FSA Andy: Assistance program offered for renewable energy crops

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Did you know that the Farm and Dairy is distributed in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, western New York and the northern panhandle of West Virginia? I knew it was read by a lot of people, but that covers portions of four states! The paper has also been informing producers and non producers about agriculture for the past 97 years.

Here at the Farm Service Agency we appreciate the opportunity to provide an important column to keep producers up to date on the programs and benefits we have to offer. We sometimes provide a little humor with our articles, but we want to keep you informed of every deadline, program change or, as in this week’s column, a new program announcement that will only affect certain counties or a portion of a county in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the establishment of four additional Biomass Crop Assistance Program project areas to promote the cultivation of crops that can be processed into renewable energy. The BCAP program will now be offered in parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In Ohio the BCAP program will be offered to all producers in the counties of Ashtabula and Lake. It will be available to the producers along the northern third of Trumbull County plus the northern and some of the southeast portion of Geauga.

For Pennsylvania it will cover the western portion of Erie and Crawford counties with only the northwest portion of Mercer being included.

The BCAP program provides financial incentives to eligible landowners and/or operators to establish and produce biomass crops for heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels.

Our project area will be used for the establishment of Miscanthus Giganteus. This is a warm season grass that is a sterile non-invasive crop and must be from the Illinois Clone of Miscanthus Giganteus and certified as such. Miscanthus can be planted in either the spring or the fall and takes two years before the first harvest.

Harvest

Producers will harvest the warm season grass between the months of November and March. Potential production should be 10 to 15 tons per acre. The producer either round bales or squares bales the product, which is then sold to the Project sponsor in Ashtabula County, Ohio.

Our job here at the Farm Service Agency is to provide producers with cost share to establish the warm season grass and make annual payments to producers for the next five years. Cost share payments will be made at a rate of up to 75 percent of the actual cost, not to exceed $553 per acre for the rhizomes or $250 per acre for establishment of the crop.

Annual rental payments are determined based on the three prominent soils in the fields being enrolled, using the rental rates in effect for the Conservation Reserve Program. There will be a payment reduction based on the final conversion of the product.

Act quickly

Participants may qualify for matching payments when the product is delivered and sold to the project sponsor, depending on the availability of funds. Enrollment of ACRES into the BCAP program are limited. Contracts will be enrolled based on a first come, first enrolled basis.

It is very important that producers who are interested in this ‘new’ agribusiness endeavor contact their local Farm Service Agency as soon as possible. Sign up began June 20 and no end date has been set.

I have only covered the basics for this program — your local FSA office can provide you with the rest of the information plus a copy of a fact sheet. As it is a new program, the staff at the FSA office may not have all of the answers at this moment but new information is coming in every day. We would like to encourage any producer, big or small, even slightly interested in the BCAP program to contact their local FSA office immediately for more information.

About the Author

FSA Andy is written by USDA Farm Service Agency county executive directors in northeastern Ohio. More Stories by FSA Andy

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