Local
11:10 am
Thu June 14, 2012

USDA Awards NC $4 Million for Energy Crops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just announced a four million dollar grant to provide assistance for production of energy crops in North Carolina. 

WHQR’s Sara Wood reports the funds will help farmers grow switch grass which will be used to produce biofuel.

The funds spark the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program, also known as BCAP, here in the state. BCAP was created as part of the 2008 farm bill to help farmers with start-up costs associated with planting new energy crops, or non-food crops used to produce energy, like fuel and electricity. North Carolina will be the eleventh project area in the country producing energy crops used to be converted into cellulosic ethanol. USDA Senior Energy Advisor Todd Atkinson says one great benefit to energy crops is that they can grow in areas with cash crops and land not ideal for conventional farming.

“And so while we’ll be targeting conventional agricultural lands, conventional forest farm lands, we won’t rule anything out. If producers have marginal lands that are available, those would be excellent opportunities to grow these crops. So really, there’s a lot of different types of land that would be ideal for dedicated energy crops.” 

Eleven counties are targeted for growing these crops, including Bladen, Pender, Sampson, Duplin and Onslow. The project sponsor is Chemtex, which plans to build a biorefinery in Sampson County by 2014. The sign-up period for farmers interested in growing energy crops begins on Monday.