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.

Ethanol Advocate on a Mission

ace-flyin-15-couserIowa cattle producer and ethanol advocate Bill Couser was a man on a mission this week in Washington DC with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Fly-In.

Couser finally got a sit down with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other issues. “I was able to schedule a half hour with her and I took the cattle industry and the ethanol industry in there and we sat down there as one,” said Couser. “The impression we got from Gina is that she’s there to work with us.”

Couser is co-chair of the Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future, which recently helped to sponsor the Iowa Ag Summit where potential presidential candidates were interviewed live about their views on important agricultural issues, including the RFS. At that event, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who just became the first to officially throw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential race, stated his opposition to the RFS and Couser had a chance to speak with him about it. “He’s a man from Texas who is set in his ways,” said Couser. “We’re looking forward to the future and visiting with him more.”

Listen to an interview with Bill from the ACE fly-in here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future


2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album

Ethanol Fly-In Focus on RFS

ace-fly-15-ronThe American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and more than 70 of its members have been in Washington, DC this week meeting with lawmakers, administration officials, and top staff members as part of the group’s “Biofuels Beltway March” annual fly-in.

The group had 160 meetings with lawmakers or their staff representing 43 states scheduled during the two day event with a primary focus on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ACE President Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol was pleased with how the meetings went Tuesday. “It was really a stark contrast to the last few years we’ve been out here in that these folks really know the RFS now,” he said.

Alverson noted in particular meetings that he had with senators from Arkansas and Delaware who had concerns about poultry feed costs, but they were able to find areas of common ground. “One of them is energy security and the other is the low cost fuel we produce,” he said. “I thought we had really constructive conversations.”

Listen to Jamie Johansen’s interview with Alverson here: Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson


2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album

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.

Collaboration to Scale-Up Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol

CeresLogoSmooth Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., today announced the signing of a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale.

Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres’ sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres’ sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.

Sweet sorghum can be grown to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills. In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the U.S., Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.

EPA Chief and Ag Secretary on RFS at NFU

The heads of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention in Wichita Monday and talked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nfu15-ginaEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that her agency was “in the hot seat” over the RFS after failing to set standards for the industry last year.

“The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren’t able to accomplish what we needed to do last year,” she said. “Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging.”

“We need to set levels that send a longer-term message,” McCarthy continued, explaining the agency’s intention to set Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016 before summer of this year.

Listen to McCarthy’s speech here, courtesy of Ken Rahjes, AgView.net. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy at 2015 NFU Convention

nfu15-tomAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed his continued support for the RFS. “I love the RFS – I’m for RFS,” he said. “We need to make sure Congress doesn’t do anything to damage it or repeal it or make it difficult to use. We need to be advocates, spokespeople for this industry. We need to go out and tell folks this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Vilsack urged the crowd to continue to educate the public about the potential of weaning the nation from foreign oil imports and highlighting the potential of renewable fuels. He pointed to areas of the economy, like the military, that were converting to home grown fuels. “Navy is starting to look at renewable fuels. I am optimistic about this. We need to be advocates for this industry. We don’t want to lose this amazing marketing opportunity.”

NASCAR Tops 7 Million Miles with American Ethanol

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoNASCAR began running Sunoco Green E15 in its three top national series back in 2011 and on Saturday at the Phoenix International Raceway the league surpassed seven million miles of racing on the fuel with American Ethanol.

“NASCAR has shown under the most demanding competition that E15 is safe, reliable and it works,” said Dr. Michael Lynch, Vice President, NASCAR Green Innovation and STEM Platforms. “NASCAR fans are 80 percent more likely than non-fans to support the use of ethanol blends in their own car on the street, because they understand that NASCAR and our diligent race teams did our homework from the start with thousands of miles and hours of testing.”

Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, says the move to Sunoco Green E15 has actually boosted the performance of the race cars – lowering emissions and increasing horsepower. “Since this change took place, we have seen increased horsepower from a higher-octane ethanol fuel blend and decreased emissions. In our own internal tests at RCR, we used ethanol blends up to E30 and found no issues with that fuel, either,” said Childress.

NASCAR made the fuel change in conjunction with their NASCAR Green® Platform, the largest and most comprehensive recycling, tree planting and renewable energy programs in sports.

Bobby Likis to Spotlight Ethanol Exports

likis-logoSyndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” will feature a discussion on global demand for U.S. ethanol and its co-products on this week’s globalcast which airs live on Saturday morning March 14.

nec14-patriot-juddJudd Hulting of Patriot Renewable Fuels will talk with Bobby about the operations, products and statistics of Patriot’s ten-year old, ethanol plant located near the Quad Cities and not far from Chicago. “Demand for American-made ethanol and distillers grain is growing worldwide as countries are coming to understand and value the cost-saving and environmental benefits of high-octane ethanol and farmers continue to demand the high-protein distillers grain,” says Hulting, who is the commodities manager at Patriot. Hulting will also talk about Export Green, his recent trade mission to Brazil in collaboration with the U. S. Department of Commerce.

“The advantages to the production and use of ethanol nationally – and export internationally – are striking,” says Likis. “Join us to hear Judd discuss the export of U.S. produced ethanol and his trade mission to Brazil. You may be surprised to learn that E27 (27% ethanol) – up from E25 – is now the baseline for retail gasoline in Brazil.”

To view Hulting’s interview in its entirety, tune it to WatchBobbyLive.com on Saturday, March 14, at 10:25a ET.

Administration Releases Wind Energy Report

Wind Turbine in Northern IowaThe Department of Energy today released a new analysis of America’s wind energy industry – Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States.

According to the report, the wind energy industry could support more than 600,000 jobs by 2050, including engineers, construction workers, truck drivers, factory workers, utility operators, maintenance technicians, electricians and other supporting services. Currently, the United States has utility-scale wind plants installed in 39 states. The report shows that with continuing technological advancements, cost reductions, and siting and transmission development, the nation can deploy wind power to economically provide 35% of our nation’s electricity and supply renewable power in all 50 states by 2050.

White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech and Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr hosted a conference call this morning to highlight the new report.

Administration call on wind energy report

Advanced Biofuels Group Would Reopen RFS

abfaAdvanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams today called on Congress to amend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to strengthen it for the “continued development of the advanced and cellulosic industry.”

In an address this morning to the 2015 Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference, McAdams said the “RFS simply doesn’t work as well for companies trying to move cutting-edge technology from a demonstration plant to commercial scale.” He called for changes in several areas, including minimum RIN value for cellulosic fuels, extending the program beyond 2022, and removing “the loop hole that allows the oil industry to opt out from buying a cellulosic gallon.”

The idea of reopening the RFS even to make positive changes is opposed by other biofuels organizations. “By opening up the RFS for legislative changes, you are opening a can of worms that will only create further uncertainty for the industry, which is the last thing biofuel producers of any kind need,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis in a statement.

“We seriously question who ABFA is representing these days,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen in response to a reporter’s question on a conference call this morning. “There’s nothing ABFA has identified as needed improvements to the program that the agency already does not have the authority to address.”

Novozymes president Adam Monroe added that ABFA “does not represent even the majority of advanced biofuels producers” and doesn’t believe their position is representative of the industry. “It’s the politics that are broken not the legislation,” said Monroe.

RFA and Novozymes comment on ABFA call to open RFS

Biofuels Leaders Defend RFS

Holding a press conference in advance of the American Petroleum Institute continuing its call to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), representatives of the ethanol and advanced biofuels industry and corn growers defended the law and the fuel.

mess-rfsGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the oil industry is making the same old arguments about ethanol that are simply not true, but he thinks the industry received a good boost over the weekend “when six out of nine of the Republican presidential candidates that came to the Ag Summit expressed support for the RFS.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) first vice president Rob Elliott of Illinois talked about how the facts dispel the perpetual myths about food versus fuel. “Corn prices are now below cost of production … so obviously food prices have not followed a similar path,” he said.

Adam Monroe, president of enzyme producer Novozymes, said if Washington gives in to pressure by the oil industry to weaken the RFS it will keep second generation biofuels from going forward. “It makes it tremendously difficult for us to bring in new investors and spend more money,” he said.

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen says no matter what ethanol critics say, there is now real world data that shows no detrimental effects have occurred as a result of the RFS and he encouraged reporters to question API. “Ask them to explain the fact that the price of corn is lower than it was when the RFS was passed,” he said, noting also that food price inflation has been lower, the dead zone has gotten smaller, and hunger worldwide has fallen.

Conference Call with Renewable Fuel Industry Leaders

ACE Fly-In Coming Soon

ace14-dc-brianThe American Coalition for Ethanol is holding its 7th annual DC Fly-In, also known as the Biofuels Beltway March, on March 24-25.

ACE executive vice president Brian Jennings says talking to Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers about ethanol is more important than ever. “We’re really going to be focusing on some new members of Congress and educating them on the RFS and E15 in particular,” he said. “There were over 70 new members of Congress elected, and when you look at the current members of Congress, just two in five were in office when RFS2 was enacted back in 2007.”

Members of the ethanol industry who attend the ACE Fly-In hear from members of the administration and discuss many current issues, and then go out in groups to visit members of Congress and their staffs. “Last year we had well over 200 meetings with members of Congress, both sides of the aisle and both houses,” said Jennings, who stressed that they encourage members to “tell their stories” to make an impression.

Jennings says registration is still open for the Fly-In and there is no fee to attend.

Listen to my interview with Brian at the recent National Ethanol Conference: Interview with Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

New USDA Report Shows Ethanol Increasing Efficiency

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

The amount of corn necessary to make a gallon of ethanol is less than previously believed according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

In today’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report (WASDE), corn use for ethanol production was projected 50 million bushels lower based on the new Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production report recently released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), citing “a higher rate of conversion than previously assumed” as the reasoning for the adjustment.

“What is most remarkable about this supply and demand report is the light it sheds on a topic of great concern to U.S. corn farmers – recognition of the growing efficiencies in the ethanol industry,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Chip Bowling, a Maryland corn farmer. “For many years, we have strongly asserted that the ethanol industry continues to improve and those productivity gains should be taken into consideration. With the simple justification offered for the analysis, USDA made a great step forward in showing its growing appreciation for the advances made in ethanol production and, thus, the ever-increasing benefit it offers Americans.”

While USDA estimates for corn use in ethanol production were lowered by 50 million bushels, the overall drop was partially offset by higher than expected production over the winter months. The demand decline was more than offset by projected increases in demand for corn from the export and feed and residuals markets of 50 million bushels each.

Projected ending stocks were lowered by 50 million bushels in light of the other adjustments. Average farm price estimates were raised by five cents at the midpoint to $3.50 to $3.90 per bushel.

Researchers Combine Biomass, Solar Conversion

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have come up with a new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion.

In a study published this week in Nature Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha discussed their research to split water into hydrogen, a clean fuel, and oxygen using photoelectrochemical solar cells (PECs).

They developed a novel PEC setup with a new anode reaction. This anode reaction requires less energy and is faster than water oxidation while producing an industrially important chemical product. The anode reaction they employed in their study is the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) to 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). HMF is a key intermediate in biomass conversion that can be derived from cellulose — a type of cheap and abundant plant matter. FDCA is an important molecule for the production of polymers.

“When we first started this study, we were not sure whether our approach could be really feasible,” Choi says. “However, since we knew that the impact of the study could be high when successful, we decided to invest our time and effort on this new research project at the interface of biomass conversion and solar energy conversion.”

Read more from UMW.

Recovery of China DDGS Market Continues

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsEthanol exports from the United States dropped in January and while distillers grains (DDGS) exports were also lower compared to December, the Chinese market for DDGS is showing recovery.

According to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) vice president Geoff Cooper, U.S. ethanol producers exported 68.7 million gallons of ethanol in January, down 9% from December 2014 and the lowest since September 2014. However, “imports barely registered in January, with only 28,670 gallons coming in from Canada.”

On the DDGS side, exports totaled 708,861 metric tons in January, down 3% from December and still down 22% compared to a year ago. But the good news is that China was the top market for DDGS exports, receiving 24% of the total. Recovery of the Chinese market continues, as January exports to China were 35% above December levels and up dramatically from near zero in November.

RFS in Spotlight at Iowa Ag Summit

iowa-ag-walkerNine potential Republican presidential were asked to address their opinions on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines on Saturday. The final score was six in favor, three opposed.

On the plus side were former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Last to speak at the event, Walker said he viewed the RFS as an access issue. “So it’s something I’m willing to go forward on, continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure that there’s certainty in terms of levels set,” said Walker, adding that he would like to see market access issued addressed in the long term and voicing support for blender pumps. “Right now we don’t have a free and open market,” he said. Iowa Ag Summit comments from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

couser-cruzOn the Texas side are former Governor Rick Perry, who sought a waiver from the RFS in 2008 and said it should be left to the states, and Senator Ted Cruz, who said it would “be the easy thing” for him to say he supported the RFS before the Iowa crowd. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians who run around and tell one group one thing, tell another group another thing, and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything that they said they would do,” said Cruz. He compared the RFS to “corporate welfare” and said the government should not pick winners and losers and said ethanol was a big enough part of the industry that “demand will continue without the federal mandate.”

Cruz is pictured here with Bill Couser, an Iowa cattle producer and ethanol supporter who is co-chairman of America’s Renewable Future (ARF), an Iowa based bipartisan coalition that supported the summit. He invited both Cruz and Perry to visit his operation in Nevada.

“Show them why we do this, how we do this, and say what do you think?” said Couser in an interview at the recent National Ethanol Conference. “I can say, let’s go look at a corn field, let’s go look at a feedlot, let’s go look at some windmills, let’s go look at Lincolnway Energy, and then let’s go to the DuPont plant right next door and I’ll show you what we’re doing with the whole plant and being sustainable.”

Couser says they plan to approach all potential presidential candidates individually and invite them to visit and learn more about agriculture and renewable energy, including Hillary Clinton. “Wouldn’t that be something if she showed up?” he said.

Listen to my interview with Bill here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future Co-Chair

Also opposed to the RFS is former New York Gov. George Pataki, who “supports ethanol”, but honestly doesn’t think “the federal government should require anybody in America to buy anything, whether it’s renewable fuel or Obamacare” and thinks the RFS should be “phased out.”