BCAP can be positive for the area

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BCAP can be positive for the area

Tribune Chronicle – Including Trumbull County in the federal government’s new Biomass Crop Assistance Program creates the potential for hundreds of jobs here and newfound income for local farmers.

Under the program, farmers in Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake counties in Ohio and Crawford, Erie and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania can sign up to grow giant miscanthus, a drought- and pest-resistant sterile grass that requires less fertilizer than traditional crops. Farmers in the seven counties are eligible for $5.7 million in federal funds through reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing the perennial crop.

Farmers would also earn income from tonnage payments, carbon credits, profit sharing with Aloterra Energy, rent on the planted acres and $45 per ton harvested for two years. The Agriculture Department is offering to support up to 5,344 acres in the seven counties.

The Asian grass can produce 10 to 15 tons of dry matter per acre that would be converted into fuel pellets, a clean-burning renewable energy, at Aloterra’s biomass conversion facility in Ashtabula.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced four other BCAP projects in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Pennsylvania. The local project is expected to create 1,200 jobs, of which dozens or even hundreds could be in Trumbull County.

Including northeast Ohio seems to be the result of a bipartisan effort by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Bainbridge.

Brown pointed out that miscanthus grass could grow on land unsuited for crops, creating a new source of income for family farms. He also pointed out that by using less pesticides and fertilizer, the cost for this crop is also less for family farms.

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