Farmers Live #EarthDay Every Day

earth-day-2015This year marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day but farmers have been living the spirit of stewardship for natural resources for generations and have been leaders in the generation of renewable energy sources like biofuels, wind and solar.

“For hundreds of years, America’s farmers have been working our land and providing the country and the world with high quality food, feed, fiber and fuel,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Today, on Earth Day, we are proud that our industry will keep getting cleaner, keep farming more efficiently and keep discovering new ways to fuel America with biomass and waste products that represent a smarter, cleaner, homegrown alternative to foreign oil.”

Celebrate National Biodiesel Day

rudolf-dieselNational Biodiesel Day is March 18, and the Iowa Biodiesel Board is suggesting that farmers ask for and use biodiesel as they head into spring planting.

“We’re challenging every farmer in Iowa to request that their fuel distributor offer biodiesel blends this spring,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director and a soybean farmer who uses biodiesel on his farm. “A thriving biodiesel market helps everyone in the ag sector.”

March 18 is National Biodiesel Day because it is the birthday of Rudolf Diesel, the man who invented the engine that bears his name. He ran early models on peanut oil, and was a visionary for renewable fuel.

“I urge farmers to recognize the importance that renewable energy has in a strong and vibrant farming future,” said Ron Heck, an Iowa soybean farmer and IBB officer. “Those of us in the farming community must walk-the-walk by supporting clean energy solutions on the farm.”

Heck noted he has used biodiesel on his own farm for many years. But a poll of more than 360 Iowa farmers conducted this winter by the Iowa Soybean Association finds room for increased biodiesel use. About 41 percent said they use biodiesel in their farming operations. “Not readily available” was the primary reason cited for not using the fuel. However, availability has improved the last several years due to favorable state legislation.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine in blends of up to 20 percent (B20). All of the major Original Equipment Manufacturers producing engines and equipment for the U.S. agricultural market support B20 or higher in their warranty position statements.

Anti-RFS Bill Re-Introduced

Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR) and Peter Welch (D-VT), today re-introduced legislation called the RFS Reform Act “to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to help ease concerns created by the ethanol mandate and protect consumers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, retailers, and the U.S. economy.”

Livestock and poultry producer organizations are among those supporting the bill, but general farm groups and corn growers say the RFS is working fine just the way it is.

mess-rfs“The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation’s biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy,” said National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson. “This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation’s attempts to manage its carbon emissions.”

National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling notes that “the price of corn today is lower than the cost of production, and less than when the RFS was passed” and that “repealing the RFS would increase the cost of farm programs, hurt rural communities, and make America more dependent on foreign oil.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen called the legislation a “reckless paean to Big Oil” and said it was “a slap in the face to corn farmers across the country who responded to the RFS with increased production and yields.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis
says the bill is also a gift to Big Food “in their effort to extend their record profitability by blaming ethanol for food price increases” even as corn prices have been declining. “This has provided an economic boon to the integrated U.S. livestock and chain restaurant industries that tout their profitability to their stakeholders while consumer food prices, led by the meat sector, continue to escalate,” said Buis.

According to the sponsors, the RFS Reform Act “eliminates the corn-based ethanol requirement, caps the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent, and requires the EPA to set cellulosic biofuels levels at production levels.” There are currently 34 co-sponsors for the bill.

PacificAg Can Help Ethanol Plants Go Cellulosic

pacificag-logoThe largest and most experienced biomass harvest company in the country wants to help ethanol plants develop or expand operations into the production of cellulosic ethanol by saving time and money on supply chain development. PacificAg, which is already supplying biomass for plants in Iowa and Kansas, enables cellulosic biorefineries the ability to source cost-competitive biomass for biofuel and biochemical production.

PacificAg started in the residue management business nearly 20 years ago harvesting forage crops for feed in Oregon and CEO Bill Levy says they have expanded to meet the needs of the growing biofuels industry in the Midwest.

pacificag-harvest“We can save an ethanol plant the time and money in developing a supply chain,” says Levy. “It’s a very specific supply chain with very specific challenges and I think we have a lot of experience overcoming these challenges and developing these supply chains quicker than anybody else.”

Biomass products include corn stover, wheat straw and milo stover products because of their abundance and supply. “What we’ve found in the Midwest is that not all growers are accustomed to removing this supply,” says Levy, stressing that a major component of their suite of services includes a balanced residue management program.

There are two critical elements an ethanol plant must consider when ramping up cellulosic ethanol production: year round biomass supply and sustainability around biomass residue harvest.

Harrison Pettit, a company partner who works with ethanol plants to help them get their biomass programs off the ground, notes that market needs for advanced biofuels industry are long-term and year round. “Ethanol plants are built to operate for more than 30 years.”

How does a grower know if he or she should participate in a biomass residue harvest program? Pettit says the first question to ask is, Are you within 100 miles of a cellulosic ethanol facility? “If you are a corn grower, wheat grower or milo grower, then you really ought to give us a call,” says Pettit. “If you really want to learn about how a residue management program can benefit your ground and benefit your bank account, then we want to talk.”

Learn more about PacificAg and the services they offer for both farmers and ethanol plants in these interviews with Levy and Pettit.
Interview with PacificAg CEO Bill Levy Interview with PacificAg partner Harrison Pettit

Thanksgiving Blessings to All

thanksgiving-2014aO God, source and giver of all things,
You manifest your infinite majesty, power and goodness
In the earth about us:
We give you honor and glory.
For the sun and the rain,
For the manifold fruits of our fields:
For the increase of our herds and flocks,
We thank you.
For the enrichment of our souls with divine grace,
We are grateful.

Supreme Lord of the harvest,
Graciously accept us and the fruits of our toil,
In union with Jesus, your Son,
As atonement for our sins,
For the growth of your Church,
For peace and love in our homes,
And for salvation for all.
We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Biodiesel Benefits Livestock Producers

nafb14-nbb-weberWhile some have tried to pit the biofuels industry against livestock producers, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) explain their green fuel is actually helping those producers.

“The livestock industry is a strong stakeholder. That’s how we view animal agriculture in terms of biodiesel production,” said Alan Weber, economic consultant for the NBB, during a recent interview with Cindy at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention.

Alan said that while soy oil still remains the main feedstock for biodiesel, the fuel is making inroads using animal tallow. In fact, he said that 25 percent of animal fat from livestock production now goes into biodiesel. He pointed out that while European demand has dropped for animal fats, biodiesel has helped maintain the market and keep money in farmers’ pockets. Alan also reiterated a point made many times before that with the crush of soybeans for biodiesel, it is actually helping keep feed for livestock plentiful.

“Every time we crush an additional bushel of soybeans, we also get more meal,” actually keeping down feed costs, he said. “It’s been a nice relationship, and we look forward to continuing that in the future.”

Listen to more of Cindy’s interview with Alan here: Interview with Alan Weber, economic consultant for the NBB
2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

Ag Groups Urge President to Reject Biofuels Cuts

mess-rfsThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and several other agricultural sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed cuts in the 2014 volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“The blending targets and the methodology in your administration’s proposed rule are already causing significant harm to the biofuel sector,” the letter states. “These impacts are reverberating throughout the U.S. agriculture economy, and we expect this trend to continue if the targets and the methodology in the rule are not corrected.”

The letter discusses how the ag sector has met its responsibility in growing sufficient feedstock for biofuels, but is also working with the ethanol industry on infrastructure and advanced fuels. The letter concludes: “The EPA’s proposed policy decision is driving one of our key economic engines – the biofuel sector -¬‐ overseas. We have invested in response to the signals in the RFS and are poised to deliver the very low carbon fuels you have sought for so long. Instead of reaping the economic benefits of this investment with a build-¬‐out of a domestic biofuel industry, the methodology proposed by EPA is offshoring the industry – and our market. This is a decision we cannot afford in America’s heartland.”

In addition to NCGA, organizations sending the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers.

Forum to Address Ag’s Challenges in Transportation

farmfoundationlogo3News of too few rail cars to move this year’s grain harvest from farming areas to consumers has grabbed the headlines most recently, but agriculture and rural America are facing several other transportation issues this year. Farm Foundation will look to address some key issues, including the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure, which is also important to the movement of biofuels – roads, bridges and waterways – during its next free forum, Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C. with a live audiocast being made available for those unable to attend in person.

The Forum will begin with presentations by four industry leaders:

Eric Jessup, Vice President, Transportation, Industrials & Energy Services, Informa Economics;
John H. Miller, Group Vice President, Agricultural Products, BNSF Railroad;
Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director, Soy Transportation Coalition; and
Jon Samson, Executive Director of the American Trucking Associations’ Agriculture and Food Transporters Conference.

Moderating the session will be grain farmer Mark Scholl of J&M Scholl, Inc. Mr. Scholl and Mr. Miller are both Trustees of Farm Foundation.

More information and sign-up is available here.

Growth Energy Shows Ethanol’s Commitment to Ag Future

growth-energy-logoA group that represents the producers and supporters of ethanol who feed the world and fuel America is showing its commitment to the future of agriculture. Growth Energy announced a multi-year commitment and new partnership with the National FFA Organization to build on critical projects that prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders in American agriculture, starting with teacher and student workshops presented by Growth Energy this week at the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Growth Energy is thrilled to help sponsor several important programs for FFA, including expanded opportunities to continue to educate FFA’s members on critical issues such as the important role that biofuels and energy play in American agriculture. Additionally, together, we will continue to build a robust networking system to attract new agricultural teachers and highlight the opportunities FFA members have as they enter the workforce. Ultimately, this comes down to investing in our most valuable resource —tomorrow’s leaders of American agriculture,” stated Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

Specifically, the Growth Energy partnership will focus on assistance in supporting the Curriculum for Ag Science Education (CASE), as well as a personalized career exploration and development resource called “My Journey.” Furthermore, Growth Energy will also support the TeachAg program in efforts to attract more teachers for the enhanced education of FFA members. Additionally, Growth Energy will be leading select National FFA Convention sessions and providing support for FFA during their Washington, D.C. leadership conference.

“FFA is critical to the future of American agriculture. As our nation’s farmers become more productive and efficient, it is important that the next generation learns the best ways to provide both food and fuel while understanding the significance of being a true steward of the land and ensuring sustainable farming for generations to come,” added Buis.

Buis added that he was an FFA member, as was Jeff Broin, the co-chairman of Growth Energy’s Board of Directors. They called the programs and services FFA provides “immeasurable” and a preparation for students “for the challenges of tomorrow,” while also fostering leadership, innovation and stewardship of the land.

EIA: Farms Big Energy Users and Producers

Farmers are using… but also making… a lot of energy. A new report from the U.S Energy Information Administration shows that American agriculture used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah. While growing and harvesting the crops and the energy needed to raise livestock are significant expenditures (with crop operations consume much more energy than livestock operations), those same farms are also big contributors to our nation’s fuel supply.

Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses. The proportion of direct to indirect energy use varies by crop. For example, corn, which is also used as an energy input for ethanol production, has relatively low direct fuel expenditures but has the highest percentage of fertilizer expenditures.
EIAcropenergy
The energy consumed in livestock operations is almost solely direct energy consumption and is relatively low compared with crop operations, both as a percentage of total operating expenditures and on a total energy basis…

In addition to being major energy consumers, some farms are using renewable resources to produce energy. Wind turbines, methane digesters, and photovoltaics are the most common on-farm renewables. Renewable energy can help to offset the need for purchased energy. In some cases, the renewable energy produced on farms is sold to electric power suppliers, providing additional income for farmers.

The report also says that water and chemicals used in agriculture can be big users of energy resources.