Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of up to $8.7 million in funding for bioenergy research and education efforts as well as publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy. Both programs are made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. The Secretary made the announcements during remarks to the Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.
"USDA's support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy," said Vilsack. "These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities."
USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow's Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap and to learn more about the Farm Service Agency, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
USDA is also taking applications for research and education grants through the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). BRDI is a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.
Applicants seeking BRDI funding must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research in the following three areas: feedstock development; biofuels and biobased products development; and biofuels development analysis. Past projects include a grant to the Quad County Corn Cooperative in Galva, Iowa that is retrofitting an existing corn starch ethanol plant to add value to its byproducts, which will be marketed to the feed markets and to the biodiesel industry. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Findlay, Ohio, is seeking to use remaining plant residue from the guayule shrub, which is used for rubber production, for use in biopower and for conversion to jet fuel precursors. The University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, is developing closed-loop energy systems using dairy manure as source of fiber and fertilizer.
A description of the solicitation, eligibility requirements, and application instructions for the BRDI program can be found at http://www.grants.gov/ under Reference Number USDA-NIFA-9008-004957. Concept papers are due by March 27, 2015 and full applications are by July 27, 2015.
Both BCAP and BRDI were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.
DOE's Biomass Program works with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstock and conversion technologies. For more information on DOE's Biomass Program, please visit www.energy.gov/biomass.