Corn Growers: Not the Time to Cut RFS

ncga-logo-newTwo record corn crops and low prices for the grain – that’s not the time the U.S. should be cutting the amount of ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. That’s the message coming from the National Corn Growers Association, as the group laments the fact that altering the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) couldn’t come at a worse time.

“Corn ending stocks – the amount above and beyond current demand – are estimated at nearly 2 billion bushels this year, thanks to two back-to-back record harvests,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a corn farmer in Maryland. “And with corn selling at low prices, any legislative attempt to cut one of our key markets will drive prices even further below cost of production. We have a policy that works well not just for the environment and energy security – but for the rural economy. We need to support farmers, not bankrupt them.”

NCGA also shot back at an attempt in the U.S. Senate to attach an anti-ethanol amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, pointing out the many benefits ethanol brings and why it’s an important part of the fuel supply.

“Corn ethanol is better for the environment than fossil fuels and has historically lowered the cost of filling our tanks by nearly a dollar,” said NCGA Director of Public Policy Beth Elliott. “It has been proven that ethanol does not have an impact on the price of food. The Renewable Fuel Standard is working – creating clean, renewable, American-grown energy and good American jobs.”

NCGA says it wants to work with the new Congress to support the RFS.

Retailers Expand E15 Availability

sheetzPennsylvania-based convenience store and gas station chain Sheetz has announced that 60 of its locations in North Carolina will offer 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15) by the spring of 2016.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis says the company has over 400 locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina. “Sheetz is a well-known leader in the fuel retail business and their decision to offer E15 shows they are in tune with an ever changing marketplace where consumers are demanding higher performance, lower cost renewable fuels grown right here at home,” said Buis.

“This is great news for the nation’s corn farmers who have been promoting the benefits of ethanol blended fuel for more than 30 years,” said National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland. “This is a fantastic development for the rural economy and consumers who want a real choice in fuel.”

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen notes
that the announcement comes on the heels of E15’s expansion into 15 states. “It’s invigorating to see a major North Carolina retailer like Sheetz actively decide to do what is best for their consumers by giving drivers access to additional fuel options,” said Dinneen. “Sheetz clearly sees the benefits of E15 and it is my hope that all other retailers in North Carolina will follow Sheetz’s exemplary example.”

Also, Miami-based CR Caraf Oil is opening the first E15 pump in South Florida this week, working in partnership with Protec Fuel.

Regulators Urged to Rethink Corn Ethanol’s Carbon Value

ace logoRegulators are being urged to re-think corn ethanol’s carbon value. In a news release from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the group’s President of its board of directors, Ron Alverson, reveals in a white paper how corn ethanol’s carbon footprint is decreasing, thanks to technology innovations by farmers and ethanol facilities to improve the accuracy of carbon intensity modeling for biofuels.

“ANL scientists have documented significant reductions in corn ethanol’s CI since 2008. Through updates to the Greenhouse gases Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET version 2.0, 2013) model, ANL recently determined that average ethanol manufacturing energy use has decreased 25%, corn farming energy use decreased 24%, corn fertilizer and chemical use decreased by 3%, and that ethanol facilities are extracting 3% more ethanol from each bushel of corn. ANL has also updated their Land Use Change (LUC) calculations with recent data and now estimate LUC of just 7.6 grams of CI, a 75% reduction from the widely used and outdated estimate of 30 grams CI. A significant portion of this reduction resulted from soil carbon modeling which predicts soil carbon sequestration from corn,” Alverson notes in the White Paper.

“Unfortunately, low carbon fuel market regulators, such as the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board, have yet to acknowledge these improvements and update their models with this new science,” continues Alverson. “Because fossil fuel CI is getting worse and corn ethanol CI is improving, failure to account for these trends unfairly penalizes biofuels in low carbon markets.”

Alverson, a farmer and founding board member of an ethanol facility in South Dakota cited new research and improved modeling by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. He argues that “corn farmers have responded to market signals and rapidly adopted precision application technology to reduced fertilizer application rates,” new realities those regulators need to now consider.

Corn Growers Consider Growth Options for Ethanol

ncga-logo-newThe Ethanol Committee of the National Corn Growers Association met in St. Louis recently to discuss options to continue increasing demand for corn-based fuel.

“Ethanol has been a huge success story for agriculture and rural America because of the economic stimulus it has created through increased corn demand and new jobs. For the general public it provides reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better performance and fuel choice,” said Committee Chair Jeff Sandborn, a farmer from Michigan. “Despite all of our success educationally and legislatively, what we have created is a great start not final destination. We have 10% ethanol in virtually every gallon of fuel sold today but it will take a multidimensional approach to continue to grow the market for ethanol.”

The Ethanol Committee is investigating options to grow the ethanol market on many fronts including integrating higher ethanol blend compatibility into plans to update the nation’s aging fuel infrastructure; continuing to expand public acceptance and support for ethanol outside the corn belt; and evaluating the benefits of a national ethanol brand to aid in consumer identification at the pump.

“Fuel access is a high priority issue for the ethanol industry and corn farmers,” Sandborn said. “If we are going to continue to grow ethanol markets and realize the economic benefits of our ability to produce corn we will need to redouble our efforts to bring higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85 to the marketplace.”

Input from the committee will be relayed to the NCGA Corn Board for their consideration and for broader organizational discussion and policy development at Corn Congress in March.

PacificAg Can Help Ethanol Plants Go Cellulosic

pacificag-logoThe largest and most experienced biomass harvest company in the country wants to help ethanol plants develop or expand operations into the production of cellulosic ethanol by saving time and money on supply chain development. PacificAg, which is already supplying biomass for plants in Iowa and Kansas, enables cellulosic biorefineries the ability to source cost-competitive biomass for biofuel and biochemical production.

PacificAg started in the residue management business nearly 20 years ago harvesting forage crops for feed in Oregon and CEO Bill Levy says they have expanded to meet the needs of the growing biofuels industry in the Midwest.

pacificag-harvest“We can save an ethanol plant the time and money in developing a supply chain,” says Levy. “It’s a very specific supply chain with very specific challenges and I think we have a lot of experience overcoming these challenges and developing these supply chains quicker than anybody else.”

Biomass products include corn stover, wheat straw and milo stover products because of their abundance and supply. “What we’ve found in the Midwest is that not all growers are accustomed to removing this supply,” says Levy, stressing that a major component of their suite of services includes a balanced residue management program.

There are two critical elements an ethanol plant must consider when ramping up cellulosic ethanol production: year round biomass supply and sustainability around biomass residue harvest.

Harrison Pettit, a company partner who works with ethanol plants to help them get their biomass programs off the ground, notes that market needs for advanced biofuels industry are long-term and year round. “Ethanol plants are built to operate for more than 30 years.”

How does a grower know if he or she should participate in a biomass residue harvest program? Pettit says the first question to ask is, Are you within 100 miles of a cellulosic ethanol facility? “If you are a corn grower, wheat grower or milo grower, then you really ought to give us a call,” says Pettit. “If you really want to learn about how a residue management program can benefit your ground and benefit your bank account, then we want to talk.”

Learn more about PacificAg and the services they offer for both farmers and ethanol plants in these interviews with Levy and Pettit.
Interview with PacificAg CEO Bill Levy
Interview with PacificAg partner Harrison Pettit

China Approves Imports of Biotech Corn

syngentaSyngenta announced today that it has received approval for the Agrisure Viptera® trait (event MIR162) from China’s regulatory authorities, formally granting import approval. The approval covers corn grain and processing byproducts, such as dried distillers grains (DDGs), for food and feed use.

The Agrisure Viptera® trait is a key component of Syngenta’s insect control solutions, offering growers protection against the broadest spectrum of above-ground corn pests and enabling significant crop yield gains. Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for cultivation in the USA since 2010 and has also been approved for cultivation in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Syngenta originally submitted the import approval dossier to the Chinese authorities in March 2010. In addition to China, Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for import into Australia/New Zealand, Belarus, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Leifmark, New Holland Bale Stover for Ethanol

leifmark-new-holland-1Baling corn stover is part of the next generation of cellulosic ethanol, and two major players in the green fuel and agribusiness markets are moving that process forward. Leifmark, LLC and New Holland Agriculture recently teamed up to test equipment and methods used to gather, bale, and store the corn stover left behind after the grain harvest in two Iowa cornfields.

Paul Kamp, Leifmark’s Chicago-based partner, coordinated the 520-bale collection. “Using local specialists and best practices, we showed stover harvesting on area farms is very practical. That’s good news for three ethanol producers now considering new businesses making cellulosic ethanol from biomass.”

Developing more efficient methods and equipment brings down the overall cost of stover, says Kamp, whose company markets Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology in North America.

“Couple lower stover prices with a predictable supply chain,” adds Kamp, “and you reduce risk perceptions with biomass. So future plant owners can feel confident putting their capital into cellulosic ethanol projects.”

New Holland Agriculture’s Scott Wangsgard emphasizes that “technology companies like Inbicon have certain specifications for corn stover bales. To meet them, we’ve been designing specialized equipment that also boosts collection efficiencies.”

New Holland used a high-capacity baler and automated bale wagon that picks up, transports, and stacks the 3′ x 4′ x 8′ square bales required for Inbicon’s refining process. Officials say the square bales handle more easily than round ones, store in much less space, and pack tighter so flatbed trucks can haul more tonnage per trip.

New Corn Growers CEO Wants to Grow Demand

ncga-novakNew National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) CEO Chris Novak talked about challenges facing the corn industry as he visited with members of the agricultural media during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week in Kansas City.

“Lots of big challenges ahead for us,” said Novak, who just took over the CEO job for Rick Tolman who retired last month. “Looking at a record crop and lower prices than we’d like to see but that’s an opportunity as well.”

Novak sees increasing demand as the most important challenge and opportunity for the industry. “How do we ensure that with a second record crop in a row that we’ve got the demand that can keep our farmers profitable?” he said. The primary demand sectors – livestock, ethanol and exports – all offer new growth potential.

“Certainly EPA’s support and implementation of the renewable fuels law as passed by Congress is going to be important to us in the short term,” he added. “Longer term we’re looking to build consumer demand for a renewable fuel that increases our energy independence and helps reduce greenhouse gases.”

Chris Novak previously served many years as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board and prior to that, he was executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

In this interview, Novak also talks about NCGA’s comments on the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, and what he expects from the lame duck session of Congress and the new Congress in January. Interview with Chris Novak, NCGA CEO

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

NAFB Convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

More Corn for Ethanol

usda-logoIn the new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate, USDA has increased the amount of corn forecast to be used to make ethanol and co-products such as the livestock feed distillers grains.

Corn used in ethanol production is projected 25 million bushels higher at 5.15 billion bushels for the 2014-15 marketing year. The reason is a reduction in expected sorghum use for ethanol and the strong pace of weekly ethanol production reported so far for the marketing year.

In the November crop forecast, USDA slightly lowered corn production this year to 14.4 billion bushels, with yields now expected to average 173.4 bushels per acre. If realized, this will still be the highest yield and production on record for the United States.

“This is positive news for the market overall as we’re expecting demand to rise to meet these record yields,” said American Farm Bureau Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson. “An estimated increase in ethanol production should also help to absorb this year’s bumper crop.”

The drop in the national production estimate for corn seems to be coming from traditionally high-yield states that are now seeing lower estimates this month, Anderson said. The Iowa yield estimate was shaved by two bushels per acre, and Minnesota’s came down by five.

The main reason for the slight drop in the corn forecast is a slow harvest and weather challenges, that are now including heavy snow in the upper Midwest. The latest crop progress report shows Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Indiana lagging behind the most in harvest, but significant progress was made in the last week so that the corn harvest nationwide now stands at the five year average of 80 percent.

Ag Groups Urge President to Reject Biofuels Cuts

mess-rfsThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and several other agricultural sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed cuts in the 2014 volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“The blending targets and the methodology in your administration’s proposed rule are already causing significant harm to the biofuel sector,” the letter states. “These impacts are reverberating throughout the U.S. agriculture economy, and we expect this trend to continue if the targets and the methodology in the rule are not corrected.”

The letter discusses how the ag sector has met its responsibility in growing sufficient feedstock for biofuels, but is also working with the ethanol industry on infrastructure and advanced fuels. The letter concludes: “The EPA’s proposed policy decision is driving one of our key economic engines – the biofuel sector -¬‐ overseas. We have invested in response to the signals in the RFS and are poised to deliver the very low carbon fuels you have sought for so long. Instead of reaping the economic benefits of this investment with a build-¬‐out of a domestic biofuel industry, the methodology proposed by EPA is offshoring the industry – and our market. This is a decision we cannot afford in America’s heartland.”

In addition to NCGA, organizations sending the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers.

Solenis Receives Corn Oil Extraction Patent

Solenis has received a U.S. patent (Patent No. US 8,841,469 B2) for the use of chemical additives to improve the separation of corn oil. In addition to yielding more corn oil, the company says its corn oil extraction aids, which are marketed as Dimension corn oil extraction aids, also reduce solids in the oil, resulting in a cleaner, higher-quality oil. The extraction aids, which are easily introduced into the process, also have been shown to reduce system deposition, resulting in less downtime for system cleaning and maintenance according to Solenis.

Solenis logo“Our goal is always to drive the profitability of the companies we do business with – and our extraction aids do just that,” said Allen Ziegler, global marketing director of biorefining at Solenis. “We’re not a one-trick product company. We have a full line of products that can benefit our customers – from reducing costs to increasing productivity. On top of that, our process experts are always looking for innovative ways to further build efficiencies. It’s inherent in everything we do.”

Previously known as Ashland Water Technologies, Solenis was part of Ashland Inc. until earlier this year when it became a stand-alone company. In addition to its corn oil extraction technologies, the company’s product portfolio includes a broad array of process, functional and water treatment chemistries as well as monitoring and control systems.

“The reality is that we were first to market with this technology and we have hard data to demonstrate its value, whereas with competitor products there can be significant variances in product performance,” said Ziegler. “Whether customers have a specially blended product or want validation that our technology works the same or better than what they’re currently using, we’ll work with them to get the product they need and the performance they expect.”

“We’re seeking to bring greater value to fuel ethanol plants with our patented and proven technology. But just as important, we want to establish good relationships with those companies,” Zeigler added.

Promoting American Ethanol Texas Style

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoThey say that everything is bigger in Texas so it’s appropriate that one of the largest E15 promotions of the year will be held this weekend about the benefits of American Ethanol for NASCAR fans at the Texas Motor Speedway.

“We have done 12 major promotions this year and have exposed millions of NASCAR fans to the performance and environmental benefits of Sunoco Green E15, but there is a lot of excitement surrounding this event,” said Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s NASCAR Advisory Committee. “American Ethanol will be everywhere at this race, on the track, on the Midway, in the campgrounds and even on Big Hoss.”

big-hossBig Hoss is the world’s largest, high-definition LED video board, stands 218 feet wide by 94.5 feet tall and features 20,633.64 square feet of high-definition display. The 108 ton beast of a screen will be showing an American Ethanol video throughout the race.

American Ethanol partners Growth Energy and NCGA are joining forces with the Texas Corn Producers to make sure E15 fuel is prominently promoted at this high profile race.

The contest for the NASCAR Championship is now in its third round, and results in Texas and Phoenix will trim the field to only four drivers who will be eligible to win the Sprint Cup Trophy on November 16. As a result, tens of thousands of fans are expected to flock to the full weekend of races, with millions more tuning in on Sunday for the marquis Sprint Cup duel. Every car will be fueled with E15, and will sport the green American Ethanol fuel port as they have all season.

Robert Baker Wins Growth/New Holland Sweepstakes

Robert Baker of Sue City, Missouri has won the 2014 Growth Energy Individual Membership Sweepstakes sponsored by New Holland. His prize included 200 hours of usage of a CR8090 combine with a New Holland Twin Rotor CR8090 combine corn head for the 2014 harvest season.

“I am very excited, and I have a son and grandson that are more excited than me because they get to run [the combine],” said Baker.

Baker is a farmer who has invested in the Macon, Missouri, POET Biorefining plant, and regularly provides feedstock. The 14-year-old plant gained national coverage in 2010 when President Obama visited to learn more about ethanol production and gave a speech discussing the ability of ethanol to “contribute to our clean energy future”.

new-holland8090“We are proud to support a farmer who works so hard every day to grow crops to help feed the world and fuel our nation,” said Growth Energy CEO, Tom Buis. “Our members are working hard to revitalize our rural economies, create new jobs and ensure our nation will have a sustainable and secure energy future. This sweepstakes was part of a larger effort to continue to build grassroots support for biofuels across the country. Our growing grassroots advocates, such as Mr. Baker, help promote our industry and ensure that lawmakers in Washington understand the important role the RFS and biofuels play across America’s heartland. ”

The Growth Energy Individual Membership Sweepstakes offered all new or renewing individual members a chance to win either a NASCAR ticket package or usage of a New Holland combine. The total prize package for the combine is valued at $35,584.

Steve Murphy, General Manager at POET Biorefining – Macon, added, “The economic impact of the ethanol industry here in Missouri is undeniable and what we do here at POET goes far beyond the production process. As the first ethanol plant in the state of Missouri, we are proud of the added value our facility brings to producers and this community. However, we wouldn’t be able to offer consumers cheaper and cleaner choices at the pump if it weren’t for producers like Robert. All of us at POET Biorefining – Macon sincerely thank Robert for his continued support and extend him our congratulations.”

Export Exchange Tours Build Relationships

badger-visitMany of the international teams visiting the United States last week for the 2014 Export Exchange also participated in tours before and after the event to see ethanol plants and farms across the Midwest.

Badger State Ethanol in Wisconsin had the honor of hosting a team of buyers from the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The KSA/Jordan team included companies representing the major dairy and poultry companies and major importers of feed grains in both countries and have been buyers of DDGS in the last couple of years.

exex-bob-tomHeld every other year by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Export Exchange brings together more than 200 international buyers with U.S. sellers of corn, sorghum, barley, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Over the course of three days of events and the pre- and post-tours, these individuals not only do business directly but also make connections to facilitate future sales.

“This year’s Export Exchange was a resounding success,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen, pictured here with USGC president Tom Sleight. “In addition to new business agreements, it is my hope that attendees from all across the world will return home with a better understanding of international grain markets, domestic supply and demand of DDGS and coarse grains, and the current political landscape.”

Patriot Renewable Fuels Signs Cellulosic Deal

Patriot Renewable Fuels has signed a Professional Services Agreement to install ICM’s Fiber Seperation Technology (FST) as well as their Generation 1.5 Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology (Gen 1.5) for its biorefinery. According to Gene Griffith, Patriot’s CEO says they are considering beginning construction in February 2015 upon board approval.

According to ICM, FST is a value-added technology that increases ethanol yield and throughput as well as increased oil recovery. Patriot is currently adding a biodiesel plant ICM tank at Patriot Renewable Fuels Biorefinerythat will convert the ethanol’s corn oil to biodiesel. Production is anticipated to begin in early 2015. The FST process separates the fiber from the kernel before the traditional fermentation process.

Once the separation occurs, the Gen 1.5 process then ferments the fiber to produce cellulosic ethanol. With the combined technologies, ethanol production is estimated to increase by six to 10 percent. By removing the fiber prior to the standard fermentation process, FST allows the plant to produce each gallon more efficiently and creates the option of diversified co-products such as high protein feeds.

“With this step, Patriot will be better positioned to help lead the corn-based ethanol industry into increased production of cellulosic ethanol,” said Griffith “With board approval for these projects, Patriot could be the first ethanol plant to produce two Advanced Biofuels [corn-based biodiesel, and cellulosic ethanol]. We believe these processes will not only diversify our plant, but they will also improve ethanol yield of traditional corn based ethanol to over 3.08 gallons per bushel.”

Patriot VP/GM, Rick Vondra added, “We are excited that Patriot’s board approved this next step toward cellulosic ethanol by agreeing to complete the engineering and design for these processes. We appreciate the research and development that ICM has done to develop these new processes along with ICM’s Selective Milling Technology that we installed in 2013. Our team is positioned to continue working with ICM to grow our business. ICM’s ethanol technology is a logical platform on which to build our business as a biorefinery. There are many new products and growth possibilities using corn as our feedstock, and we have identified these as two high potential processes that we can adopt now.”