For Immediate Release
Biomass Crop Assistance Program Needs Clarification, Improvement, Says IATP
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) must undergo significant
revision and refinement before the program’s next phase is launched, said the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in comments submitted on April 8 to the USDA Farm
Service Agency (FSA).
BCAP, a 2008 Farm Bill program, was designed to help farmers grow new biomass crops for
renewable energy. But the FSA’s implementation of the program has come under widespread
criticism for straying far the program’s original intent. The FSA began the initial phase of
the program before setting clear rules for qualifying grants, and before it had completed a
full environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy
Act (NEPA). As a result, nearly all of the more than $164 million in funding that has been
awarded so far has gone to the forest paper and products industries to burn waste wood for
their own energy needs. Most of these users were already buying or using biomass for pre-existing energy purposes.
“Done right, BCAP could go a long way toward helping farmers transition to growing
perennial biomass crops,” said Jim Kleinschmit, IATP Rural Communities Program
Director. “But so far farmers have seen very little benefit from the millions of dollars
already spent on this program.”
The FSA is expected to finalize rules for BCAP implementation later this year. IATP’s
recommendations for improving BCAP include:
Modifying the current collection, harvest, storage and transportation phase
of the program to stop matching payments for woody, agricultural and herba-
ceous resources and waste materials unless they were sourced within a BCAP
project area and used for new energy production.
Establishing a competitive ranking process for the selection of BCAP funded
projects, giving priority to soil, water, climate and wildlife protection as well as to
local ownership opportunities and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
- Prioritizing perennial and dedicated energy crops by making residues of annual
crops or forests, and food and animal wastes, ineligible for BCAP.
- Prohibiting genetically modified biomass crops or irrigation in BCAP contract acres.
- Clearly ruling out conversion of forests, wetlands, prairies or any natural ecosystems to biomass crops.
“There’s still time to right the ship on BCAP,” said IATP Senior Associate Julia Olmstead. “The best place to start is to revisit the original
intent of the program, and take seriously the numerous constructive comments submitted on how to improve the program.”
IATP’s full comment to the FSA can be viewed at www.iatp.org. The BCAP comment period closed April 9. The USDA will announce a final
rule later this year.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.