California Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices will soon begin accepting applications for the three-state Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  USDA Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Val Dolcini said that the sign-up period will begin on Aug. 8, 2011 and has a Sept. 16, 2011 deadline.

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, biobased 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.

"California farmers now have another opportunity to contribute to the bioenergy output of the Golden State by growing camelina to be converted to renewable fuels and to help assist with our country's energy independence," Dolcini said. Camelina, an oilseed, can be established on marginally productive land. Biofuel from camelina is an ideal jet fuel substitute.

The three-state project anticipates growing up to 25,000 acres in California, 15,000 acres in Montana and 10,000 acres in Washington. In California, counties included in this project area include Butte, Colusa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Solano, Stanislaus, Riverside, Tehama and Tulare.

AltAir Fuels, LLC, a Washington-state based company, is the project sponsor. The company was formed in 2008 to develop projects for the production of jet fuel from renewable and sustainable oils. AltAir Fuels and its partners are designing and building a network of renewable jet-fuel production facilities. The first plants, which will be located in Bakersfield, Calif., and Washington are expected to create hundreds of jobs—265 immediately and an estimated 1925 at full-scale production—and to reduce billions of pounds of carbon emissions. Production is anticipated to begin in late 2012.

FSA will administer the BCAP program on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation with conservation planning assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners. FSA will enter into 5-year contracts with landowners and operators in the project area. Producers enrolled in BCAP will receive annual rental payments based on the farm’s weighted soil rental rate (SRR) plus an additional incentive of 50 percent. For example, if a farm has a soil rental rate of $30 per acre, the producer would receive an annual rental payment based on $45 (the $30 soil rental rate plus the 50 percent incentive) multiplied by the camelina acres enrolled in BCAP.

The estimated total annual rental payment amount for the project area is $20 million over five years. Producers interested in participating in the project should visit their local FSA county office. Information about BCAP can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.