WASHINGTON -- The Composite Panel Assn. is among several industry groups lauding U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for recognizing the value of existing markets for wood fiber and making clarifications in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) final rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The final rule was announced Oct. 21, eight months after the program was suspended in February.

“BCAP has morphed from a job killing welfare program to one that now makes economic and environmental sense,” said CPA President Tom Julia. “It is now targeted to the production of new sources of woody biomass, rather than raiding established, viable markets for the wood fiber upon which a wide range of American industries rely,” he added.

One of the main sticking points for industry — that wood chips were not recognized as being used for high-value products — has been eliminated under the final rule. The BCAP rule now protects existing markets, stating “eligible materials may not qualify for matching payments for BCAP purposes if USDA determines that in those distinct localities that the materials are used for pre-existing markets.” The final rule also promotes the cultivation of new biomass for new purposes, while not penalizing existing users of biomass for heat and power.

FSA also stated that wood chips and sawdust would only be eligible for a BCAP matching payment if: they were collected or harvested directly from the land in accordance with an approved conservation plan, forest stewardship plan or equivalent plan prior to delivery to a biomass conversion facility; and they have not been determined to have a higher-value product in that local market.

“The final BCAP rule is a good example of how America can achieve its ambitious renewable energy and biofuel goals,” Julia continued, “and the extra time that the Obama Administration spent in reconsidering the rules of the program has been entirely worthwhile.”

Read the final BCAP rule.

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