wrong time to turn away from energy crops that help to achieve energy self sufficiency while protecting soil, water and wildlife habitat.
ELPC hopes that the Show me project area will be a true “success story” that will drive the approval of similar projects and help realize the energy, environment and rural economic development potential of BCAP.
Steve Flick, founder and Board President of Show me Energy Cooperative sounded an optimistic note: “For our part, we at Show me firmly believe that farmers have a lot to contribute toward making our country less dependent on foreign oil. With BCAP now in place, we are ready to plant, baby, plant!”