The U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to have responded to nursery industry concerns about the proposed Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), according to Craig Regelbrugge, vice president of government relations and research at the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA).
The program, first announced in the spring, would provide farmers with incentives for growing certain crops that can serve as alternative energy sources and reduce dependence on foreign oil. However, nurseries were concerned that the program, if improperly run, could result in the diversion of materials currently used as ingredients in nursery growing media. They expressed in strong terms that the nursery industry doesn’t need the cost of growing media to rise sharply, on top of all the other problems it is facing.
It appears the input worked. The final BCAP rule, published in the Oct. 25 Federal Register, states in its preamble, “The purpose of this regulation is to provide incentives for the cultivation of new biomass for new markets rather than divert biomass from existing markets.” Such markets include “products such as mulch, fiberboard, nursery media, lumber, or paper,” the rule states.
According to Regelbrugge, this language is encouraging, but the issue still deserves scrutiny going forward. “ANLA intends to closely and carefully review the full rule and will alert the industry of any problems or concerns the review uncovers,” he stated in an issue brief. “Meanwhile, industry members who rely on bark or related products should stay in close contact with their suppliers, and notify ANLA and state associations if it appears that such materials are being or might be diverted from established value-added markets because of BCAP payments.”