In honor of Earth Day today, the U.S. Forest Service is seeking proposals that expand wood energy use and support responsible forest management. This news release says the service is also offering a Wood Energy Financial App to help business leaders see a positive bottom line for these efforts.
“USDA through the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies, and create new jobs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These efforts, part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, create opportunities for wood energy products to enter the marketplace.”
“Building stronger markets for innovative wood products supports sustainable forestry, reduces wildfire risk, and creates energy savings for rural America,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
Under the Forest Service’s Wood-to-Energy Grant program, about $2.8 million will be made available to help successful applicants complete the engineering design work needed to apply for public or private loans for construction and long-term financing of wood energy facilities. Another $1.7 million from the Statewide Wood Energy Team cooperative agreement program will help public-private teams make advancements in wood energy.
The Wood Energy Financial App that allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business. You can dowmload the app here.
USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.
“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”
Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.
This year’s corn plantings are expected to be down this year, but growers say there will be plenty of stockpiles for all needs, including ethanol. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that American farmers expect to plant 3.7 million fewer acres of corn this year, down four percent from 2013. But the National Corn Growers Association says, don’t worry, there are plenty of stocks going into the year, and it would still be the fifth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted.
“In 2013, U.S. farmers produced a record crop abundant enough to meet all needs and provide an ample carry over into 2014,” National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said. “While it is still early in the season and many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, the public can rest assured that bountiful stockpiles and adequate plantings will ensure our corn security for the year to come.”
NCGA says the plantings will yield 13.37 billion bushels, and corn stocks stand at more than 7 billion bushels, up 30 percent from the same time last year.
Expected big plantings of corn and soybeans underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). New estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show a possible record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year and the fifth largest corn acreage to be planted as well. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says these factors show why a strong and growing RFS is needed this year.
“The past eight years were prosperous for agriculture because the RFS was allowed to act as a sponge, soaking up additional corn and soybeans when needed,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The vast amount of corn and soybeans expected to be planted in 2014 demonstrates the importance of a strong and growing RFS. If the EPA’s proposal to essentially gut the RFS is allowed to become final, we could see huge carryovers, crop prices plummet below the cost of production, and family farms placed in jeopardy.”
Nearly 92 million acres is expected to be dedicated to corn this year and a record 81.5 million acres for soybeans, a six percent increase from last year.
There are lots of activities for National Agriculture Day going on today in Washington DC, including a big celebration unveiling a statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug in the Capitol, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack still took time to meet with members of the American Coalition for Ethanol in town this week to visit Congressional offices
“The country needs a robust renewable fuel industry,” said Vilsack. “It provides choice for consumers and less cost gas at the pump. It helps to create hundreds of thousands of jobs which is important for the economy. It stabilizes farm income, it’s better for the environment, and it makes us a safer nation because we’re less reliant on others for our energy and fuel sources. So we need to continue to have a robust commitment to this industry, we need to expand it and grow it.” Brief interview with Secretary Vilsack after ACE visit
The secretary spoke to the more than 80 ethanol industry about what USDA is doing to achieve that goal, including finding creative ways to increase higher ethanol blend pumps, promoting exports of ethanol to Japan, India and China, and continuing to work towards encouraging use of higher blends in this country.
2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album
The biggest portion of money recently paid out for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Advanced Biofuel Payment Program went to biodiesel operations, indicating that green fuel is the leading advanced biofuel in the U.S. Biodiesel Magazine reports that about $40 million of the $60 million paid out went to biodiesel production. USDA officials say the entire $60 million announced last week shows the the Obama Administration’s commitment to support an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
“The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels is building the foundation for a clean energy economy and protecting our environment while making America less dependent on foreign and fossil fuels and increasing rural economic growth,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development State Director.
Through this program and others at USDA, the department is working to support the research, investment and infrastructure necessary to build a robust and lasting biofuels industry that creates jobs and broadens the range of feedstocks used to produce renewable fuel. More than 300 producers in 47 states have received $279 million in payments since the program’s inception. It has supported the production of more than 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuel and the equivalent of more than 40 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.
The funding was first established with the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized in the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says his discussions with his counterpart at the Environmental Protection Agency don’t focus on the message that biodiesel and ethanol advocates are already pushing: abandoning the current proposal that would cut the amount of biofuels mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply.
“I’m looking for ways to help this industry, regardless of what EPA does,” Vilsack told a group of reporters gathered at Commodity Classic, the annual meeting of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers in San Antonio. While pointing out that he has been a long-time supporter of biofuels, he said it doesn’t make sense to repeat what EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is already hearing in the thousands of comments her agency has received. Vilsack believes a great way forward is marketing ethanol and biodiesel as exports. “Our team has put together a plan to expand trade promotion on biofuels by including biofuels folks on a new trip to China,” as well as planned pitches to India and Japan.
Vilsack added they can also address infrastructure issues to make sure that is not a barrier to getting more biofuels into the system. He sees making sure biodiesel and ethanol are successful as matters of national security importance, environmental concern, and economic interest. He just wants to make sure his Cabinet colleague has all the information he can provide her.
“Bottom line is: we’re going to continue to help this industry as best we can, advocate for it, and trust that EPA at the end of the day makes the right set of decisions.”
Receiving an Eye on Biodiesel Pioneer Award for lifetime achievement serving the biodiesel industry at the convention was Mike Haas, of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
Haas has been a Lead Scientist and Research Biochemist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service since 1981. He has been a huge supporter of the biodiesel industry and currently leads a project investigating the production and quality enhancement of biodiesel, and the chemical modification of lipids to produce bio-based petroleum replacements. Haas and the USDA have been a key supporter of the annual Biodiesel Technical Workshop and currently provides leadership for the NBB’s Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program.
The newest supply and demand estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms a record corn harvest in 2013 of just under 14 billion bushels and an increased in usage of corn for ethanol.
USDA’s World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate for January 10 projects corn use for 2013/14 higher with feed and residual use projected up 100 million bushels based on September-November disappearance as indicated by the December 1 stocks estimate. “Corn used to produce ethanol is raised 50 million bushels reflecting continued strong weekly ethanol production, a reduction in expected sorghum use for ethanol, and higher forecast 2014 gasoline consumption in the latest projections from the Energy Information Administration.”
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the report’s numbers indicate that now is a bad time to reduce volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “Due to the expected corn surplus, corn prices have already dropped to nearly $4.00/bushel – half the price of corn in late summer 2012, below the price of corn when EISA was signed into law in 2007, and below the farmer’s cost of production,” Dinneen said in a statement, adding that farmers, small businesses and innovation in next generation biofuels would be adversely impacted by lowering the RFS in 2014. “It doesn’t have to be this way, there is still time for the Obama White House and EPA to do the right thing and restore the numbers for ethanol to their statutory levels.”
Despite the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower corn ethanol volume obligations for 2014 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), USDA’s December supply/demand report is predicting a 50 million bushel increase in corn use for ethanol next year. Ending stocks are now expected to total 1.792 billion bushels, down 5 percent from last month’s estimate.
The new report also calls for increases in exports, food and seed use but ending stocks will still be more than double a year earlier with this year’s record crop of just under 14 billion bushels. Prices are expected to average $4.40 a bushel in the current year, down significantly from $6.89 last marketing year.