WASHINGTON — The USDA Farm Service Agency on Feb. 3 issued the long-awaited proposed rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), intended to spur the expansion of dedicated non-food crops for renewable energy and bio-fuel production. It is expected that the proposal will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, Feb. 8, with announcement of a 60-day public comment period before the rule is final.

“This initiative action by the Obama Administration is an important first step towards making sure BCAP accomplishes its worthwhile objectives and resolves the legitimate problems our industry has identified with the program,” said Tom Julia, president of the Composite Panel Assn. He pointed specifically to the inclusion on the list of materials eligible for federal subsidies those core materials used by the U.S. composite panel industry, and the immediate risk this poses to composite panel manufacturers and their customers. The association said it believes that a subsidy for these materials, in effect a doubling of their value, would divert them for use as fuel rather than allowing them to remain in the free market stream of commerce for higher value purposes such as the manufacture of composite panels, furniture and cabinets.

CPA, its members and allies have been actively lobbying for changes in BCAP, and the critical issues identified by the composite panel industry are now addressed in the USDA document. According to a news release by the CPA, it appears, but has yet to be confirmed, that BCAP subsidies will be halted temporarily with the publication of the proposal, which calls for a 60-day public comment period before the rule becomes final. The CPA said it also appears that the eligible materials list has been amended to reflect composite industry concerns, but the proposed language is in some respects inconsistent and ambiguous.

Read more: Proposed BCAP Rule
Read more: USDA BCAP Funding Notice
Read more: USDA News Release-Feb 3
Read more: BCAPreform.org

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