One energy and ag program that was saved by the 2014 Farm Bill was the Biomass Crop Assistance Program or BCAP, designed to provide financial assistance to mainly farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass or harvest and deliver forest or ag residues to a qualifying energy facility. Farmers who harvest ag residues such as corn cobs and stalks that can be converted to cellulosic ethanol may also qualify as an energy-producing feedstock.
USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 through July 14, 2014.
Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.
“Removing dead or diseased trees from forests to use for biomass production creates clean energy while reducing the threat of forest fires and the spread of harmful insects and disease,” said USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Increasing our country’s production of biomass energy also helps grow our economy. Food is made in rural America, but fuel is made in rural America, too. This program is yet another USDA investment in expanding markets for agricultural products made in rural places across the country.”
With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.