Farm Polices Impact on Precision Ag

nbb-14-kevin-rossMember of the National Corn Growers Association Board and director of Western Iowa Energy, LLC, Kevin Ross, chatted with Chuck after the opening session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. They discuss farm policy and how precision agriculture technology has impacted his farming operation where he raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans.

Kevin shared that if we don’t move past what RFS has already provided then we become stuck and the innovation stops. He says everyone needs to do what they can to ensure the investments continue and technologies are utilized. He feels the government has given mixed signals and believes simple education on the issue could help.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) itself is vitally important to my operation at home and to my neighbors. Not just from the farming side, but also from the livestock side. Especially, operations like mine in western Iowa where we can utilize the fats and add value back to the livestock. I am not sure how many people know that its even possible. Let alone be done on an industrial scale. Agriculture is about value-added. Creating markets in those new economies within a broader ag industry is what it is all about.”

Kevin goes on to discuss what types of precision agriculture they have taken advantage of on his operation.

“On our farm it has been a fast ramp up of precision technology. Just a couple years ago on our own farm we’ve gone to auto steer. I couldn’t plant straight rows if I tried. We also use single row shut-offs and it has been a huge plus for us. Overall newer equipment is more efficient with yield monitors and data that we collect. We are going into a new soil data collection phase on our farm which is an entirely new way of doing it then before. We have made major advancement in the recent years and profitability in ag and RFS have really had a huge role in making that possible.”

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Ross

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Growing Use of Technology for Growers

nbb-14-frank-legnerCommodity groups across the country also took interest in the happenings at the recent National Biodiesel Conference. Frank Legner, Legner Farms is a member of the Illinois Soybean Association and attended the conference to relay the update on biodiesel to growers in Illinois. He talks about how he uses precision agriculture on his farm where they grow 50/50 soybeans and corn.

“With the high prices of commodities in the years previous farmers have used their capital in many different ways. Our farming operation decided to put our capital towards technology. Where we farm you could have about four different soil types on a piece of land and those soil types all have different productivity indexes that have been benchmarked from the University of Illinois. We use those soil maps as a good foundation of how we are going to come up with a plan. We soil sample on two and a half acre grids and when we make these sample sites we overlay them on our SMS advance desktop software to make sure that sample site is in one soil sample. When we get the readings from the lab, we use that to write our VRT recommendations.”

They can then compare results from previous years and start selecting what hybrids will work in each field. Frank said it is kind of like a draft. The multiple hybrid planting is something that he sees them utilizing in the very near future as well.

Frank also shared that colors don’t mix when you are dealing with this level of technology. He shared that precision planting has been the best way for them to use their green planter with their red tractor. Legner Farms has truly adopted the use of technology to create efficiency and increase profitability. He goes on to explain how they have taken advantage of different precision ag company’s innovations and looks forward to seeing what’s next.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Frank here: Interview with Frank Legner

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Biodiesel Record Prompts Call to Reverse RFS Cuts

biodiesellogo1American biodiesel producers set a record with nearly 1.8 billion gallons produced in 2013. While the record is nice, it’s also a cruel, ironic reminder that the same government office reporting this milestone, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is also trying to lower the amount of biodiesel to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply down to just 1.28 billion gallons in 2014. The National Biodiesel Board is calling on the Obama Administration to change direction on this policy that will hurt the industry just as biodiesel is celebrating its greatest success.

“The success of the biodiesel industry in 2013 proves that the RFS is working today and stimulating the commercial-scale production of advanced biofuel,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the U.S. trade association. “It also makes it incredibly frustrating that the Obama Administration is backing away from this progress with its recent RFS proposal.”

“If our industry produced 1.8 billion gallons of Advanced Biofuel in 2013, why is the Administration retreating to 1.28 billion gallons for 2014?” Jobe asked. “We’re proving it can be done. What we need is consistent policy, and that is sorely lacking in Washington right now.”

“It is incomprehensible that an Administration that has unequivocally supported renewable fuels since Day One has suddenly decided to retreat on the first Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide,” Jobe said. “It threatens biodiesel businesses across the country and thousands of jobs, and it undercuts the Administration’s stated priority of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

NBB officials go on to point out that with some excess 2013 biodiesel production “carried over” into 2014, the real Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) number for biodiesel will be about 1 billion gallons, about half of what is now produced. Throw in a lapsed $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel credit, and the more than 62,000 biodiesel industry jobs in this country could be in big trouble this year.

Views on the Biodiesel Policy Climate

Biodiesel Policy PanelTwo former members of Congress talked about attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard at the National Biodiesel Conference this week in San Diego.

Former Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, now a DC policy advisory, says the EPA proposal to lower RFS volume obligations this year is inexplicable. “The Obama Administration has always supported renewable fuels,” he said during a general session policy panel. “They will, I assume, say that these mandates support renewable fuels. But they know that these mandates are below what they should be, they have to be adjusted.”

Former Congressman Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, a Republican and founder of the Missouri energy initiative, agrees it is inexplicable, but reasoned that backlash against ethanol and the 2012 drought played a role in the proposal. “I think the EPA came under some very intense political scrutiny, that’s when you saw a lot of bills being introduced to repeal the RFS,” he said.

Dorgan thinks it’s unlikely Congress will repeal the RFS, the first version of which he helped write in 2005. “I think that would be a horrible mistake. Fortunately, the Congress can’t agree on anything,” said the former senator, adding that the president would veto the bill if they tried.

Both Dorgan and Hulshof believe Congress will eventually extend the biodiesel tax incentive which expired at the end of 2013.

You can listen to the session, moderated by National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, here: Policy Climate Session

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Eye on Biodiesel Industry Partnership Award

Kirk LeedsThe Eye on Biodiesel Award for Industry Partnership was presented to Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association this morning.

Kirk is Chief Executive Officer of the Association and has been a leader among soybean organizations in supporting biodiesel efforts since the industry’s inception. ISA’s support of the National Biodiesel Board over the years has allowed the industry to prepare and face the challenges of being a billion-plus-gallon Advanced Biofuel. His visionary leadership has helped to maintain a mutually-beneficial, strong connection between the soybean and biodiesel industries. Kirk and ISA have been at the forefront of improving agriculture’s environmental performance. Through partnerships with farmers, environmental groups, agri-business and academia, ISA is helping lead efforts to identify practical solutions for complex environmental issues.

You can listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Kirk Leeds Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

CARB Receives Eye on Biodiesel Award

Richard CoreyReceiving the National Biodiesel Board’s Eye on Biodiesel Impact Award for the California Clean Air Resources Board was Richard Corey, Executive Officer.

The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. In January of 2010, Air Resources Board staff successfully implemented the first ever market-oriented carbon reduction policy for transportation fuels, a policy known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Since that time, use and production of biodiesel and other renewable fuels has increased significantly. Californians have since enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air, growth in green jobs, and increased fuel diversity.

You can listen to Richard’s remarks here: Richard Corey Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Lifetime Achievement Award

Don Borgman AwardA very special award was presented to John Deere’s Don Borgman today at the National Biodiesel Conference. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the industry.

Later this year Borgman will be retiring from John Deere after over 40 years of service. Most recently he served as the Director of Agricultural Industry Relations for John Deere’s North American operations. He has been involved in the promotion and expansion of demand for agricultural products since the late 1970’s, and his work was instrumental in John Deere’s acceptance, support, and promotion of biodiesel.

You can listen to Don’s remarks here: Don Borgman Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Chair Calls for Industry Unity

NBB Chair Steven LevyThe Chair of the National Biodiesel Board is Steven J. Levy, Sprague Operating Resources LLC. This is his first conference as the Chair so when he spoke at today’s general session he told a little bit about himself and his background. He’s the first NBB Chair who is not a farmer, producer or from the Midwest.

Steven spoke about the work of the National Biodiesel Board and the challenges that it will overcome by being a unified voice for the industry.

You can listen to Steven’s remarks here: Steven Levy Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Winning Teamwork Needed by Biodiesel Industry

Jim CraigThe current situation with the RFS has pitted the big petroleum industry against an industry that has made great strides in developing renewable and clean energy. Attendees at the National Biodiesel Conference today got some motivation and inspiration from Jim Craig, 1980 U.S. Hockey Team goalie on when they won gold at the Winter Olympics in what has been called the greatest sports moment in the 20th Century.

Jim encouraged all elements of the biodiesel industry to come together as a team. When comparing the industry to the petroleum industry in this fight he said to “Become the winning underdog.” I visited with him right after his speech.

You can listen to my interview with Jim here: Jim Craig Interview

You can listen to a brief excerpt of Jim’s remarks here: Jim Craig Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Joe Jobe Exposes Renewable Energy Reality

Joe Jobe NBBThis morning Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board, rallied his troops at the National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego. He told attendees that the petroleum industry is misleading Americans about fuel policy and called on President Barack Obama to stand firm behind his previous commitments to supporting alternative energy industries.

In his annual address at the Biodiesel Conference & Expo, Jobe shed light on current industry challenges and exposed cracks in how we think about energy.

He pointed out that biodiesel’s story is not unique, “Biodiesel’s story is an example of how effective government policy can be to jump start a fledgling industry. That is the same story of nearly every new industry that involves technological development. Strong government policy support along with a unique spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking are the primary reasons that so many major modern industries had their start in America.”

You can listen to Joe’s speech here: Joe Jobe Speech

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album