Following a second informational meeting in Kenansville, Chemtex officials are saying how pleased they have been with the interest the meetings have generated. The signing of contracts cannot be done until the farmers assess their potential land plots for approval for the feed crops needed nor can the actual commitment by farmers to produce the necessary biofuel source be certain.
Kent Wooten, Cooperative Extension director, said his office has had a few calls from farmers seeking clarification on some of the issues that were addressed at the Sampson meeting, such as prices paid and growing grasses on sprayfields. However, it is not the Cooperative Extension Office that gives that approval.
Eligible land is only land classified as cropland by the Farm Service Agency, (FSA). It is the only land eligible to be enrolled in the BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program). In order for the cropland to be used for this project, it must be surveyed and approved by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS), for the production of giant miscanthus, or switchgrass, which are the only two biomass crops eligible to be grown at this time.
FSA executive director Kettrell Strickland shared that his office has not received any requests yet from farmers wishing to enroll in the BCAP project.
“Currently farmers that are interested in participating in the biomass crop production and also wanting to sign up for the BCAP support for putting in the crops are in the process of getting the necessary contracts they must have prior to submitting a request for the project,” explained Strickland.
He added that before the farmer can enroll in the BCAP project, which can pay up to 75 percent of the start-up costs involved in planting the giant miscanthus or swithgrass on a farmer’s land, they must have a signed contract from Chemtex and approval from the USDA-NRCS. BCAP also assists the farmer in recouping costs for up to five years when the crops should be producing a self-supporting income.
Paolo Carollo, executive vice president for Chemtex USA, said the company saw promise in the responses they have received from the meeting held last week in Clinton and the meeting held Tuesday night in Kenansville.
“We are very pleased with the interests that has been expressed either through phone calls, emails and even through personal contact from the farmers that have been in attendance at our first two meetings. We are even possibly thinking of holding additional meetings, with plans being discussed for one later this month in Cumberland or Bladen county,” remarked Carollo.
The vice president summarized the interest expressed to Chemtex so far (although not confirmed in contracts yet), saying the overall numbers after the first two large farmers meetings are: miscanthus: approximately 2,300 acres from 12 growers, and switchgrass: approximately 800 acres from 15 growers. Approximately 90 farmers and landowners were present for the Clinton meeting and an estimated 120 attended the meeting Tuesday night in Kenansville.
The Chemtex project is strongly supported by the state. North Carolina has committed to gain large internal capacity for growth and production of biofuels. The state goal is that by 2017, 10 percent of liquid fuels internal consumption will come from biofuels grown and produced internally. Chemtex in collaboration with the North Carolina Biofuel Center (the nation’s only comprehensive agency working for long-term biofuels development across a state) has identified an opportunity for developing a true integrated biorefinery that will produce 20 million gallons per year of bio ethanol and develop downstream sustainable chemicals.
The BCAP project has been awarded $3,996,000to support establishing and growing over 4,000 acres of miscanthus and switchgrass across eleven counties in North Carolina – Bladen, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pender, Sampson, and Wayne. This feedstock will be part of the biomass supply for Project Alpha, a 20 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery planned to be built in Sampson County with a plant start up expected in 2014.
Chemtex is still working to get all the necessary approvals and feedstock commitments in place before the final approval for construction of the plan can move forward.