Cellulosic biofuel? conversion remains largely at pilot scales. Hence, cellulosic biomass? markets do not exist, production contracting is not available, and supporting public policy is under-developed. Information about crop varieties and cultivars, crop suitability, agronomic practices and associated technologies, and opportunities for value-added pre-processing is either unknown, or not yet widely distributed. That is, farmer knowledge regarding agronomic and financial management of bioenergy? cropping is limited. Nonetheless, in some areas farmers are expressing an interest in bioenergy cropping and are encouraging development of government and academic research and outreach networks to overcome current limitations in farmer knowledge.
Agricultural production of biomass involves risk because of seasonal weather uncertainties, pest infestations, fluctuating yields and rapidly fluctuating prices. Farm profitability is directly related to how well these risks can be minimized or absorbed. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency has identified five primary sources of risks in agriculture: production, marketing, financial, legal and human resources. Agricultural production of biomass crops presents acute challenges in each of these categories.
Traditional strategies for managing risks include crop insurance, revenue insurance, production contracting and investments in technology. These strategies are not yet as applicable in bioenergy crop production, particularly in the case of cellulosic biofuel production. However, on February 25th, 2011, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak announced plans to accept proposals for creation of a national bioenergy crop insurance program.