Forum to Address Ag’s Challenges in Transportation

farmfoundationlogo3News of too few rail cars to move this year’s grain harvest from farming areas to consumers has grabbed the headlines most recently, but agriculture and rural America are facing several other transportation issues this year. Farm Foundation will look to address some key issues, including the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure, which is also important to the movement of biofuels – roads, bridges and waterways – during its next free forum, Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C. with a live audiocast being made available for those unable to attend in person.

The Forum will begin with presentations by four industry leaders:

Eric Jessup, Vice President, Transportation, Industrials & Energy Services, Informa Economics;
John H. Miller, Group Vice President, Agricultural Products, BNSF Railroad;
Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director, Soy Transportation Coalition; and
Jon Samson, Executive Director of the American Trucking Associations’ Agriculture and Food Transporters Conference.

Moderating the session will be grain farmer Mark Scholl of J&M Scholl, Inc. Mr. Scholl and Mr. Miller are both Trustees of Farm Foundation.

More information and sign-up is available here.

Farm Foundation Forum to Examine Energy, Ag

farmfoundationlogo3Our friends at Farm Foundation will host another one of their thought-provoking discussions, this time, talking about the energy and agricultural markets and their relationship. Titled, “Geopolitical Uncertainty in Agriculture and Energy Markets,” the April 9 Forum will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EDT.

Current political unrest in numerous locations across the world is having a profound effect across agricultural and energy markets and generating supply chain uncertainties.

The April 9 Farm Foundation® Forum will examine the potential consequences of sudden policy changes, production issues, and unforeseen price fluctuations in a turbulent global marketplace. Panelists for this Forum will include:

Former U.S.Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman will moderate the panel.
Vincent Smith, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and professor at Montana State University.
Gary Blumenthal of World Perspectives, Inc.
Brian Oleson, professor at the University of Manitoba.
Charles Doran, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

There’s no charge for the forum, and you can register to attend here. In addition, a webcast, including audio and slides, is available here.

Brennan to Head Farm Foundation’s Development

brennan1Our friends at Farm Foundation, a group that has work in agriculture, food systems and rural communities, including biodiesel and ethanol production, has tapped Tim Brennan as their new Director of Development.

“We are excited to welcome Tim to the Foundation staff,” says Jay Armstrong of Armstrong Farms, Muscotah, KS, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

“This is a dynamic time for the Foundation as demand for our high-quality, objective program work continues to grow. Tim’s expertise in fundraising will be crucial to the Foundation’s ability to expand the depth and reach of that programming.”

“The Foundation is uniquely positioned to help public and private decision makers understand evolving issues and demands that are shaping the future of the industry,” says Neil Conklin, President of Farm Foundation, NFP. “Tim will formalize a fundraising strategy and bring valuable experience to strengthen and broaden relationships in the Foundation’s networks.”

Brennan has 20 years in fundraising, most of that in higher education. He was the Associate Director of Alumni Relations for the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, now the Booth School of Business and the Director of Alumni Relations and Marketing for Northwestern University’s School of Law, as well as the University of Chicago’s Executive Director of the Chicago Society and Director of Development at the Law School and the Senior Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations at the University.

Fracking Subject of Next Farm Foundation Forum

farmfoundationlogo3Getting natural gas out of the ground, especially by using hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” has been a hot topic lately, especially in agricultural areas. Our friends at the Farm Foundation will sponsor a free forum to talk about the issue from 9-11 am EDT, Wednesday, April 3, at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Issues and policies related to natural gas extraction will be discussed by Shannon Ferrell and Larry Sanders, both of Oklahoma State University. They are the authors of a policy brief, Natural Gas Extraction: Issues and Policy Options, published by the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center (NARDeP).

Also presenting at the Forum will be Brian Rahm, a post doctoral associate at the New York State Water Resources Institute. Other speakers are to be named.

Former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm will moderate a discussion after the presentation.

Sign up for the free event here.

Farm Foundation Blog: Food & Fuel for 9 Billion in 2050

How do you keep an expected world population of 9 billion people by the year 2050 fed AND meet the world’s energy needs? Our friends at Farm Foundation are taking on those challenging questions, hopefully with some good answers through their new blog,

“It’s an opportunity for more people to be involved in the conversation,” said Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation’s Vice President, Communications, adding there are four key areas of consideration: role of science and technology in agriculture, farm and food policy, adaptability resistance, and human capital needs in agriculture and the food system. “We have contributors who will be twice a week posting new ideas and new perspectives in those four areas, and we will encourage all types of stakeholders to come in and be part of the conversation.”

And don’t forget, Farm Foundation has another one of their forums coming up this Wednesday, November 14th looking at what the recently completed election means to agriculture, food and rural policies. It will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and webcast. Click here for more information.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Mary here: Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Farm Foundation to Discuss Farm Policy Post-Election

While all elections are important, this year’s promises to have some real implications for rural America. That’s why Farm Foundation is holding a forum about a week after the polls close, and we know WHO is in office to explain WHAT they might do as as far as agriculture, food and rural policy, including renewable energy, is concerned. The forum will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington D.C.

And for the first time a free live, webcast of the forum will be offered. You can see the webcast by registering here. Email by Nov. 12th if you plan to attend in person.

“By their votes on Nov. 6, citizens will set the stage for the next four years of the nation’s policy development at both the state and federal level,” says Foundation President Neil Conklin. “This Forum is an opportunity to examine how those elections may specifically impact agriculture, food and rural policies in the months ahead.”

DF Cast: Debating the RFS Waiver

The EPA has just started the 30-day comment period for a proposed waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). And just as the comments started, the National Corn Growers Association has asked for even more time for comments to come in.

But there’s no lack of viewpoints already out there. In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we’ll hear from National Turkey Federation president Joel Brandenberger, Purdue University’s Wally Tyner and Chris Hurt, former Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis giving their thoughts about a possible RFS waiver.

You can listen to the Domestic Fuel Cast here: Domestic Fuel Cast

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

RFS Waiver Would Not Immediately Impact Corn Prices

While a new report shows that a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard could drop corn prices, the impact would not be felt this year and could vary. The Purdue University report, entiled Potential Impacts of a Partial Waiver of the Ethanol Blending Rules, was authored by the school’s Wally Tyner, Farzad Taheripour and Christopher Hurt and presented today in a Farm Foundation webinar. It says corn prices could drop anywhere from 47 cents to $1.34 per bushel, depending on what level the drought impacts the final harvest, how big the waiver is, and how many unused Renewable Fuel Identification Numbers (RINs) are cashed in. But livestock producers and consumers would not see any benefit this year.

Tyner explained that technical and financial incentives could determine the impact of the waiver. “If refiners and blenders cannot change for technical reasons what they’re doing now, then a waiver has very little impact. But if they do have flexibility, then there is potential for a waiver having an impact,” Tyner said. Hurt added that there could be some unintended consequences, including what he calls demand destruction. “If we return to normal production in the next 12 months, then we have a fairly large supply, we have the possibility of looking at a 15 billion bushel corn crop with a utilization base of 11 billion bushels,” pointing out that we could see prices swing back to extremely low prices as quickly as they rose to these current high prices.

Paragon Economics’ Steve Meyer and the University of Minnesota’s Vernon Eidman were also listening in on the call and offering their perspectives. Meyer said the projected reduction in corn prices could translate into $2.60-3.50 per head on hogs. “We’re not talking about peanuts here.” But Eidman was quick to point out any RFS waiver would not impact corn use for ethanol this year. “It will take more time than that to get the rollback to occur,” Eidman said.

All on the webinar agreed that the EPA should not rush to issue any judgment until more complete information is known about the corn harvest, most likely in the next couple of months. “It’s important to get this right,” concluded Eidman.

It’s a really good conversation, and you can hear the entirety of it here: Farm Foundation-Purdue Webinar on Drought and RFS Waiver
You can see the associated slide show here.

Farm Foundation to Discuss RFS Waiver

As I mentioned in the previous post, talk about waiving the Renewable Fuels Standard for ethanol continues on. This time, our friends from the Farm Foundation will be hosting a web conference, Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 10 a.m. CDT. Three Purdue University economists will take part in the free conference, discussing the impact of waiving the RFS, especially in light of how hard the drought has hit the nation’s corn crop. You can register for it here.

Purdue University economists Wally Tyner, Farzad Taheripour and Christopher Hurt have completed an analysis of a potential waiver and what it could mean for the ethanol industry and the price of corn. Their findings will be presented at Thursday’s web conference.

“As was the case in 2008, when rhetoric in the food-versus-fuel debate rose with the prices of corn and oil, the drought and high temperatures of 2012 are pushing corn and soybean prices to record levels, and the food vs. fuel debate is once again heated,” says Farm Foundation, NFP President Neil Conklin. “Now, as then, Farm Foundation and Purdue University are not about fueling these fires. Our shared mission is to be a catalyst for sound public policy by providing objective information to foster deeper understanding of the complex issues before our food and agriculture system today.”

Farm Foundation officials say the Purdue economists’ current analysis builds on years of work, including a series of three Farm Foundation publications, “What’s Driving Food Prices,” published in July 2008, March 2009 and July 2011.

Farm Foundation Hosts Renewable Energy Webinar

The use of anaerobic digesters for livestock operations in the Southwest is the focus of the Renewable Energy Education Field Day webinar planned for later this month.

The webinar will be presented on Wednesday October 26 and will examine technical, environmental and financial factors to consider when installing an anaerobic digester on a livestock operation and specifically the use of digesters with dry manure and the unique environmental issues and climatic conditions of the Southwest.

The virtual Field Day is free of charge and targeted to dairy and beef producers in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Representatives of environmental and agricultural organizations working with livestock producers, as well as staff from state and federal agencies, are also encouraged to participate.

farmfoundationlogo3The webinar’s origination site will be the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces, N.M., where anyone interested in the area is invited to attend live. Five viewing sites have been set up across the Southwest at Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colo.; Otero County Extension Office, Rocky Ford, Colo.; Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus, Mesa, Ariz.; the U.S. EPA Region 9 Office, San Francisco, Calif.; and the Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Amarillo, Texas. Additional sites may be added.

Farm Foundation, NFP is organizing this webinar in collaboration with USDA Rural Development, USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. There is no charge to participate in this webinar, but registration is required by going to the website. This is the second Renewable Energy Education Field Day presented by Farm Foundation, NFP and USDA agencies. Biomass was the subject of the first Field Day in November 2010.

Biofuels Part of Next Farm Foundation Forum

FarmFoundationforum3Mark your calendar for Nov. 10th, as the Farm Foundation sponsors the latest in its free forums that discuss the food, agricultural and rural policy issues facing this country.

This upcoming discussion, held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington D.C., focuses on energy issues, in particular biofuels:

Burton English of the University of Tennessee will discuss projected impacts of proposed federal renewable portfolio standards on the economy of four states-Kansas, Colorado, North Carolina and Florida. This study was done by the Biobased Energy Analysis Group of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Tennessee, and was funded in part by a grant from the Bipartisan Policy Center. English will also discuss methodologies and scenarios used by University of Tennessee researchers in preparing a second study that was funded by 25x’25. Results of that study are scheduled to be released on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

How greenhouse gas (GHG) policies might affect U.S. agriculture is the subject of a third study, to be discussed by Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University, one of the report’s nine authors. This study indicates “that policies encouraging agricultural and forestry bioenergy and GHG mitigation efforts could stimulate agricultural income significantly, despite higher associated input costs.”

The program will also look at energy inputs on croplands, which include, of course, feedstocks for biofuels.

Make your reservation for the free forum by the close of business, next Friday, Nov. 6th to to Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation Director of Communication by e-mailing her at

Farm Foundation Announces 30-Year Challenge Winners

30-YearChallengeThe ag policy think tank known as Farm Foundation has announced the winners of its competition to look for long-term solutions to the major questions of how to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to a growing world, and biofuels are the subjects of at least two of the winners.

Last December, Farm Foundation announced its 30-Year Challenge report that identifies six major areas of challenges agriculture will face as it works to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to a growing world. The six areas are: global financial markets and recession; global food security; global energy security; climate change; competition for natural resources; and global economic development. This past spring, Farm Foundation announced a competition for essays to come up with some solutions for those challenges (see my post from April 30, 2009). Two different sets of researchers, Chad Hellwinckel and Daniel De La Torre Ugarte, both of the University of Tennessee, and Loni Kemp of Kemp Consulting, were named winners.

The entry from Hellwinckel and De La Torre Ugarte focused on the role of biofuels in agriculture policy:

Viewing agriculture simply as a potential source for meeting the greater economy’s fuel demand will not guarantee the necessary transition, and could even exacerbate soil destruction, increase agriculture’s input consumption and lead to food shortages. If appropriate, biofuels could be a vital part of long-term agricultural policy, but agriculture should not simply become a part of energy policy.

Biofuels demand could be a catalyst creating the right conditions for a transition to a truly regenerative agriculture, particularly if that demand moderately increases all commodity net returns. If crafted within a larger agricultural policy matrix, biofuels policy can be part of the solution.

Kemp’s entry looked at overhauling the current biofuels tax credit system:

What is missing from current tax policy is a requirement for actual performance in delivering expected environment and climate benefits. To remedy this, the mix of existing federal biofuel tax credits—including the ethanol blender’s tax credit—must be reformed into a unified performance-based tax credit. The actual level of payment per gallon would vary, according to the sustainability performance of the biorefinery.
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Flinchbaugh Chairing Farm Foundation

BarryFlinchbaughCigar-chomping, irreverent, and always entertaining professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, Barry Flinchbaugh, is now the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Farm Foundation. It seems only fitting that Flinchbaugh, known for his direct style and usually correct stances (even when conventional wisdom might say something else) is leading an organization that is known for thinking outside the box to come up with public policy solutions for the ag sector, including the biofuels industries.

Farm Foundation included some biographical information about Flinchbaugh in its announcement… and that information certainly explains why he has been picked for the position:

Flinchbaugh has taught at Kansas State since 1971, focusing on national agricultural and economic policy. He is much sought after as a speaker, and has authored more than 100 publications, including an agricultural policy textbook. On three occasions students of the KSU College of Agriculture have given him the Outstanding Teacher Award. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. at Purdue University.

Flinchbaugh chaired the Commission on 21st Century Production Agriculture authorized in the 1996 Farm Bill. He has led Kansas Agricultural People-to-People tours to the Soviet Union, China, the South Pacific and Africa. Flinchbaugh is a member of Rotary International, serves on the Board of the Kansas City Board of Trade and KARL Inc. He is a recipient of the prestigious Hildreth Award for career achievement in public policy education, as well as distinguished service awards from the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Agricultural Editors Association.

As you might remember from our coverage of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress/Ag Media Summit on Domestic Fuel and, Flinchbaugh was involved in the “Great Debate” with former Texas congressman Charlie Stenholm. You can also check out some pics from that summit on Flickr.

Farm Foundation Recognized for Food & Biofuels Study

FarmFoundationlogo2A report on food prices and the role biofuels have played (and have not played) in the spike of those prices has been recognized for a very prestigious award.

WhatsDrivingFoodPricesThe Farm Foundation report entitled “What’s Driving Food Prices?” released last year has won the 2009 Quality of Communication Award presented by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) for the report’s objective, comprehensive look at how last year’s spike in oil prices was largely responsible for the spike in food prices, while increased ethanol demand played a smaller role (although it got more of the blame):

The report was written by Wallace Tyner, Philip Abbott and Chris Hurt, all agricultural economists at Purdue University. They identified three main drivers of food prices–depreciation of the U.S. dollar, changes in production and consumption, and growth in biofuels production. When it was released in July 2008, the report received wide distribution both nationally and internationally through the Farm Foundation Forum at which it was released, subsequent press coverage, and a webinar.

Within six months, food supplies had stabilized and economic conditions had changed dramatically. In light of these changes, Farm Foundation asked the three authors to update the report. Released in March 2009, the updated report showed that the three primary drivers of food prices remained unchanged, despite the significant reversal of conditions.

Three other Farm Foundation projects were also recognized by the AAEA Awards Committee. The Quality of Research Discovery Award went to Alan L. Olmstead of the University of California, Davis, and Paul W. Rhode, of the University of Arizona, for their book, Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development; the Outstanding Article Award for AAEA’s Choices magazine went to Bruce A. McCarl of Texas A&M University and Steve K. Rose of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the article, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Stabilization and the Inevitability of Adaption: Challenges for U.S. Agriculture;” and three students were honored in the AAEA Graduate Student Extension Competition. First place went to Anna Flaig of Purdue University; second to Sonja Peraski of Michigan State University; and third to Daniel Sanders of Ohio State University. Farm Foundation funds the awards for this competition.

FF Bioeconomy Conference to Look at Biofuels

ff-transitiontobio-energyThe final in a series of Farm Foundation conferences looking at agricultural issues in the modern economy will be held next week in Little Rock, Arkansas and will focus on extension services and renewable energy.

The Transition to a Bioeconomy: The Role of Extension in Energy conference will be June 30-July 1 at Little Rock’s Doubletree Hotel:

The program features experts working in renewable energy, biofuels, energy efficiency and new energy technologies. Presenters include industry leaders, staff from USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy, and researchers working in energy efficiency, renewable energy and new energy technologies.

Plenary sessions will address the important role of Extension educators in providing consumers with timely information on energy-related programs and research findings. An outlook on renewable energy technologies will also be featured. In addition to plenary sessions, six workshops are planned to allow participants to focus in on specific areas of interest. Workshop topics are:

* Risk Management for Energy Investments
* Making Energy Efficiency Choices
* Energy Crop Agronomics
* Forestry
* Harvest, Storage and Logistics
* Extension and Other Delivery Methods

There still seems to be time to register for the event, but I’m not sure about availability at the Doubletree Hotel.

More information is available at this Farm Foundation Web site.