USDA publishes final BCAP rule

By Anna Simet | March 02, 2015

The USDA has released the final rule for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and though the general scope of BCAP is not changing with the recently published rule, there are some key changes being made to the program, including matching payment and funding amounts, material eligibility and project areas.

BCAP, which was originally launched in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and nonindustrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility.

According to the rule, matching payments have been reduced from $1 for each $1 per ton provided by the biomass conversion facility up to $45 per ton, to no more than $20 per dry ton, for a period of up to two years.

Bagasse, which includes sugarcane and sorghum, is no longer an eligible crop, as well as other materials not harvested directly from the land. The rule provides the example of manufactured wood wastes such as sawdust or sawmill residues as not being eligible woody material.

The rule expands the scope of eligible material as materials that can now be used by a biomass conversion facility for the purpose of research, in addition to the four previous categories of heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels.

As the 2014 Farm Bill clarified that the rate for matching payments must be based on a dry ton basis, the rule adds a requirement that biomass conversion facilities must use the applicable American Society for Testing and Materials standards to determine dry ton weight of eligible material.

Other changes include project area selection criteria to include consideration of existing project areas and continuation of funding to advance the maturity of such project area; land eligibility will now include expiring CRP land and ACEP land, but only if a CRP or ACEP payment was not received in the same year; and any plant that is an invasive or noxious species is explicitly excluded from the definition of eligible crop.

The rule is open to public comment until April 28.