The third precondition for successful standard implementation is international harmonization. "Even if the biomass goes to the biorefinery with the right lignin-to-sugar content and the right amount of water, if you had to add nitrogen to produce it, or lost habitat or soil when harvesting it, it may not comply with European regulations.
"Environmental groups don't want to see a race to the bottomadopting requirements that are bare minimum," Endres said. "But the European standards contain requirements that are difficult to achieve, particularly for small growers. A biomass farmer doesn't know where to begin to apply it to their farming practices."
The European Renewable Energy Directive provides a baseline framework for sustainability reporting and requirements. "They're primarily concerned with land conversionhigh carbon stock land or lands that are high in biodiversity values," Endres said. "They also require a cross-compliance with agro- environmental laws, which is something required in return for receipt of agricultural payments under the Common Agricultural Program. In large part, we don't have a similar system in the United States. We have requirements for highly erodible land and protection of endangered species, but in Europe there's a broader program specifically designed for agricultural contexts to comply with environmental law and to improve the environment."
Adopting European standards is not a simple task for U.S. growers, Endres said. "For the past three years, the Council for Sustainable Biomass Production has been developing a standard that the European Commission will recognize, but one that is at the same time one designed for American growers to implement practically on the ground and that deploys tools such as those developed by USDA and Extension. Until we have a standard uniquely developed for the American market, producers' access to European markets could be
|Contact: Debra Levey Larson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences