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

Biodiesel Record Prompts Call to Reverse RFS Cuts

biodiesellogo1American biodiesel producers set a record with nearly 1.8 billion gallons produced in 2013. While the record is nice, it’s also a cruel, ironic reminder that the same government office reporting this milestone, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is also trying to lower the amount of biodiesel to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply down to just 1.28 billion gallons in 2014. The National Biodiesel Board is calling on the Obama Administration to change direction on this policy that will hurt the industry just as biodiesel is celebrating its greatest success.

“The success of the biodiesel industry in 2013 proves that the RFS is working today and stimulating the commercial-scale production of advanced biofuel,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the U.S. trade association. “It also makes it incredibly frustrating that the Obama Administration is backing away from this progress with its recent RFS proposal.”

“If our industry produced 1.8 billion gallons of Advanced Biofuel in 2013, why is the Administration retreating to 1.28 billion gallons for 2014?” Jobe asked. “We’re proving it can be done. What we need is consistent policy, and that is sorely lacking in Washington right now.”

“It is incomprehensible that an Administration that has unequivocally supported renewable fuels since Day One has suddenly decided to retreat on the first Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide,” Jobe said. “It threatens biodiesel businesses across the country and thousands of jobs, and it undercuts the Administration’s stated priority of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

NBB officials go on to point out that with some excess 2013 biodiesel production “carried over” into 2014, the real Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) number for biodiesel will be about 1 billion gallons, about half of what is now produced. Throw in a lapsed $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel credit, and the more than 62,000 biodiesel industry jobs in this country could be in big trouble this year.

Views on the Biodiesel Policy Climate

Biodiesel Policy PanelTwo former members of Congress talked about attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard at the National Biodiesel Conference this week in San Diego.

Former Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, now a DC policy advisory, says the EPA proposal to lower RFS volume obligations this year is inexplicable. “The Obama Administration has always supported renewable fuels,” he said during a general session policy panel. “They will, I assume, say that these mandates support renewable fuels. But they know that these mandates are below what they should be, they have to be adjusted.”

Former Congressman Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, a Republican and founder of the Missouri energy initiative, agrees it is inexplicable, but reasoned that backlash against ethanol and the 2012 drought played a role in the proposal. “I think the EPA came under some very intense political scrutiny, that’s when you saw a lot of bills being introduced to repeal the RFS,” he said.

Dorgan thinks it’s unlikely Congress will repeal the RFS, the first version of which he helped write in 2005. “I think that would be a horrible mistake. Fortunately, the Congress can’t agree on anything,” said the former senator, adding that the president would veto the bill if they tried.

Both Dorgan and Hulshof believe Congress will eventually extend the biodiesel tax incentive which expired at the end of 2013.

You can listen to the session, moderated by National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, here: Policy Climate Session

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Eye on Biodiesel Industry Partnership Award

Kirk LeedsThe Eye on Biodiesel Award for Industry Partnership was presented to Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association this morning.

Kirk is Chief Executive Officer of the Association and has been a leader among soybean organizations in supporting biodiesel efforts since the industry’s inception. ISA’s support of the National Biodiesel Board over the years has allowed the industry to prepare and face the challenges of being a billion-plus-gallon Advanced Biofuel. His visionary leadership has helped to maintain a mutually-beneficial, strong connection between the soybean and biodiesel industries. Kirk and ISA have been at the forefront of improving agriculture’s environmental performance. Through partnerships with farmers, environmental groups, agri-business and academia, ISA is helping lead efforts to identify practical solutions for complex environmental issues.

You can listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Kirk Leeds Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

CARB Receives Eye on Biodiesel Award

Richard CoreyReceiving the National Biodiesel Board’s Eye on Biodiesel Impact Award for the California Clean Air Resources Board was Richard Corey, Executive Officer.

The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. In January of 2010, Air Resources Board staff successfully implemented the first ever market-oriented carbon reduction policy for transportation fuels, a policy known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Since that time, use and production of biodiesel and other renewable fuels has increased significantly. Californians have since enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air, growth in green jobs, and increased fuel diversity.

You can listen to Richard’s remarks here: Richard Corey Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Lifetime Achievement Award

Don Borgman AwardA very special award was presented to John Deere’s Don Borgman today at the National Biodiesel Conference. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the industry.

Later this year Borgman will be retiring from John Deere after over 40 years of service. Most recently he served as the Director of Agricultural Industry Relations for John Deere’s North American operations. He has been involved in the promotion and expansion of demand for agricultural products since the late 1970’s, and his work was instrumental in John Deere’s acceptance, support, and promotion of biodiesel.

You can listen to Don’s remarks here: Don Borgman Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Chair Calls for Industry Unity

NBB Chair Steven LevyThe Chair of the National Biodiesel Board is Steven J. Levy, Sprague Operating Resources LLC. This is his first conference as the Chair so when he spoke at today’s general session he told a little bit about himself and his background. He’s the first NBB Chair who is not a farmer, producer or from the Midwest.

Steven spoke about the work of the National Biodiesel Board and the challenges that it will overcome by being a unified voice for the industry.

You can listen to Steven’s remarks here: Steven Levy Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Winning Teamwork Needed by Biodiesel Industry

Jim CraigThe current situation with the RFS has pitted the big petroleum industry against an industry that has made great strides in developing renewable and clean energy. Attendees at the National Biodiesel Conference today got some motivation and inspiration from Jim Craig, 1980 U.S. Hockey Team goalie on when they won gold at the Winter Olympics in what has been called the greatest sports moment in the 20th Century.

Jim encouraged all elements of the biodiesel industry to come together as a team. When comparing the industry to the petroleum industry in this fight he said to “Become the winning underdog.” I visited with him right after his speech.

You can listen to my interview with Jim here: Jim Craig Interview

You can listen to a brief excerpt of Jim’s remarks here: Jim Craig Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Joe Jobe Exposes Renewable Energy Reality

Joe Jobe NBBThis morning Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board, rallied his troops at the National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego. He told attendees that the petroleum industry is misleading Americans about fuel policy and called on President Barack Obama to stand firm behind his previous commitments to supporting alternative energy industries.

In his annual address at the Biodiesel Conference & Expo, Jobe shed light on current industry challenges and exposed cracks in how we think about energy.

He pointed out that biodiesel’s story is not unique, “Biodiesel’s story is an example of how effective government policy can be to jump start a fledgling industry. That is the same story of nearly every new industry that involves technological development. Strong government policy support along with a unique spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking are the primary reasons that so many major modern industries had their start in America.”

You can listen to Joe’s speech here: Joe Jobe Speech

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Biodiesel Blogging Again

2014 National Biodiesel ConferenceIt’s that time. The 2014 National Biodiesel Conference is next week. I’ll be on location once again and working as the Biodiesel Blogger on the NBB Conference Blog.

Things will get going late Monday and through Wednesday. You can find the program here. I’ll be sharing lots of photos and interviews as I find them. Hope you enjoy them.

Our John Davis got a preview of the conference from NBB CEO Joe Jobe last month. Listen in if you missed it. Joe Jobe, CEO NBB

Biodiesel Conference to Discuss Challenges Ahead

NBBconflogo2014-1The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo is less than a month away, and the CEO of the National Biodiesel Board stresses that they need as many people involved in biodiesel as possible there, especially in light of the challenges facing the industry.

“Congress, for the third time in five years, through its inaction, is going to allow the biodiesel tax credit to expire,” Joe Jobe says, adding that the industry is getting hit with a double whammy, as the Environmental Protection Agency is effectively proposing to cut the amount of biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. The end of that rulemaking process comes just a week after the conference, Jan. 20-23, 2014, so that makes it that much more important to get together at this crucial time. “The industry is really going to come together in San Diego and really work on unifying and attacking these threats together.”

Joe says it’s fitting with the biodiesel industry’s back to the wall that they have Jim Craig, the goaltender for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team as the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference. More than 30 years ago, America seemed to face insurmountable odds against the most dominating hockey team of the era, the Soviet Union. But just like the “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that overcame those odds, Joe believes the biodiesel industry can face down the power and might of the “largest, wealthiest, most powerful industry, the petroleum industry, in human history. And right now they’re kind of getting their way with us, [but] we’re about to show what we can do… come from behind and win!”

“The biodiesel industry has always been the underdog, and we’ve always punched above our weight class. And we’re going to do it again and win this thing.”

Plus, don’t forget, San Diego is usually in the mid 70s and sunny that time of year… probably an improvement from what many biodiesel folks in the Midwest are experiencing now!

There’s still time to register; just click here.

Listen to more of my conversation with Joe here: Joe Jobe, CEO NBB

Congress Warned About Biodiesel Incentive Lapse

nbb-logoFailure once again to renew the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive is putting jobs and the industry’s growth at risk. The incentive lapses on Dec. 31st of this year, and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has sent out a warning letter to Congress as that date grows near.

“This marks the third time in five years that this incentive will have expired,” Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), wrote in the letter. “The uncertainty this creates is a major reason why we are still so dependent on petroleum. It is incredibly disruptive, not just to biodiesel plants across the country but also to our bipartisan goals of creating jobs in new domestic energy industries and boosting our energy security by diversifying our fuel supplies.”

“Biodiesel producers, many of them small companies, are reluctant to add new jobs when there is a strong likelihood that the incentive will disappear,” the letter continues. “Many are forced to cut back production when the incentive expires, causing job losses and even plant closures.”

Steckel added that NBB is pleased to see the ongoing discussion around tax reform but urged the lawmakers to not hold up tax extenders while those long-term negotiations continue.

Losing the tax incentive comes as a second recent blow to biodiesel, as the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed limiting biodiesel volumes under the RFS to 1.28 billion gallons for the next two years.

54 Reps Call for Reversal on Biodiesel RFS Proposal

us-capitol-fiscal-cliff-voteFifty-four members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle are calling on the Obama Administration to reverse course on its proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel to be required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. This news release from the National Biodiesel Board says the call comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed biodiesel production under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014 and 2015 to be 1.28 billion gallons, despite the fact the green fuel’s numbers are expected to hit 1.7 billion gallons this year.

In a letter led by U.S. Reps. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., the U.S. representatives – a bipartisan group representing districts from California to Iowa to Florida – called on the Administration to establish an RFS volume that is at least consistent with this year’s anticipated production of 1.7 billion gallons. The letter … was sent to the EPA and other Administration officials.

“It is clear that biodiesel has been a great RFS success story. It has exceeded RFS targets in each year and is clearly poised to do so again in 2013,” the lawmakers wrote. “This type of reduction could have very damaging repercussions. It could result in dozens of biodiesel facilities shutting down permanently and ceasing production.”

“We would strongly urge you to continue your support for this developing and fragile industry with a reasonable increase in the RFS volume requirement for 2014 and responsible growth in the future,” the letter states.

This comes on the heels of a similar letter last month sent by 32 U.S. senators, and it comes with similar warnings of dire consequences: Continue reading

Miraculous Keynote Announced for Biodiesel Conf.

craigBacks against the wall, facing what seems like impossible odds … there’s a lot of parallels between what the biodiesel industry is facing these days with possible cuts to its share of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and what the 1980 U.S. hockey team faced more than two decades ago, as the team got ready to face the mighty Soviet Union. But miracles do happen, and that squad took home gold that year, beating those stacked odds. The U.S. biodiesel industry has its own hill to climb, so it seems rather appropriate that for the coming National Biodiesel Conference, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has announced Olympic gold medalist Jim Craig, goalie for the 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” Hockey Team, will deliver the keynote address.

He is best remembered for his outstanding goaltending when the U.S. team beat the heavily favored Russians and went on to win the Olympic gold medal in what’s been labeled the greatest sports moment of the 20th Century.

Craig’s message comes at an appropriate time, with many people in the biodiesel industry facing adversity due to uncertainty over the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. Craig’s story shows a come-from-behind victory is never completely out of reach!

NBBconflogo2014-1Craig is currently president of Gold Medal Strategies, a motivational speaking and sales training company. During the past 30 years, he has inspired and provided strategic direction for more than 500 organizations and some of the world’s most recognized brands. Craig’s latest business book, Gold Medal Strategies, Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team, was published in 2011.

The folks from NBB also remind you that the 2014 conference comes two weeks earlier than previous years, running Jan. 20-23, 2014 so you need to hurry up and get your reservation in for THE biodiesel event of the year before prices go up on Jan. 3.

Biodiesel Board: EPA Got it Wrong

steckel1The National Biodiesel Board’s (NBB) message to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pretty simple: You got it WRONG! During last week’s hearing on the EPA’s proposed reduction in the amount of biodiesel and ethanol that will be mixed into the country’s fuel supply, Vice President of Federal Affairs for NBB Anne Steckel told those at the hearing that the proposal could cost jobs and hurt an industry that thought it was on the right track.

“This is a very dramatic thing the EPA has done, and we’re trying to set the record straight,” Anne said in an interview with me, adding that more that two dozen biodiesel producers also made the trip to the Nation’s capital to make the case for the green fuel … a pretty strong one when you look at the facts. “Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel, so we’re lessening greenhouse gas emissions significantly, we’re helping out with the economy, we’re supporting more than 62,000 jobs across the country, we have diversified our feedstocks, and those feedstock prices are low. So for EPA to put this out is very shocking.”

Anne said it looks like EPA just cut-and-paste the data from 2011 and ignored the most recent updates the industry gave it. She stressed that this hearing isn’t the only opportunity to let the EPA know of its mistake. She’s encouraging all biodiesel advocates to contact officials and let them know the biomass-based diesel number should be at least 1.7 billion gallons. The NBB is even providing a template for a letter on its website to help make it easier to have more voices heard between now and the end of the comment period at the end of January.

“Every voice really counts.”

Listen to my interview with Anne here: Anne Steckel, Vice President of Federal Affairs for NBB