RICHMOND, Va., June 26, 2023 – Virginia farmers may soon benefit from new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investments to increase innovative domestic fertilizer production and create jobs in rural communities across the nation.
SWVA Biochar LLC in Floyd, Va., submitted one of 66 new projects being considered for up to $400 million in funding under the Fertilizer Production Expansion Program (FPEP). The Virginia company already has 30 kilns and seeks to add 30 more to expand production of biochar used as an amendment to their compost mix. They are also looking to purchase another 100-acre site that will use renewable energy systems to aerate and mix composting materials.
“This program supports fertilizer production that is independent, made-in-America, innovative, sustainable and farmer-focused,” said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. “If funded, this grant could help to support a more competitive, resilient and sustainable economy that will offer opportunities for local businesses and people in the Blue Ridge and beyond.”
Fertilizer prices more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 due to a variety of factors to include the war in Ukraine; high energy costs, global demand and agricultural commodity prices; reliance on imports; and a lack of competition. USDA began accepting applications for $500 million in FPEP funding in 2022, receiving applications from more than 350 businesses in the first two rounds of the program.
Due to strong demand, the Commodity Credit Corporation provided the additional funding to finance even more projects that will promote competition in agricultural markets. The Department is inviting public comments on the 66 proposals currently in contention to assess how well each applicant plans to:
- Incorporate social, economic and environmental considerations into decision-making and planning processes.
- Protect cultural and historic properties, including those on Tribal lands, from potential impacts.
FPEP is part of a broader effort under President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to help producers boost production and address global food insecurity. USDA will only consider projects that adhere to federal policies designed to protect the environment and cultural resources and expects to announce final project selections in the coming months.
Comments must be submitted to FPEP@usda.gov by July 22. More information is available at https://www.rd.usda.gov/resources/environmental-studies/fpep-environmental-review-comments. Visit https://www.farmers.gov/global-food-insecurity to learn more about USDA fertilizer investments and other options and assistance available to help farmers navigate higher input prices and supply chain disruptions.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.