USGC Helped Move DDGS Exports in 2014

usgc-winter-grayThe U.S. Grains Council (USGC) held its winter meeting last week in Costa Rica where more than 250 delegates met to take a look back at last year and assess export opportunities.

Chairman Ron Gray says one of big issues of 2014 was with the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) and China. “At the end of the year, our exports were one of the highest years for DDGS on record,” said Gray. “The Grains Council was instrumental in mitigating that process so that trade can continue.”

Gray, who is a farmer from Illinois, believes it’s important for producers to be involved in trade policy. “I think combines would be easier to fix than trade policy,” he said. “We try to address the next problem so we can keep trade moving.”

Gray says U.S. sorghum picked up some exports to China last year to pick up the slack caused by the biotech trait issue with corn, which allowed them to remain active in the market, but ultimately it’s the growing demand for corn that is benefiting farmers back home.

US Ethanol Exports Hit High, DDGS Drop in Nov.

RFANewlogoExports of U.S. ethanol hit a nearly three-year high, while shipments of dried distillers grains (DDGS) slipped in November of 2014. In a piece from Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, the biggest share of the 90.9 million gallons of ethanol, a 15 percent increase from just a month earlier, went to India and a couple of customers in the Western Hemisphere.

India was the top destination for U.S. product in November, receiving 27.6 mg, or 30% of total shipments. Canada and Brazil were other top customers for the month. Year-to-date exports through November stood at 760.2 mg, implying an annualized total for calendar year 2014 of 829.3 mg.

In a reversal from historical trends, shipments of undenatured fuel ethanol accounted for the majority of November exports. Undenatured fuel ethanol exports totaled 65.9 mg, an all-time monthly record and up 143% from October. India was the leading importer of undenatured product at 27.6 mg, followed by Brazil at 17.0 mg and South Korea at 6.1 mg. The volumes shipped to India and South Korea represented the largest-ever monthly volumes sent to those markets. The Philippines (5.4 mg) and Nigeria (3.3 mg) were other top destinations for undenatured fuel ethanol…

November exports of U.S. distillers dried grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants—slid 19% from October to their lowest monthly level since March 2013. The decrease in November DDGS exports was reflective of the continued collapse of the Chinese market. Total DDGS exports for the month were 631,721 metric tons (mt), with Mexico (127,189 mt), Turkey (103,331 mt), and Canada (64,186 mt) again occupying the top three positions. After importing an average of 539,000 mt per month from March to August, China took in just 4,689 mt in November. Still, year-to-date DDGS exports stood at 10.59 million mt, meaning the U.S. achieved a new annual export record in 2014.

At the same time, U.S. ethanol imports hit a five-month high in November, but RFA officials say the numbers were still relatively low at just 4.9 million gallons. Year-to-date 2014 imports through November were just 72.4 million gallons, implying an annualized total of nearly 79.0 million gallons.

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.

China May Reopen Market for U.S. DDGs

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains CouncilNews out this week that Chinese officials committed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack that the ban on imports of U.S. distillers grains (DDGs) containing the MIR 162 trait will be dropped is being met with optimism by the ethanol industry.

“While we are still awaiting the official regulatory announcement from China regarding the approval of this policy, it is welcome news for America’s ethanol industry,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “I would like to personally thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and steadfast commitment to ensuring a resolution to this issue. Additionally, the many hardworking professionals of the USDA and the USTR deserve praise for their dedicated work behind the scenes and for their persistence in working with their Chinese colleagues to re-establish market access for U.S. DDGs.”

“China has always been somewhat schizophrenic with our protein feed,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen in an interview today. “There are times when they desperately want it and can’t get enough of it, there are times when they will erect these mysterious trade barriers so that we can’t get our product in there … We think we may be getting through it now.”

According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative
, one of the outcomes of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings was in the area of agricultural exports related to biotechnology traits. “China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn ­… and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China.”

RFA Submits Comments on Animal Feed Rule

RFANewlogoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday on the supplemental rulemaking proposal outlining best practices for the regulation of animal food under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The act outlines regulations for animal feed, which includes the ethanol co-product dried distillers grain.

RFA submitted comments earlier this year following the initial proposed rule noting that animal feed would be unnecessarily regulated in a similar fashion to human food. RFA praised the FDA for addressing this concern in its updated version, noting that the “revised CGMPs (current good manufacturing processes) in the supplemental proposed rule appear more applicable to the animal feed industry and appear to provide more flexibility for the wide variety of the animal feed facility processes covered.”

However, RFA raised concerns with additions to the rule that would implement “…product and environmental testing programs, supplier approval programs, and verification programs that were not in the initial proposed rule language.” The comments stress that an individual plant “…should be provided the flexibility to determine its own needs and compliance strategy.” RFA also noted that “If applied in a prescriptive and indiscriminate way, these programs can add unnecessary cost burdens and divert resources away from the effective practices that ethanol producers currently use to assure safe, high quality co-products.”

Read RFA comments here.

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.”

RFA Promoting Distillers Feed at Export Exchange

rfa-exex-2014The 2014 Export Exchange is continuing today in Seattle, Washington with representatives from more than 50 different countries in attendance to learn more about DDGS, the distillers feed product produced by U.S. ethanol plants.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is co-sponsor of the event with the U.S. Grains Council and RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s because we produce a lot of distillers feed. “Our plants, if they were a single country, would be the fourth largest producer of corn equivalent feed, behind only the U.S., China and Brazil,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the event yesterday on agricultural policies and politics. Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen at 2014 Export Exchange

rfa-cooper-exexRFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper spoke at the event on the supply and demand outlook for DDGS.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” said Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Cooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

AMRC Looks at Ethanol Plant Profitability Projections

Don Hofstrand, retired agriculture extension economist with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC) located at Iowa State University, has recently published projections for ethanol plant profitability over the next several years. When the ethanol boom really took off, Hofstrand noted that most farmers purchased shares in ethanol plants as a way to hedge against low corn prices. So AMRC began to look track the monthly profitability of ethanol plants.

hofstrandfigure5_E2C7BA3AB4D47“We track the monthly profitability by using the current ethanol prices, the current corn prices, distillers grains (DDGs) and natural gas. Each month we compute that and have a record going back to 2005 of how the profitability of those systems have changed over that period of time to give a indication of the current economic status of ethanol production and biodiesel production,” explained Hofstrand.

Today it appears that there is a saturated ethanol market that may cause an excess of corn supplies. However, Hofstrand said that over the past few years corn prices have been high taking a bite out of ethanol production profits. He finds there will be substantial uncertainly surrounding the ethanol selling price and net returns to the ethanol supply chain. This could be affected by rising corn production costs and where they will trend in the future is uncertain. He also finds that although energy prices may soften, interest rates are expected to strengthen, and with continued improvement in genetics, seed cost may continue to rise, but the rise may be offset by higher yields.

Ultimately, Hosftrand said that what is certain is that corn selling prices need to stay relatively strong in relation to historic levels to continue generating farm operator net returns from the marketplace.

Colombia has Potential as Distillers Grains Market

COLOMBIAExports of U.S.corn to Colombia have soared this year, thanks to bigger crops, lower prices, and a favorable free trade agreement. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) also sees great potential for increasing exports of the ethanol co-product and livestock feed distillers grains (DDGS).

“We currently see about 90,000 metric tons of distillers grains moving into Colombia,” says USGC Director of Global Strategies Kurt Shultz. “We believe the market has the potential to easily exceed 700,000 tons, so there’s a lot of upward opportunity in Colombia for increased exports of distillers grains.”

Under the free trade agreement, there are no duties on distillers grains, so the Grains Council is actively working to bring technical knowledge on how to use the product to the region. “We had some feeding trials last year with the dairy industry which should good acceptance in the dairy sector,” said Shultz. Now they are looking at doing trials in swine and poultry as well.

This will likely be a topic of discussion at the 2014 Export Exchange coming up October 20-22 in Seattle. The event, co-sponsored by USGC and the Renewable Fuels Association, brings together buyers and sellers of distillers grains in an effort to expand established export markets and develop new markets. Discounted early registration for the event is available now through September 22.

Export Opportunities for Ethanol and DDGs

U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 59.9 million gallons (mg) in June, up 13% from the seven-month low in May, according to a Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) analysis of government data, and the opportunities are expanding.

ace14-geneThat was the topic for the last session at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week in Minneapolis and one of the speakers was Gene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois.

“U.S. ethanol is the cheapest motor fuel in the world, it’s needed and it can be blended in any country for clean air,” said Griffith, noting that the industry will continue to grow and produce more than we need in the country. “We must develop these worldwide markets. It’s not just Brazil, it’s not just the United States, there’s a lot of countries around the world that need our DDGs and our low cost, clean burning fuel.”

Listen to Gene explain in detail here: Gene Griffith, Patriot Holdings, on ethanol exports

ace14-chsClayton Haupt with CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing discussed China import issues with distillers grains, noting that the game has changed considerably since he was asked to do this talk in June.

July 24, it was announced you have to have a government stamp that has to say (DDGS imports are) clean of all GMO traits not approved in China,” said Haupt, noting that the U.S. Grains Council responded that simply cannot be done. “You’re kind of put in an environment today that you’re probably not going into China.”

Listen to Haupt’s presentation here: Clayton Haupt, CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing

ace14-ecoenergyLastly, Chad Martin with Eco-Energy wrapped up with an overall look at export markets.

“Ethanol demand is no longer driven solely by the U.S. blender,” said Martin. “That’s obviously a good thing but it comes with some complexities in terms of import quotas, different specs, different market factors to be considered…things our industry has never really had to focus on until we started exporting both distillers grains and ethanol.” Chad Martin, Eco-Energy

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Students Present Research at Ethanol Conference

Several University of Minnesota students are giving the ethanol industry a preview of their cutting-edge research in biofuels, biochemicals and bioproducts during the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference in Minneapolis. One such student is Sahana Ramanna who is a PhD student who is working on improving the pre-treatment technologies used for biomass, specifically Aspen.

Sahana RammanaRamanna explained that one of the most difficult and energy intensive parts of converting biomass (aka cellulose) to sugar is in the initial phase. Using 3D imaging, similar to the technology used for brain scans, she and her team are able to test “pre-treatment” strategies and see how it affects the structure of the biomass.

Ultimately, Ramanna said they are looking to increase the amount of biomass that can be converted into biofuels and other biochemicals and products, thus increasing the amount of biofuels. In addition, the processes they are looking at would significantly improve the energy efficiency during this process. Next steps – refining the process for Aspen and then testing it on other forms of biomass.

Listen to Sahana Ramanna discuss her research here: Interview with Sahana Ramanna

Another student I spoke with is just beginning his PhD studies and has spent the last year working on an interesting biofuels project. Joseph Molde works in the BioTechnology Institute and he and his team are working on a process called hydrothernmal carbinization using distillers grains (DDGs), a bi-product of ethanol production.

Joseph Molde U of MWhat is really neat is the process is producing two new possible co-products: liquid carbon and biochar. The liquid carbon can be used as an organic fertilizer on fields, while the biochar can be used in various applications including biomaterials and biochemicals. Molde said that similar research has been taking place in Europe, but not much has been done with biochar here in the states.

Molde also noted that the process improves efficiency throughout the production process – just one more way the ethanol industry is working to improve its technology and environmental footprint – while also adding valuable additional co-products to an ethanol plant’s portfolio. He said they are scaling up the technology now and that he hopes to see it in commercial scale application in the next five to 10 years.

Listen to Joseph Molde discuss his research here: Interview with Joseph Molde

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

USGC Calls on China to Approve Biotech Cert for DDGS

China is considering whether it will approve MIR 162, a biotech certification requirement for distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) by the Chinese import inspection authority (AQSIQ). Today, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is calling on China to approve the certification that would follow the point of origin. In this case, U.S. shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, guaranteeing that the shipment is free of the biotech trait. Although MIR 162 is not been approved, the country has already passed a mandate against biotech traits that have caused disruptions in existing DDGS trade and making future trade more difficult.

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains Council“China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” said Tom Sleight, USGC’s president and CEO. “It’s time for China to look at and approve this trait. It’s been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it’s been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade.”

The Council is working to address the new disruption to DDGS trade with the U.S. government and the U.S. ambassador to China, as well as with MAIZALL, which represents grower organizations in several major corn exporting countries. In addition, USGC staff and consultants around the world are working with other markets interested in DDGS, in part because prices have declined.

Sleight concluded, “We have some really excellent prospects that are panning out quite nicely, particularly in Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, the rest of Latin America and Korea. There’s a lot of interest in this product.”

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

Export Exchange 2014 Registration Open

2014-export-exchangeRegistration is now open for Export Exchange 2014™, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products.

Approximately 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives and more than 180 international buyers are expected to attend Export Exchange 2014. The conference is being held Oct. 20-22 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“Export Exchange brings together a group of U.S. suppliers and international buyers in a unique event focused on the expansion of established export markets and the development of new markets for U.S. coarse grains, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and other ethanol co-products,” said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. ethanol industry has emerged as a major producer of high quality animal feeds like DDGS and corn gluten feed,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “Export Exchange is the premier forum for connecting the producers and marketers of those co-products with customers around the world.”

Export Exchange is held every two years. The 2012 event broke records in attendance and attracted buying teams from 33 countries, including all of the top U.S. international coarse grains and ethanol co-products markets. Attendance at this year’s event is expected to set a new record, creating more opportunities for U.S. merchandisers to connect with buyers and build business.

Early registration discounts end July 31. USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing and should identify themselves as such at the time of registration.

DF Cast: Finding Ways to Increase Ethanol Blends

While the ethanol industry awaits the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on the amount of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, ethanol producers are looking at other ways to make sure the green fuel increases its blend amounts.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, Dean Drake with the consulting company the Defour Group, Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco Incorporated, and Ken Parrent, the ethanol director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, as they give their thoughts on how consumer demand will be a bigger driver for higher ethanol blends after attending an Indiana Corn Growers Association ethanol forum that focused on marketing mid-level ethanol blends and ran following the recent 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

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