The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) was enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the production of advanced biofuels and renewable energy. The legislation provides two components of support for biomass used for conversion to heat, power, advanced biofuels or bioproducts:
- CHST Matching Payments - Matching of market prices paid for biomass by qualified biomass conversion facilities (BCFs) for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation (CHST) of eligible biomass.
- Crop Establishment and Annual Payments - Payments made to producers for energy crops to be delivered to BCFs, consisting of reimbursement for some establishment costs and annual contract payments for land use for up to 5 years (15 years for woody crops).
Under initially proposed rules for the CHST component, during 2009 and 2010 USDA spent about $250 million, far more than the $70 million Congress projected for the program through 2012. Less than $1 million of this went to agricultural crops. Virtually all was paid to sawmills and lumber wholesalers that were already collecting woody resources and wastes. This was authorized by the legislation, but not its primary intent. USDA then suspended new CHST enrollment in February, 2010, and published a revised, final rule on October 27, 2010. As of mid-November, 2010, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the agency administering the program, had not yet specified detailed program requirements and application procedures.
The final rule provides guidelines intended to limit the eligibility of woody materials to those collected from the land for this purpose, rather than byproducts from wood processing. But no guidelines are offered for allocating funds between woody resources and wastes versus agricultural crops, and it is possible that the bulk of funds could continue to be allocated to woody biomass.
Both BCAP components require agreements to deliver biomass to qualified BCFs, a list of which will be available at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.
Crop Establishment and Annual Payments
Producers can be reimbursed for up to 75% of establishment costs for perennial crops, plus annual payments for up to five years (15 years for woody biomass crops). In addition to these payments, upon delivery of the biomass, producers may be eligible for CHST matching payments. Prior agreements and contracts are required to be eligible for these payments.
"BCAP Project Areas". Eligibility for payments is initiated when a "sponsor" (a group of crop producers or a BCF) applies through the FSA for selection as a "BCAP project area". The application specifies the geographical area, the crops, the method for determining payment amounts and also certifies the commitment of the BCF. Only private lands within project areas are eligible, and general conservation plans must be included in the proposal. Proposals are then evaluated by USDA for selection.
"BCAP contracts". Producers within a project area enroll contract acreage for the production of eligible crops, for up to five years (15 for woody biomass). The enrollment contract is to include a conservation plan. Eligible crops include switchgrass, miscanthus, poplar, jatropha, algae and energy cane.
Procedures for setting rates for establishment costs and annual payments are similar to those for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Rate information is to be posted at county FSA offices. Annual payments are reduced by 10% if the biomass is sold for advanced biofuels and by 25% if sold for heat, power or biobased products (i.e., biomass for cellulosic biofuels receives a preference).
CHST Matching Payments
The assistance offered is a payment of up to $45 per dry ton to producers for eligible biomass, matching dollar-for-dollar the payment made by the biomass conversion facility (BCF). Payments are made to the producer who harvests and transports eligible material. These payments are limited by the legislation to a maximum of two years per producer. To be eligible, the producer must receive approval in advance through an FSA county office. Each BCF must enter into a separate agreement through FSA to become qualified.
Biomass must be collected and harvested under approved plans for stewardship and conservation practices. Materials eligible include many crop residues as well as specific dedicated biomass crops and woody materials. Eligibility of materials is subject to other restrictions. Guidelines for plans and application processes were not announced by mind-November, 2010.
Richard K. Perrin,
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Sweet sorghum is a relative to other common sorghums grown in Nebraska grain sorghum and forage sorghum. Yet instead of harvested for grain or its forage, sweet sorghum is harvested for its sugar content in the stems. The sugar can be directly fermented in ethanol like sugar cane ethanol. This direct squeeze to fermentation provides a benefit in cost as no cook process or costly enzymes needed like in corn ethanol production.
Other Sweet Sorghum Resources
Canola's high quality oil and high percentage oil approximately 40% in the seed makes it a very desirable biodiesel feedstock. Produced throughout Europe and Canada canola can be grown in Western Nebraska.
Alternative Crop Budgets and Decision Making, EC838
Growing Crops for Better Biodiesel
by Loren Isom and Bill Booker
Loren is with the Industrial Ag Products Center at UNL
Bill is an Extension educator in Box Butte County
Identifying high oil yield, low water use crops suitable for biodiesel production is a key component of addressing feedstock availability that will support the development of biodiesel production facilities in Nebraska. Expanded oilseed production can develop new economic opportunities for agricultural producers and suppliers in Nebraska.
Read this article. (pdf document, download Acrobat Reader)
Phenology of Oilseed Crops for Bio-Diesel in the High Plains
by Alexander D. Pavlista and David D. Baltensperger
Link to article
Other Canola Resources
In the United States, camelina is primarily grown as a bio-fuel crop. The seed contains 30–40% oil. Camelina oil is used to produce biodiesel, and the meal co-product can be used as a livestock feed. Camelina oil also has use as a biolubricant and in industrial and cosmetic products.
The oil has a unique composition that may give it even higher value as a food crop. The oil is high in omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) and also contains antioxidants (tocopherol, vitamin E) that give it a longer shelf life than flaxseed oil. Camelina oil contains 35–40% alpha-linolenic acid, compared to 50–60% for flaxseed oil. It may be used as cooking oil or as an additive to increase the nutritional value of bakery products or other foods. (Camelina Production - SDSU)
Hybrid Poplar is a woody tree grown for it biomass. Planted using small cuttings. It is usually grown for one year then cut to stimulate multiple stems then harvested after three or more additional years of growth. Midwestern yields have been in the 15 tons per acre range after three years growth.
Other Hybrid Poplar Resources
Hybrid Poplar Best Management Practices - University of Minnesota
Miscanthus giganteus is native of asia and is a natural hybrid. Grown from rhizomes it does not produce viable seed. First inroduced to Europe as a bioenergy crop it has become a crop of high interest for its biomass yield potential in the U.S. Test yield between 10 and 20 tons per acre are common.
Other Miscanthus Resources
Miscanthus Production - Iowa State University
Sunflower production is relatively well established as an oilseed crop in the broader region of the Great Plains. For the most Nebraska producers the distance for delivery has limited production. Current plans for additional oilseed processing facilities in Nebraska could greatly reduce transportation costs for a large production area in Nebraska. The state of Nebraska only harvested 31,000 acres of oil type sunflowers in 2006 with an average yield of 1,200 pounds.3 Sunflowers have a typical oil content of 40%, but it will vary based on production conditions. Typical dry land yields will range from 800 to 1,500 pounds per acre, while irrigated yields are often targeted above 3,000 pounds per acre. The national average yield for oil type sunflowers is 1,267 pounds per acre. At 40% oil content, that is approximately 507 pounds of oil per acre available in the seeds. This is reduced to 431 pounds of extractable oil per acre with mechanical extraction. by Bill Booker Extension Educator Box Butte County NE
Sunflower Head Moth Management, G1626
Commercial sunflowers in and around Nebraska can be severely damaged by sunflower head moth. Pest monitoring is important to control the damage.
Read this NebGuide. (pdf document, download Acrobat Reader)
Nebraska Crop Budgets, 2010, EC872
Track revenue and costs for 42 cropping systems using the 2009 Nebraska crop budget and energy conversion worksheets.
Read this EC
Other Sunflower Resources