Biofuels Veteran Joins Advisory Firm

campbellBiofuels veteran and former Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture John Campbell has joined Ocean Park Advisors (OPA), a corporate finance advisory firm for biofuels and other agribusiness companies. Campbell will serve as managing director based in Omaha, Nebraska and will serve to broaden the company’s relationships, develop new business and help execute transactions.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the principals at Ocean Park,” said Campbell. “This is a unique firm that brings senior-level attention to transactions in renewable energy, food processing and other agriculture sectors.”

Campbell spent 21 years with Ag Processing Inc (AGP), a $5 billion cooperative, where he was an executive vice president responsible for leading the industrial products division. He launched it with biofuels and later expanded it to include green chemistry applications of soy oil products to plant protection, industrial cleaning, personal care and environmental remediation sectors. He is credited as being one of the driving forces behind the creation of the U.S. biodiesel industry. Under Campbell’s leadership, AGP constructed the first commercial scale biodiesel plant in North America followed by numerous other expansions, projects and acquisitions. He was also engaged in the ethanol industry starting in the 1990s, and served as president of the Nebraska Association of Ethanol Producers.

Campbell served as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture in 1988, engaged in legislative and regulatory activities related to commodity programs, conservation efforts and trade.

Green Plains Purchases Supreme Cattle Feeders

Green Plains (GPRE) has acquired the assets of Supreme Cattle feeders from Agri Beef Co. The deal includes the feed yard doing business as Supreme Cattle Feeders and the Cimarron Grain Storage facility located near Kismet, Kansas.

“Supreme Cattle Feeders is one of the premier cattle feed yards in the U.S. and this operation is an ideal adjacent business for Green Plains,” said Todd Becker, president and CEO. “The green_plainscustom cattle-feeding business gives us the ability to further process our distillers grains and corn oil, and extend our corn origination network. We also believe that this transaction will be accretive to 2014 earnings.”

Becker said Supreme Cattle Feeders will remain a custom cattle-feeding business -a great asset to their portfolio of value-added processing facilities. He notes that GPRE’s focus is to ensure that current customers continue to be served at the highest level. In addition, Becker said they plan on retaining all of the current employees at the facilities.

Robert Rebholtz, Jr., President/CEO of Agri Beef Co. said, “The key to our decision to sell Supreme Cattle Feeders was Green Plains’ financial strength, commitment to operational excellence and risk management capabilities. We are thrilled by the great opportunities this combination will provide Supreme’s long-time customers and employees. We look forward to continuing our own cattle-feeding relationship as a Green Plains customer for years to come.”

GPRE said Supreme Cattle Feeders will remain a custom cattle-feeding business and will continue to operate under its current name. Supreme Cattle Feeders financial results will be reported as a part of Green Plains’ agribusiness segment. The operation consists of approximately 2,600 acres of land with 800 acres allocated to the feedlot operation that has the capacity to support 70,000 head of cattle. Supreme’s current corn storage capacity, including the Cimarron Grain facilities, is approximately 3.8 million bushels. Supreme Cattle Feeders will continue to be directed by its current management team, with transition support from Agri Beef Co. Agri Beef Co will continue its relationship as a cattle-feeding customer of Supreme. Agri Beef Co. has owned and operated Supreme Cattle Feeders for the past 19 years.

USDA Announces BCAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 through July 14, 2014 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Agriculture residues, such as corn cobs and stalks, also may qualify as energy-producing feedstock.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the forest residuetotal $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.

“Removing dead or diseased trees from forests to use for biomass production creates clean energy while reducing the threat of forest fires and the spread of harmful insects and disease,” said Vilsack. “Increasing our country’s production of biomass energy also helps grow our economy. Food is made in rural America, but fuel is made in rural America, too. This program is yet another USDA investment in expanding markets for agricultural products made in rural places across the country.”

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

Clean Power Plan Should Give Utility Industry a Boost

Earlier this week the EPA announced a legacy proposal that would reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 numbers. While much of the response from organizations was positive, may associations believe the proposed Clean Power Plan regulation will harm rural areas, not help.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the reduction in carbon will lead to higher energy prices; but not only would farmers face higher prices for electricity, but any energy-related input such as fertilizer. They also claim rural electric cooperatives that rely on old coal plants for cheap electricity would be hit especially hit hard.

Coal-Fired-Power-Plant“U.S. agriculture will pay more for energy and fertilizer under this plan, but the harm won’t stop there,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Effects will especially hit home in rural America.”

Yet according to Lux Research, the Clean Power Plan have noted that while the proposed regulation has spurred furious debate, what is missing from the conversation it the role of innovation. The firm said these rules can help spur innovation that will make it easier for the world to reduce its emissions.

The new EPA rules are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on global emissions on their own, said Lux Research, given that almost all future growth in carbon emissions will come from developing and underdeveloped countries – most notably China, which became the largest carbon emitter in 2007. Hence, much of the debate about the rules has centered on how likely they are to help induce China and other nations to agree to binding targets of their own.

“The political discussion about climate change misses a critical point; whatever their role in climate negotiations, these new rules will accelerate technology development and deployment, making it more practical and affordable for nations everywhere to reduce emissions,” said Aditya Ranade, Senior Analyst at Lux Research. “Their influence on innovation is where they will need to have the biggest impact for the world to achieve its CO2 reduction goals.”

Lux Research analysts predict that four major technology sectors will get a boost: Continue reading

AgWired Gets a Facelift

When you visit the ZimmComm New Media websites dedicated to agriculture, you will see a new integrated AgWired brand Animal.AgWired.comand new website names to better serve the animal agriculture segment of the industry.

WorldDairyDiary.com will now be known as Animal.Agwired.com, which will offer news and information about all segments of livestock and poultry. “We regularly cover events such as the International Production and Processing Expo, World Pork Expo, and national beef cattle meetings, in addition to World Dairy Expo,” said ZimmComm president Chuck Zimmerman. “We wanted to consolidate all of our animal agriculture coverage into one site to make it easier for our readers to access.”

Precision.AgWired.comPrecisionPays.com is now Precision.Agwired.com and will continue to include the latest news and information about precision agriculture, conservation, biotechnology and more. “Both websites (PrecisionPays and WorldDairyDiary) will remain accessible under the old URLs,” explained Zimmerman. “But they will now also be prominently featured on the AgWired.com home page.”

In addition, the AgWired App for the iOS and Android store has also been innovated and users can now create the AgWired App on their mobile device themselves. To do this, just visit AgWired.com on your mobile device of choice and a popup will ask if you want to create a desktop icon. AgWired will then open with a click of the app in a very user-friendly format. Full instructions are included in an instructional video on YouTube.

The New AgWired.comAgWired.com is ZimmComm’s flagship agribusiness news and information site, started in August of 2004. WorldDairyDiary began the following year and Precision Pays was started in February 2007. “The new design will provide consistency in the look of ZimmComm’s major agricultural websites,” Zimmerman added. DomesticFuel.com, started in September 2005, will also sport a new look consistent with the other sites, but will remain under its current name. So keep an eye out for a DF Facelift as well.

Other ZimmComm online services of interest include AgNewsWire.com dedicated to news release distribution and audio combined from all websites and available to all agricultural media.

Ethanol Groups Participate in China Trade Mission

RFANewlogoU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse led a mission to promote U.S. agricultural exports in northeast China May 5-13. The mission is part of President Obama’s “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, designed to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.

growth-energy-logoTaking part in the mission to promote U.S. biofuels and co-product exports was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis and Jim Miller with Growth Energy.

During a press conference Tuesday to talk about the trade mission, Davis said it was her first trip to China and she was astounded by the number of cars on the roads and sees a great need for both biofuels and distillers grains for livestock feed in that country. Miller added that China provides an excellent market opportunity for the U.S. ethanol industry.

Also taking part in the trip and the press conference was Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmer’s Union. Ethanol Press Conference Opening Remarks

Evolving Distillers Grains: Take the Survey

Iowa State University is looking at how the use of distillers grains have changed in the United States over the past several years. Interested growers are invited to participate in a survey currently being conducted by Iowa State University Assistant Professor Dr. Kurt Rosentrater. The survey findings will create a better overall picture of the roll distillers grains play in the livestock industry today and provide important insight into possible points of improvement in the future.

The survey is funded, ddgsin part, by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Ethanol Committee as part of the team’s efforts to increase understanding of how this ethanol co-product benefits farmers, ranchers and ethanol producers alike.

“I encourage anyone who might be able to provide information on how they use distillers grains on their operation to take a few minutes and complete this survey,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Jeff Sandborn, a Michigan farmer. “As the use of distillers grains continues to grow and evolve, data gained through this survey will enable producers to improve their offerings and thus will benefit the very livestock producers that we would like to participate. Using corn to produce fuel and feed is already a win-win-win situation. Now, we want to make it that much better.”

To take the survey, click here.

USDA Announces REAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the agency is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. The funding announced today is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “This funding will help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent. When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.”

USDA Reap ProgramAccording to the USDA, investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America’s economic growth – a thriving middle class. REAP is one of many USDA programs and initiatives to support an expanded domestic energy economy. In addition to helping to increase renewable energy production, USDA makes investments in the bioeconomy, provides support for the emerging biobased products industry, supports new technologies, and supports energy efficiency improvements.

REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. More than 57,000 farms reported using a renewable energy system in 2012, while 23,451 operations reported doing so in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.

Created by the 2008 Farm Bill, REAP was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Additional REAP funds provided by the Farm Bill will be made available with a subsequent notice.

USDA is accepting applications for:

  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations;
  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantees; and
  • Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants.
  • Requests for grants may not exceed 25 percent of a project’s cost – either for stand-alone grant requests or for grants combined with loan guarantees.

ZimmComm Team Looking for Summer Intern

zimmcomZimmComm New Media is now taking applications for a summer intern. Students in the agricultural communications field interested in attending and learning how to “agri-blog” some of the most important industry events held every year should apply.

The opportunities will include all-expense paid trips to one or more industry events where students will assist in the compiling of photos, audio, video and posting of activities on pertinent websites. Interns will learn and develop communication tools, techniques and technology to gather and distribute information through various social media channels. Per-diem and college credits may also be available.

YES! I’m interested in learning how to do some agri-blogging. Apply here.

Ethanol First Spotlight Topic for MyNewHolland.com

MyNewHolland.comToday is the launch of MyNewHolland.com. This new virtual community is set up to provide a meeting place to share information, contribute to farming related discussions and access premium contents and services. It is very simple to create your account by visiting MyNewHolland.com. Then you’ll have access to the features currently active.

A list of features includes:

  • My New Holland: a new online community for all
  • The Spotlight: discussions on a variety of topical subjects in the farming world
  • The first Spotlight: ethanol and renewable energy
  • Valuable information resources: instructional videos, white papers and more
  • Premium content: owners of New Holland equipment and Precision Land Management products gain access to useful materials that will help them get the most from their machines
  • Easy registration and log in through social networks

The Spotlight discussion is a key feature of MyNewHolland.com. Each discussion will feature a guest farmer or industry expert who supports a farming-related topic. All My New Holland members are invited to contribute their comments, opinions, material or images, driving the conversation forward. Each discussion will be open for a number of weeks; subsequently a white paper will be produced and made available for downloading.

Ron Clauson MyNewHolland.comThe first Spotlight discussion topic is “Ethanol: Renewable Energy for America – Profit for American Farmers.” Our guest is Indiana farmer Ron Clauson. His farm has produced corn for ethanol production for the last eight years and he’s passionate about it.

“One hundred percent of the corn and soybeans we produce go into ethanol and biodiesel,” Clauson says. “It makes me proud to be able to say we market our crops to produce fuel that reduces dependence on imports.”

There are several questions being posed in this first Spotlight discussion for you to respond to and your feedback is highly appreciated.

  • Are you producing a crop for ethanol production? If so, what type and why?
  • How would a change in the Renewable Fuel Standard impact your community and you personally?
  • What do you think about the misleading claims against ethanol by critics and what can farmers do about it?

I am very proud to be assisting our long time sponsor in the daily management of MyNewHolland.com in this startup phase. To get some more perspective on it I spoke with New Holland Director of Marketing for North America, Mark Hooper, while visiting headquarters in Pennsylvania recently. He says there are many more features planned for MyNewHolland.com as the community grows and develops.

You can listen to Mark talk about MyNewHolland.com here: Interview with Mark Hooper

So there you have it. The website is live and available for you to create your personal login and let New Holland know what you think, especially about the first Spotlight discussion. See you there.

Arming for a Fact-Based Fight Over Ethanol

bernens1It’s not always fact-based arguments proponents of ethanol are up against when battling Big Oil. But that’s why it’s all more important to make sure you have good facts on your side in the fight. Farmers who attended the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio were able to sit in on a session titled, “Biofuels and the Renewable Fuels Standard, A Farmer’s Avenue to American Energy Independence,” to make sure they can talk about the success stories and silence ethanol’s critics.

“Because of our success, we’ve had Big Oil really come after us and say, ‘We’re not going to lose anymore market share,'” says Jack Bernens, session moderator and marketer of Syngenta’s Enogen corn, specifically designed for ethanol production. “When monopolies get threatened, they like to push back hard.”

Hear more of what Jack had to say here: Jack Bernens, Syngenta

jennings1Jack was joined on the panel by Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol, who echoed Jack’s view that you’re not necessarily battling facts when it comes to taking on some of the myths put out by the petroleum industry.

“The message I was trying to relay to the corn growers is stay involved, remain engaged, get your neighbors and friends involved, and know that this isn’t a fact-based fight. When the fight is about facts, we always win,” Brian says, adding that ethanol doesn’t have to stoop to the lies and scare tactics of Big Oil.

Listen to Brian’s interview here: Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

doxtad1Another effective tool in the fight is showing the positive change ethanol has brought to Rural America, creating better markets for farmers’ corn, helping the country achieve energy independence, and building up communities, like the one that Northwest Iowa corn farmer James Doxtad comes from. He says while many folks back in his home state are aware of the good the renewable fuel has brought to the heartland, too many people in the country just don’t know. “It’s amazing how many people out there are unaware of the advantages of ethanol. Ethanol is a good thing, and we’re producing a good product, and we’re doing it for a good reason.” he says.

Check out James’ interview here: James Doxtad, Holstein, Iowa

Meanwhile, all three might get some help spreading the word as Syngenta released a new documentary video titled, “Ethanol: Fueling Rural America’s Future – One Community at a Time,” that provides a platform for farmers, ethanol producers and industry advocates to share their passion for an industry critical to the future of agriculture and rural America.

RFS is Revitalizing Rural Iowa

The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released its Preliminary 2012 Farm Census data and according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), it’s easy to see that increased in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) have revitalized rural Iowa.

Iowa-FarmThe USDA data shows that since the increase in the RFS in 2007, Iowa has experienced nearly a 51 percent increase in the value of Iowa farm products, with a more than 67.7 percent increase in crop values and a more than 33.5 percent increase in livestock values. These value increases took place during a time when the amount of land being farmed in Iowa actually dropped 132,193 acres to 30.6 million acres.

“It’s no coincidence the increases in the RFS since 2007 have coincided with the most impressive run of rural prosperity in Iowa history,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Throughout history, farmers have been so innovative and productive they usually produce themselves out of profitability. This time, the growth in renewable fuels provided new markets for increased production, resulting in the positive economic results detailed by the USDA. However, if the Obama Administration’s proposal to slash the RFS is allowed to move forward, we could see a complete reversal in this rural revitalization.”

Iowa was not the only state to benefit from the growth in renewable fuels. Nationally, farm product values increased 32.8 percent from 2007 to 2012, with crop values increasing 47.9 percent and livestock values increasing 18.7 percent. Meanwhile, U.S. land devoted to farming declined by nearly 7.5 million acres.

We Have A Farm Bill!

baby-farm-billToday the U.S. Senate voted 68-32 to pass the 2014 farm bill after years of work by both Agriculture Committees. The House passed its version of a conference bill Jan. 29, and now the farm bill goes to President Obama’s desk.

The President is expected to sign the bill into law. The Agricultural Act of 2014 expands bio-energy production, supporting non-food based advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and woody biomass power. Specifically, the new Farm Bill funds biomass initiatives for the next five years:

  • Bio-Based Markets for $3 million per year
  • Biomass Research and Development for $3 million per year
  • Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Bio-Based Product Manufacturing Assistance Program for $100 million in 2014 and $50 million in 2015 and 2016
  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program for $25 million per year
  • Bioenergy for Advanced Biofuels for $15 million per year

“America’s farmers are core to the innovation that’s driven down our dependence on foreign oil – and this policy will keep them doing it, said Adam Monroe, regional president of the Americas for Novozymes, a global leader in bioenzyme production. There’s already enough concern about energy policy in America with EPA’s proposed revisions to the Renewable Fuel Standard. It’s a power sign to see policy certainty surrounding the energy programs in the farm bill. We thank Congress for taking action and we urge President Obama to swiftly sign it.

Growth Energy is also supportive of the Farm Bill with CEO Tom Buis commenting, “This legislation will encourage further development in biofuels by continuing to fund essential programs such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Rural Energy for America Program and Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

“The bottom line is that this bill helps create jobs in rural America and advances first and next generation biofuel production that will help improve our environment and reduce our dangerous addiction to foreign oil.

Farm Polices Impact on Precision Ag

nbb-14-kevin-rossMember of the National Corn Growers Association Board and director of Western Iowa Energy, LLC, Kevin Ross, chatted with Chuck after the opening session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. They discuss farm policy and how precision agriculture technology has impacted his farming operation where he raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans.

Kevin shared that if we don’t move past what RFS has already provided then we become stuck and the innovation stops. He says everyone needs to do what they can to ensure the investments continue and technologies are utilized. He feels the government has given mixed signals and believes simple education on the issue could help.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) itself is vitally important to my operation at home and to my neighbors. Not just from the farming side, but also from the livestock side. Especially, operations like mine in western Iowa where we can utilize the fats and add value back to the livestock. I am not sure how many people know that its even possible. Let alone be done on an industrial scale. Agriculture is about value-added. Creating markets in those new economies within a broader ag industry is what it is all about.”

Kevin goes on to discuss what types of precision agriculture they have taken advantage of on his operation.

“On our farm it has been a fast ramp up of precision technology. Just a couple years ago on our own farm we’ve gone to auto steer. I couldn’t plant straight rows if I tried. We also use single row shut-offs and it has been a huge plus for us. Overall newer equipment is more efficient with yield monitors and data that we collect. We are going into a new soil data collection phase on our farm which is an entirely new way of doing it then before. We have made major advancement in the recent years and profitability in ag and RFS have really had a huge role in making that possible.”

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Ross

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Growing Use of Technology for Growers

nbb-14-frank-legnerCommodity groups across the country also took interest in the happenings at the recent National Biodiesel Conference. Frank Legner, Legner Farms is a member of the Illinois Soybean Association and attended the conference to relay the update on biodiesel to growers in Illinois. He talks about how he uses precision agriculture on his farm where they grow 50/50 soybeans and corn.

“With the high prices of commodities in the years previous farmers have used their capital in many different ways. Our farming operation decided to put our capital towards technology. Where we farm you could have about four different soil types on a piece of land and those soil types all have different productivity indexes that have been benchmarked from the University of Illinois. We use those soil maps as a good foundation of how we are going to come up with a plan. We soil sample on two and a half acre grids and when we make these sample sites we overlay them on our SMS advance desktop software to make sure that sample site is in one soil sample. When we get the readings from the lab, we use that to write our VRT recommendations.”

They can then compare results from previous years and start selecting what hybrids will work in each field. Frank said it is kind of like a draft. The multiple hybrid planting is something that he sees them utilizing in the very near future as well.

Frank also shared that colors don’t mix when you are dealing with this level of technology. He shared that precision planting has been the best way for them to use their green planter with their red tractor. Legner Farms has truly adopted the use of technology to create efficiency and increase profitability. He goes on to explain how they have taken advantage of different precision ag company’s innovations and looks forward to seeing what’s next.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Frank here: Interview with Frank Legner

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album