Brown: Award Will Create Jobs, Spur Economic Development in Northeast Ohio, and Reduce Our Dependence on Foreign Oil; Senator Wrote Letter of Support for Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown today announced a $5.7 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will create up to 1,210 new jobs by enabling farmers in Northeast Ohio to grow a clean energy biomass known as miscanthus giganteus. Farmers in Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga, and Trumbull counties—as well as in several neighboring counties in Pennsylvania—will be eligible to receive the funds to grow miscanthus giganteus, a type of grass, which will be converted into biofuels at an Aloterra Energy facility in Conneaut.  Brown wrote a letter of support for the project to the USDA.

“This new investment will create jobs in Northeast Ohio while supporting production of a home-grown, clean energy sources. Coming just a few weeks after new federal investment at Plant C—this spells more good news for the Ashtabula community and Northeast Ohio at large,” Brown said. “This project is an example of federal dollars being invested wisely to spur economic development and pave the way for future growth. This investment will create jobs, support our agricultural heritage, and reduce our dangerous and unsustainable dependence on foreign oil. From offshore wind energy in Lake Erie, solar energy production in Northwest Ohio, and now biomass growth in Northeast Ohio, it’s clear that our state is leading the way in clean and renewable energy development.”

The funding is being awarded through USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), a new program authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to farmers to establish, produce, and, deliver biomass. According to Aloterra, farmers will enter into a contract with Aloterra to plant the miscanthus; Aloterra will buy the miscanthus, convert it, and get it to market. The farmer will have three streams of income: (1) tonnage payments, (2) carbon credits, and (3) profit sharing from the conversion facility. Farmers will also earn BCAP rent payments on the acres planted, and BCAP will pay $45 per ton harvested for two years.

In April, Brown announced a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce to fund critical electrical and water pipe repairs at the former First Energy C Plant, known as “Plant C,” in Ashtabula. In March 2010, Brown wrote a letter to the EDA in support of the Ashtabula County Port Authority’s application for funds from the agency’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program. In the letter, Brown cited that Plant C’s viability would ensure “a solid foundation for industrial expansion and job creation.” In September 2010, Brown also convened a meeting with the Ashtabula County Port Authority, local business leaders, elected officials and other stakeholders to explore strategies to ensure the future viability of the former First Energy C Plant.

His office worked closely with local stakeholders and Ohio Department of Development representatives to provide guidance for the Ashtabula County Port Authority in their pursuit of these EDA funds. Plant C serves the critical water needs of Ashtabula's industrial community, and helps sustain more than 1,000 jobs. Without intervention, the outdated piping and pumping system will continue to degrade and risk significant economic consequences and job loss. At the September meeting, attendees discussed resources available to preserve operations at Plant C in the hopes of retaining low-cost raw water for more than a half-dozen companies. Additionally, a dependable source of raw water is necessary for future development in the Ashtabula area. Also in attendance at the meeting were representatives from Johnson Controls, who are in negotiations with the Port Authority to convert the coal-burning FirstEnergy plant to run on biomass and create clean energy. With investments at the federal level, the Plant C project would create jobs and spur economic revitalization for Ashtabula County.

Brown is the first Ohioan to sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture in more than forty years, and serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation. Brown launched his ‘Grown in Ohio’ listening tour—held in advance of Senate consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill—in Chesterland at the Patterson Fruit Farm in April. At a similar listening session during consideration for the 2008 Farm Bill, the idea for the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program was born and eventually adopted in the final bill. The ACRE provision allows farmers to choose a new safety net program that protects against drops in yield or prices, which is critical for farmers given the uncertain and volatile agriculture markets.

In March, Brown addressed the Ohio Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C, where he announced his plans for the ‘Grown in Ohio’ tour. At that speech, Brown outlined priorities for economic development and job growth in Ohio’s agricultural industry. In March, Brown also held a call with nearly 30 Ohio farmers to announce that he will be the new Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth, and Energy. The critical panel is responsible for job creation in small towns and rural communities and the continued development of renewable fuels and clean energy technologies that support rural America.