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Health, Science, Environment

USDA to pay Mo. farmers to plant biomass energy crops

400T_Giant-Miscanthus.jpg
(Wikimedia Commons)
A two-year-old stand of the Miscanthus giganteus variety "Freedom." Dr. Brian Baldwin of Mississippi State University developed this variety (pictured).

The USDA has chosen two new areas in Missouri to participate in a program promoting biomass energy crops.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the program will pay farmers to plant giant miscanthus, a perennial grass that can be used for energy production.

Vilsack says the project hopes to enroll more than 8,000 acres around existing biomass conversion facilities in Columbia and Aurora.

“The biomass conversion facilities will essentially pelletize the miscanthus and then use it for agricultural heating, for power generation, for residential heating and potentially for export opportunities as well,” Vilsack said.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt says it’s a crop that will grow on land that is not necessarily the best farmland. “It grows on soil that doesn’t meet the standards that you would often need for corn or soybeans or wheat or other food crops,” Blunt said.

The USDA also announced the selection of new biomass program areas in Arkansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, totaling close to 11,000 acres.

An area of up to 50,000 acres in western Missouri and eastern Kansas was approved for participation in May.                         

The sign-up period for eligible farmers in the newly-selected areas begins on June 20.

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