CDFA Secretary Karen Ross is urging California farmers to consider signing up for the USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The USDA just announced project areas in six states to expand the availability of non-food crops to be used in the manufacturing of liquid biofuels. The four project areas set aside acres in California, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington for the production of renewable energy crops.

“Bioenergy is a cornerstone of the renewable energy future of this state,” said Secretary Ross. “These biofuel projects will be at the vangaurd of fuel technology and can hopefully be a catalyst to much needed economic development in some our distressed rural communities."

According to industry estimates, more than 3,400 jobs in the biorefinery, agriculture and supporting sectors will be created due to these new BCAP project areas, with more than 2 million gallons annually of biofuels manufactured when full production levels are achieved.

The BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, helps farmers and forest landowners with start-up costs of planting non-food energy crops for conversion to heat, power, bio-based products and advanced biofuels.  BCAP is designed to ensure sufficient biomass is available to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce pollution and spur rural economic development and job creation.

“The Obama administration is committed to providing financial opportunities to rural communities, farmers and ranchers to produce biomass which will be converted to renewable fuels and increase America’s energy independence,” said USDA secretary Tom Vilsack.  "The selection of these project areas is another step in the effort to assist the nation's advanced biofuel industry produce energy in commercial quantities from sustainable rural resources. This effort will create jobs stimulate rural economies across the nation."

Two of the new BCAP project areas, targeted for California, Montana, Washington and Oregon, will grow camelina at a significant scale.  Camelina, an oilseed, is a rotation crop for wheat that can be established on marginally productive land.  Biofuel from camelina is an ideal jet fuel substitute. The project has a target of 51,000 acres.  The sponsors are Beaver Biodiesel, LLC and AltAir Fuels LLC. The project areas are near biomass conversion facilities in Bakersfield, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., and Albany, Ore.

USDA has allocated approximately $45 million for contracts that range between less than five years up to 15 years in the four project areas for producers who volunteer to enroll in BCAP. Producers who enter into BCAP contracts are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the establishment costs of the perennial energy crop, and up to five years of annual maintenance payments for herbaceous crops and up to 15 years for woody crops. 

The project area in California covers 17 counties: Tehama, Solano, Butte, Colusa, San Luis Obispo, Glenn, Tulare, Sacramento, Yolo, Fresno, Kings, San Joaquin, Kern, Merced, Madera, Riverside, and. Stanislaus.

The sign-up period for these new project areas will begin on Aug. 8, 2011. The deadline to sign up for the project areas is Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. The Farm Service Agency, administering the program on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation with conservation planning assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners, will enter into contracts with landowners and operators in these project areas. Producers interested in participating in the project areas should visit their local FSA county office. Information about BCAP may be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.