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.

The Andersons Grain Group Head to Retire

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

The Andersons, Inc. Grain Group President Denny Addis has announced plans to retire in May. According to the company, Ethanol Group president Neill C. McKinstray will assume leadership over both groups at that time.

“Denny has a stellar 43-year record with The Andersons and during his tenure has exhibited faithful service and exceptional leadership,” says Hal Reed, Chief Operating Officer.

Addis began his career with the company in 1971 bagging fertilizer and loading trucks as a part-time employee while a student at the University of Toledo. He spent all but three of his 43 years in the Plant Nutrient Group, ultimately serving as the group’s president for 11 years. He has served as the president of the Grain Group since 2012.

McKinstray is a 39-year veteran with The Andersons, including more than 30 years working at increasing levels of responsibility in the Grain Group. In 2011 he was named as President of the newly-formed Ethanol Group, which he has led with great success.

Golden Grain Marks Billion Gallons of Ethanol

Golden Grain Energy in Mason City, Iowa is celebrating the production of its one billionth gallon of ethanol this month.

gge-billion-shirts“This is a huge occasion for the plant, the staff, and the community as a whole,” said Chad Kuhlers, Chief Operations Officer of Golden Grain Energy. “I believe we are the first single location ethanol plant in the country to reach this production mark and it couldn’t have been done without the support from the shareholders, community and the great work from our employees over the years.”

The ethanol plant, which started production in December 2004, celebrated the milestone on Monday during its annual meeting with special guests including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Plant employees wore special t-shirts to note the special occasion.

gge-grassley“This achievement represents a lot of work from farmer to producer to truck driver. Each stage of production leads to a tremendously beneficial final product,” said Sen. Grassley.

“This remarkable milestone by Golden Grain Energy is a great opportunity to celebrate the tremendous impact this plant and the 42 other ethanol refineries have had in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, protecting our environment and boosting the Iowa economy,” added Northey.

That billion gallons of ethanol represents over 351 million bushels of corn and a nice boost for the local economy, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “Golden Grain Energy has … paid out more than $2 billion dollars to corn farmers, suppliers and service providers, and employees, and returned nearly $137 million dollars to its investors,” said Jennings in a congratulatory statement.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen was on hand at the company’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2003. “It has been a privilege to watch the company grow and thrive and I can’t wait to see where they will take it from here,” said Dinneen.

Golden Grain Energy has a nameplate capacity of 115 million gallons per year.

Midwest Governors Pen NY Times Op-Ed

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad have an op-ed piece in the New York Times today rebutting a recent controversial, oil industry-funded report from the World Resources Institute about renewable fuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

“The World Resources Institute’s report suggests that the world’s agricultural system can’t possibly meet future demands for food and bioenergy in a sustainable way,” the governors write. “We disagree, based on data and recent real-world experience. As governors of two states at the forefront of the nation’s bioeconomy, we have witnessed firsthand the sustainable development of robust and dynamic bioenergy industries.”

We recognize the need for future technological advancements and are optimistic that recent high-tech innovations in precision agriculture will continue to meet the future food and energy demands of a growing world population. Our agricultural system can — and will — continue to meet those demands in a way that is environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and economically efficient.

Read the whole op-ed here.

New President for POET-DSM Joint Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has announced that Dan Cummings will serve as first president for the joint venture.

“Dan has more than 25 years of experience in the energy sector, and we’re excited to have him leveraging that knowledge to grow cellulosic ethanol production for the world,” said Jeff Lautt, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “We look forward to Dan taking the reins and leading this joint venture into 2015.”

cummingsCummings, who previously served as President and Director of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, will oversee day-to-day operations of POET-DSM, represent the joint venture publicly, and coordinate functions between the parent companies. He will also act as the central point of contact for external relations, which includes all technology licensing activities for POET-DSM worldwide.

“This joint venture has already proven it can change the world, and I look forward to working with the individuals who helped make that happen,” Cummings said. “After two decades in the energy and clean tech sectors, I’m excited to start this new journey with POET-DSM.”

POET-DSM announced the startup phase in September for its 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will later ramp up to 25 million gallons per year. The Emmetsburg, Iowa plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” uses corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk to make renewable fuel. The joint venture is now marketing its LIBERTYTM Technology package to third parties for continued energy development.

Senators Urge EPA to Approve Biodiesel Volumes

A bipartisan group of senators is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to quickly approve strong biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

nbb-advancedThe group of 32 senators, led by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter Monday to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy noting that the agency’s delay in issuing Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOSs) for 2014 and now 2015 have created “tremendous uncertainty and hardship for the U.S. biodiesel industry and its thousands of employees.”

“Plants have reduced production and some have been forced to shut down, resulting in layoffs and lost economic productivity,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to get biodiesel back on schedule under the statutorily prescribed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) process and quickly issue volumes for 2014 at the actual 2014 production numbers. We also hope you move forward on the 2015 and 2016 biodiesel volumes in a timely manner.”

The senators’ letter also said EPA should take into account the anticipated increase in Argentinian imports in setting biodiesel volumes to prevent the displacement of domestic production. “Two weeks ago I called on the agency to stop prioritizing the imports of foreign competitors over our workers here at home, and to recommit itself fully to supporting American energy by providing certainty to the American workers who contribute to our national goal of energy independence,” said Sen. Heitkamp in a news release.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, praised the senators’ action and hopes EPA’s McCarthy will respond quickly. “There is absolutely no reason for continued delays in the biodiesel volumes in the RFS,” said Steckel. “This could be done tomorrow.”

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.

Biodiesel Plants Closing Due to RFS Uncertainty

nbb-advancedThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately establish biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard to avoid further damage to the industry.

In a telephone press conference Friday morning, NBB officials highlighted fallout from the ongoing failure of EPA to establish functioning renewable fuels policy for the second consecutive year and said the recent decision to allow streamlined imports of biodiesel from Argentina under the RFS has only added new urgency to the need for stable policy.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, a former biodiesel producer and NBB Governing Board Member Ben Wootton challenged recent comments suggesting that the RFS delays haven’t hurt renewable fuels industries. Wootton lost his Pennsylvania biodiesel plant, Keystone Biofuels, in bankruptcy last year as a result of RFS uncertainty. In his letter, he explained to McCarthy how the loss of his plant also forced him to lay off 30 employees and caused him to lose his daughters’ college funds and his retirement savings.

“I would invite Administrator McCarthy to come to my shuttered plant and talk to some of the laid off workers, or to visit practically any biodiesel plant across the country to see the damage that is taking place,” Wootton said. “It is obvious that this administration doesn’t understand the severe damage that the uncertainty surrounding this rule has caused our industry and the thousands of employees it represents. It is beyond frustrating that an Administration I have strongly supported has inflicted so much harm on an industry it says it supports.”

NBB CEO Joe Jobe says the EPA decision regarding imports of Argentinian biodiesel has just exacerbated the difficulties facing the industry. “It is shocking that at a time when our renewable fuels policy is in a shambles, the EPA has essentially greenlighted biodiesel imports from Argentina to qualify for the RFS, with very little oversight or verification that the resources used to make the fuel will be grown under the normal RFS sustainability requirements,” said Jobe. “We have done everything we can for two years to help this Administration develop reasonable policy that matches President Obama’s stated support for renewable fuels, but we are at wit’s end. We are desperately searching for any indication that this support actually exists.”

Listen to the press conference, which also includes comments from NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, here: National Biodiesel press conference on RFS uncertainty

Southeastern Effort to Promote Alternative Fuels

se-fuelsThe Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has joined sister Clean Cities organizations in the Southeast to promote the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. The joint effort includes U.S. Department of Energy designated Clean Cities coalitions in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“Drivers recognize that gas prices historically won’t stay at these lower prices for long,” said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “We suggest fleets ‘bank’ their current fuel savings to invest in new advanced technology vehicles. We recognize alternative fuels have advantages that go beyond the price tag at any particular point in time.”

Bentley said alternative fuels offer fleets in the public and private sectors more stable and predictable costs, as well as lower vehicle maintenance costs. They also offer environmental advantages and economic benefits to local communities.

Bentley notes that the Southeast is a big growth market for alternative fuel vehicles. “For example, Atlanta ranks second only to San Francisco as a market for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Similarly, in 2013, Tennessee ranked ninth in the country for electric car registrations.” He adds that they expect the trend to continue in the region.

Ethanol Report on 20th Ethanol Conference

rfa-nec-15The Renewable Fuels Association’s 20th Annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) with the theme of “Going Global” is just around the corner now, coming up February 18-20, 2015 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.

The theme will hone in on how important export markets are to the future growth and financial health of the ethanol industry, particularly in light of the challenges being faced to fully implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and grow the domestic industry.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of “The Ethanol Report,” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the upcoming 20th NEC and how the industry has changed in 20 years.

Ethanol Report on 20th Ethanol Conference

New Brand for Propane Autogas

propane-autogasThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has debuted its first-ever logo and brand identity made specifically for propane autogas: PROPANE AUTOGAS Clean American Energy™.

To solidify propane autogas as the official name of the popular alternative fuel, the propane industry commissioned PERC to develop a single symbol and identity. However, PERC also hoped to build a brand that advances propane as an increasingly abundant, American-made energy source.

“Last year we debuted a new propane logo to better showcase propane in many of the other industries where it’s used every day,” said PERC President and CEO Roy Willis. “The propane autogas mark is an extension of that same brand, but serves an important role in the on-road industry: It brings consistency in what our industry, manufacturing partners, and customers call this popular alternative fuel at a time when sales are rapidly growing and when alternative fuels are becoming more widely adopted.”

Fleets that operate propane autogas vehicles can now place the logo on vehicles, dispensers, tanks, and marketing materials to help showcase the fact that they’ve chosen a clean, American-made fuel.

Iowa RFA “Ready to Roll” in 2015

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is “ready to roll” in 2015 if Tuesday’s 9th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit is any indication.

iarfa-15-nixonSpeakers at the summit included Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who represented the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, and General Wesley Clark (Ret.), Chairman of Growth Energy.

iarfa-15-santorumAlso speaking was former Pennsylvania Senator and potential presidential candidate Rick Santorum who appeared over the weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Santorum’s most tweeted quote from the summit was that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is “Pro competition, pro environment & pro American jobs.”

Addressing the state of the industry, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw was very optimistic. “Today, I can say with absolute confidence that Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is ready to roll!,” said Shaw. “We’ve never been in a better position for the availability and diversity of feedstocks; the industry is coming off a profitable year; new markets are being developed; and new technologies are out of the lab and producing on a commercial scale. There is simply no question that this industry is ready to roll. The question is whether the President and Congress are going to allow the renewable fuels industry to “hit it,” or leave us stuck in neutral.”

The IRFA also released a study conducted by ABF Economics economist John Urbanchuk that found 2014 was a record-breaking year for the renewable fuels industry despite significant challenges. “Ethanol and biodiesel producers are part of a manufacturing sector that adds substantial value to agricultural commodities produced in Iowa,” said Urbanchuk. “The first and second-generation feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels are produced primarily by Iowa farmers, and the R&D expenditures for renewable fuels provide important support for Iowa’s universities. Combined, these activities make a significant contribution to the Iowa economy.”

The study found that the renewable fuels industry in Iowa accounts for more than $4.9 billion, or about 3.5 percent, of Iowa GDP, generates $2.5 billion of income for Iowa households; and supports more than 46,700 jobs throughout the economy.

Former USTR to Keynote Ethanol Conference

kirkFormer U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming National Ethanol Conference (NEC) in Grapevine, Texas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s appropriate for Ambassador Kirk to speak at the conference with the theme of Going Global. “As we look to new horizons and expand into new markets, Mr. Kirk gives us a peek behind the curtain of world markets and trade relations,” said Dinneen. “His valuable insight will help shine a spotlight on new opportunities for American-made biofuels and co-products all across the globe.”

rfa-nec-15Ambassador Kirk was appointed by President Barack Obama as the United States Trade Representative and served from 2009 to 2013. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Kirk has close ties to the state as he gained his undergraduate and law degrees at Austin College and the University of Texas School of Law respectively. He joined Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s staff before rising to the position of Texas Secretary of State and eventually becoming the Mayor of Dallas.

The 20th annual NEC will take place Feb. 18–20 and Kirk is scheduled to speak at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19. Also at the conference, RFA’s General Counsel Ed Hubbard will moderate a panel titled “Going Global: Building Ethanol Demand Internationally.” The panel will feature Eco-Energy’s Pedro Paranhos, Lakeview Energy’s Jim Galvin, Henrique Pacini of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Mike Dwyer, and ePURE’s Robert Wright.

Registration and other information about the National Ethanol Conference can be found here.

RFS a No-Show at Freedom Summit

freedom-summitJust days after Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad kicked off a campaign to promote the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a “candidate” in the 2016 presidential race, it was basically a no-show at the conservative Freedom Summit featuring many presidential hopefuls.

Asked about the RFS in an interview with the Des Moines Register on Friday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said he would continue his opposition to the law as “a matter of principle.”

One of the potential candidates who received some positive reviews at the summit was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was recently criticized by biofuels producers in his state for not joining the ranks of other Midwestern governors in support of the RFS. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, Walker says “he’s keeping a campaign pledge to not take a position in the debate that has pitted ethanol producers against Wisconsin’s small-engine industry, which opposes increased use of the fuel additive.”

Also attending the summit was former Texas governor Rick Perry, a long time opponent of the RFS who advocated a waiver of the law when he was governor.

Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush both skipped out on the summit which was organized by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. Speaking to members of the media on Saturday, Gov. Branstad said Iowa is still an important state for a presidential candidate. “This is one of the battleground states that’s going to, I think, determine who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” said Branstad. “I don’t think it’s wise to skip Iowa.” The governor also advised, “I think it would be a disadvantage in Iowa to not support the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Branstad said.

One friend of biofuels who can be counted among the potential candidates who attended the Freedom Summit is Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and candidate in the 2012 Republican primary. Santorum will be making a few other appearances in Iowa this week, including at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association conference on Tuesday. He spoke at that same event in 2011.

First E15 Station Opens in South Florida

caraf-oilCaraf Oil in North Miami this week became the first retail fuel station in South Florida to offer 15% ethanol blended gasoline.

“We wanted to be the first in South Florida to offer E15 since we have had success with customers with E85,” said Edwin Flores, owner of Caraf Oil, who says they actually offer E85 at two locations in North Miami. “For drivers, it’s seamless – you can use E15 or gas if you’re driving a 2001 or newer model.”

The grand opening celebration for the new E15 pump on Wednesday featured officials from both Caraf Oil and Florida-based ProtecFuel, which managed the pump installation, as well as local dignitaries and representatives from Southeast Florida Clean Cities.

“We are excited to help introduce American-made ethanol into the fuel pool through E15 in our home state and city,” said Todd Garner, CEO of Protec. “With its higher performance at 88-octane, and environmental benefits, it just makes sense.”

“Clean Cities is all about reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil and we’re proud that our region is one of the first in Florida to offer E15,” said Christine Heshmati, Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coordinator.

Currently, E15 is available at more than 100 stations across the nation in 15 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Iowa Coalition to Promote RFS as Candidate

americas-futureIowa Governor Terry Branstad today announced a major new bi-partisan campaign called America’s Renewable Future that will promote the Renewable Fuel Standard in the 2016 Iowa Presidential caucuses.

“I’m very passionate about the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Governor Branstad during a conference call to announce the effort. “It’s made a real difference for farm income and good jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil, improving the environment – so I’m really excited to see this strong, bi-partisan effort being made to educate people that come to Iowa and presidential candidates.”

America’s Renewable Future will be co-chaired by former Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican, and former state Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a Democrat, as well as Iowa renewable fuels industry leader Bill Couser.

Sweeney, who is a corn, soybean and cattle producer, says it’s important to educate lawmakers and the public about the RFS. “Once it’s explained, (they see) what a great thing renewable fuels are for this country,” she said.

Coordinating the effort will be Governor Branstad’s son Eric, a public affairs specialist and campaign operative. “We have partners coming in from all over the country and those partners have committed millions to fund this effort,” said Eric Branstad. “We are designing it to look like a presidential campaign and the RFS is our candidate.”

From now until the Iowa Caucuses, America’s Renewable Future “will wage a mulitimillion dollar, multi-platform effort” to educate presidential candidates about the benefits of the RFS and ask them to take a stand.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to be part of this grassroots organization and being able to bring these candidates to our farms and our feedlots,” said Couser, who is a livestock and crop producer and ethanol plant co-founder. “We’re very excited about meeting these candidates on a bi-partisan partnership, bringing them here and educating them.”

The group also intends to build a statewide campaign organization to educate Iowa caucus-goers in both parties about which candidates support the RFS. The campaign will include advertising, earned media, public opinion research, stakeholder engagement, digital and social media outreach.

Listen to the conference call announcing the effort here: America's Renewable Future campaign announced