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By Tim Leeds 

Sign up set for camelina grow project


More information has come out about how Montana producers can get into raising a prime oilseed for energy production, as well as an offer from a Montana company to consider contracts for the crops.

Bozeman company Sustainable Oils announced Thursday it will be offering production contracts for camelina planting this fall or spring 2012 for growers in Montana, California and Washington, states included in an expansion of the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Sustainable Oils will be providing more details on these opportunities soon, the company said in a press release.

"This is an exciting development for camelina production," Sustainable Oils President Scott Johnson said in the release. "We're seeing strong demand for biofuel produced from camelina oil, and the BCAP program will help boost production in order to meet that demand. "

Camelina has been a prime focus of research in the alternative fuel industry, including at Montana State University-Northern's Bio-Energy Center.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday the expansion of BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill to help provide startup costs to farmers growing crops for alternative energy.

Northern Dean of the College of Technical Sciences Greg Kegel said that, in addition to camelina being a good source for fuels like biodiesel and especially jet fuel, it is a good crop for north-central Montana. Well-suited for arid regions like this area and needing little fertilizer, it both grows well in marginal cropland not the best for primary crops, and also is an excellent rotation crop for commodities like wheat, he said.

USDA Farm Service Agency Acting State Executive Director in Montana Dick Deschamps said in a release Thursday that the sign-up period for BCAP will begin on Monday, Aug. 8, and has a Sept. 16 deadline.

"We're pleased that this BCAP project will allow Montana farmers the opportunity to produce camelina to be converted to renewable fuels and to help assist with our country's energy independence," Deschamps said.

The project includes providing assistance for planting up to 15,000 acres of camelina in Montana.

Washington state-based AltAir Fuels, the BCAP project sponsor, was formed in 2008 to develop projects for the production of jet fuel from renewable and sustainable oils.

AltAir Fuels and its partners are designing and building a network of renewable jet-fuel production facilities. The first plants, which will be located in Bakersfield, Calif., and Washington, are expected to create hundreds of jobs — 265 immediately and an estimated 1,925 at full-scale production — and to reduce billions of pounds of carbon emissions, the FSA release said. Production is anticipated to begin in late 2012.

To support camelina producers in the project area, FSA will enter into five-year contracts with producers to grow the annual crop each year on cropland enrolled in BCAP contracts, the fact sheet on the program says. As a condition of enrollment, producers must provide evidence that they have a camelina production agreement with a third-party biomass conversion facility. Participants will be required to establish, maintain and harvest the camelina during the five-year contract at their own expense.

Per acre annual rental payments for cropland enrolled under these contracts will be based on posted Conservation Reserve Program non-irrigated cropland rental rates plus an additional 50 percent incentive.

Annual payments will be reduced in the year the crop is harvested by a percentage depending on the final use of the crop — ranging from 1 percent if it is being processed to create biofuels as defined under the Renewable Fuel Standard, to 100 percent if "the eligible crop is used for a purpose other than conversion to heat, power, biobased product or advanced biofuels, as defined by the BCAP final rule. "

Producers interested in participating in the project should visit their local FSA county office. Information about BCAP can be found at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

The Sustainable Oils release said the company has provided nearly 500,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel to multiple branches of the U. S. military for its certification programs, making it the most heavily tested alternative fuel feedstock.

"Sustainable Oils has been partnering with farmers to produce camelina for four years, delivering fuel that has powered military and commercial test flights, " Johnson said. "We've built a strong track record as a successful partner with growers and look forward to expanding those opportunities through this new program. "


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