A springtime grassroots initiative sparked by the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) has succeeded in influencing a government ruling on biomass fuel.
The federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) had been intended to create new alternatives for fuel by encouraging agriculture and forest owners to cultivate biomass crops.
However, the program had the unintended consequence of creating a new, more lucrative market for bark via federal subsidies that would have depleted the nursery and landscape industry’s access to the products, which are used in nursery growing, landscaping and retail. Retailers and nursery owners were already seeing the price of bark mulch rise in anticipation of subsidies. The BCAP program states the subsidies would not be eligible for “higher market” products, but never clarified what that would entail.
According to ANLA, hundreds of comment letters were generated from concerned growers, landscape professionals and retailers through ANLA’s Lighthouse network during the USDA comment period. In all, the USDA received more than 24,000 separate comments, and many came from the green industry.
In the USDA’s final ruling, scheduled to be published this week, the USDA emphasizes “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.”
In ANLA’s preliminary analysis of a preview of the ruling, it goes on to say “Higher value products may include, but are not limited to, products such as mulch, fiberboard, nursery media, lumber or paper…”