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.

Former USTR Praises Ethanol for Going Global

nec15-kirkFormer U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was the keynote speaker at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) National Ethanol Conference this week where the theme was “Going Global” with an emphasis on exports.

“I want to thank you for your very strong and vocal support for a very smart trade policy for our country over the years,” said Kirk, who served under President Obama in his first term. “You understand the importance of going global.”

Kirk lamented that too many Americans have “gone sour” on international trade, citing a poll that found twice as many Americans said they believe in the existence of UFOs than believed international trade was good for America. “We have got to go out and tell the story of the real benefits of trade,” he said.

Listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Former USTR Ron Kirk at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Presents Ethanol Industry Awards

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) honored industry leaders during the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference in Grapevine, Texas this week.

nec15-awardBob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, received a Lifetime Appreciation Award for his role in the expansion of ethanol in today’s transportation fuel market.

Presenting the award, RFA CEO Bob Dinneen said Thompson spent his entire professional career working on fuel quality issues. “When he founded Downstream Alternatives, he did so to make sure that as renewable fuels, like ethanol, were introduced to the market, consumers would see no degradation in product quality,” said Dinneen.
2015 RFA Lifetime Award, Bob Reynolds

During his career, Reynolds authored numerous studies on the transportation and logistics of oxygenated fuels and was deeply engaged in projects involving fuel blending, product quality assurance, and terminal operations. In his nearly three and a half decades of working with the RFA, Reynolds had a hand in nearly every aspect of the downstream portion of the fuels industry. The ethanol industry continues to benefit from his work in developing fuel standards and technical guidelines for auto manufacturers and his ability to find common ground within the oil and automotive industries.
Interview with Bob Reynolds, RFA Award Winner

nec15-quad-awardIn recognition of their achievements in advancing the use of cellulosic ethanol technology, RFA presented Delayne Johnson and his Cellerate team at Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) with the 2015 Industry Award.

“Delayne and his team have worked tirelessly toward making the production of cellulosic ethanol a reality,” said Dinneen. “The company helped officially kick off a new era, not only for the company but for the entire biofuel industry, when it opened its 2-million-gallon cellulosic bolt-on facility in Galva, Iowa, last September. Their breakthrough technology reflects their leadership in the industry and their commitment to innovation.”

Cellerate process technology is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and QCCP’s subsidiary company Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies LLC that QCCP licenses to other ethanol plants. Cellerate, which was previously known as the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process, was invented by QCCP plant engineer Travis Brotherson.

2015 RFA Industry Award, Quad County Corn Processors

Cellerate process technology is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and QCCP’s subsidiary company Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies LLC that QCCP licenses to other ethanol plants.

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

EPA Official Apologizes to Ethanol Industry

nec15-grundlerLast year at the National Ethanol Conference, EPA’s Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality told the ethanol industry that the agency intended to finalize the volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by the end of spring 2014.

As everyone knows, that never happened and today EPA’s Chris Grundler began his remarks to the ethanol conference with an apology. “I wanted to come to Texas and personally tell you all how sorry I am that we did not get our work done,” he said. “We did not finalize a standard in 2014 that I promised we would when I appeared before all of you in Orlando.”

Gundler offered no excuses but pledged to get the RFS back on track with a three year standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 that they hope to have done by the end of this spring. “Obviously implementing the RFS has been very challenging for us,” he said, noting that finalizing annual rules has been a “tall order.”

Listen to all of Grundler’s remarks here: EPA's Chris Grundler at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA CEO Unveils 10-Point Ethanol Industry Plan

nec15-dinneen-sotiDuring his traditional State of the Industry speech at the National Ethanol Conference, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen today unveiled a 10-point plan for the future of the ethanol industry.

“The state of the ethanol industry is strong,” Dinneen declared, highlighting last year’s success despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) indecision and proposed cuts to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pointing to the expansion of the ethanol market globally, and highlighting the emergence of cellulosic ethanol.

But, Dinneen says “there is much work left to do” and “RFA is committed to an aggressive 10-point agenda that will move the industry forward and assure continued growth and evolution.”

1. Get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on a growth trajectory that will crack the blend wall and motivate investment in new cellulose technologies
2. Grow market opportunities for higher-level ethanol blends including E15 and E85
3. Secure parity for E10 and E15 with respect to EPA’s RVP regulations
4. Expand export markets
5. Create a level playing field for cellulosic biofuels by securing a long-term tax incentive
6. Develop a roadmap for Renewable Super Premium (RSP)
7. Support low carbon fuels programs “done right” and developed with the best available science
8. Improve railroad service while prioritizing highly volatile crude oil for railcar safety modifications
9. Continue to promote safety practices and procedures both at the plant and in the transport of ethanol
10 Provide detailed technical guidance that establishes a solid foundation for the industry’s fuel marketplace and policy priorities

Read Dinneen’s remarks, see the video of the remarks, and download the audio here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen Remarks at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

20th National Ethanol Conference Kicks Off

nec15-bob-kennyFootball Hall of Fame member Kenny Houston helped Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen get the early activities for the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference underway on Ash Wednesday in Dallas.

Houston is a former American football defensive back who played for the Houston Oilers and then the Washington Redskins between 1967 and 1980, but today he was on the golf course instead of the football field for the annual NEC golf tournament. While he was greeting golfers, two bus loads of conference attendees headed to downtown Dallas to step back in history and learn more about that fateful day in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Dinneen is excited to be celebrating 20 years of ethanol this year and happy to see so many from the industry making the trip to Dallas this week. “We’re coming off the single most profitable year in the industry’s history, but at the same time we’re looking at another tough year – it’s a commodity market,” said Dinneen. “But this is an industry that has been seasoned, that has seen tough times, that has seen good times, and is prepared for either.”

The theme of this year’s conference is Going Global and Dinneen says the program will focus on the future of the ethanol industry in the export market, which Dinneen says is already booming. “It was critical to the industry’s profitability last year,” said Dinneen, noting exports of 836 million gallons, or about six percent of production, to over 50 countries worldwide.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Bob here and tune in at 8:10 am Central time tomorrow to hear his state of the industry speech live: Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

USGC Helped Move DDGS Exports in 2014

usgc-winter-grayThe U.S. Grains Council (USGC) held its winter meeting last week in Costa Rica where more than 250 delegates met to take a look back at last year and assess export opportunities.

Chairman Ron Gray says one of big issues of 2014 was with the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) and China. “At the end of the year, our exports were one of the highest years for DDGS on record,” said Gray. “The Grains Council was instrumental in mitigating that process so that trade can continue.”

Gray, who is a farmer from Illinois, believes it’s important for producers to be involved in trade policy. “I think combines would be easier to fix than trade policy,” he said. “We try to address the next problem so we can keep trade moving.”

Gray says U.S. sorghum picked up some exports to China last year to pick up the slack caused by the biotech trait issue with corn, which allowed them to remain active in the market, but ultimately it’s the growing demand for corn that is benefiting farmers back home.

USDA Secretary Returns to Commodity Classic

classic14-vilsack-stageU.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will visit the Commodity Classic next week for the sixth year in a row to address the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 27, in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We’re thrilled to be welcoming Secretary Vilsack back to Commodity Classic,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling. “With so much going on in our nation’s capital that impact their lives, the audience will be eager to get his report on the top issues facing our growers, such as trade and the farm bill. He always provides an experienced, deep-inside-Washington perspective.”

The 20th annual Commodity Classic takes place Feb. 26-28, 2015, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

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.