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.

Legislation Would Extend Biofuels Tax Credits

rep-petersLegislation introduced last week in the House would extend expiring tax incentives important to the development of next generation biofuels.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced the “Second Generation Biofuels Extension Act of 2013” (H.R. 3758) which would extend for one year the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Credit and the Special Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property. Four fellow Democrats are co-sponsors of the bill, which is strongly supported by the biofuels industry.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen commended Peters for taking a stand and fighting for the future of next generation biofuels. “Rep. Peters clearly understands the need to continue this successful program,” said Dinneen. “Investors need certainty and extending the tax credits for second generation biofuels will boost investment and innovation in cellulosic and advanced biofuels.”

This week RFA sent a letter to the leadership of the House Ways and Means committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request that key expiring biofuel tax incentives be extended. In addition to the two credits in the Peters bill, that would also include the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit.

Analyst Offers Sobering Ethanol Outlook

asta-css-basseAgResource Company president Dan Basse looked at the year in review for grain markets and gave his outlook for the future at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS 2013 and Seed Expo last week in Chicago. That included a pretty sobering outlook for corn and ethanol.

First off, Basse said he expects North America to be “energy self-sufficient by 2020″ but that is largely due to fracking to reach new deposits of crude oil and natural gas rather than biofuels. “Ethanol, which was deemed to be the savior from Mideast oil, is no longer going to have that spot at the table,” he said, adding that the industry has “reached its zenith.”

Thanks to flat-lining ethanol demand, Basse believes the good times may have come to an end for corn. “A year ago we had corn prices above $7 with flirtations to eight,” he said. “We’re now looking at Chicago markets with corn prices near four. We think the best we can do at least for the next 6-9 months is maybe getting back to something like four and a half.” Basse points out that the United States only needs to produce a corn crop of 13 billion bushels to meet demand. “That’s the big concern for the US farmer down the road,” he said.

Asked about the EPA proposal to lower the 2014 volume obligations for ethanol under the RFS, Basse said he believes the plan has a 70% chance of being approved. “If we don’t raise blend rates and get Big Oil and get Detroit behind us, there’s really no growth in biofuels,” he said. “I want everybody in agriculture to understand that the political wills are not there as they were a few years ago and unfortunately now with shale gas and the new blessings of a different kind of energy, we’re just talking to ourselves in terms of the marketing for biofuels going forward.”

Listen to my interview for the condensed version and his 30 minute presentation for more details:
Interview with Dan Basse, AgResource
ASTA CSS presentation by Dan Basse, AgResource

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

USDA Increases Corn Use for Ethanol

usda-logoDespite the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower corn ethanol volume obligations for 2014 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), USDA’s December supply/demand report is predicting a 50 million bushel increase in corn use for ethanol next year. Ending stocks are now expected to total 1.792 billion bushels, down 5 percent from last month’s estimate.

The new report also calls for increases in exports, food and seed use but ending stocks will still be more than double a year earlier with this year’s record crop of just under 14 billion bushels. Prices are expected to average $4.40 a bushel in the current year, down significantly from $6.89 last marketing year.

Big Turnout Expected for EPA RFS Hearing

A huge turnout is expected Thursday at a public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volume obligations for 2014. Literally busloads of stakeholders, both opposed to and in favor of cutting the requirements, are attending the hearing at the Hyatt in Crystal City, Virginia.

terrybIowa Governor Terry Branstad will be attending with several Iowa livestock producers, farmers and renewable fuels leaders. Branstad fears the EPA proposal could lead to another farm crisis. “I was governor during the farm crisis of the ‘80s when land values dropped 63 percent,” he said during a conference call on Wednesday. “I know what can happen when you have an agriculture depression, and we don’t want to go back and revisit that.”

Also attending the hearing will be corn farmers from a dozen other states in addition to Iowa. “It’s great to see so many people willing to leave their farms at this time of year for an important opportunity to give the EPA a piece of their mind,” said National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Chip Bowling of Maryland.

Advanced biofuels producers will be making the case that they would bear a disproportionate share of the proposed cuts. “They have proposed to cut volume requirements for advanced biofuels by more than 40 percent compared to requirements written into the statute,” said Advanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams. “In contrast, EPA has proposed to reduce volume requirements for conventional biofuels by less than 10 percent. We’re left scratching our head wondering why the EPA would deliver such a disproportionate large blow to the category of renewable fuels that reduces greenhouse gases the most.”

Nearly two dozen representatives of the U.S. biodiesel industry are slated to testify at the hearing, including Wayne Presby with White Mountain Biodiesel in New Hampshire, who says the proposal threatens the survival of his company. “We currently employ 20 people and have grown at an annual rate of 300 percent per year for the last two years,” he says. “We were intending to further increase our production this coming year and hire additional workers for a third shift, however, the current proposal by the EPA will halt our growth completely and may result in the closing of our business.”

The hearing is scheduled to begin
at 9:00 am Eastern time and “end when all parties present who wish to speak have had the opportunity to do so.” Domestic Fuel reporter John Davis will be there to provide coverage here.

RFS Proposal Could Devastate Rural Economy

Protect the RFSRepresentatives from state government, the agriculture community, and the ethanol industry all say the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuels requirements would have a negative impact on agriculture and rural economies.

During a telephone press discussion today about the proposal, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said he was proud of his state’s leadership in biofuels production and he believes lowering the volume obligations would be detrimental for jobs and land values in rural America. “I’m concerned that this would be devastating to what has been a robust economic recovery” in the agricultural heartland of America, said Branstad. “I think the president’s made a terrible mistake caving in to Big Oil on this issue.”

american-farm-bureau-logoThe proposal has already led to lower futures prices for corn, which American Farm Bureau economist Matt Erickson says could mean 2014 will see prices below the cost of production for the first time since 2005. “Looking at USDA’s cost of production forecast, the breakeven for corn for 2014 is forecasted to be over $4 a bushel,” Erickson said, adding that if the price is lower, farmers would lose money.

Reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil was the primary objective of the RFS, but “revitalizing rural communities, boosting farm income and reducing farm program costs were also important policy objectives,” but noted Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The RFS has certainly helped to do that and this proposal will reverse that policy as well.”

Listen to comments from Branstad, Erickson and Dinneen with questions from the media here: Comments on RFS Proposal Negative Impacts

EPA to Hold Hearing on RFS Proposal

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled a public hearing on its proposal to lower the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014. According to a notice in the Federal Register, the hearing will be held December 5 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

The event will begin at 9:00 in the morning and “end when all parties present who wish to speak have had the opportunity to do so.” Those wishing to testify are advised contact Julia MacAllister of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality by Nov. 26.

According to the notice, the public hearing will “provide a means for interested parties to present data, views or arguments” concerning the proposal, which EPA announced on November 15. Comments will also be accepted in written form for 60 days once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, which has not yet been done.

Questions About EPA Authority for RFS Waiver

coppessEven before the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its proposed 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), questions arose about whether the EPA is overstepping its authority.

University of Illinois Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Policy Jonathan Coppess, former counsel to the Senate Ag Committee and former administrator for USDA, says there is a legal argument to be made that EPA is stretching the definition of inadequate domestic supply in proposing a waiver based on the blend wall. “The entire intent of the statute was to increase production,” Coppess said during a media call today. “How does this unique or novel way of interpreting “domestic supply” fit with the intent Congress has for the overall statute?”

RFA-logo-13Coppess and Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen both stressed that no lawsuit has been filed against EPA’s proposal and they hope that will be unnecessary. “This is a proposal so there is no legal issue to litigate on,” said Dinneen. “We are hopeful that in the comment period, the agency … ultimately modifies the proposal to not include the blend wall in the waiver process.” Dinneen says they held the media call with Coppess to simply “tee up what the issues are” regarding the proposal.

Listen to or download the call with comments from Dinneen and Coppess here: RFA Call on EPA Authority for RFS Waiver

Also, check out our recent DF Cast featuring an interview with Coppess on the issue.

Biodiesel Booth at NAFB Talks Food & Fuel

nafb-nbbBiodiesel producers had plenty to talk about … and plenty of ears to listen … during the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) meeting in Kansas City. Makes sense, when you consider how connected the farming and biodiesel industries have been over the years. We caught up with two folks from the National Biodiesel Board at the group’s booth at NAFB: NBB Economist Alan Weber and NBB board member Greg Anderson.

Speaking before the EPA had officially released its lowered Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) numbers, Alan said the proposed numbers of 1.28 billion gallons for next year, when the industry is approaching 1.7 billion gallons this year, would significantly hurt the 60,000-job biodiesel industry.

“That movement backwards would actually be about 8,000 jobs in the U.S. that we would lose and all that ripple effect throughout the economy,” he said, pointing out that biodiesel is the first commercially available advanced biofuel, getting the job done now.

“There’s a lot of unique alternative fuels out there. We can talk about electricity and hybrid electrics, but when we start thinking about how we move products in the United States, it’s going to be in diesel-powered, class-A over-the-road trucks, powered by a liquid biofuel. And that’s where biodiesel fits in.”

Interview with Alan Weber, NBB economist

Some of the knocks against biodiesel have come from falsehoods spread about how it is hurting livestock producers. Greg, who is a soybean farmer and livestock producer from Nebraska, said just the opposite is true as the soybean meal produced during the crush to get the oil actually enhances the livestock market.

“It works well together. It adds about $12 for every beef carcass, about $1.25 for pork and a few cents for each chicken. It all adds up. We see the value in biodiesel in lowering soybean meal prices, conservatively $25 a ton less. If biodiesel wasn’t there, it’d be more expensive to purchase and higher input costs for those folks to feed,” Greg said.

He also pointed out that while the soybean oil makes up about 19 percent of the bean, right now, because of biodiesel, it’s represents 40 percent of the bean’s value, producing food and fuel.

“We’re not only feeding America, but we’re fueling America.”

Interview with Greg Anderson, NBB board member

Ethanol Groups Talk to Farm Broadcasters

Ethanol was well represented at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual meeting last week in Kansas City to talk with reporters about issues facing the industry.

narfb13-rfa-groupBob Dinneen, Robert White and Dawn Moore with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) did a number of interviews with farm broadcasters about important topics, like the growth in the number of stations offering 15 percent ethanol blended fuel (E15).

Robert said they have some good news to report.

“In the matter of just a couple of weeks we’ll have E15 in 11 states, roughly 50 stations, and lots in the hopper,” adding there’s high interest among gas station operators, especially the small businesses, in expanding the amount of E15 to be sold. “E15 is averaging over 20 percent [in volume at stations], and one station is averaging 38 percent in E15. And you couldn’t have convinced me of that two years ago that was going to happen that quickly.”

Robert also dismisses Big Oil’s arguments that E15 is causing massive amounts of misfueling, stranding cars by the side of the road.

“After 18 months of E15 being in the marketplace, we haven’t had one incident of misfueling, we haven’t had one check-engine light come on, [not one] issue with a vehicle, lawnmower, etc.” Interview with Robert White, RFA

nafb13-growth-buisOne of many interviews Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis did at NAFB was with Julie Harker of Brownfield Ag News.

Speaking before the EPA released its proposal to lower Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs), Tom said that would be a huge mistake.

“It’s a mistake not just for rural America and the ethanol industry and America’s farmers, but for our Nation,” pointing out how beholden we have been to Middle East oil over the past 40 years, including lost fortunes guarding oil tankers and lost American lives in war. “Moving backwards would be for the wrong reasons at the wrong time.”

Tom said the oil companies’ attacks are understandable; ethanol is cutting into their monopoly, adding preserving that 10 percent blend wall is key to the Big Oil’s strategy.

“They’ve got 90 percent of the market. They don’t want any less. Well that’s not good for America, it’s not good for energy security or national security,” concluding that consumers are saving about $10 billion a year at the pump. “Let the consumer make the choice at the pump.” Brownfield Interview with Tom Buis, Growth Energy

AP Story Causing Stir Before Release

The ethanol industry has gone on the offensive to defend itself against an Associated Press “investigative report” that has yet to be released for publication.

fuels-americaFuels America held a conference call today about the article which is embargoed until after midnight but was circulated last week on the internet. The call included Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper and Leroy Perkins, an Iowa farmer who was quoted in the AP story.

Perkins says he was contacted by AP reporters in July to talk about “the county fair, along with absentee, out-of-state state landlords and of course, water quality.” During the course of the interview, one of the reporters asked him what he thought about ethanol. “I told them I was for ethanol, I believe in it and we use it in our vehicles and equipment all the time … because it’s a product of the land,” he said. He never expected his interview would be for a “story to put down ethanol.”

Cooper and the RFA have put together a Counterpoint Fact Sheet on AP story which refutes at least 16 direct quotes from the draft article and he says industry representatives have been in touch with the news agency. “There has been some effort to get these factual inaccuracies corrected,” said Cooper. “If the story we saw that was posted last week is the same story that gets rolled out tomorrow morning, that tells us the AP just isn’t concerned about running a factual story.”

The Associated Press supplies content to thousands of print, internet, radio and television outlets around the world.

Listen to a conference call on the AP article here:AP ethanol story fact check press call

AP Story Fact Checking

apA yet-to-be officially published “investigative report” by the Associated Press is causing an uproar in the ethanol industry which is responding ahead of time with fact checking on the article.

The article included interviews with several industry leaders and farmers who are disturbed by what they have read in advance copies. One of those interviewed at length by the AP reporter is Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

ethanol-report-adIn this “Ethanol Report,” Dinneen challenges many of the reporters’ conclusions about the environmental impact of ethanol production. Ethanol Report on AP story

RFA Counterpoint Fact Sheet on AP story

Later today there will be a conference call with Geoff Cooper, the head of research and analysis at the Renewable Fuels Association, and Leroy Perkins, an Iowa farmer who was quoted in the AP story. Perkins was interviewed numerous times by AP journalists for the ethanol story and “believes his views on oil alternatives, land use and the environment were intentionally skewed to tell an inaccurate and one-sided story.”

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Ohio Ethanol Plant Signs up for Enogen

Corn featuring the Syngenta Enogen trait designed for ethanol production will soon be used at an Ohio biorefinery.

enogenSyngenta has signed a commercial agreement with Three Rivers Energy, LLC of Coshocton, Ohio, to use grain featuring Enogen trait technology following the 2014 corn harvest.

“We are thrilled to announce this agreement with Three Rivers Energy, as we extend our Enogen corn geography into Ohio, demonstrating the growing acceptance of Enogen technology and the value it is creating for ethanol plants, farmers and local communities,” said David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta.

According to Syngenta, Enogen grain delivers alpha amylase enzyme in the corn kernel, eliminating the need for an ethanol plant to use liquid alpha amylase. The alpha amylase enzyme found in Enogen grain helps an ethanol plant reduce the viscosity of its corn mash and can lead to better levels of solids loading, which directly contributes to increased ethanol yields and throughput, as well as cost savings from reduced natural gas, energy, water and chemical usage.

Three Rivers Energy recently resumed ethanol production in Coshocton, Ohio. Its sister plant, Plymouth Energy, LLC (Merrill, Iowa) signed a commercial agreement with Syngenta in the fall of 2012 to use Enogen grain, and is currently completing its first year contracting with local growers to produce Enogen corn commercially. Three Rivers Energy and Plymouth Energy are operated by Lakeview Energy, LLC.

Three Rivers Energy is recruiting growers to produce Enogen corn in 2014 and will begin using the specialized corn grain in commercial production following the 2014 corn harvest. Growers under contract will deliver their Enogen grain to the ethanol plant and will be paid an average premium of 40 cents per bushel for their grain.

Lowering RFS Will Raise Big Oil Profits

Big Oil will reap big profits if the Environmental Protection Agency actually proposes a substantial cut to the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirement for conventional biofuel blending, according to a new analysis released by the ethanol industry today.

The analysis finds that the oil industry stand to make an additional $9-14 billion in 2014 if the EPA were to change the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) next year from the statutory level of 14.4 billion gallons to between 12.36 and 13.18 billion.

fuels-americaDuring a telephone conference call organized by Fuels America this morning, biofuels stakeholders talked about the allegedly “leaked” EPA draft of the 2014 RVO plan and what the results could be if it actually happens.

“A decision to lower the RVO in 2014 would be a huge step backward for the corn ethanol industry and would amount to a substantial transfer of wealth away from America’s farmers and small businesses to oil and gas companies,” said said Geoff Cooper, Vice President for Research with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), who presents the analysis on the RFA E-xchange blog.

Both DuPont Global Business Director for Biorefineries Jan Koninckx and Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said changing the RVO would have a chilling effect on advanced biofuels investment. “Publication of this ‘leaked’ draft would force us to reexamine (our) investment plan and consider other countries that are more friendly for future investment,” said Standlee.

Koninckx called the oil industry is “a powerful incumbent industry that’s resisting innovation” and noted that “it is the RFS that brought leadership in biofuels.” He added, “What we need to see is leadership in simply implementing the law as it is.”

Listen to or download conference call here: Fuels America press conference

Missouri Governor Voices Support for Ethanol

nixonWith the harvest nearing completion in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon last week joined the Missouri Corn Growers Association at a grain elevator in the northeast part of the state to support the state’s corn growers and ethanol industry.

“Each year about 20% of Missouri’s corn crop is turned into about 300 million gallons of ethanol – a renewable, domestic energy source that fuels vehicles worldwide,” said Nixon during the event at the recently-expanded Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) facility. “Last year Missouri’s ethanol plants accounted for $829 million of increased economic activity in the state, including about 1500 jobs.”

Despite action in the state legislature last month that rejected a rule change to allow sales of E15 (15% ethanol fuel), Governor Nixon indicated his administration will continue to work on that issue. “We’re going to keep supporting fuels from the farm and work to get Missouri drivers more choices at the pump through safe and sensible options like E15,” said Nixon.

Listen to the governor’s remarks here: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon