Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the establishment of four additional Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas to promote the cultivation of crops that can be processed into renewable energy.

Acreage in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be designated to grow giant miscanthus, a sterile hybrid warm-season grass that can be converted into energy to be used for heat, power, liquid biofuels, and bio-based products.

"Renewable, home-grown, clean energy from American producers is vital to our country's energy future because it reduces our reliance on foreign oil and creates good-paying production jobs that cannot be exported," said Vilsack. "Today's announcement will make a significant contribution to rural America and create nearly 4,000 jobs, demonstrating the great economic potential the production of renewable energy holds for our rural communities."

It is estimated that each of the four project areas and conversion facilities would earn about $50 million per year.

According to industry estimates, a large number of biorefinery, agriculture and support jobs will be created in each area. The estimates are: Ashtabula, Ohio — 1,210 jobs added; Paragould, Ark. — 750 jobs added; Aurora, Mo. — 960 jobs added; and Columbia, Mo. — 980 jobs added. These numbers are estimated based on an economic impact study that measures the amount of jobs the projects will generate by 2014.

There is also the possibility of establishing "green hubs" in the project areas leading to other green industries, including green industrial parks.

Yields for biomass from giant miscanthus are expected to range between 10 and 12 tons of dry matter per acre and can be as high as 15 tons per acre.

BCAP project areas provide financial incentives to eligible agriculture producers to establish dedicated energy crops that will be used for production of heat, power, liquid biofuels or bio-based products.