#RFS is a Top Issue for Ag Equipment Makers

nfms16-aem-panelThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) hosted an Ag Executive Outlook panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week and one of the top issues for the organization is maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

AEM’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Nick Yaksich says building demand is vital for the agriculture economy right now and that is why the RFS is important. “There’s great opportunities with corn ethanol and beyond,” he said. “There is a push from the oil industry to fight back and repeal that. So, top of our list is to maintain what the government has put into law.”

Industry executives on the panel with Yaksich included Todd Sutcke with Kubota, Leif Magnusson of CLAAS Global Sales Americas, Jim Walker with Case IH NAFTA, and Great Plains Manufacturing president Linda Salem who each gave their perspectives on industry issues including the RFS, government regulations and trade.

AEM stresses industry involvement in policy issues with the I Make America campaign, which is dedicated to advocating for policies that strengthen their industry and economic vitality. “The key is grassroots involvement by voting members,” said Yaksich. “We started the I Make America campaign to reach beyond the corporate CEOs.” The campaign is in its fourth year and is equipped with a mobile marketing tour featuring a video game component to reach different groups within companies.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nick Yaksich, AEM

Enogen Use Up as Syngenta Announces Sale

syngentaSyngenta made headlines this week with news that ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned company, has offered to acquire the company with the cash purchase of all Syngenta shares. The $43 billion deal must still be approved by two-thirds of Syngenta shareholders and receive regulatory approval.

During a call with reporters, Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Piskof said the offer will allow Syngenta “to continue as a stand alone company,” and keep its commitment to research and innovation. “To ensure that Syngenta remains Syngenta (is) one of the most important elements of this transaction,” said Piskof, adding that it “helps preserve choice for growers at a time when we’re seeing a lot of consolidation.”

Enogen logoAt the same time, Syngenta announced its 2015 year end results, which includes significant growth in Enogen corn for ethanol production, despite an overall decline in sales of 11%.

“We continue to make very good progress with our Enogen trait offer for bio-ethanol plants, with now 18 plants contracted to receive Enogen corn and another 28 prospects that we are confident will be signing up during the course of this year,” said Piskof. The most recent plant to sign an agreement to use Enogen was Midwest Renewable Energy in December.

Learn more about Syngenta’s 2015 results and plans for ChemChina acquisition here: Syngenta COO Davor Piskof

USDA Scientists Develop Bio-Oil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working on creating better crude liquid from renewable resources to replace fossil-based fuel. Coined “bio-oil,” the renewable fuel is derived from agricultural waste such as non-food-grade plant matter procured from agricultural or household waste residue such as wood, switchgrass, and animal manures. The advanced biofuel is now a few steps closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

TGRP mobile Unit

ARS scientists are testing this mobile pyrolysis system for on-farm production of bio-oil from agricultural waste.

The research team, headed by Agricultural Research Services (ARS) chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng with the Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, is working on a modified pyrolysis technique called “tail-gas reactive pyrolysis” (TGRP). Traditionally, pyrolysis is process that chemically decomposes plant and other organic matter using very high heat. This process is not compatible with current distillation equipment at petroleum biofineries due to its highly acidic and high oxygen content, and requires the addition of an expensive catalyst.

Now, however, using waste materials, bio-oils are being produced at an accelerated rate using a new high-output mobile processing unit funded by a Biomass Research and Development Initiative Grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  Instead of shipping large amounts of agricultural waste to a refinery plant at high cost, the mobile reactor allows conversion of the biomass into energy-dense bio-oil right on the farm. In addition, this bio-oil is a higher quality bio-oil that is more marketable to biofuel producers than bio-oil made from traditional pyrolysis methods.

“Ideally, the biofuels added to gasoline would be identical to fuels produced at petroleum refineries,” Eklasabi told AgResearch Magazine. “The quality of TGRP deoxygenated liquids is equal to or better than the bio-oil produced by catalyst pyrolysis.” And, added Eklasabi, bringing the bio-oil one step closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

Energy, Ag Scholarships Available from CHS

Current college students and soon to be college students who are interested in alternative energy and agriculture are eligible to apply for scholarships from the CHS Foundation. The major giving entity of CHS Inc., more than 300 scholarships will be awarded in 2016.

CHS_LOGOOne hundred $1,000 scholarships will be made to high school students who choose to pursue agricultural-related degrees or STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of study with an interest in agriculture or energy industry careers. More than 200 additional scholarships will help fund expenses for existing agriculture college students currently pursuing agriculture-related degrees at two- and four-year colleges.

“CHS and the CHS Foundation are dedicated to developing future leaders,” said William Nelson, president, CHS Foundation and vice president, CHS Corporate Citizenship. “We are proud to invest in educating young people to ensure they gain experience and build the skills necessary for long-lasting careers in the agriculture and energy industries.”

High school scholarship applications must be submitted by April 1, 2016. An independent, external committee will select scholarship recipients based on essays, transcripts and reference letters. For additional eligibility information and to apply, click here. The college scholarships are directly administered by more than 30 partnering universities throughout the U.S. and application deadlines vary by by school. For more information and a list of partnering universities, click here.

Bill Howell Wins New Holland Boomer 47

Bill Howell was the winner of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes and took home a Boomer 47, a 47 hp tractor customized with Growth Energy racing decals. The contest was sponsored by New Holland and Growth Energy and Howell was presented with his Boomer 47 in Carroll, Iowa this week.

Bill and Katherine Howell take a seat in their new New Holland Boomer 47 as part of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes. Photo Credit: Carroll Broadcasting Company.

Bill and Katherine Howell take a seat in their new New Holland Boomer 47 as part of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes. Photo Credit: Carroll Broadcasting Company.

“We are proud to support farmers and those who choose to work the land and who work so hard every day to grow crops to help feed the world and fuel our nation,” said Growth Energy Co-Chair, Tom Buis. “Our members are working hard to revitalize our rural economies, create new jobs and ensure our nation will have a sustainable and secure energy future. This sweepstakes was part of a larger effort to continue to build grassroots support for biofuels across the country. Our growing grassroots advocates, such as Mr. Howell, help promote our industry and ensure that lawmakers in Washington understand the important role biofuels play in America’s heartland.”

Howell was presented with the Boomer 47 by Clay Haley with Haley Equipment who sells New Holland equipment, along with Scott Wangsgard and George Rigdon representing New Holland Agriculture.

“New Holland is proud to support Growth Energy in their individual membership growth initiatives and we look forward to continuing the partnership in 2016,” said Ron Shaffer, Director of Commercial Sales Regions and Network Development for New Holland North America. “We are also pleased to have the opportunity to provide Mr. Howell with the Boomer 47 and we hope he will find it to be a valuable asset to his operation.”

Why Energy & Ag Businesses Need Crisis Plans

A recent ZimmComm poll asked the question, Does your agribusiness/operation have a crisis communications plan?” and I was surprised and honestly a bit disturbed as a former public relations person, that so many respondents didn’t believe a crisis communications plan was necessary. And this in light of the rise in undercover videos, avian flu outbreaks, meatless Mondays, (cow farts causing) climate change, and more. To learn more about why ALL agribusinesses should have a crisis communications plan, I reached out to a highly respected and well known crisis firm, Wixted & Company, and spoke with Principal and Founder Eileen Wixted.

Eileen Wixted-1“In today’s highly connected technological environment in which we operate, having a crisis communications plan is just really smart business risk mitigation,” said Wixted. “Your brand, your reputation, your relationship with your customers, your ability to continue to be successful, frequently hinges not only on your operational excellence, but also on how people feel and what they believe about your company. Having a crisis communications plan in place allows you to be able to execute and implement strategies when the unthinkable happens. It really should be viewed as a must have business plan.”

Wixted noted that back in the 1980s, a crisis was defined very differently than a crisis is defined today. In the 1980s a crisis was anything that went boom in the night or involved an issue leading to a significant health complication. Today, she explained, a crisis can begin when you have interns or employees doing inappropriate things and then self-posting.

“All of a sudden the picture or Tweet goes viral and the world looks at your company and makes decisions about the culture of your company because of a social media post,” said Wixted. “People must begin looking at crisis differently. How you respond frequently defines your company culture and whether or not you are able to move forward unscathed.”

She notes that a crisis situation is what is called a high risk low frequency event. It’s high risk because your company must respond with operational excellence while communicating their action plan while the world may be watching. Most crises are low-frequency and most people don’t have experience in dealing with a crisis- this may be the first time in their long successful career when they are on the frontlines. Eileen uses the example of the avian flu outbreak and undercover videos on how to best manage a crisis.

841C930F-322E-4160-AB27-7BF10B769B34[6]-1Wixted stressed that what is really important is to do your crisis planning when you don’t have a crisis. “As people are getting ready to move into the new year, I think an important business resolution is to be prepared for the unthinkable,” Wixted said in terms of what are we going to say, whose going to say it and when are we going to say it during a crisis. “Because at the end of the day, a well thought out crisis plan provides guidance the confidence that you will be able to manage your organization through a high risk, low frequency event.”

Eileen along with the Wixted & Company team can be reached at 515-226-0818 or by visiting www.thinkwixted.com. Learn more about why your organization should have a crisis communications plan by listening to my interview with Eileen Wixted: Interview with Eileen Wixted, Wixted & Company

Biodico Westside Bioenergy Facility Begins Production

The Biodico Westside bioenergy facility is now in production in San Joaquin Valley, California. Biodico President and Rounder Russ Teall says the 20 million gallon-per-year biodiesel facility is the first world’s first fully sustainable liquid biofuel facility.

(From Right to Left) JJ Rothgery, Chairman of the Board at Biodico; Russ Teall, President and Founder of Biodico; Janea Scott, California Energy Commissioner; John Diener, President and CEO, Red Rock Ranch; Jim Costa, U.S. Congressman; Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District; and Captain Monty Ashliman, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore, at Biodico Westside Facility Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif. (Photo: Business Wire)

(From Right to Left) JJ Rothgery, Chairman of the Board at Biodico; Russ Teall, President and Founder of Biodico; Janea Scott, California Energy Commissioner; John Diener, President and CEO, Red Rock Ranch; Jim Costa, U.S. Congressman; Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District; and Captain Monty Ashliman, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore, at Biodico Westside Facility Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif. (Photo: Business Wire)

“Biodico Westside Facility is a result of years of research and development to produce biofuels that make good environmental, social and business sense,” said Teall during the commissioning event. “Today, we are forging a new path in biofuel production by utilizing sustainable solutions to convert diverse feedstocks into renewable sources of fuel and energy.”

Biodico Westside is located at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif., which is in one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. According to Biodico, the facility operates entirely on renewable heat and power and incorporates advanced real-time and remote monitoring leading to complete system automation. In addition to processing multi-feedstocks, including used cooking oil, vegetable oil, and animal fats to name a few, the facility also utilizes anaerobic digestion, gasification and an advanced utility scale solar cogeneration system.

“We developed proprietary technology to greatly enhance the economics of producing high-quality biodiesel, as well as create a modular system that is easy to deploy on a global scale,” said JJ Rothgery, Biodico’s board chair. “The facility is uniquely designed to meet the practical needs of regional transportation companies, and at the same time, provide a solution to address energy security and sustainable farming practices.”

The development of Biodico Westside was supported, in part, by grants from the California Energy Commission and in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, UC Davis, UCSB and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In addition, many of the jobs at Biodico Westside were created in partnership with West Hills Community College, a region with high unemployment rates. Biodico developed an internship program specifically for West Hills and hires graduates of their two-year Industrial Technology Program, which gives many farm laborers higher skills and more lucrative employment says Teall. Continue reading

Oilseeds, Corn Rise on Biodiesel, Ethanol Numbers

CBOTFutures prices for oilseeds, such as soybeans, as well as the price of corn rose after the federal government’s announcement on the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. This report from Nasdaq says soybean prices rose to a five-week high, while corn prices also saw some gains.

Buying in the soybean-oil market also propped up oilseeds, analysts said. Soybean oil prices rose 2.3% on Tuesday, supported in part by the release Monday of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual targets for how much biofuel must be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. The federal agency raised its volume requirements, suggesting more soyoil will be needed to meet biodiesel goals.

The final EPA mandates “indicate that a lot of soybean oil will be used to make biodiesel next year, so people are all bulled up on that,” said Terry Reilly, an analyst with brokerage Futures International LLC in Chicago.

Soybean futures for January delivery rose 8 1/4 cents, or 0.9%, to $8.89 1/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the highest closing price since Oct. 27.

Corn prices rose to a one-week high, boosted by investor short covering, which comes after prices tumbled in November. Corn prices also were supported by EPA’s ruling, which increased blending requirements for ethanol and prompted hopes for increased corn demand, the main feedstock in the biofuel.

“Corn traders figured the EPA announcement was friendly,” said Mr. Reilly.

#Ag Industry Split on Final #RFS Rules

The #Ag industry is split on the final #RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) rules that were released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the RVOs (renewable volume obligations) were an improvement over the proposed rules released in May of this year, the #Ag industry is calling on the EPA to further strengthen the legislation and increase the amount of corn ethanol blended into America’s fuel.

USDA logoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the final rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 a move in the right direction. “This unprecedented commitment is part of the reason why, even in recent years when there has been some uncertainty with RFS, we have seen continued growth in biofuels production and consumption,” said Vilsack in a statement.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Chip Bowling reacted to the news with mixed feelings. “While we are pleased to see the EPA take a step forward and revise NCGA-Logo-3its original proposal, the fact remains that any reduction in the statutory amount will have a negative impact on our economy, our energy security, and the environment.”

Despite the volumes increasing over 2014 numbers, none of the four renewable fuel categories are at statutory levels. As a result, Bowling said NCGA and other organizations are evaluating their options to protect farmers and consumers and hold the EPA accountable to meet statutory requirements.

National Farmers Union logoNational Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sharply criticized the EPA for issuing final volume targets well below their statutory level. “The administration’s decision to issue RFS volume obligations below their statutory requirements exacerbates the serious damage already done to the renewable fuels industry and America’s family farmers,” said Johnson. “Clearly the administration has accepted Big Oil’s talking points and paved the way for a weaker RFS to the detriment of economic prosperity in rural America and the administration’s own climate change goals.”

AFBF-logoThat sentiment was shared by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “We need more biofuels, not less, and Farm Bureau called on EPA earlier this year to protect the RFS,” said Stallman. “We are disappointed to see the agency move forward with a decision that will stall growth and progress in renewable fuels as well as the broader agricultural economy.”

Tier 4 Regulations Could Give Propane, CNG Boost

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its final Tier 4 regulations that affect heavy duty vehicles, construction equipment and agriculture equipment. Past Tier 4 emission standards have decreased particulate matter and NOx levels over time and it’s is now on engine manufacturers to refine engines to further reduce Nitrogen Oxide emissions that enter into the air. Unless of course, you are already developing engines for alternative vehicles such as those fueled by propane and compressed natural gas (CNG).

CK Power Tier 4 Emission Regulations InfographicSt. Louis-based, family owned CK Power has waded through the EPA’s guidelines and packed everything into an easily digestible infographic. The CK Power team says the new standards are a big deal for engine manufactures since they will need to produce engines that meet the standards. However, the new emission standards don’t necessarily affect engine manufacturers who pursue alternative technologies since these emissions standards are for off-road equipment only – including ag equipment. CK Power is a source of engine and generator power and has published a brief guide on how their customers can be in compliance with the EPA’s final Tier 4 emission standards.

“The EPA has regulated on-road diesel engine applications for even longer than it has regulated non-road applications,” explains the CK Power team. “These are, however, separate from final Tier 4 regulations, which apply specifically to non-road applications. That’s not to say that no vehicles are affected. Farm tractors, excavators and other types of construction earth movers are affected by final Tier 4 standards since these are classified as non-road engines.

“That is unless those vehicles make use of propane or CNG as their main fuel source. Final Tier 4 emission standards apply only to diesel engines.”