Farm Group Agrees with Climate Change Report

NFUlogoThe National Farmers Union (NFU) agrees with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that renewable energy must play a significant role in climate change mitigation.

“The working group’s report complements NFU’s long-held, member-led policy positions by recognizing the need for a comprehensive renewable energy strategy,” said NFU vPresident Roger Johnson. “Tripling or even quadrupling the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewables, as the report recommends, will require significant investments in energy technologies that utilize rural America’s renewable and human resources. These investments would pay off not only by helping to mitigate the effects of climate change but by driving significant rural economic development.”

WGIII_AR5_Cover_webThe IPCC third working group report released this week finds that climate change is occurring at a rapid rate, but mitigation strategies such as scaling up renewable energy production could substantially reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the report, total anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 in spite of a growing number of climate change mitigation policies. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010. Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.

Propane Users Urged to Get Equipment Ready

Propane-Council logoSpring is in the air, and planting is either started or getting ready to get started across the country. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is urging farmers who use their fuel to make sure spring preparation includes prepping that propane-fueled equipment.

Irrigation Engines
After a long winter, rodents, debris, and exposure to the elements are the most common source of engine issues, said Pete Stout, product manager for Origin Engines. Stout encourages farmers to refer to their product manuals for maintenance needs specific to their engine models, and offers these tips for preparing irrigation engines for spring planting:

* Disconnect the engine battery and check battery voltage.
* Clear away any dirt and debris that have collected on and around the engine. Pay special attention to clutch bellhousings, radiator shrouds, and wire harnesses.
* Inspect wire harnesses for cracked or exposed wires and make repairs if necessary.
* Check front drive belts for proper tension and wear.
“I also urge farmers to place engines inside of structures, such as a simple carport style shelter, for the summer growing season,” Stout said. “UV sunlight and general exposure to extreme weather can be tough on engine power units.”

PERC goes on to suggest that before that spring storm rolls through and knocks out power, propane generators are checked and cleaned. Pickup trucks running on the clean fuel also need to be properly maintained to get the most out of the efficiency propane autogas can bring. The same goes for forklifts and other propane-powered equipment.

In addition, you can check out PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program, which could make up to $5,000 available to farmers who switch to propane. More information is available here.

Iowa Farmers Oppose RFS Changes

iowa-soyA vast majority of Iowa farmers in a recent poll oppose changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

agri-pulseThe Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll, launched last month in partnership with the Iowa Soybean Association, found that 92% of farmers polled oppose the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower of the amount of corn-based ethanol and biodiesel required to be blended in the nation’s fuel as part of the RFS.

In addition, almost three out of five farmers responding (58 percent) said that, of several national issues including the Farm Bill, trade, tax codes and immigration, the RFS is most important to the future profitability of their farms.

The poll also found that farmers expect to see weaker financial returns in 2014 and will adjust their expenditures – spending less on fertilizer and equipment but more on crop insurance. The new poll was taken February 23 and included more than 130 Iowa farmers responding to 12 unaided questions.

What do You Like in New Farm Bill

New Holland ZimmPollBefore we get to our new ZimmPoll let’s look at our latest one which asked the question, “Could drones (UAV’s) serve a purpose on your operation?”

Well over half of the voters this week said that drones could in fact serve a purpose on their operation. Price is still a factor and may be the reason that some operations would not use them yet. We’re going to see a lot more about this new technology since predictions have been made that eighty percent of the multi-million dollar market will be for agricultural use. I’m sure you can think of a number of applications these devices will have in the production of renewable fuels.

Our poll results:

  • Yes, if affordable – 50%
  • No – 18%
  • Yes, at any price – 14%
  • No, worried about privacy – 14%
  • What are they? – 5%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What’s best in the new farm bill?”

The Senate finally passed its version of a conference bill Jan. 29, and now the farm bill goes to President Obama’s desk. As you can read on Senator Debbie Stabenow’s website: “This isn’t your father’s Farm Bill. It is a bill for our future that grows our agriculture economy, helps provide greater access to healthy Michigan-grown foods, preserves our land and water, and cuts unnecessary spending. The Farm Bill is a rare example of a major bipartisan jobs bill and a bipartisan deficit reduction bill,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. Have you had the chance to review the new bill? Let us know what you think is the best part.

Growing Use of Technology for Growers

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

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

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

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

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

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Save The RFS Ad Debutes in Iowa

A new “Save the RFS” television ad is now running throughout Iowa, a key state in Presidential elections. The ad was produced by Americans United For Change (AUFC) who says while Big Oil is advertising to elites in the DC market, they are playing at the heart of the country where real people and their lives and livelihoods are at stake. The ad is aimed at all those who know the benefits from the RFS – from farmers, ethanol industry workers, secondary industries, surrounding economies, as well as American consumers – urging them to tell the EPA to do what’s best for rural America, not Big Oil’s bottom line.

While Big Oil is at war with farmers and rural communities and has called for the repeal of the RFS – AUFC says they are out to save the RFS for the good of our economy and our environment. In addition through the SavetheRFS website, VoteVets will recruit people to become part of a team who will help communicate the importance of renewable fuels to Americans as well as to local, state and federal legislators.

Brad Woodhouse, president of AUFC said of the RFS, “The industry that brought us the Gulf oil spill loves the new RFS rule as it stands and would love nothing more than to keep rural America quiet until the ink is dry. That’s why it’s incredibly important that Americans in the heartland make their voices heard, because the strength in numbers of those who benefit from the RFS can beat Big Oil’s deep pockets.”

“If this misguided EPA rule is made permanent, the ripple effect cannot be overstated. As the family farmer and ethanol industry goes, so goes the positive growth we’ve seen in rural economies since the RFS was established, so goes the hundreds of thousands of American jobs that have been created, so goes the availability of fuel 70 cents cheaper whole sale than gasoline, so goes the billion dollars American consumers save every week, so goes the gains made in combating climate change and reducing dependence on oil from unstable regions overseas,” continued Woodhouse.

“Big Oil knows if they’re successful at eliminating their cheaper, cleaner competition, then anything goes when it comes to prices at the pump – even if it means sending more of our troops, and money and jobs overseas.”

Renewable Energy Education Coming from NFU

NFUlogoSeparating fact from fiction is the goal of a new curriculum from National Farmers Union (NFU) focusing on renewable energy. The curriculum will be made available free to organizations, schools, institutions and businesses that build cultural awareness and acceptance of renewable fuels.

“Renewable energy is fast becoming a way of life for millions of Americans,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Technological advances are delivering sustainable, reliable, and increasingly affordable sources of renewable energy. At the same time, Americans are curious about the economic and environmental costs of relying on fossil fuels.”

Lessons are available for use with students in high school grades 9-12, as well as separate lessons for both college and adult students. Each module contains three unique areas of focus, for a total of nine different lesson plans. The sessions are tailored to appeal to the specific audiences and use a variety of educational activities to engage students in the learning process. The lessons come with separate guides and resource sheets to assist teachers in understanding and implementing the curriculum.

The curriculum is available here or by contacting NFU Director of Education Maria Miller at mmiller@nfudc.org.

American Ethanol Powered by New Holland

producers-clubNew Holland is proud to be powering American Ethanol as the premier equipment partner for Growth Energy and its member ethanol plants.

“We’re pushing forward with a positive message about ethanol and working together with not just the plants but also the producers,” said Luke Johnson, Growth Initiatives sales manager with New Holland, at the kickoff of a New Holland American Ethanol Producers Club event at the Absolute Energy plant in Lyle, Minnesota.

new-holland-mn-lukeThe producers club is a way for New Holland to show its support of the farmers who produce the corn that makes American ethanol. “We have a great discount structure program set up for them,” Luke said. “Our partnership is circular for everyone. The producer helps the ethanol plant and gets better prices in the corn market because of the industry, we support them with a fantastic discount program and support the industry at the same time to keep the positive message out there.”

The event at Absolute Energy is the 12th one that New Holland has held this year and Luke says they expect to do more next year. “Everything about it has been positive,” he said.

Listen to my interview with Luke here: Luke Johnson, New Holland

New Holland American Ethanol Producers Club photo album

Growth Energy Pleased with New Holland Support

Pictured left to right: Abe Hughes, New Holland; Wesley Clark and Tom Buis, Growth Energy

Pictured left to right: Abe Hughes, New Holland; Wesley Clark and Tom Buis, Growth Energy

At the 2013 Farm Progress Show, representatives from Growth Energy were pleased to be part of the New Holland Club Blue event for dealers and customers.

“New Holland is a fantastic company, they produce top notch equipment, but they also are willing to step up for rural America,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “What we’ve seen over the last few years is New Holland take the lead in promoting biofuels.”

Buis says Growth Energy members participate with New Holland on promotional deals – in fact, one will be held next week at the Absolute Energy plant in Lyle, Minnesota. Interview with Tom Buis, Growth Energy

Growth Energy co-chairman retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark praised New Holland’s support for national security. “New Holland is the first, most visionary and innovative company (that) saw what this ethanol movement means for America, for national security and for American prosperity,” said Clark, who adds that company vice president Abe Hughes, who serves on the Growth Energy board, has been a real leader in helping reach out to the American farmer.Interview with Wesley Clark, Growth Energy

2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Solar on the Farm

spgc13-solar“Making Sustainability Work” was the theme of the 2013 Southern Peanut Growers Conference this past week and one of the sessions was devoted to energy efficiency, including the use of solar on the farm.

Peter Marte with Hannah Solar of Atlanta, Georgia says solar energy is getting to be more popular for farming operations because costs have come down. “It’s no longer expensive, the price has dropped 80% over the last three years,” he said. For that reason, Marte encourages farmers to take another look at the possibilities for their operations. “If you haven’t gotten a quote for solar this week – not last month, not a year ago, this week – you don’t have a quote for solar.”

hannah-solar-2Marte says Hannah Solar has completed a number of agricultural projects around the state of Georgia and many that have benefited from utility company buy back programs. “We’ve done a lot with peanut farmers,” he said, highlighting one example of an irrigation pivot offset system. “So in the winter months when he’s not using the irrigation pivot … he’s still getting compensated for that energy at a fair rate.”

Other projects include the American Peanut Growers shelling plant, which is one of the biggest rooftop solar arrays in the state, solar barns and more. Find out more in this interview with Marte from the peanut growers conference – Interview with Peter Marte, Hannah Solar

Beef Ranches as Biodiesel Refineries

humphreyThe next set of biodiesel refineries will probably continue to be in rural America, but they might be part of livestock operations. This article from BeefProducer.com says Arkansas State University researcher Kevin Humphrey sees real potential for ranchers to produce their own biodiesel from oil seed crops, waste oil or tallow:

“If all you want to do is extract oil and meal, you can do that. If you want to extract and produce meal and then also produce biodiesel, you can do that,” he says.

Humphrey is using waste oil and oil seed crops — soybeans, canola, and camelina — to make biodiesel. He adds he hasn’t used animal fats but that is a viable option.

Matt Roberts, vice president of marketing for Springboard Biodiesel, says if the oil is collected free, as might be beef tallow from rendering, the biodiesel will cost about 95 cents per gallon to make. That price includes the cost of the chemicals to make the biodiesel — methanol, lye, and sulfuric acid.

The article goes on to point out that with many of the biodiesel feedstock oilseeds, especially soybeans, the resulting meal from the crush is a high quality feed. Plus, the glycerin from biodiesel production can be a livestock feed and an ingredient in soaps, lotions and lubricants.

The author also spoke with Darrell Wood, cattle rancher and owner of Leavitt Lake Ranches in Vina, California, who believes a ranch-based biodiesel refinery might just make his place more sustainable.

“It just opens the door for all kinds of possibilities,” Wood says.

Pretty good article. Give it a read here.

Most Readers Not Far From the Farm

Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How many generations are you removed from the farm?”

Our poll results: Thirty percent say they are “One Generation, My Parents are Farmers,” 23% are Two, My Grandparents Were Farmers, 22% say None, I’m a Farmer, nine percent are not farmers but work in the ag industry, seven percent have No Direct Farm Connection, and three percent say Three, My Great-Grandparents Were Farmers, More Than Three, or Other. It is safe to say that most of our followers are not far removed from the farm, if at all!

chart

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “Are so-called “ag gag” bills fair?” In the wake of undercover videos at animal agriculture operations that have shown abuse, and especially those that were compiled over a period of time, edited and then released to the public without doing anything to stop the abuse or take it to the proper authorities, several states have passed legislation making that illegal. Most of the laws simply require mandatory reporting of animal cruelty when it happens but opponents have labeled them “ag gag” laws that would suppress efforts to document and publicize animal abuse. Those in favor prefer to call them “See Something, Say Something” bills. Do you feel that the so-called “ag gag” bills are prohibitive? Will these laws hamper efforts to stop animal cruelty? Does this impede our efforts for transparency in the food systems? Let us know.

ZimmPoll is sponsored by New Holland Agriculture.

World Grain Buyers Get US Producer Perspectives

Grain buyers from around the world in attendance at the 2012 Export Exchange had the opportunity to embrace the US producers perspective on the 2012 crop through a producer panel during the opening general session. Key panelists were Ron Gray, Illinois farmer and Secretary/Treasurer of the US Grains Council, and John Mages, Minnesota farmer and Chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council.

They shared their personal experiences overcoming the 2012 drought and assured buyers of their fight and passion to raise a consistent and quality product.

Listen to the entire Producers Panel here: Producer Panel at Export Exchange

Following the opening session I took the time to talk with Ron Gray, where he summed up the 2012 corn crop and how farming for him is more than a job, its a personal endeavor.

“For us the 2012 crop started out with all the hope of an extraordinary crop. We planted early, the crop went in very well, emergence was good. Then it didn’t rain. Beginning the second week of May through the first week of August we only had about three inches of total rainfall and because of that our corn crop was severely reduced in production. Our farm probably averaged 50 bushels an acre, which is approximately 1/3 of our normal production. The rainfall did come later and the soybean crop is a fairly good crop, but the corn crop was devastated.”

Listen to my interview with Ron here: Ron Gray Interview

Beyond simply listening to producers, international grain buyers had the opportunity to visit farms across the United States. The goal was to gain information, assess the current US corn crop, explore the availability of other grains such as sorghum and barley, and build relationships leading to future sales.

Many participants expressed a preference for buying US grains due to the consistency and quality of the grain. They also appreciate the transparency and reliability of the US marketing and delivery systems. Clearly price and availability hindered US exports this year, but buyers are looking forward to a better crop next year.

You can find photos from this years Export Exchange here: 2012 Export Exchange

USDA Report Release Times to Change

USDA is changing the release time of certain key statistical reports beginning in January 2013.

According to a USDA news release the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) will begin issuing several major USDA statistical reports at 12:00 p.m. EDT beginning in January 2013. The current USDA release time of 8:30 a.m. EDT will remain in effect until January 1, 2013. USDA statistical reports affected are: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, Acreage, Crop Production, Grain Stocks, Prospective Plantings, and Small Grains Summary. The time for livestock reports currently released at 3:00 p.m. will not change.

USDA officials made the decision about the release times after considering nearly 150 comments submitted by stakeholders during a 30 day comment period between June 8 and July 9, 2012. “USDA considered all comments and thanks everyone for their thoughtful suggestions,” said USDA Chief Economist Joseph W. Glauber. “The shift to a noon release allows for the greatest liquidity in the markets, provides the greatest access to the reports during working hours in the United States, and continues equal access to data among all parties.”

Syngenta Corn Trait Offers Ethanol Efficiency

A new corn trait from Syngenta can offer increased efficiency for ethanol plants and premiums for farmers who grow it.

Enogen corn
was specifically developed for ethanol production and just fully approved by USDA in February 2011. According to David Witherspoon with Syngenta, Enogen contains alpha amylase, one of the primary enzymes used in ethanol production. “So when this corn goes to an ethanol plant, their enzymes are delivered in the corn,” he said during an interview at the 2012 Farm Progress Show.

“It helps them increase alcohol production and because it works on a broad pH and temperature range, they don’t have to use as much ammonia, or sulfuric acid or heat,” Witherspoon said. “So they get more alcohol and use less energy.”

It took about 15 years for Syngenta to get Enogen to market and this is the first year the corn trait has been grown commercially. “We have two ethanol plants signed as customers,” said Witherspoon. “We have also tested in one other plant we anticipate will sign in the next 2-3 weeks.”

The plants contract with farmers to grow the Enogen corn. “We will work to facilitate the contract and put a full time person in the field to make sure they understand the hybrids and how the contracts work,” said Witherspoon.

Mike Missman of Woden, Iowa is a seed dealer and a farmer who planted Enogen corn this year, following the program regarding the use of the seed. “The stewardship rules are strict but they’re easy to follow,” said Missman. “You just don’t want that seed to go into another field.” Missman is contracting this year with Syngenta for a trial with a local ethanol plant.

One of the plants testing Enogen is Golden Grain Energy of Mason City, Iowa and Witherspoon says they toured that plant with the Syngenta global corn team during Farm Progress Show last week. “We really want the global group to understand the importance of the RFS to farmers, it actually has an international effect,” he said. “Ethanol has actually driven profitability worldwide in corn in places where it’s not been profitable.”

Listen to my interview with Witherspoon and Missman from Farm Progress Show to learn more about Enogen: Syngenta Enogen Corn interview