USDA to provide support for Kansas farmers growing crops for biofuels

Switch grass, pictured in this 2006 file photo, is among the the crops the USDA is encouraging farmers to grow as biofuels.

Switch grass, pictured in this 2006 file photo, is among the the crops the USDA is encouraging farmers to grow as biofuels.

More than 20,000 acres in southwest Kansas and a small piece of Oklahoma will be set aside for growing crops that will be turned into biofuels.

Kansas was among the six states the U.S. Department of Agriculture named in the latest round of Biomass Crop Assistance Program’s projects. The four projects announced Tuesday total more than $45 million and are intended to create 3,400 jobs and produce more than 2 million gallons of biofuels annually.

In Kansas and Oklahoma, 20,000 acres of switchgrass will be grown around a biomass conversion facility in Hugoton, which is in the southwest corner of Kansas. The plant is owned by Abengoa Biofuels.

For farmers who volunteer to enroll in the program, the contract with the USDA would cover 75 percent of the start-up costs and five years of annual maintenance payments.

The facility will be operating in 2013, according to a news release this spring from Abengoa. The company plans to begin harvesting biomass in the fall of this year. The plant will be able to convert 315,000 dry tons of crops into 25 million gallons of ethanol and generate 25 megawatts of electricity.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program was part of the 2008 Farm Bill and is intended to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic security, reduce carbon pollution and spur economic development and job growth in rural areas.

Earlier this year, Kansas and Missouri were part of the first project area for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. In that project, farmers are being asked to grow native grasses, forbs and legumes on 50,000 acres in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Douglas County is among the 39 counties in the two-state region where farmers would be eligible for the program.

Once harvested, those plants can be sold to any qualified biomass conversion facility.

Tagged: biofuels, USDA, Biomass Crop Assistance Program

More from Christine Metz


BryanFoster 3 years, 7 months ago

The grass species in the picture is not Switchgrass - it is Indian Grass

ChristineMetz 3 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the info. The photo was labeled as switchgrass in our photo library. I'm no plant expert, so I'll take your word for it. But now I'm curious. How can you tell the difference?

BryanFoster 3 years, 7 months ago

Indian grass has a more compact, brush-like, redish-golden seed head with soft downy hairs on the seeds. Switch grass is quite different and has a more spreading seed head with smaller, rounder, whitish seeds.

buffalorider 3 years, 7 months ago

Hemp would grow the best in Kansas the USDA planted it in Kansas back in the 30-40 to grow hemp for rope and the rigging on parachutes which saved Heorge H Bush life when he parachuted out of a plane. This HEMP could be grow throughout the state and used for fuel and 10,000 other things to help mankind. And it WILL NOT get you high, no THC....

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