WASHINGTON – Mandatory biomass funding to the tune of $25 million annually will resume this summer as part of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was reauthorized under the 2014 Farm Bill. The current funding, which is significantly scaled-down from the 2008 Farm Bill's allowance, is scheduled to remain in effect through fiscal 2018.
The change in funding is not the only difference in this latest version. The 2014 BCAP also requires between 10 and 50% of the total funding to be used for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues, while reducing the payment limit from $45 per ton over two years down to $20 per dry ton over four years. It also limits one-time establishment payments for biomass projects to no more than 50% of the cost, not to exceed $500 per acre. The 2014 bill also makes ineligible commodity crops that receive subsidies and states that eligible materials must be harvested consistent with a conservation or forest stewardship plan.
Previously removed from BCAP's list of eligible materials was wood fibers "that would otherwise be used for existing market products." The Composite Panel Association spearheaded the removal back in 2010 in order to preserve the availability of wood fibers for the composite panel market. This market includes particleboard and medium density fiberboard which are used in the production of goods such as cabinetry, furniture and casegoods.
Three types of biomass assistance are covered under BCAP. According to the USDA, "for growing new biomass, BCAP provides financial assistance with 50 percent of the cost of establishing a perennial crop. To maintain the crop as it matures until harvest, BCAP provides an annual payment for up to five years for herbaceous crops, or up to 15 years for woody crops. To collect existing agriculture or forest residues that are not economically retrievable, BCAP provides matching payments for mitigating the cost of harvesting and transporting the materials to the end-use facility."
“For forest residues, this year’s matching payments are targeted for energy generation while reducing fire, insect and disease threats on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands,” said Juan Garcia, Farm Service Agency administrator. BCAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
The market for wood biomass products continues to grow. North American wood pellet exports to Europe have doubled in the past two years, reaching 4.7 million tons, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review, with 2.9 million tons exported from the U.S. alone. Data compiled by the Wood Resources International gives the total value of North American wood pellet exports at more than $650 million dollars last year, with most of that coming from production facilities in the South.
On a global export level, figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show wood pellet exports from the United States nearly doubled last year, from 1.6 million short tons (approximately 22 trillion Btu) in 2012 to 3.2 million short tons in 2013.
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