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The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, 2008 farm bill) created the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The two main purposes of BCAP are (1) to support the establishment and production of eligible crops for conversion to bioenergy in selected areas, and (2) to assist agricultural and forest land owners and operators with collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility. BCAP is intended to assist with the bioenergy industry’s hurdle of continuous biomass availability.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Farm Service Agency (FSA) implemented one portion of BCAP—the Collection, Harvest, Storage, and Transportation (CHST) matching payment program—on June 11, 2009, through a Notice of Funds Availability in the Federal Register. The partial implementation created a possible unintended consequence of market competition for wood shavings, wood chips, sawdust, and other wood “scraps” between traditional purchasers—namely landscapers and particleboard manufactures—and facilities that convert biomass to energy. The issuance of the BCAP proposed rule on February 8, 2010, suspended CHST program enrollment and proposed rules for the implementation of the remainder of the BCAP program.
According to USDA’s proposed rule, the two main components of BCAP are split into two forms of payments: annual and establishment payments, which share in the cost of establishing eligible biomass crops and maintaining production; and matching payments, which share in the cost of the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of biomass to an eligible biomass conversion facility. The payments have different eligibility and sign-up requirements, payment rates, and contract lengths. Funding for the program is mandatory through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) at “such sums as necessary” through FY2012.
While BCAP remains to be fully implemented, concerns regarding eligibility, sustainability, and funding continue to be discussed. These issues could shape future congressional action on the program in the context of budgetary measures and possible reauthorization in the next farm bill.