A public meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 28 in Mt. Vernon to discuss plans to develop a biomass energy program using crops grown in southwest Missouri.
The meeting has been called by MFA Oil Company. MFA and Aloterra Energy have partnered to establish MFA Oil Biomass, which recently won funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
According to Jared Wilmes, biomass coordinator for MFA Oil, the company is seeking growers for miscanthus giganteus, an ornamental grass that grows 12 to 14 feet in height once established. One acre can produce as much as 14 tons.
MFA is seeking growers to produce 5,250 acres of the plant in Barry, Lawrence, Jasper, Newton, Stone and Christian counties. Wilmes said about 60 percent of the acres needed have been committed. The rest need to be signed by Sept. 1.
The crop takes two years to get established, Wilmes said, and can be harvested annually. Marginal ground is well suited, as long as the crop receives significant sunlight.
"We don't want to get into cutting down forests," Wilmes said. "This plant puts significant carbon in the ground and provides major energy output with high BTU values."
The BCAP will reimburse farmers up to 75 percent 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 price.
The local meeting, which will be held at the John Taylor Senior Center in Mt. Vernon, will focus on providing information about the program to local growers. MFA Oil currently has a small prototype operation based in the Aurora Industrial Park. As the program expands, a more extensive facility will be constructed.
"We've got to get the crop planted next spring. That's our first priority," Wilmes said. "We have 135 acres committed in Kansas and other growers in Illinois and Ohio."
For more information, call Wilmes at 573-876-0461.