After years of work on the use of Miscanthus grass for a variety of products, there is no apparent short-term market. Changes in government policy, dropping energy prices and the inability to settle on a product that could be profitable has caused the decrease in demand, said Ashtabula County Extension Agent Andrew Holden.
“To my knowledge right now there isn’t a market,” Holden said.
About a year ago Aloterra Packaging, a company that made compostable packaging, shut the doors of a plant on Middle Road in Monroe Township.
In 2011, the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and other agriculture organizations assisted Aloterra Energy as they received financial assistance to grow Miscanthus grass to help in bio fuels. Farm Bureau literature indicated farmers would receive up to 75 percent of planting costs to encourage the growth of Miscanthus farming.
In 2016, there were about 4,000 acres of Miscanthus grass planted in Ashtabula County, according to information released by former Ashtabula County Extension Agent David Marrison. The product was harvested in the winter.
Holden said the reduction in fuel costs hurt the bio-fuels development process as fracking increased the profitability of natural gas and drove fuel prices down. He said oil dropped from $200 a barrel to $40 a barrel.
He said there is a hope that new profitable products will be created from the grass.
Holden said any farmers needing assistance in crop change can call the extension office at 440-576-9008.
“If people want information on how to take it out they can call us,” he said.