USDA Awards $4.2 Million for Woody Biomass Removal
September 2, 2009
Grants totaling more than $4.2 million for 17 woody biomass removal projects were awarded August 26 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of a far-reaching plan to improve the health of national forests. The USDA tapped small businesses and community groups to develop innovative uses for woody biomass collected from hazardous fuel reduction projects in the forests. The funds are designed to find ways to turn residues such as small-diameter material and low-valued trees into marketable forest products. The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005, and has provided over $26.3 million towards various projects ranging from biomass boilers for schools and prisons, to assisting businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. See the USDA press release and the program Web site.
The USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) also made the first matching payment on August 31 under its new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The Show Me Energy Cooperative of Missouri was the first biomass conversion facility that became qualified under BCAP, a 2008 Farm Bill program. Less than a month later, BCAP provided matching funds to one of more than 500 biomass producers that are being paid by the energy cooperative. The firm produces fuel pellets from agricultural waste products, such as switchgrass, straw, corn stover, sawdust, woodchips, and other biomass materials. The pellets heat houses and livestock facilities, and Kansas Power & Light Company's Sibley plant is testing them to determine if the biomass fuel could supplement coal for generating electricity. BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers who are growing biomass crops to support energy facilities, biorefineries, or manufacturers of biobased products. The BCAP Web site currently lists five eligible biomass facilities, including three in California and one in New York. See the USDA press release and the BCAP Web site.