MEXICO, N.Y. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has earmarked $4.3 million to encourage northern New York farmers to grow shrub willows as a renewable energy source.
The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has been researching and developing willow as an energy source for 25 years.
Under the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program, payments are available to farmers to plant up to 3,500 acres of willow in 2013 and 2014. Land preparation will start this year.
The harvested willow will be used by ReEnergy, which burns wood chips and other biomass to produce electricity at its upstate New York facilities.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will be in the Oswego County town of Mexico Thursday to meet with farmers interested in participating in the program.