Energy Title “Vital” in Farm Bill

More than 40 bipartisan House and Senate members including Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Dave Loebsack (D-2-IA) and Aaron Schock (R-18-IL), sent “Dear Colleague” letters to Farm Bill Conference leaders stressing the vital importance of the energy title (Title IX). In response, the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) praised the legislator’s letter of support.

Farm in Wisconsin“The energy title is critically important to helping rural areas move towards diverse renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities including wind, solar, biomass, biogas, efficiency upgrades, and hydro in all 50 states,” said Congressman Dave Loebsack on the Farm Bill’s Energy Title. “These programs are also helping our agricultural producers and rural economies be more efficient and adding value to things like farm waste for energy production. They also are critically important to continue to develop cutting edge advanced biofuels that will create jobs here at home and help our nation become more energy secure for use in everything from cars and trucks, to planes and our military.”

The letters continued by saying “REAP, BCAP and BAP are just three examples of energy title programs that are helping our nation utilize our rich agricultural capacity to produce reliable domestic energy. American farmers have long led the world in food crop production, but as we seek to become more energy independent and less reliant on foreign sources of energy to power our economy, ag-based energy products are increasingly important; energy title programs significantly enhance the development of our nation’s clean energy and agriculture economy.”

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), said of the letters of support, “We would like to extend thanks to the more than 40 Senators and Representatives who expressed their support for vital Farm Bill Energy programs. We especially thank Senators Klobuchar and Blunt, along with Representatives Loebsack and Shock, for their leadership. These Farm Bill energy programs have supported renewable energy development and energy efficiency in rural communities and have helped create or save thousands of good paying jobs. The continued success of these programs requires the long term sustainability of a five year Farm Bill and the necessary investment to maintain healthy programs.”

Farmers Harvesting Biomass for Project LIBERTY

Farmers are now harvesting and delivering cob bales for the 2014 opening of Project LIBERTY in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Project LIBERTY is POET-DSM’s 20 million-gallon-per-year biorefinery currently under construction. When the facility begins production, it will use Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 3.23.47 PMcorn crop residue – cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – as the primary feedstock to produce cellulosic ethanol.

With the 2013 harvest season already underway, growers have started delivering bales to the plant’s 22-acre stackyard. Although POET-DSM has organized four previous commercial-scale harvests in the past that have brought in nearly 200,00 tons of feedstock, this year’s bales will for the first time be used to produce cellulosic ethanol at the plant’s startup.

“Half of our biomass stackyard is filling up with cob bales for ethanol production,” Project LIBERTY General Manager Daron Wilson said. “Things are going smoothly. Our advance work over the last few years on feedstock logistics is paying off.”

Crop residue represents a new market for farmers that provides additional revenue with minimal input costs. It does not require any additional planting, and crop residue can be harvested with a standard baler. Nutrient replacement at POET-DSM’s suggested rate of removal – approximately 1 ton per acre or 25 percent of the above-ground biomass – is minimal.

“It’s been an easy way to diversify my farm operation and incorporate some much-needed crop residue management into the harvest,” said local farmer Charlie Kollasch. “This has been an important business opportunity for our area.”

POET-DSM intends to purchase approximately 100,000 tons from this year’s harvest to handle start-up and continuing operations through the 2014 harvest.

Study Refutes Land Use Change Myth

A recent report released from researchers in the Netherlands shows that current models assessing the impact of crops grown for biofuel production on land use (indirect land use change /ILUC) do not accurately reflect current production and land use realities. Given the impact of these models on bioenergy policy, the paper, “Biomass Research,” makes a strong case for updating the way in which the true benefits of biofuels are assessed. This Corn crop August 2013would help insure policy decisions and made with the understanding and consideration of the ethanol’s environmental benefits.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis said, “Ethanol advocates have long understood the major impact that relying upon outdated data or inaccurate models can have on our nation’s biofuels policy and, at NCGA we work to correct the information and models. This study provides an academically rigorous examination of the specific areas in which ethanol modeling and data are currently lacking on a large scope.”

Farmers have made amazing strides to increase efficiency and sustainability in the past few decades,” continued Willis, and the models and information used to assess the impact of biofuel production should reflect these gains. American ethanol benefits our environment as well as our economy and our energy security. It only makes sense that our energy policy should take these incredible benefits into account thus maximizing them for the good of all Americans.”

Looking at land use and biomass production balances in 34 major biofuel-producing nations, the report concludes that increases in acreage devoted to biofuel feedstock production were more than offset by productivity gains on acreage devoted to food production between 2000 and 2010. These productivity gains were the result of the use of double cropping practices, yield gains and other increased efficiencies.

Additionally, the study also notes that during the same period, urbanization and other causes were responsible for the loss of much more agricultural land than biofuel feedstock production. Continue reading

Former San Juan Biofuels Facility Selling at Lender Owned Auction

REVISED Maas-300x600-Dove-Creek-9-13-2Maas Companies of Rochester, Minn., will liquidate the former San Juan Biofuels Oilseed Crush Facility located in Southwestern Colorado at a Lender Owned Auction.The auction will be conducted on-site at the plant, 7099 CR H, Dove Creek, Colorado on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. The auction offers on-site and internet based bidding opportunities.

San Juan Biofuels was originally a local coop targeting biodiesel production from sunflower oil.Due to the economic conditions the biodiesel plant equipment was never purchased.The coop altered its focus to include: food grade vegetable oils, animal feed, renewable heat, electricity and wood pellets.The plant operated until 2011, and now the equipment is ready for a new owner.The auction will sell the plant for sale in bulk lots, including over 70 lots of equipment, two buildings and ancillary equipment selling in bulk lots or as an entirety with a land lease or to be moved.The real estate is on a long term lease with Dolores County Development Corporation, buyers are encouraged to contact the auction company to explore the land lease opportunities.

A complete package detailing the bidding process is available by contacting the auction company directly at 507-285-1444.Information can also be found at the company’s website: www.maascompanies.com.

American Ethanol Powered by New Holland

producers-clubNew Holland is proud to be powering American Ethanol as the premier equipment partner for Growth Energy and its member ethanol plants.

“We’re pushing forward with a positive message about ethanol and working together with not just the plants but also the producers,” said Luke Johnson, Growth Initiatives sales manager with New Holland, at the kickoff of a New Holland American Ethanol Producers Club event at the Absolute Energy plant in Lyle, Minnesota.

new-holland-mn-lukeThe producers club is a way for New Holland to show its support of the farmers who produce the corn that makes American ethanol. “We have a great discount structure program set up for them,” Luke said. “Our partnership is circular for everyone. The producer helps the ethanol plant and gets better prices in the corn market because of the industry, we support them with a fantastic discount program and support the industry at the same time to keep the positive message out there.”

The event at Absolute Energy is the 12th one that New Holland has held this year and Luke says they expect to do more next year. “Everything about it has been positive,” he said.

Listen to my interview with Luke here: Luke Johnson, New Holland

New Holland American Ethanol Producers Club photo album

Pure Biodiesel OKed for Deutz Agripower Engines

deutzlogoSome agricultural diesel engines made by German manufacturer Deutz are greenlighted for running on pure biodiesel. In this article from Biodiesel Magazine, testing funded by the German oilseed organization Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP) shows Deutz Agripower engines of the series TCD 7.8 L6, TCD 6.1 L6 and TCD 4.1 L4 can use B100.

In the course of this project, the engines were subjected to extensive field tests in practice, with a conclusive result for Deutz common rail injection systems and exhaust gas aftertreatment systems…

From the point of view of UFOP, verification for meeting the exhaust stage EU COM IIIB applicable since 2011 with biodiesel as a pure fuel is given upon successful completion of this project. This exhaust stage requires the use of exhaust gas aftertreatment systems. Here, Deutz AG offers around 4 to 8 liters of capacity in agricultural applications for the so-called SCR technique (selective catalytic reduction). The SCR system used operates with a 32.5 percent aqueous urea solution (Adblue), which is injected into the exhaust gas upstream of the catalytic converter with the aim of converting nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen.

The study goes on to show that a high quality B100 was very good at lowering particles in exhaust. UFOP added that this only underscores the need to strengthen biodiesel quality standards.

Agronomic Data Shows Viability of Biomass Harvesting

The Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is in full swing in Omaha, Nebraska with several hundred industry members on hand for the event. Today POET-DSM, an event sponsor, has announced that according to the latest data from researchers with Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) harvesting crop residue for cellulosic ethanol production is consistent with good farm management.

Biomass Harvest for Project LIBERTY

The work was commissioned by POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to ensure the sustainability of the joint venture’s plans to build cellulosic ethanol plants and license technology to producers in the U.S. and abroad. The research, led by Dr. Doug Karlen with USDA and Dr. Stuart Birrell with ISU, was conducted in fields near Emmetsburg, Iowa, the site of Project LIBERTY, POET-DSM’s 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant currently under construction. The facility will use corn-crop residue – cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. It is expected to come online in early 2014.

Now in its fifth year, the research evaluated the possible effects of biomass removal on soil nutrient levels and grain yields over various rates of removal. POET-DSM’s proposed rate of removal is approximately 1 ton per acre, which is 20-25 percent of the above-ground biomass.

“In summary, both grain yields and soil nutrient levels were not significantly affected by stover harvest treatments,” Birrell said in a research summary.

Fields with yields above 175 bushels per acre could remove up to 2 tons of biomass per acre, according to Birrell and Karlen. Based on the data, POET-DSM recommends no changes in nitrogen or phosphorous applications, due to residue removal. Some biomass providers could benefit from adding a small amount of potassium. Continue reading

Ethanol Industry Celebrates Patriot’s 5th Anniversary

The ethanol industry is helping Patriot Renewable Fuels celebrate it’s 5th Anniversary this month with congratulations and well wishes for another successful five years and beyond. In addition, Patriot is thanking several of its partners including CHS, a farmer-owned cooperative that has enabled Patriot to connect to global distiller grain (DDGS) markets.

Each year, the ethanol plant produces 320,000 tons of high-quality animal feed that is loaded into containers on site and exported by CHS to Asian countries including China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. As countries around the world gain wealth there Patriot DDGshas been a significantly increasing demand for meat and as a result, for more animal feed. Distillers grains are a high-protein, cost-competitive feed for cattle, hogs and other animals.

“Our DDGS exports have contributed an additional $300 million reduction on our nation’s U.S. trade deficit,” explained Gene Griffith, the plant’s general manager. “Over five years, corn purchased from area growers and processed into DDGS, a value-added protein ingredient, has fed approximately five million hogs.”

Griffith said due to the success of the relationship, Patriot has also expanded its relationship with CHS by naming them as its ethanol marketing partner. “Over the last five years, Patriot Renewable Fuels has shipped approximately 18,000 rail cars of ethanol,” said Griffith. “Together, Patriot Renewable Fuels and CHS are contributing significantly to rural economic development and providing consumers with a dependable, high quality ethanol fuel supply.”

But how does the corn needed to produce the ethanol and DDGs get to the plant at the right time? CGB, has been fulfilling this role for Patriot since the plant went online. Griffith noted that since Patriot began producing ethanol, the plant has operated in some of the tightest Patriot Corn DeliveryU.S. corn stocks to usage ratios in history and through this as well as other challenges, CGB has been a successful partner.

Dan Aubry, CGB grain procurement manager said that the company’s strategic placement of facilities across the corn-belt have allowed the origination of grain throughout a 60-mile radius of the plant and allows utilization of other resources when the need arises.

“We’ve utilized Iowa rail corn and brought corn up the Illinois River from southern CGB origins,” explained Aubry. We’ve also brought corn from our southwest, northern and northeastern locations. Our footprint in northern Illinois and access to the Illinois River gives us an enormous draw territory and we’ve certainty utilized and will continue to utilize that for Patriot’s needs.”

Aubry added that his company looks forward to working with Patriot long into the future.

REAP Funding Announced

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced funding for 631 projects across the country – including 45 in North Carolina – that will help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce their energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy Vilsack in Amestechnologies in their operations and/or conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Grant and loan funding is made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

With this announcement, USDA is committing to more than $21 million in energy projects nationwide. Despite budget uncertainties, USDA remains focused on strengthening the rural economy.

“As part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, USDA continues to work with America’s farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to help them save energy and improve their bottom line,” Vilsack said. “This program and others like it would not be available without a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and again I urge members of Congress to pass a bill when they return to Washington next month.”

REAP helps producers reduce energy costs and increase production efficiency. Projects range from installing geothermal systems to adding anaerobic digester systems to installing solar panels.

Under the terms of REAP, up to 25 percent of an eligible energy production or conservation project can be funded through a grant, and additional support can be provided in the form of a loan. Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has helped fund nearly 7,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.

Land Availability Should Determine Biomass Use

According to a paper published by the nova-Institute on agricultural feedstock use in industrial applications, efficiency and sustainability assessed on a case-by-case basis Global Prod Capacity by region 2015should be the sole criteria in judging the choice of feedstock used. The paper reviewed the “food versus fuel” arguments surrounding feedstocks to help shed light on the debate on how feedstocks should be used. The institute further stressed that the real issue is land availability for growing biomass for different purposes.

The paper refers to studies asserting that, even after satisfying food demand of a rapidly growing world population, enough arable land would remain available for purposes other than food production. The authors argue that the best usage of these areas is achieved by considering the land-efficiency of different crops. Studies show that many food crops are more land-efficient than non-food crops. According to the paper, they require less land to produce the same amount of e.g. fermentable sugar (commonly used in biotechnology processes) than non-food crops or so-called second generation feedstock, e.g. lignocelluloses.

“Efficiency and sustainability should be the leading criteria when selecting renewable feedstock for industrial purposes, such as the production of bioplastics,” said Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics, embracing the paper as a welcome contribution to the discussion. “If the industry were to neglect the use of first generation feedstock at this point in time, it would do a disservice to society and the environment,” he added. “In addition to being currently more efficient, the use of food-crops for industrial purposes has the major advantage that, in times of food crisis, these crops could be reallocated to food use.”

European Bioplastics is in favor of promoting the use of second or even third generation feedstock for industrial purposes. However, as long as food crops continue in many cases 13-08 use of harvested agricultural biomassto represent the most efficient feedstock by far, discrediting their use would be misguided and a step in the wrong direction in achieving the European Commission sustainability targets.

“This often very emotional discussion needs to be steered into a more fact based direction,” continued von Pogrell. “Only two percent of the global agricultural area is actually used to grow feedstock for material production and only 0.006 percent is used in the production of bioplastics, compared to 98 percent used for food, feed and as pastures,” he concluded.

These findings echo the conclusion of a study recently published by the World Bank, according to which an increase in food prices is largely influenced by the oil price. Biofuels and, by extension, bioplastics play a negligible factor here. The study looked at food commodities such as corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and palm oil and compared commodity prices to energy prices, exchange rates, interest rates, inflation, income and a stocks-to-use ratio to determine which of these drivers had the most impact on food prices.

Vilsack Says Congress Only Works During Crisis

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Ames, Iowa this week and while there gave remarks during the Iowa Farm Bureau’s (#IFBF13) 2013 Economic Summit. The standing room only crowd wanted to hear what Vilsack would say regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the Farm Bill.

IFBF13 - VilsackVilsack was not complementary of the current Congress saying that they only work when there is a crisis. He used the fiscal cliff as an example. Currently, Congress is reviewing the RFS and the Senate and House have not come to terms on a Farm Bill, or “food, fuel and jobs bill. He said that the RFS was working, and needs to stay in place.

Vilsack said that Congress needs to do the work now on the Farm Bill and the agricultural industry must not succumb to an extension of the current bill because this rewards failure. He also noted that the ag industry deserves a Congress who understands the importance of agriculture.

The Farm Bill, said Vilsack, is not just a food bill. It is a jobs bill, an energy bill, a research bill and an innovation bill, its a conservation bill, its an entrepreneurial bill.  Without all of the above, the U.S. will lose its place as the leader in agriculture. It’s all of these things.

Listen to UDSA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s remarks here: Vilsack: Congress Only Works During Crisis

Syngenta Pledges Support for Renewable Fuels

During the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen this past Saturday held at the Newton Speedway, Syngenta announced a three-year commitment to contribute $1 to the renewable fuels industry for every acre planted with Enogen trait technology. The initiative, that began with this year’s growing season, will help support America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and promote the benefits of renewable fuels grown in America.

enogen“Renewable fuels are an essential part of the American energy equation, benefiting consumers, farmers and American energy independence,” said David Witherspoon, Head of Renewable Fuels at Syngenta. “Ethanol, whether from corn or other biomass sources, is an energy source for today and tomorrow driving economic growth and innovation.”

Syngenta is currently focused on increasing the productivity of renewable fuels made from traditional and non-traditional feedstocks such as corn. The Enogen trait technology is a biotech output trait designed specifically for ethanol production. The corn expresses alpha amylase enzyme directly in the corn kernel and replaces liquid alpha amylase enzyme. According to Syngenta, the unique enzyme present in Enogen grain facilitates a simpler, more efficient ethanol production process helping to maximize the productivity of every gallon produced, and thus the profitability of the ethanol plant.

By helping to create savings in electricity, natural gas and water usage, Enogen corn also has the potential to help an ethanol plant reduce its carbon footprint. Syngenta says that for a 100-million gallon plant, efficiency improvements by Enogen can save annually:

  • More than 68 million gallons of water
  • Nearly 10 million KWh of electricity
  • More than 350 billion BTUs of natural gas
  • More than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions

Enogen corn represents a unique value proposition for local communities as well. Enogen corn hybrids are planted under contract with an ethanol plant licensed to use the technology. In exchange for high-quality grain and robust alpha amylase enzyme, ethanol plants pay an average 40 cent per bushel premium to local farmers for their Enogen grain, an economic boost that could mean as much as $80 to $90 an acre for some Midwestern farmers.

Houses Passes Revised Version of Farm Bill

The House has voted to pass a partisan, revised version of its farm bill, H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM) 216 to 208. The Chairman Frank D Lucasversion does not include food stamp authorization but keeps in tact current agricultural programs. The debate over the bill has been long and drawn out and took up most of yesterday and today before the bill was brought up for vote with pleas from Chairman Frank D. Lucas to pass the bill and go home to their families.

The House claims that FARRM helps diversify the nation’s energy supply and creates new economic opportunities in rural America by promoting the development of advanced biofuels and renewable energy. However, the bill eliminates mandatory funding and reauthorizes programs at reduced discretionary funding levels that they say will save taxpayers $500 million. Energy programs affected include: Rural Energy for America (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), Biobased Markets Program, and the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program.

In addition, FARRM reauthorizes the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Repowering Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Feedstock Flexibility Program, and the Community Wood Energy Program. It repeals or ends authorizations of the Biofuels Infrastructure Study, and the Renewable Fertilizer Study, the Rural Energy Self sufficiency Initiative, and the Forest Biomass for Energy Programs.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.51.47 PMIn response to the passage of the bill, Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) said, “Now that the U.S. House has adopted its version of the Farm Bill, ACE will be working to encourage the House-Senate conference committee to finalize legislation that mirrors the Senate Bill. The Senate version contains support for important Energy Title initiatives, particularly mandatory funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).”

Jennings continued, “These REAP funds provide vital cost-share assistance to help petroleum marketers make upgrades or install new equipment at retail stations, ensuring consumers have access to renewable and affordable fuels such as ethanol. We are hopeful Congress enacts a multi-year, comprehensive farm bill that resembles the Senate legislation before the September 30 deadline.”

The Senate version includes a robust portfolio energy program as well as funds the programs. The next step is for the House-Senate conference committee to draft and present a compromised version of the bill.

Groups React to FAO Biofuels Study

Emotions are mixed regarding the findings in a recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that was released in Rome during a meeting with ambassadors. The report found that biofuel from crops has a significant and direct impact on food prices and food availability. In response, ActionAid said the report shows how Europe’s biofuel targets are driving up food prices and increasing hunger among the world’s poorest people.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 8.35.14 AMThe report comes several weeks before a final decision is made by the Environment Committee, part of the European Commission, on how much fuel will be allowed to be made from feedstocks used to produce food.

“It is a wake-up call to the EU to get its house in order on food and fuel. This means some hard work ahead for MEPs and Member States who are working on redefining EU biofuels policy,” said Anders Dahlbeck, ActionAid’s biofuels policy advisor. “However as we speak, the biofuels industry is lobbying hard against new proposals before the Parliament and Council to limit the use of food crops for biofuels. MEPs and member states must not bow to industry pressure – they must end the use of food for fuel.”

The global biofuels industry has in fact taken issue with the report and the Global Renewable Fuels Association (GRFA) says that there are several methodological and factual errors in the report including the omission of key co-products in calculating the net benefits of biofuels; the overly prescriptive policy recommendations; and the inclusion of unproven land use methodologies. It should be noted that the EU biofuels policy that is under review specifically does not take in to account indirect land use in its calculations. Continue reading

Biofuels & Iowa Pork – A Swinetiffic Relationship

Today is Iowa Swine Day (June 27) and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is taking a time to show how renewable fuels production is boosting the profitability of raising hogs in Iowa.

DDGs“On Iowa Swine Day, it’s important to remember that a strong renewable fuels industry means a strong hog industry here in Iowa,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “IRFA members have developed solid relationships with Iowa’s pork producers and the numbers show it. Whether it’s purchasing choice white grease for biodiesel production or supplying affordable distillers grains for feed, Iowa renewable fuels and Iowa pork production have a symbiotic relationship.”

IFRA says that ethanol production helps Iowa pork producers by providing an affordable, high protein feed called distillers grains (DDGS). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ProExporter Network recently noted that Iowa hogs are the number one in-state consumer of DDGS, utilizing approximately 1.2 million tons of each year.  This represents 61 percent of in-state DDGS consumption.

In addition, biodiesel production not only lowers the cost of soybean meal, it also increases the value of animal fats benefiting Iowa’s pork producers. A recent study by Cardno ENTRIX found that an Iowa hog producer realizes a $4 per head boost in profitability because of Iowa’s biodiesel industry. Therefore, an Iowa farmer raising both crops and hogs would see nearly a 20 percent increase in net income because of Iowa biodiesel production.