Farmers urged to grow miscanthus, an alternative energy source

LAKE CITY, AR (KAIT) - MFA Oil Biomass held an informational meeting Wednesday with local farmers and landowners. During the meeting, they discussed a new grass that could be used to create alternative energy.

Former Arkansas Senator Tim Wooldridge discussed the project with nearly 50 people at the MFA Oil Bulk Plant in Lake City.

Wooldridge said the Biomass Crop Assistance Program encourages the development of renewable energy sources.

Wooldridge said the grass, called Miscanthus, has a 0% chance of invading other crops in Northeast Arkansas as studied and confirmed by three universities.

"We've got the support of the USDA and so we're in the process of signing up acres to an energy crop," Wooldridge said. "It's a high cellulosic value crop."

Miscanthus would be used as a fossil fuel alternative, it grows around 11-13 feet tall and one acre yields 15 tons.

MFA said they need to have contracts for more than 5,500 acres of land by September 1. So far, there are 4,000 acres that have been verbally committed. MFA is looking for people who have marginal land for the project.

Under current guidelines, BCAP will reimburse farmers up to 75% of planting costs and pay an annual rent payment while farmers wait for their crops to mature. Once the crops mature, farmers will be eligible to receive two years of matching payments for their tonnage, up to $45 per ton beyond the selling point.

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