Thank a Farmer Today

Today is National Agriculture Day. People around America are taking time today to learn something about ag, and many are also taking an opportunity to thank the farmers who produce our food, feed and fuel.

National Ag Day“American farmers are to be admired. They are stewards of the land who ensure sustainability for future generations. They are innovative, dedicated and produce an abundance of food and fuel for our nation and the world. Efficient and hardworking, American farmers are the backbone of our nation. They help to bolster rural economies while growing our nation’s economy, providing economic security for all. It takes a lot to get food from the farm to the table and we all have America’s farmers and ranchers to thank for it,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

“Additionally, American agriculture is at the forefront of biofuel development. Farmers are helping produce homegrown, sustainable biofuels that are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil, creating jobs that cannot be outsourced and improving our environment, all while providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.

“American consumers pay less per capita than any other country for food. Our grocery stores are well stocked and American agriculture is the envy of the world. Agriculture creates economic security for our rural communities and has allowed hardworking Americans to secure a place in the middle class. As we celebrate National Ag Day, Americans nationwide should be proud to acknowledge the many contributions agriculture has made to society and the leading role farming communities will continue to play in our country’s economy,” Buis concluded.

Syngenta Ups Ethanol Output, Growers’ Profits

syngenta1Agribusiness company Syngenta is working with ethanol producers to have a variety of corn that produces more ethanol at the refinery and makes more profit for the feedstock growers. The company says that growers of its Enogen variety of corn, specifically engineered to increase ethanol production, will receive some more incentives to grow the grain.

According to Chris Tingle, head of Enogen and Water Solutions for Syngenta, ethanol plants are increasingly seeking not just clean, dry corn with little or no damage or foreign material, but also grain with quality characteristics that can help maximize ethanol production.

“A growing demand for high-quality feedstock is creating opportunities for growers to increase their income per acre,” Tingle said. “By supplying the quality grain that ethanol plants want all year long, growers can maximize profitability, while helping to support the ethanol industry.”

Syngenta designed the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution specifically for growers who plant Enogen®, Golden Harvest® and NK® Corn hybrids. Its goals are to raise yields and drive grain quality through effective insect control, early-season weed management, glyphosate weed-resistance management, and Crop Enhancement (the Syngenta global business focused on minimizing the effects of nonliving factors, such as heat, wind and rain, on plants). The Ethanol Grain Quality Solution provides the ethanol plant and its growers more high-quality grain, while improving return on investment.

“Growers with an Enogen contract can receive an additional 10 cents per bushel premium above the current Enogen contract premium by following agronomic protocols outlined in the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution,” Tingle said. “Plus, growers who have purchased Golden Harvest or NK Corn can receive 10 cents more per bushel for any additional bushels of corn produced under the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution protocol, provided those bushels are delivered to the ethanol plant.”

Ethanol producers say Syngenta’s Ethanol Grain Quality Solution is providing a better ethanol feedstock for their plants, and since the farmers get the premium for growing Enogen, they are also able to achieve higher yields because they can afford some of the inputs that maximize production.

USDA Gives Biomass Energy Development $8.7 Mil Boost

usda-logoUp to $8.7 million in federal funding is being made available for next-generation bioenergy development in biomass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the bioenergy research and education efforts and will be publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

“USDA’s support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow’s Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

USDA is also looking for applications for research and education grants through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.

Clean Energy Nets North Carolina $4.8 Billion

NCSEAThe clean energy industry in North Carolina is netting the state $4.8 billion. The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) says the sector is a key driver in the state’s economy, growing by about 25 percent since 2012 – outpacing the growth of other industries in the state.

“This year’s Census not only reveals good news for the clean energy industry; it demonstrates powerful news for all of North Carolina,” said NCSEA executive director, Ivan Urlaub. “Consider the rise of clean energy business sectors like building efficiency and energy storage, which are creating immediate jobs and lowering business expenses, while preparing our state to affordably meet future energy demand. Our state is not only better off with clean energy, it’s thriving – and becoming a national model for how clean energy development can help strengthen economic competitiveness.”

Driven largely by the state’s market-based clean energy policies, North Carolina was recently named one of the fastest growing markets for clean energy solutions, and is ranked fourth nationwide in installed solar power. NCSEA created the Census in 2008, a first of its kind nationally, to help measure the impact of North Carolina’s clean energy policies and identify where policy is and is not achieving the results that policymakers, economic developers and industry members envisioned. One such policy is the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, which has reportedly returned $1.93 for every $1.00 utilized by state and local governments.

NCSEA is also crediting growing success in the biomass sector, with animal waste, poultry litter-to-energy and swine-waste-to-energy projects helping fuel the clean energy growth.

You can read the full 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census report here.

The Andersons Grain Group Head to Retire

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

The Andersons, Inc. Grain Group President Denny Addis has announced plans to retire in May. According to the company, Ethanol Group president Neill C. McKinstray will assume leadership over both groups at that time.

“Denny has a stellar 43-year record with The Andersons and during his tenure has exhibited faithful service and exceptional leadership,” says Hal Reed, Chief Operating Officer.

Addis began his career with the company in 1971 bagging fertilizer and loading trucks as a part-time employee while a student at the University of Toledo. He spent all but three of his 43 years in the Plant Nutrient Group, ultimately serving as the group’s president for 11 years. He has served as the president of the Grain Group since 2012.

McKinstray is a 39-year veteran with The Andersons, including more than 30 years working at increasing levels of responsibility in the Grain Group. In 2011 he was named as President of the newly-formed Ethanol Group, which he has led with great success.

Calgren Ethanol Biodigester Off and Digesting

The Calgren Ethanol Biodigester is off and digesting waste from dairy farms into ethanol. The ethanol will be used by consumers in California’s Central Valley. The Two-Stage Mixed Plug Flow Digester was designed by DVO, Inc. and built by Regenis. The partners said it is the first California digester to use agricultural waste to create renewable natural gas to power another renewable energy facility, creating a step forward in a virtuous, zero waste lifecycle.

gI_59645_Pixley facility photoThe process begins with local dairy, Four J Farms, sending their cow waste to the Calgren digester, which captures methane and burns it as clean biogas. While Calgren will be utilizing the renewable gas to power its facility, the digester will also greatly reduce bacteria and pathogens so dairy farmers can reuse the liquids (water) safely on their crops.

“I am proud of the contribution that Calgren can make to this incredibly green, low-carbon intensity project,” said Lyle Schlyer, president of Calgren Renewable Fuels. “Digesters are often talked about, but actually building one and getting it into operation doesn’t happen all that often. This is a marriage of industrial and dairy interests.”

The California Energy Commission (CEC) invested $4.6 million in the project. In January 2015, CEC issued rules that could increase the number of digester projects around the state. Today California imports over 90 percent of its natural gas and in 2013 the state constructed nearly half of all the new natural gas-fired power plants built in the U.S. The need to import the energy is fueling the state’s commitment to supporting locally produced alternative forms of power.

“The San Joaquin Valley is challenged with some of country’s worst air pollution,” noted Janea A. Scott, Commissioner at the CEC. “The Pixley Biogas anaerobic digester is the first anaerobic digester on a California farm permitted to use all feedstocks, including municipal green waste and food processing waste. This type of innovative technology helps California meet its clean air, petroleum reduction, and climate goals.”

American Coalition for Ethanol Elects New Officers

ACElogoThe American Coalition for Ethanol has elected its board officers for 2015:

* President – Ron Alverson, representing Dakota Ethanol, LLC
* Vice President – Duane Kristensen, representing Chief Ethanol Fuels Inc.
* Secretary – Dave Sovereign, representing Golden Grain Energy, LLC
* Treasurer – Owen Jones, representing Full Circle Ag Cooperative

Alverson is a corn and soybean farmer and was the founding chairman of Lake Area Corn Processors, LLC (Dakota Ethanol), a 60 mgy ethanol plant and South Dakota’s first farmer-owned ethanol facility. He served on the Board of the National Corn Growers Association and is an agronomic expert who recently authored a White Paper entitled “Re-thinking the Carbon Reduction Value of Corn Ethanol.”

Kristensen has nearly 30 years of experience in the ethanol industry and since 2004 has served as General Manager of Chief Ethanol Fuels Inc., a 62 mgy plant near Hastings, Nebraska, which is the state’s first dry-mill ethanol production facility. He also serves on the U.S. Grains Council Ethanol “A-team” which develops export demand for U.S. ethanol.

Sovereign farms and is the founding chairman of Golden Grain Energy, LLC, a 120 mgy ethanol plant in Mason City, Iowa. He also owns Cresco Fast Stop, a convenience store that offers E15, E30 and E85. Sovereign was instrumental in developing the Biofuels Mobile Education Center, a 45-foot traveling trailer designed to educate the public about biofuels. He also serves on the board of Absolute Energy, a 115 mgy ethanol plant in Lyle, Minnesota.

Jones is a farmer, rancher, and cooperative business leader who was the driving force behind the installation of the first blender pump in the nation in 2006 at Four Seasons Cooperative (later renamed Full Circle Ag) in Britton, South Dakota.

ACE also elected South Dakota farmer and rancher Lars Herseth and East River Electric Cooperative representative Scott Parsley as two additional representatives to serve the ACE Executive Committee.

REAP Funds Still Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting funds for the Rural Energy for American Program (REAP).  The funding notice releases mandatory funding for both FY2014 and FY2015, as well as discretionary funding recently made available in the “Cromnibus.” The program provides grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses, farmers and others in the ag community. However, some new changes have been usda-rd-logoimplemented including a new simplified “three tiered” application process, more frequent solicitations, and priority points for specific policy priorities such as the advancement of distributed wind power.

According to USDA, with two years of funding released at the same time, this notice of solicitation of applications (NOSA) sets a record for the largest REAP funding notice in program history, of $101.35 million. Program demand has decreased in recent years due to decreased program funding, so competition may be reduced.

“The REAP program has always been a very good one, strongly supported on a bi-partisan basis to help expand development of rural America’s abundant renewable energy resources,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director for the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) who has participated in the rule making. “Now it’s an even better program helping ensure distributed wind power’s continued role in bringing clean, affordable and homegrown electricity to rural America. I am pleased to see the efforts of the USDA for it’s great work on the program.”

DWEA President, Mike Bergey, added, “This program helps farmers and rural businesses lower their operating costs and become more competitive by installing American-made small wind turbines. Recent improvements to the program have made it more accessible to family farms and small businesses and we are very appreciative of the streamlining of the application process.”

Bergey is participating in the USDA webinar, “USDA Rural Energy for America Program Webinar: National Stakeholder Forum,” today from 12 pm – 2:00 pm EST.  The webinar will detail the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the program changes.

CH2M Hill Involved In Seawater Bioenergy Facility

A pilot-scale bioenergy facility that will use seawater irrigated desert land to produce both bioenergy and food in the water is under development in Masdar City. The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (ISEAS) involves a complete seawater agricultural system that will serve as a research and development facility for Masdar Institute (MI) of Science and Technology and the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC). The project is expected to be operational in late summer.

Dr. Alejandro Ríos, Director, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, noted, “This project has potential for groundbreaking innovation, particularly considering the unique conditions in Abu Dhabi’s environment. CH2M HILL has assembled a world-class team of engineers to tackle this very interesting challenge, and we at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are confident that the engineering expertise that has gone into the design of the pilot facility will enable such innovation.”

Growing_sustainable_sbrc_enCH2M HILL was commissioned last year to provide technical support and to design a sophisticated pilot-scale facility of the ISEAS on designated land in Masdar City. CH2M HILL said they worked closely during the design phase with MI and SBRC to refine the technical aspects of the new facility, with the intention of an innovative sustainable system that will serve as a research and development facility for MI and SBRC.

A significant aspect of the new pilot-scale facility is the use of seawater to produce water stock to grow seafood, mainly fish and shrimp, (aquaculture) for human consumption and Salicornia plants for fuel and byproduct production. The plants thrive in arid, desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow. The effluent is diverted into cultivated mangroves that are used for water treatment and biomass production, removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage.

“CH2M HILL is proud of our involvement with this notable pilot research project and of our successful partnership with MI and the SBRC. The project team has not only created an innovative biofuel project to address challenges of energy and water security, but is also playing an essential role in supporting the advancement of sustainable biofuel research in the UAE,” said Neil Reynolds, CH2M HILL’s regional managing irector for Middle East, North Africa and India (MENAI).

Illinois Soybean Growers Launch 20% Biodiesel Club

B20clubSoybean growers in Illinois are recognizing fleets in the state that run on a 20 percent blend of biodiesel, B20. This news release from the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) says the group has partnered with the American Lung Association in Illinois to launch the B20 Club.

“B20 offers economic and environmental benefits to the fleets that use it, so we wanted to bring these leading fleets together and recognize them for taking the initiative to move up to B20,” says Rebecca Richardson, ISA biodiesel lead. “We’ll also provide resources for our B20 Club members, and others in the state, who have questions about how to use biodiesel in their fleets.”

Inaugural members include:

The Fleet Services Division of Public Works Department in the City of Evanston, Ill., which operates 366 units that include all diesel police and fire vehicles, heavy equipment, utilities and forestry departments and pool vehicles and parks and recreation buses.
Cook-Illinois Corporation; Kickert School Bus Lines, Inc., one of their leading subsidiaries which also is one of the largest family-owned and -operated school bus contractors in the country, runs more than 2,100 school buses every day.
Peoria CityLink operates 58 buses and 35 Paratransit vans that carry three million passengers annually.
R&N Trucking LLC, with 17 trucks that together travel more than a million miles a year.
S.K. Davison, a family-run business specializing in local and regional hauls with 18 trucks travelling approximately 800,000 miles per year.
G&D Integrated, serving central Illinois for more than 100 years with transportation, freight transfer and storage services, and currently more than 400 long-haul trucks.

The six members of the B20 Club run more than 2,700 vehicles burning more than 2.2 million gallons of biodiesel. That cuts carbon dioxide emissions of more than 253 tons — a reduction the equivalent of taking 48 cars off the roadway.