Growers may get government financial help in establishing eligible bioenergy crops as part of a program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is to pay up to 75% of the cost of establishing annual, perennial or woody biomass crops.

The program, not yet initiated, may provide matching payments of up to $45/ton for two years for the harvest, collection, storage and transportation of these crops to a biomass conversion facility. Annual payments to support production are also to be a part of the program.

“BCAP is designed to address the chicken and the egg problem,” says Anna Rath, vice president of commercial development with Ceres, Inc., a dedicated energy crop seed company. “On the one hand, a biorefinery is not going to want to locate in a place until it knows the growers there can produce biomass — and produce enough of it to feed that facility. On the other hand, growers are not going to want to begin growing biomass until they know that they have a market for it.

“BCAP was designed to provide transitional assistance to first take care of that first year … where you may not get a full yield of your switchgrass crop,” she adds.

Funding may become available by the 2010 growing season.