Biofuel crops come to Ohio, Pennsylvania

The USDA will establish a new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) for the creation of a biomass facility at the Port of Ashtabula, as well as convert acres of land across Ohio and Pennsylvania for biomass crops.

$5.7 million has already been allocated to this project to enroll 5,400 acres across Ohio and Pennsylvania to plant the giant miscanthus.

The giant miscanthus is a drought and pest resistant sterile grass that requires less fertilizer than traditional crops. A reduced amount pesticides and fertilizers mean less run-off into neighboring water systems.

There are currently three other projects aside from the Ashtabula conversion facility: one in Arkansas and two in Missouri, with 50,000 acres in the works by 2014.

Each facility could potentially earn $50 million annually and produce 10-12 tons of dry matter per acre.

According to U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, the Ashtabula facility alone would create 1,210 jobs in biorefinery, agricultural and support jobs.

The USDA is working with Aloterra to enroll crop producers in the BCAP. The 5,400 acres will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis and provide up to 75 percent reimbursement of the cost to establish the crop. 

The BCAP will also provide five years of annual payment on the land enrolled in the program, matching payments of up to $45/ton for two years.

* Jasmine Greene, EarthTechling