House votes to defund BCAP, fate lies with Senate

By Anna Austin | June 17, 2011

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program is in jeopardy as the House voted to defund it, now its fate will be decided by the Senate.

On June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the agricultural appropriations spending bill, H.R. 2122, which contains a component that eliminates 2012 funding for BCAP. This follows the bill’s passage in the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Committee during the second week of June.

Coincidentally, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made a major announcement regarding BCAP this week—the establishment of four BCAP project areas in Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (See "Vilsack makes major BCAP announcements") When asked about the potential elimination of BCAP’s 2012 funding, Vilsack said little other than he believes the USDA is able to fund the projects announced to date, and that it has been encouraging the Senate to maintain BCAP funding in 2012 as USDA learns what works.

BCAP has triumphed over multiple possible funding eliminations since late last year, including in the 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act. It got off to a bumpy start during the pilot version of the program which began in 2009, but through a later rulemaking process during a program freeze, has seemingly closed BCAP’s loopholes and fixed its unintentional negative consequences.

H.R. 2122 is now headed for the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it faces a better chance of survival than in the House. It will be voted upon in the coming weeks. The bill also eliminates funding for the Rural Energy for America program.

This story first appeared in Biomass Power & Thermal.