PERC Offers Propane Farm Incentive Program

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is encouraging producers to upgrade their grain dryers with a $5,000 incentive through the Propane Farm Incentive Program. Producers who purchase a new qualifying propane-fueled dryer from GSI Group or Mathews Co. now through the end of 2013 can apply for the incentive through PERC’s nationwide research program. In exchange, producers report post-harvest performance data to PERC.

Propane Farm Incentive Program LogoFor many farmers this spring, planting has been a challenge with cool, wet and rainy conditions. This has led to planting delays that may lead to more grain drying in the fall, and today, nearly nine of of 10 farmers dry grain using propane-fueled equipment. New models can offer energy efficient designs that produce even, consistent drying and can save producers money.

New and improved grain drying equipment is a profitable investment for producers, according to Mark Leitman, director of marketing and business development at PERC. “Mew propane-fueled grain dryers can be 30 to 50 percent more efficient than older models. These machines can produce huge energy savings for farmers, and we offer a $5,000 incentive on select, new models.”

The eligible models for the incentive include the GSI X-Stream series and Mathews Trilogy series dryers. PERC co-supported the development and testing of these machines because they’ve been proven to offer increased capacity, improved grain quality, and they can dry up to twice as many bushels per gallon of propane as previous models.

Groups Not Happy with Colorado Rural REP

Groups in Colorado are not happy with the new law that Governor John Hickenlooper signed, SB13-252, that mandates 20 percent of all electricity used by rural Colorado come from renewable sources. Hickenlooper signed an executive order relating to the measure that create an advisory committee to the Director of the Colorado Energy Office on the effective of SB13-252.

The Colorado Farm Bureau is one group and Don Shawcroft, president, said his organization is disappointed to see the Governor sign a measure that will put an unnecessary burden on many Colorado farmers and ranchers in rural communities. “This mandate will cost agricultural producers millions of dollars, and may put many family farms out of business.”

Devils Thumb RanchShawcroft said no voices from the agriculture community were included in the committee and its is very disconcerting that the Governor did not acknowledge the ag industry but putting a farmer or rancher on the advisory committee.

Several Colorado counties are also up in arms and are considering forming a 51st state called North Colorado. The Denver Post reports that a proposal to separate Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson counties from the rest of the state was hatched at a meeting of county commissioners last week.

According to state commissioners, efforts of the state to crack down on oil and gas as well as increases in rural renewable energy standards were “the straws that broke the camel’s back.” Of the counties affected, two of their main economic drivers are energy and agriculture.

These are also concerns of Shawcroft who said that the measure fails to put agriculture, the biggest consumer of energy in rural Colorado at the table. “We tried to talk to him about our concerns and how this will affect agriculture, but yet again, he didn’t include us in the ongoing conversation,” Shawcroft concluded.

Facts About Farmers and Farming

Pillar_2The Corn Farmers Coalition is educating policymakers in D.C. about how U.S. family farmers produce corn, (also used to produce ethanol) the top crop in the nation. Sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its state affiliates, the campaign showcases how innovative and high-tech corn farmers have become by introducing a foundation of facts about farmers and farmers. The campaign will also benefit consumers, who according to a recent ZimmPoll, ag marketing is “not so good”.

“This has always been a crucial time of year in Washington to make sure our lawmakers and those who influence them remember the importance of corn farming to our nation and our economy,” said Pam Johnson, NCGA president and a corn grower in Iowa. “Our state corn checkoff programs have seen the importance of this program each year for educating a very important audience about this essential crop  and its high value.”

TwoSheets_3The campaign launched June 1, 2013 with a major advertising presence in Washington that puts prominent facts about family farmers in front of thousands on Capitol Hill, starting with “station domination” at Union Station through the month of June. The large-format ads will travel to the Capitol South Metro station for July. In addition, online advertising will appear influential Hill publications. Continue reading

Uesugi Farms Turns Barren Land Into Ripe Commodity

Usegui Farms has turned barren farm land into a rip commodity with solar energy. Vista Solar along with Uesugi Farms’ General Manager Pete Aiello and several local leaders dedicated the solar power project with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The solar project was installed by Vista Solar and is now producing enough power from the sun to offset 91.5 percent of the farm’s electrical demand. Along with a zero-down operating base lease, the system is projected to create more than $2.6 million in savings over the next 25 years.

“Vista Solar did an excellent job helping us turn a business liability into an asset,” said General Manager Pete Aiello. “Not only did they provide professionalism and expertise in designing and installing the system, but they excelled in all the aspects surrounding it, including obtaining the financing and educating our staff about solar.”

uesegi_solar_panelsWith a low base flood elevation, this parcel of farmland has been prone to flooding, making it nearly impossible to grow crops. Uesugi Farms contracted with Vista Solar to create a design that could transform the unusable land into a solar generation facility. Elevated six feet off the ground to avoid flood damage, the system comprised of 300 Watt Canadian Solar panels and 3-phase, transformerless Refusol string inverters is capable of producing more than 1.25 million kilowatt hours of solar energy annually – enough energy to power more than 100 homes.

“Forward-thinking businesses like Uesugi Farms are motivated by the significant savings that solar can provide for their bottom line, but at the end of the day, they often have several other mission-critical places where their capital is needed. Being able to provide a way to start saving with solar right away while preserving precious capital and lines of credit is one of the things that makes this project and Vista Solar so unique,” said Jaymes Callinan, vice president of Vista Solar.

With the commissioning of their new solar system, Uesugi Farms has deepened its commitment to environmental stewardship by converting a barren plot of land into a carbon-offsetting, renewable energy-generator while adhering to their fiduciary duties as a family business. Aiello said this is a legacy decision that will benefit generations to come.

PacificAg Created Through Merger

PACAG-001 Final Logo CMYKSister companies Pacific Ag Solutions and Pacific PowerStock have merged to become PacificAg. According to the company, the merger creates the largest agricultural residue and hay harvesting business in the U.S. with operations in seven states and the largest fleet of biomass harvesting equipment in the country.

“We have always served two important markets: demand for forage crops for livestock to feed a growing global middle class and dynamic growth in the uses and demand for agricultural biomass to replace petroleum and other fossil sources in the creation of bioenergy, cellulosic biofuels, bio-based chemicals and other bio-based products. Originally we felt two sister companies were necessary to meet the demands of these distinct marketplaces,” said Bill Levy, founder and CEO of PacificAg.

“Years of experience developing and operating feedstock supply chains for both domestic and export forage and for bioenergy markets have demonstrated that in practice, serving these distinct customer groups involves leveraging the same equipment fleets, complementary operational and logistics skills and processes,” Levy continued. “The synergies now apparent far outweigh any benefits of operating the former companies separately. Operating as one company will enable us to be more responsive and more competitive to meet the growing demand for agricultural biomass at commercial scale.”

According to Levy, PacificAg is now the largest player in supply chain logistics. The company’s dedicated supply chain model, which depends on multi-year supply agreements and close, formalized cooperation from one end of the chain to the other, provides the most effective way to reduce the risks posed by cost, quality and supply volatility. Levy added that its proprietary PowerStock Pro supply chain management system provides a turnkey tool for managing every aspect of the complex feedstock supply chain from grower contracts to GIS enabled field mapping to equipment deployment, harvest results and inventory management.

ISU Seeks Input on DDGs

cattle eating distillers grainsIowa State University is conducting a survey of livestock producers use of feed-related co-products from ethanol production (distillers grains). The survey is focused on the beef, dairy, swine and poultry sectors. It is being funded by a coalition consisting of the Renewable Fuels Association, the Distillers Grains Technology Council and the Corn Utilization Councils from Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

“The feedback gained from the survey will be used to help improve co-product quality, which can help livestock producers with their feed costs and livestock performance,” said Kurt Rosentrater, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, who is leading the effort.

Livestock producers are invited to take the survey online until June 19, 2013.

ZimmComm Agri-Blogging Opportunities

zimmcomZimmComm New Media is now taking applications for students in the agricultural communications field to attend and learn how to “agri-blog” some of the most important industry events held every year.

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

Continue reading

Turning Cow Manure Into Brown Gold

In the heart of Wisconsin, a project is underway to produce energy from a resource that is in little danger of running low: cow manure, or “brown gold.” Thanks to a $7 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several state companies have formed a consortium to pilot the conversion of dairy farm manure into useful product streams—a project that is expected to have significant environmental and economic benefits.

cute cowThe Accelerated Renewable Energy (ARE) project is already in progress at the 5,000-cow Maple Leaf Dairy in Manitowoc County, where animal waste is separated into different streams, or fractions, of processed manure. After small plant fibers in the manure are separated out and anaerobically digested to create biogas, liquids from the digestion process are used to fertilize crops, while leftover solids can be converted into useful chemicals and bio-plastics. Larger plant fibers, on the other hand, make great animal bedding and mulch, as well as a starting material for ethanol fermentation.

WBI director and Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) faculty member Troy Runge, who is a co-investigator of the project, is interested in supporting a renewable energy economy through the development of value-added products from biomass. Runge’s lab is analyzing the ARE project’s separation techniques to improve their efficiency and economic performance.

“We are performing many of the same separations that occur on the farm, but in the controlled environment of the lab to both measure and optimize the system,” says Runge. Continue reading

Stover Harvesting Requires Careful Management

According to Purdue University researchers, removing corn stover from agricultural fields to produce cellulosic ethanol requires careful management to avoid adding greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion to the environment. However, environmental impacts from stover removal can be reduced by switching to no-till corn or adding winter cover crops, but these practices likely would increase production costs, researchers reported in a study, “Environmental and Economic Trade-Offs in a Watershed When Using Corn Stover for Bioenergy,” published in Environmental Science & Technology.

“Some crop rotation and tillage combinations are more environmentally benign than others,” said Ben Gramig, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study’s lead researcher. “But there are water quality and greenhouse gas tradeoffs when collecting stover.”

As Gramig explains, stover is the parts of a corn plant that remain after grain harvest. Greenhouse gases from cropfields are released into the atmosphere when carbon escapes disturbed soils during stover removal. Emissions also occur when nitrogen fertilizer is applied to the land or crop residues decompose. Plowing fields loosens soil and, when combined with removing stover, causes increased soil erosion.

The study examined the environmental effects and costs of stover collection from eight corn-soybean rotation and continuous corn systems in a watershed typical of the eastern Corn Belt. The comparisons were made by combining results from watershed and greenhouse gas computer simulation models and minimizing the cost of stover collection, to select which farming practices to use in an agricultural watershed.

Continue reading

Thank a Farmer Today

This week is Ag Week. Have you thanked a farmer yet?

For those of you reading this post and wondering why you should thank a farmer, remember that they not only produce our food, but also our fuel and fiber. Growers are planting and harvesting crops that are used to create biofuels – biodiesel, ethanol, cellulosic and soon algal-based biofuels.

Need some inspiration? Watch country singer James Wesley music video, “Thank a Farmer.” You can find James’ song on YouTube and purchase it at iTunes.

ENOGEN: Profitable for Corn & Ethanol Producers

Growers looking for a more profitable corn crop should consider planting ENOGEN corn. Ethanol producers looking for more gallons from a bushel of corn should look to farmers growing ENOGEN corn. I learned about the emerging corn trait designed specifically for ethanol production from Jeff Carver who is the ENOGEN Accounts Manager for Syngenta, when we spoke during the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit.

irfa-13-carverCarver explained that the trait is expressed in the endosperm so it works really well in the ethanol production process. He said the competitiveness of the hybrid is great for the farmer as well. “It transcends value across both the ethanol plant and the direct payback to the farmer.”

So why is this trait unique? Carver said that one difference is that it is an end-use trait that is expressed in the endosperm. During the hydrolysis of the protein, it allows for a very rapid viscosity break. This allows the plant to reduce the amount of water used in the process. With that, based on market conditions, the plant can either push additional through-put through the plant or actually slow the plant down to produce more ethanol.

So in a “corn kernel” you’re actually producing more ethanol from the same bushel of corn. Carver also discussed the benefits of the trait for the production of dried distillers grains and corn oil.

The ENOGEN program is designed around ethanol production and there are trials currently underway. Ethanol plants who are interested in joining the next trial (2014 and beyond) should contact Jeff now.

Listen to my interview with Jeff Carver here: ENOGEN Corn - Profitable for Corn & Ethanol Producers

View the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

More B For Me Please

More B For MeMore biodiesel please. If you were on the look out for biodiesel it could definitely be seen during the 10th Annual National Biodiesel Conference in Las Vegas. Last year was a roller coaster year for the industry but some good things happened, one of which was the $1 per gallon tax credit coming back. Another – increasing the volume of biodiesel as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Biodiesel can be a good tool in a farm business but Alicia Clancy, Manager of Corporate Affairs for the Renewable Energy Group (REG) said that biodiesel can play a bigger role than it currently is. What does she mean? Biodiesel can be used in farm equipment such as tractors and trucks and many use B2 blends. But, said Clancy, equipment and many trucks are approved to use up to B20.

Choose BiodieselIt is this fact that spurred the biodiesel promotion, More B for Me. Clancy said the goal of the promotion is to increase awareness of biodiesel use in farming equipment. As part of the campaign, farmers (or consumers) are encouraged go to their local co-op or gas station and ask them to offer higher blends of biodiesel and then use blends up to B20.

Here is how it works. Go to www.morebforme.com to register. You must be a farmer in Iowa (although everyone should ask for more biodiesel). REG, along with all the sponsors of the program including the Iowa Soybean Association and the soybean checkoff, Iowa Biodiesel Board and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, is giving away 10 – $1,000 dollar certificates at the end of March, just in time for planting season.

Listen to my interview with Alicia here: More B For Me

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

USDA Releases Climate Change & Ag Study

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a comprehensive report that synthesize the scientific literature on climate change effects and adaptation strategies for U.S. agriculture. The report, “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation,” was created a an input to the National Climate Assessment with scientists from the federal service, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, tribal lands and private sectors contributing to the peer-reviewed study. It is open for public comment until

“These reports present the challenges that U.S. agriculture and forests will face in this century from global climate change,” said William Hohenstein, director of the Climate Change Program Office in USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist. “They give us a framework for understanding the implications of climate change, in order to meet our future demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel.”

The reports indicate how climate change is affecting U.S. farms, forests, grasslands, and rural communities. The report finds that while U.S. agriculture and resource management have long histories of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of climate change presents new challenges to be addressed.

nbb-13-vilsack1For example, the report indicates increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity. Climate change will exacerbate the stresses already occurring from weeds, insects, and disease. The report finds that increases in the incidence of extreme weather events will have a greater influence on agricultural productivity. 

In addition the report finds that over the next 25 years, the effects of climate change on agricultural production and economic outcomes for both producers and consumers in the United States are expected to be mixed, depending on regional conditions. Beyond 2050, changes are expected to include shifts in crop production areas, increases in pest control expenses, and greater disease prevalence.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a few remarks about the study during the 10th Annual National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo. Listen to his remarks on climate change here: USDA Climate Change & Ag Study

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

2013 Waste to Biofuels Market Analysis

According to a recent white paper from Renewable Waste Intelligence, there are two key issues facing the biofuels industry: consumers and vehicle manufacturers must be persuaded to adopt new, more environmentally friendly gasoline blends; and advanced biofuels manufacturers must demonstrate commercial capability and play catch-up to Environmental Protection Agency targets for production.

With feedstock prices high for several feedstocks, including corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel, many producers are looking for alternative feedstocks, or to move into “advanced” biofuel production. An interesting phenomena is that as waste feedstocks are more readily adopted for biodiesel production, such as yellow grease, animal fats, waste oil, etc. are used, the feedstock prices increase.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 11.18.44 PMThis is one reason, according to the white paper, that producers are looking to lower-cost feedstocks and a burgeoning market is waste. The white paper cites 2005 EPA estimates more than 246 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) was generated with 133 million tons sent to landfills, 79 million tons recylcled and 33.4 million tons used to generate energy. Of this, millions of tons that is ordinarily sent to landfills would make a suitable feedstock.

In many cases, local governments pay for waste to be shipped to a landfill, the average is $42 per ton. However, by citing a biofuels facility near municipal processing facilities, biofuel producers can benefit from undercutting these costs while achieving “negative” feedstock costs, according to the paper. Some analysts have noted that MSW prices could eventually increase, as happened with other waste feedstocks, technological barriers make it unlikely for this to happen any time over the next decade.

The quest for the best technologies and most affordable feedstocks will continue for many years. Many of these issues will be discussed during the 3rd Annual Municipal Solid Waste to Biofuels and Bioproducts Summit being held in Orlando, Florida February 20-21, 2013. Click here for more information and to register online.

Corn, Ethanol Industries Drive Rural Economy

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 11.36.43 PMAccording to a new study released by the Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA), the state’s corn and ethanol industries are adding to the state’s bottom line. The study, conducted by the University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program, reported that the corn and ethanol industries injected $12 billion into Missouri’s economy from 2000 to 2011. Each year, the state’s ethanol industry utilizes around 100 million bushels of corn to produce nearly 300 million gallons of ethanol and 825,000 tons of distillers grains, a high protein livestock feed. In 2011, Missouri corn production alone added over $1 billion in value to the state’s economy and together the two industries supported 67,000 jobs.

“This research substantiates the tremendous economic benefits corn and ethanol production bring to Missouri,” said MCMC Chairman Jim Stuever, a corn grower from Dexter, Mo. “They are significant drivers for the state by creating jobs, generating tax dollars and increasing vitality of rural communities.”

Over the 12 years studied, the combined benefits to the state’s economy from the corn and ethanol industries were:

  • $12 billion in economic value,
  • $5.3 billion in labor income, and
  • $2.2 billion paid in local, state and federal taxes.

“This is truly a success story for agriculture and the state of Missouri,” noted MCGA President Rob Korff, a corn farmer from Norborne, Mo. “The state’s ethanol industry was built on the faith and dedication of hardworking farm families and support from state leaders.”

During the 12-year period, the ethanol industry yielded a 6:1 return, a net value of over $600 million, on the state’s investment. According to the study, Missouri’s six majority farmer-owned ethanol plants alone generated the following direct and indirect benefits to the state: $734 million in economic value; $416 million in labor income; and $174 million in local, state and federal taxes.