USDA to Set Aside 80,000 Acres for Biofuel

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it is setting aside 80,000 of farmland for the development of biofuel. The four announced project areas will spread across the country, including sites in California, Kansas, Montana, and Oregon. The project areas will focus on growing non-food crops, like switchgrass, camelina, and poplar trees.

These 80,000 acres are a part of an ongoing program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which currently consists of 250,000 acres throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio. The BCAP was created as a part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and helps farmers with the costs of starting up biofuel production. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts are eligible to up to 75 percent of establishment costs and are eligible for five years of maintenance payments.

 The new BCAP projects are focusing on new forms of biofuel. Camelina, an oilseed, poplar trees, and switchgrass are all possible avenues for biofuel research. Unlike corn based ethanol, these crops do not impact food prices or divert food from dinner tables.

The continued existence of the BCAP, however, is not guaranteed. In recent months, Congressional Republicans have sought to eliminate biofuel funding from recent budgets, and the BCAP’s inclusion in the upcoming Farm Bill, a bill that is almost certainly going to include sharp cuts to farm spending, is uncertain.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer