About Cindy Zimmerman

Cindy has been reporting about agricultural topics since 1980 when she graduated with a degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida. She is an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and 1991 Oscar in Agriculture winner. She and her husband Chuck started ZimmComm New Media in 2003. They have three beautiful daughters and live near white sand beaches of Pensacola, Florida.

American Ethanol a Winner for Corn Growers

fps14-ncga-robThe American Ethanol NASCAR program is in its fourth year now and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) considers it to be a big success.

NCGA incoming Vice President Rob Elliott of Illinois says American Ethanol began its partnership with NASCAR in 2011 supporting the transition to 15% ethanol. “NASCAR in its three levels has run over six million miles (on E15) which is the same number of miles EPA drove to prove E15 to be a good fuel,” Elliott said during an interview at Farm Progress Show this week. “The feedback we get is that 80% of NASCAR fans are now more likely to be very supportive of the use of ethanol in their own cars.”

The challenge still remains in getting more E15 into the market. “The ready availability of E15 at a broad number of stations, we’re just not there yet,” said Elliott, but he believes promoting through NASCAR is having an impact for the long term. “We’re moving the needle with 100 million NASCAR fans and we’ve seen the great benefit in the synergy created with NASCAR itself at a high level.”

American Ethanol is a partnership between NASCAR, NCGA, Growth Energy, New Holland with a number of individual ethanol producers and state corn grower groups.

Listen to an interview with Rob here: Interview with Rob Elliott, NCGA

2014 Farm Progress Show photo album

Corn Farmers Concerned About RFS and Low Prices

gps14-ncga-chipCorn farmers are concerned about the impact lower volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could have on growers ready to harvest a record corn crop this year.

“We’re keeping a close eye on corn prices and are greatly concerned about efforts in Washington that may reduce or stifle demand for corn and raise the cost of production,” said National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Chip Bowling during the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa this week. “As thrilled as we are with a record crop, we know it has its challenges.”

Bowling says it will be detrimental if the EPA moves forward with its proposal to lower volume requirements for corn ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. “Reducing the demand of corn for ethanol will significantly impact corn prices – at a time when prices are already too low,” said the corn farmer from Maryland. “We need stability and we need EPA to stick to the statutory amount of corn ethanol in the RFS.” Chip Bowling, NCGA comments on record corn crop
Interview with Chip Bowling, NCGA

2014 Farm Progress Show photo album

Iowa Gov Blames EPA for Deere Layoffs

fps14-govIowa Governor Terry Branstad paid a visit to the 2014 Farm Progress Show Tuesday and had some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency, which just last week sent a final version of the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard to the White House for review. He blames uncertainty created by the proposed rule for the recent layoffs at Deere and Company. “The result is the price of corn has dropped so much that farmers are not buying equipment,” he said. “What the EPA has done is not only damaging farm income, but it’s costing us jobs in farm machinery and manufacturing.” Deere announced more than 100 people will be laid off indefinitely from its plant in Ankeny and 460 people will be laid off at its tractor factory in Waterloo.

Branstad also notes that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels production is moving forward with the first gallons produced this summer by Quad county corn processors and two more plants opening soon. “I’m going to the POET grand opening of their new cellulosic ethanol plant and then we have DuPont Pioneer that’s also opening one in Nevada,” he said. “The problem is the oil companies control the distribution and they’ve done everything they can to discourage retailers from offering blender pumps and E15 because ethanol is a lot cheaper than gasoline.”

Listen to my interview with the Governor here: Interview with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

2014 Farm Progress photo album.

RFS Headed to OMB for Review

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has sent its final rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in a last step before public release. Renewable fuels groups responded to the news today.

“We’re pleased to see the process moving forward and hope the final rule will show that this Administration is standing behind our national goals for clean, domestic fuels that strengthen our economy and national security,” said National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The original EPA proposal and continued delays have severely disrupted the U.S. biodiesel industry this year. We can begin to reverse that damage with a meaningful increase in the biodiesel volume that is finalized as quickly as possible so that producers can ramp up production in a timely fashion.”

“While we have not seen the rule, we hold strong in our belief that EPA and OMB will fulfill President Obama’s commitment to biofuels as a means of greater energy independence, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and wider availability of cost-saving alternative fuels for American consumers,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “This decision is about more than targets and gallons, it is about a rationale that places highest importance on the long term strength of this country and not the bottom line of oil companies.”

“While OMB has up to 90 days to review this rule, what is most important is the content of the final rule,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Ultimately, this final rule should promote the policy goals of the RFS and call for an increase in the production of renewable fuels, so we can continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs at home that cannot be outsourced and mitigate climate change, while we improve our environment.”

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, says his members are pleased with the progress. “Anything short of that turns the keys to the RFS over to the oil companies and puts cellulosic biofuel at risk,” said Jennings. “While all stakeholders have waited a long time for the final rule, and it could take another 30 days or more for interagency review, getting the rule done right is far more important than getting it done quickly.”

Since the rule is not public yet, there is no word on whether the volume requirements were changed from the initial proposal, which reduced the amount of ethanol and kept the biodiesel requirement the same. Senator John Thune (R-SD) expects some middle ground. “I think we’ll see an upward change,” he says. “I hope it’s a significant upward change and I hope that in ’15 they look at this in a different way.”

Thune still expects it will be later in the fall before a final rule is announced. EPA received over 340,000 comments on the proposal.

USGC Lists Top 10 Markets for US Ethanol

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) has compiled its top 10 list of potential U.S. ethanol markets for the upcoming 2014/2015 market year, starting September 1.

usgc-ethanol-mkts1

While Brazil and Canada remain the top two, the Council is assessing Japan and Korea, Latin America and Southeast Asia as potential markets for U.S. ethanol exports. In the number three spot, USGC believes Japan has the potential to import 459 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in the year ahead, which would account for 11 percent of global demand for U.S. ethanol. Seventh placed Mexico has the potential to import 236 million gallons of U.S. ethanol and the Philippines at number nine could import 90 million gallons. Those three markets combined could to represent almost 20 percent of global demand for U.S. ethanol.

Rounding out the top ten, USGC puts the United Kingdom in fourth place with nearly 305 million gallons, India and Nigeria ahead of Mexico in 5th and 6th place with 250 and 240 million gallons respectively. Australia is ranked in 8th place with 220 million gallons and the Netherlands completes the top 10 with just over 86 million.

Colombia has Potential as Distillers Grains Market

COLOMBIAExports of U.S.corn to Colombia have soared this year, thanks to bigger crops, lower prices, and a favorable free trade agreement. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) also sees great potential for increasing exports of the ethanol co-product and livestock feed distillers grains (DDGS).

“We currently see about 90,000 metric tons of distillers grains moving into Colombia,” says USGC Director of Global Strategies Kurt Shultz. “We believe the market has the potential to easily exceed 700,000 tons, so there’s a lot of upward opportunity in Colombia for increased exports of distillers grains.”

Under the free trade agreement, there are no duties on distillers grains, so the Grains Council is actively working to bring technical knowledge on how to use the product to the region. “We had some feeding trials last year with the dairy industry which should good acceptance in the dairy sector,” said Shultz. Now they are looking at doing trials in swine and poultry as well.

This will likely be a topic of discussion at the 2014 Export Exchange coming up October 20-22 in Seattle. The event, co-sponsored by USGC and the Renewable Fuels Association, brings together buyers and sellers of distillers grains in an effort to expand established export markets and develop new markets. Discounted early registration for the event is available now through September 22.

Funding for Renewable Energy Programs

usda-omannThe Energy Title in the 2014 Farm Bill included re-authorization of the Renewable Energy for America Program – or REAP – with funding for renewable energy projects.

USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator Ron Omann says an additional 50-million dollars of mandatory funding and up to 20-million dollars of discretionary funding have been dedicated to REAP for fiscal years 2014 through 2018, and funding for this year and next are being combined. “We’re going to be putting both ’14 and ’15 monies together which amounts to $100 million total for projects,” said Omann. That includes funding for both the Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program and the Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant Program.

Omann says they are working to simplify the application process. “Generally, we want to streamline it and make it less of a barrier to get into it,” he said, adding that they are implementing specific changes in the application process for projects of less than $80,000.

For those interested in applying for REAP funding, Omann says each state has its own template to help with the application process, but it helps to keep it small and simple.

Find out more about REAP here.

Economist Still Opposes RFS Despite Livestock Recovery

bivi-nc-meyerDespite the fact that livestock margins have made a dramatic recovery in the past few years as availability of feed has increased and prices have decreased, a leading livestock economist still opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We’ve thrown billions of dollars at this industry already and it ought to have to stand on its own,” said Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, during an interview last week at an event for pork producers. “It has a place in the fuel business as an oxygenate and as an octane enhancer, it’s not going away from there.”

Meyer, who has always been an outspoken critic of U.S. energy policy, says his beef with the RFS is that it caused ethanol production to increase too much too quickly. “The trend yield on corn is up about two bushels per year. If you had grown the ethanol business at a rate equivalent to that, I wouldn’t have been able to gripe too much about it,” he said. “But it was far faster than that …. and the economic impact of that was very negative for (livestock) producers.”

However, the tide has turned dramatically to the point where demand and prices for livestock and poultry are riding high and there is almost record high feed availability with manageable prices. “We’re not going back to $2 corn and $180 bean meal but we’re at the lowest levels on costs in five years,” said Meyer. “We’re not increasing corn usage for ethanol every year like we were, it’s pretty much flat. It’ll grow a little bit but not much and we can probably keep up with that with trend yield growth on corn.”

Despite that, Meyer thinks the RFS needs to go away. “I don’t hate ethanol,” he says he tells corn producers. “I just don’t like subsidized, mandated ethanol when I’m the alternative user of the input.”

Interview with Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics

USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop

U.S. farmers are expected to produce more corn than last year, according to the latest USDA report out today.

The August Crop Production report finds that good growing conditions are expected to help growers bring in a record-high crop at 14.0 billion bushels of corn, up 1 percent from 2013 which was also a record at the time. Yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, which would be the highest yield ever for the United States. Objective yield data indicate the greatest number of ears on record for the ten largest corn producing states.

NCGA-LogoDue to the increased production, the average farm price was lowered a dime from its July estimate, to a range of $3.55 to $4.25 per bushel, which National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre says makes it important to keep demand moving forward. “Now is not the time for our federal policymakers to be cutting into the ethanol standard, imposing undue regulations or going slow on trade agreements,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “Our farmers are doing their part, working hard and smart on their farms to bring in a good crop. It’s time Washington removed obstacles and cleared a path so we can sell America’s biggest and most versatile crop at a good and fair price.”

growth-energy-logoThe new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending corn stocks to be 1.808 billion bushels, up 7 million bushels from July and the highest level of carryover stocks since 2005. “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “It is time to stop attacking a homegrown American industry that is creating jobs, improving our environment and mitigating climate change, all while decreasing out dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. It is time that the facts, not rhetoric drive the debate and today’s WASDE report should finally end these ridiculous claims. This report makes clear that the American farmer can fuel America and feed the world.”

RFA Making Inroads in Motorcycle Education

rfa-biker-bobbyConcluding the sixth year of sponsorship at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Buffalo Chip Campground, Robert White with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) believes they are making some real headway in getting the true story about ethanol to motorcycle riders.

“The education to the riders is actually taking on a new life,” said White. “We’re seeing riders talking to riders.”

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about a rider who pulled up for the Free Fuel Happy Hours who said he defended ethanol to his friends at the rally who told him it was a bad for his motorcycle. “He said ‘I kinda came unglued on them’,” he related. The biker told him that he had been talked in to using it at the rally the year before, and he’s “been using it this entire last year without any issue.”

In another case, White said a guy with a brand new Harley said he had been told by the dealer not to use ethanol and he wanted to get a response to that. “And I said why would you believe me?” White said. “I didn’t engineer your motorcycle, I didn’t put the parts together, I’m not providing a warranty for that motorcycle.” The man agreed, noting that neither did the dealership, but his owners manual from Harley in fact said he could use 10% ethanol. “Harley’s been doing this a long time, as have (other motorcycle manufacturers) they know what fuel is going to be most prominent, least expensive, highest octane option for these motorcycles, and it’s going to be ethanol.”

White says they are looking forward to next year, which will be the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where RFA will having an even bigger presence with an even bigger crowd.

Find our more about RFA making inroads in motorcycle education here:
Ethanol Report on Motorcycle Education

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Listen below to White’s interview with automotive expert Bobby Likis from Sturgis:

RFA Helps Legends Ride Raise Money for Charity

rfa-legends-ride-14The Renewable Fuels Association was once again a sponsor last week of the 7th annual Legends Ride, established by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip to raise money for local charities. Thanks to RFA and rider contributions, they raised $54,800 this year for the Special Olympics Black Hills and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame.

The Legends Ride kicks off the Sturgis Rally with an escorted, scenic ride alongside hundreds of fellow Legends Riders through the beautiful Black Hills, ending up at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip for a special riders-only reception with complimentary food, drinks and special live memorabilia auction. To highlight the evening’s festivities, Legends Riders are treated to a double-headliner concert under the stars at the largest music festival in motorcycling.

At the Legends Ride party afterward, RFA was pleased to distribute Ethanol Fueled With Pride beer koozies and t-shirts to bikers. It was just another way that RFA was able to educate riders about the proper use of ethanol in their motorcycles.

2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

New Campaign Spotlights Winners if RFS is Lost

fuels-americaA new Fuels America campaign spotlights who wins if we lose the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The top ten list includes:
1. Supertankers: Cutting production of U.S. renewables means more oil imports.
2. Big Oil Execs: Less ethanol in your tank means more in big oil’s wallets.
3. Asthma Inhaler Manufacturers: Cutting the RFS means dirtier fuel and dirtier air.
4. The Air Conditioning Industry: Cutting renewable fuel = more CO2 = climate change.
5. Persian Gulf Realtors: Less American fuel = pumping more dollars overseas.
6. China and Brazil: Killing the RFS means advanced biofuel investments go overseas instead.
7. The Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey: Afraid of change? Killing the RFS kills investment in American innovation.
8. Oil Spill Cleanup Crews: There were 6000 oil spills in 2012.
9. The Koch Brothers: Filling up on fossil fuels fills up their pockets.
10. Gondoliers: Climate change = more sunken cities.

The campaign, which also highlights the negative consequences for all Americans if the RFS is weakened, will run inside the beltway and target the Hill, Politico, the New York Times, the New Republic, and mobile ads. The ads ask, “If America loses the Renewable Fuel Standard, who wins?” and go on to suggest answers: “Less Lower-Cost Ethanol = More $$$ For Big Oil,” or “There were 6,000 oil spills in 2012—16 per day.”

Another Successful ACE Conference

ace14-brianAmerican Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings was pleased with the 27th annual ACE conference held last week in Minneapolis.

“It was another great conference, we covered a lot of important topics,” said Jennings as the conference concluded. “We try to feature our members as much as we can, whether it’s technology they’re implementing at their plant or they’re working on exporting ethanol or distillers grains – we try to give our members the spotlight and I think we did that once again.”

Jennings said one of his favorite sessions during the conference was the Ethanol Innovators panel. “It shows everyone these producers are not relying on the past, they’re looking to the future … they want to reduce their expenses, increase their efficiency and position themselves to be competitive for the long run.”

While Jennings says there is little time left in this year’s Congressional Session to worry about any anti-ethanol legislation being past, he is concerned about the elections and he encouraged his members to exercise their right to be an informed voter. “Talk to these candidates and find out their positions on ethanol and hold them accountable,” he said.

Finally, Jennings adds that next year’s conference will be in Omaha – see you then! Interview with Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Retailer Roundtable

ace14-retailersTwo fuel retailers took the stage at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference last week in Minneapolis to talk about the trials and rewards of offering their customers a real choice at the pump.

Bruce Vollan (left) of Midway Service in Baltic, SD and Kent Satrang, CEO of Petro Serve USA in North Dakota, shared their stories of why they installed blender pumps at their locations.

“We’re about seven years of having our blender pumps in place,” said Vollan. “It was an ideal time for us to make a change as a small town business.” And, he added, it has grown that business exponentially.

“We’re a Farmers Union oil company,” Satrang said. “We are owned by farmers, so they would like us to sell their fuel.” Beyond that, he just wants to offer his customers a choice.

Both of them also talked about the costs involved in putting in the pumps and offering higher blends and what it has ultimately meant to their communities. Listen to their conversation here: ACE Retailer Roundtable

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Awards Celebrate Power by People

Recipients of the annual awards presented last week by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) exemplified the organization’s new theme of “Power by People.”

ace14-gene-lacyGene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels received the organization’s Grassroots Award from ACE Director of Member and Industry Relations Lacy Dixon. Griffith was recognized for the many ways Patriot has promoted ethanol to the public, including an electronic sign on the highway near the plant in Annawan, Illinois that features revolving messages about the benefits of ethanol. They also have been very active on social media with Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Producers also have to help educate the public, as well as the industry associations,” said Griffith. Interview with Gene Griffith, Patriot Renewable Fuels

ace14-jerryRecognized for excellence in journalism was Jerry Perkins, editor with Biofuels Journal. Perkins was Farm Editor with the Des Moines Register for more than 15 years and says there is no conflict between him being a journalist and his support of ethanol.

This year’s Paul Dana Award went to Charlie Good, owner of the Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa. Good had a conflict and was unable to attend the ACE conference but I interviewed him in March at the ACE Fly-in where he told his story about deciding to offer higher blends at his store over his suppliers objections. “I had to de-brand because the oil company didn’t want that under their canopy,” said Good. “My sales are up 20-25% a month and of the gallons that they’re up, virtually all of it is the ethanol fuels.” Interview with Charlie Good, Iowa fuel retailer

As already noted, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) received the Merle Anderson Award this year, presented by Merle himself. The Father of Ethanol was in rare form as he presented the award to his congressman, as you can hear all of in the audio file and see a portion in the video below. Merle Anderson Presents Award to Rep. Collin Peterson

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album