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US Farmers Ready to Grow Energy Crops on Underutilized Land

A survey of U.S. growers showed that 71 percent of respondents were very interested or interested in growing dedicated energy crops to produce biomass for biopower and advanced biofuels, according to a survey conducted by energy group developer Ceres. The survey also indicates that 77 percent of respondents had underutilized land that could be used to grow energy grasses like switchgrass, sorghum and miscanthus.

The key benefits cited by survey respondents included diversification of their current operation, making better use of their marginal land and spending less time, money and resources on crop management.

They also support long-term contracts with customers. More than 70 percent of survey respondents were very interested or interested in growing under contract, and 48 percent said they would anticipate putting at least half their acreage in long-term contracts.

“This is one of the areas where we were interested in learning more about, since reliable feedstock supplies will be critical for new bioenergy facilities to obtain project financing,” said Gary Koppenjan who directs communications and product marketing for Ceres, in a statement. “What constitutes a long-term contract will likely be an area for discussion, but it appears the suppliers and users are on the same page,” he added.

The survey also finds that growers aren’t interested in owning a piece of the bioenergy facility. They are more interested in incentives for quality and inflation adjustments, or prices linked to energy prices, which Ceres plans to look at in future surveys.

Despite grower interest, Ceres says that slow implementation of U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees is causing frustration with the delays.

In February, President Obama announced three measures to boost biofuels production and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil. These included a rule to implement the Renewable Fuels Standard that requires biofuels production of 36 billion gallons by 2022, a Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that would provide financing to farmers, ranchers and foresters to increase the conversion of biomass, and a strategy to advance the development and commercialization of a sustainable biofuels industry.

The non-scientific survey was completed this summer and was weighted to growers in Southeast United States, says Ceres.

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