Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sharing the risks/costs of biomass crops

05.09.2013
Farmers who grow corn and soybeans can take advantage of government price support programs and crop insurance, but similar programs are not available for those who grow biomass crops such as Miscanthus.

A University of Illinois study recommends a framework for contracts between growers and biorefineries to help spell out expectations for sustainability practices and designate who will assume the risks and costs associated with these new perennial energy crops.


This image shows Miscanthus.
Credit: University of Illinois

"The current biomass market operates more along the lines of a take-it-or-leave-it contract, but in order to encourage enhanced participation and promote a more sustainable, stable biomass supply, a new kind of contract needs to be created," said Jody Endres, a U of I professor of energy and environmental law.

Endres said that a good contract gives everyone more certainty.

"Incomplete contracts are the hazard," she said. "We need to develop contracts that nail down all of the details and are transparent about who's taking on the risk and who's paying for it. If we get these considerations into the contracts, those who finance this new biomass crop industry will have more certainty to invest."

The study identifies considerations that should be included in the framework for a biomass contract, including a control for moral hazard, risk incentive tradeoff, existing agricultural practices, and risk and management tools to make the industry more sustainable financially and environmentally.

Endres said that if biorefineries receive money in the form of carbon credits for reducing pollution, incentives for farmers should be included in contracts because they are the ones who are bearing the risks associated with sustainability practices.

"Suppose a sustainability contract lists that the default should be integrated pest management rather than application of traditional pesticides," Endres said. "The farmer takes on some risk to provide a sustainable product, but the biorefinery gets carbon credit for those sustainable practices. This should be worked into the contract—that if the farmer assumes the risk of IPM as opposed to traditional pesticide options, there has to be some sort of up-front payment or incentive in the contract to account for this risk. Due to the power relationships in this industry, the onus is on the biorefinery to be the leader in developing contracts in this new landscape."

The perennial nature of biomass crops also makes developing contracts challenging.

"We're in a unique environment, and traditional agricultural contracting structures just don't apply," Endres said. "Crop insurance is not currently available for farmers who grow biomass crops so they take on additional risk. Likewise, landowners see high prices for traditional commodity crops and do not want to be locked into a multi-year contract with a lessee to grow a perennial biomass crop. It's complicated," she said.

Endres said that although sustainability requirements are important, having an adequate supply of biomass is important as well. "We're trying to envision a future in which we have a lot of biomass and one way to secure that is to recognize all of the risks and costs, especially when it comes to sustainability practices. It's unique, and we do not yet have contracts for this aspect of the industry," she said.

A newly forming biomass standards group, in which Endres holds a leadership role, is looking at how the value of sustainability practices can be measured at the watershed, eco-shed, or air-shed level rather than on the scale of individual farms. Endres said that the working group will examine how to ensure that balance is achieved between producers and consumers of biomass, including through contracts.

"I'm optimistic that it can be done," she said. "Growers and refiners right now are concerned with the industry being financially sound.

"There's also a real need for education in both developed and underdeveloped countries about biomass contracting," Endres said. "We're trying to shift the paradigm from traditional agriculture to something that's more sustainable--and that takes knowledge. If we don't have that knowledge here in the United States and we're trying to draft contracts in our very developed system, how is this going to be rolled out in say, Africa, or other areas where the use of production contracts are much more rare, especially in the small farm context?"

"Building Bio-based Supply Chains: Theoretical Perspectives on Innovative Contract Design" was published in the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy and is available online at http://escholarship.ucop.edu/uc/item/6h74x82n. A. Bryan Endres and Jeremy J. Stoller were co-authors.

Debra Levey Larson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Faba fix for corn's nitrogen need
11.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops
09.04.2018 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled

24.04.2018 | Life Sciences

Scientists create innovative new 'green' concrete using graphene

24.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

24.04.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>