Minnesota “Spills Beans About Biodiesel”

saintsbaseballWhat could be more All-American this time of year than baseball… and biodiesel! This article from the Minnesota Farm Guide says the folks at the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) are combining the two truly patriotic loves during their “Spilling the Beans About Biodiesel” night at the St. Paul, Minnesota Saints baseball game at Midway Stadium on Tuesday, July 8.

Fans at tailgating can receive a free biodiesel t-shirt when they post a photo of themselves with the Saints’ cow mascots on social media, using the hashtag #BreatheBetterMN. Other events at tailgating include additional giveaways, a super hybrid Metro Transit bus that runs on biodiesel and more consumer-friendly information about biodiesel.

Prior to the Saints game on July 8, Minnesota Soybean will promote a coupon on their social media sites that could get game-goers a free $10 gas gift card. The first 50 people to bring the biodiesel coupon to their tailgating booth will receive a gas card.

Local media are being welcomed to the event with a chance to meet with and interview Minnesota soybean farmers who grow the feedstock for biodiesel. Contact Abby Bastian at abastian@wideopenthinking.com or 507-766-1038 for more information.

Biodiesel Helps Fuel Monsanto’s Profits

Monsanto_logoThe world’s biggest agriculture company says it will double its profits by the year 2019, and it’s crediting biodiesel, at least indirectly and in part, for that growth. This article in the Globe and Mail says Monsanto is cashing in on the growth in soybeans, which is being helped by biodiesel growth.

Sales in Monsanto’s soybean business rose by 24 per cent to $816-million in the third quarter, and corn revenue fell by 16 per cent. “I think corn had a good year, not a great year. [Soy]beans picked up a lot of the slack,” said [Monsanto chief executive officer Hugh] Grant, who is forecasting “the decade of the soybean.”

U.S. prices for soybean meal in the United States have risen by 48 per cent since the beginning of 2012, driven by rising production of biodiesel and growing demand from livestock producers. Soybean meal has become a popular and inexpensive source of protein for farm animals – especially pigs. Chinese hog producers, scrambling to meet rising demand for pork, have been among the biggest buyers of the U.S.-grown soy.

Farmers have responded to the new demand. Canadian growers expected to seed a record 5.3 million acres of soybeans this year, up more than 16 per cent over 2013, according Statistics Canada. In the United States, growers planned to seed a record 81.5 million acres this year, a 6-per-cent increase over last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Monsanto also announced a share buyback worth $10 billion and raised its short-term profit outlook for 2014, which helped boost its shares by 5 per cent this week.

Worldwide Biodiesel Production to Hit Record

oilworldBiodiesel production worldwide is expected to hit a record this year, with higher mandates in South America expected to help fuel the climb. This article from Bloomberg quotes an Oil World report that shows biodiesel production could rise by about 8 percent to 29.1 million tons this year.

Brazil’s biodiesel inclusion mandate will rise to 6 percent in July from 5 percent, climbing later to 7 percent, according to Oil World.

“Assuming that the higher mandates will be largely fulfilled, Brazilian biodiesel production may increase by 17 percent to 3 million tons in 2014,” Oil World said.

Production in Brazil may show a “further massive increase” to 4 million to 4.1 million tons next year as 7 percent biodiesel inclusion is mandatory year-round, according to the industry researcher.

The report goes on to say that palm oil is gaining importance as a feedstock, making up about one-third of the world’s biodiesel production. Soybean oil for biodiesel is also expected to rise this year, primarily in the U.S., Brazil and Argentina.

Brazilian Beans Feeding Biodiesel Could be Good

soybeans1Increased demand for soybeans in the U.S., driven in part by the biodiesel industry, is prompting some Brazilian imports of the feedstock. And while importing agricultural products normally covered by domestic producers usually is seen as a negative, this article from the Herald-Review in Decatur, Ill. says it could actually work in American farmers’ favor this time.

Irony? Travesty? Unthinkable for the United States to be importing Brazilian soybeans? Most people would agree to one of those. After all, traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will likely devalue soybeans when the ships arrive in port and begin unloading. After all, it is a psychological thing.

But a different way of looking at it came last week from John Baize. Baize has been a long time consultant to the soybean industry about government treatment of soybeans and international issues affecting the soybean economy. He isn’t upset at all about the impor of Brazilian soybeans.

Baize looks at it as the perfect scenario for soybean economics. Scenario, not storm. According to his calculations, farmers sold their 2013 crop soybeans early in the marketing year at very high prices. He says we are short of soybeans now, and will be bringing soybeans into the United States from Brazil at much cheaper prices than what farmers sold their soybeans for. In his words, “It’s a good situation that I think we will see often in the future.”

This follows the basic economic theory buying low and selling high. Farmers were able to sell their beans for high prices, and now those beans are being replaced at lower prices. Keep an eye on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to see if it agrees.

Minnesota is First to Mandate B10 Biodiesel

mnstatelegis1The land of 10,000 lakes becomes the first for another 10… a 10 percent biodiesel mandate. The move from a B5 to B10 blending requirement for summer months starting this July 1st was welcomed by the growers of the most popular feedstock, soybeans.

“I’m very pleased that common sense is still alive and well and that our legislators voted for what was good for Minnesota,” says George Goblish, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) and a farmer from Vesta, Minn. “The decision to continue moving forward is good for air quality in Minnesota, energy diversity and its good for the economy.”

The escalation to B10 was part of a bill passed in 2008 which called for the move to happen in 2013. Because of inadequate blending infrastructure in on area of the state and a regulatory concern, the move was pushed back to 2014. Legislation brought forward during the Minnesota legislative session that ended May 16, attempted to derail the bill but was unsuccessful. B10 will be available at the pump from April through September. Supplies will revert to a B5 blend the rest of the year.

“This sends a very important message that Minnesota remains a leader, because the state’s B2 mandate back in 2002 really jumpstarted the biodiesel industry nationwide,” says Ed Hegland, an Appleton, Minn. farmer and member of the National Biodiesel Board’s governing board. “Proving that a state can now go to B10 is a significant step in the right direction for renewable fuels.”

The move is expected to create an additional 20 million gallons of biodiesel demand each year, in addition to the current 40 million gallons used annually. It will help make the blue skies even cleaner, as the current B5 requirement is credited with reducing particulate and greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of taking 35,000 vehicles off the road and removing an estimated 644 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the air annually.

Biodiesel Producers, Farmers Take to The Hill

goergerBiodiesel producers and farmers who raise the feedstocks for the biodiesel industry took to Capitol Hill this week, joining a group of U.S. Senate Democrats in their calls to end policy uncertainty that is hurting their industry.

“The uncertainty caused by these policy setbacks in Washington, with this proposed retreat on biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the [$1-a-gallon federal biodiesel] tax incentive is threatening to unravel [the good built up by the biodiesel industry],” said Terry Goerger, a third generation farmer from Mantador, North Dakota. He added that this is especially hard on the industry that took cues from Congress and the Obama Administration and took the risk to try to build up biodiesel. “We feel like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Administration is pulling the rug out from underneath us.”

christjansenBryan Christjansen, who manages Renewable Energy Group biodiesel plants in Albert Lea, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa, echoed those sentiments, saying his company believes in the long-term future of biodiesel but wonders if Washington does.

“If the Administration chooses to go with a short-sighted EPA proposal, it does not just put domestic fuel into jeopardy, but it also harms the local economies and billions of dollars in investments,” he said.

haasJeff Haas, CEO of General Biodiesel in Seattle, said that while his company, as well as much of the biodiesel industry, wants to invest and grow, not knowing what the EPA or Congress will do next makes the industry feel like it is just floating adrift.

“We’re nearly halfway through the year, and we still don’t know what the RFS volume will be or whether the biodiesel tax incentive will be reinstated,” adding that the industry relies on these policies for direction. “It’s analogous to setting off across the ocean without a compass for six months.”

Haas also said that some of the best and brightest in biodiesel are losing confidence and leaving the industry because of the uncertainty, and the delays are just wins for opponents of renewable energy.

presbyWayne Presby, owner of White Mountain Biodiesel in North Haverhill, N.H., said his company was founded on the Obama Administration’s stated desire to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gases, put more Americans to work, and increase our national security. But now, after investing millions in his plant alone, as well as hiring workers and buying supplies for a fledgling business in a community that desperately needed it, and making a successful biodiesel production facility, they can’t expand and grow that business because of the uncertainty in biodiesel policy.

“The industry is constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back because of the policy uncertainty.”

Listen to what the group had to say here: Biodiesel Industry Concerns

Students Hope to Get Solar Edge from Soy

Students at Appalachian State University (ASU) are hoping to get the edge during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 using soy-biobased products. The student team designed and built a “reimagined” solar-powered row house that is sailing to France to compete against 20 global teams. ASU, located in Boone, North DOEstudentsfastenersinwoodCarolina, is one of three schools chosen for the sister competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

“We congratulate these students on their innovation and leadership for sustainability,” said United Soybean Board Customer Focus Action Team Chair John Motter. “People around the world will learn from their example.”

The students worked around the clock to design and build the “Maison Reciprocity” house that they will also disassemble and ship to France from Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 2014. Once in Versailles, students from ASU along with their partner school, Université d’Angers, will unite to reassemble and then compete in the house that offers multiple environmental attributes.

Soy-based, formaldehyde-free plywood as well as durable floor matting are important features of Maison Reciprocity. Students used 1,700 square feet of Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond® hardwood plywood made with its soy-based formaldehyde-free adhesive on DOEstudenttylerthepanelguyfloors, walls and stairs. The product won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen.

“These panels not only provide an attractive finish, but the fact that they are formaldehyde free is an important attribute that will help our entry compete in the ambient air quality portion of the competition,” said Mark Bridges, a graduate student at ASU and the communications manager for the project. “The floor mat, basically a 30-feet-long runner, will protect the floors from the large amount of foot traffic that the home will experience during its weeks of open houses,” Bridges says.

EcoPath™ and the USB provided the mat backed with EnviroCel™, which uses soy as well as recycled plastics. The mats are widely used at the Pentagon and other major facilities with very heavy foot traffic.

Biodiesel Pushes Up Soybean Use, Producers’ Profits

USBlogoGood news for biodiesel means good news for the growers of its main feedstock, soybeans. This article from KTIC says last year’s biodiesel production of 1.36 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2013, 37 percent more than in 2012, means 468 million bushels of U.S. soybeans were squeezed to get that feedstock oil. And that has pushed up soybean prices by 74 cents per bushel between 2006 and 2012.

Rob Hanks, United Soybean Board director and a soybean farmer from Le Roy, Minnesota, says he’s thrilled to see biodiesel bring such a major return on investment back to the U.S. soybean farmers who helped start the industry and have continued to support it ever since.

“U.S. soybean farmers have been very supportive of biodiesel for more than 20 years,” he says. “It’s really gratifying to see those farmers reaping the benefits of that support.”

According to research commissioned by soybean farmers in Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota through their state soy checkoff boards, biodiesel contributed to a $15 billion increase in soybean-oil revenues, or 74 cents per bushel, between 2006 and 2012.

Hanks also points out that using soybean oil for biodiesel supports the U.S. animal agriculture sector. As the biodiesel industry’s demand for soybean oil rises, so does the supply of soybean meal. That larger supply reduces the prices poultry and livestock farmers pay for feed.

The good relationship between bean farmers and the National Biodiesel Board has meant a good number of soy checkoff dollars have been put back into biodiesel research.

Grants Support Research on Biodiesel Feedstock

irajcanA Canadian researcher has received $2 million in grants to improve a main feedstock for biodiesel. This story from LabCanada.com says University of Guelph scientist Prof. Istvan Rajcan picked up more than $500,000 in the form of a Collaborative Research and Development Grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and another $1.4 million Collaborative Research and Development Grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA).

“These substantial grants reflect Istvan’s success as a researcher and the impact of his work on the agri-food industry,” said John Livernois, interim vice-president (research).

Dr. Rajcan uses state-of-the-art technology to pinpoint genetic markers for producing improved soybean varieties.

“We are intent on helping farmers in Canada get access to high-performing soybean varieties, and taking a scientific approach to doing that,” he said.

“We aim to use the latest technology to help develop innovative soybean varieties that meet the needs of various producers and industries, both domestically and internationally,” said Dr. Rajcan.

His team of researchers is also looking at advanced genomic technologies to study how breeding has changed the soybean genome.

2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data

Checkoff Targets Big Yields for Biodiesel Feedstock

USBlogoA farmers’ checkoff is targeting research to get bigger yields for this country’s primary feedstock for biodiesel. This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the United Soybean Board wants to increase average soybean yields by about 50 percent in the decade.

“Yield research has been the center of checkoff research since the organization was established,” said Gregg Fujan, who leads the United Soybean Board’s focus on supply. “Checkoff-funded production research is incredibly important to U.S. soybean-farmer profitability. With the advancements we help bring to market, the national yield trend line should continue to grow at an even higher rate.”

The goal of this project is to increase the national soybean yield average to 60 bushels per acre, about 20 bushels higher than the current national average, by the year 2025. To do it, scientists are using soy-checkoff funding to harness the power of the sequenced soybean genome by using various genetic methods, such as nested association mapping (NAM), RNA sequencing and epigenetics.

The article goes on to say that soy-checkoff-funded researchers are working on projects, such as sequencing genomes to find the best beans for yields, even putting together a “soybean genome atlas.” Other research is looking at how soybean plants respond to pathogens and pests that can cut yields.

USB points out that while a 60-bushel-per-acre national yield might seem a bit lofty, last year’s yield-contest winner topped 100 bushels per acre.

Biodiesel to Help Drive Soybean Consumption

d-goodBiodiesel looks to be one of the factors that will help consume the record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year. This analysis from the University of Illinois’ Darrel Good says the expected 81.493 million acres of soybeans this year reflects a strong demand worldwide.

The USDA projects consumption of U.S soybeans and soybeans imported in to the U.S. during the current marketing year at 3.36 billion bushels, equal to the record consumption during the 2009-10 marketing year. Consumption is large in spite of continued high prices and back-to-back record production of soybeans in the rest of the world during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 marketing years. World consumption of soybeans during the current marketing year is projected at a record 9.884 billion bushels, 40 percent more than consumed 10 years ago. Much of the growth in world consumption has occurred in China, up 130 percent in 10 years. While it may not be reasonable to expect Chinese consumption to continue to grow at the pace of the past 10 years, there is no sign of a reversal in consumption. The U.S. should continue to have a large share of exports to China even with another large South American crop in 2015. Record high livestock prices and a likely increase in biodiesel production should keep domestic soybean consumption large as well.

But Good also points out that “intended” and actual “harvested” soybean numbers do vary every year.

ASA Applauds Biodiesel Tax Credit in Package

ASAlogo1Soybean growers are welcoming news of a couple of important measures moved forward in legislation for biodiesel. The American Soybean Association says a two-year extension of the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive and a reinstatement of the pre-2014 expensing amounts for farm infrastructure and equipment under Section 179, both in the Senate Finance Committee Chairman’s Tax Extenders Package, are key issues for group’s members.

ASA First Vice President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, issued the following statement on the committee’s proposal:

“The extension of the biodiesel tax credit is huge. Biodiesel blenders create a renewable and safe domestic energy source for our country and a valuable market for the soybean oil American farmers produce. The credit further encourages the development and sustained success of the biodiesel marketplace, and much credit goes to Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch and specifically Sens. Grassley and Cantwell for recognizing the importance of the biodiesel tax incentive and including it in their proposal…

“The proposal’s Section 179 reinstatement is also important. This enables farmers and other small business owners to expense investments made in new technology, equipment and infrastructure in their operations. Given the land-based and capital-intensive nature of farming, not to mention the ever-advancing technology we need to farm sustainably and competitively, this program helps us to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.”

Cowan also pointed out the biodiesel industry has been operating without the credit since the end of the fiscal year in September and called on the full committee to take up the measures quickly and move them on to the full Senate and House for final approval.

IRFA: Strong Plantings Report Calls for Strong RFS

IowaRFAlogoExpected big plantings of corn and soybeans underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). New estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show a possible record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year and the fifth largest corn acreage to be planted as well. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says these factors show why a strong and growing RFS is needed this year.

“The past eight years were prosperous for agriculture because the RFS was allowed to act as a sponge, soaking up additional corn and soybeans when needed,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The vast amount of corn and soybeans expected to be planted in 2014 demonstrates the importance of a strong and growing RFS. If the EPA’s proposal to essentially gut the RFS is allowed to become final, we could see huge carryovers, crop prices plummet below the cost of production, and family farms placed in jeopardy.”

Nearly 92 million acres is expected to be dedicated to corn this year and a record 81.5 million acres for soybeans, a six percent increase from last year.

EPA Biodiesel Proposal, Tax Credit Priorities for ASA

classic14-asa-murphySoybean growers attending the recent Commodity Classic see the government’s proposal to cut biodiesel and the expiration of the federal biodiesel tax credit as their top priorities to take on this year. At a news conference at the annual meeting of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers in San Antonio, American Soybean Association (ASA) Chairman Danny Murphy, a grower from Mississippi, said their first priority is to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its proposal that would effectively cut in half the amount of biodiesel to be required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.

“We have asked our soybean farmers to make comments, and we’ve had hundreds of farmers express their concern to EPA about the proposed level and what it would do to the capability and potential of the biodiesel industry,” he said. “These proposed regulations would reduce the production over the next year or two and really stifle the growth in a really valuable market for soybean farmers.”

In a separate interview with Cindy, Danny said, based on what he’s heard from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the folks at EPA might be having some second thoughts about their own proposal. “So we hope that means they’ll make some changes and allow this biodiesel industry to grow,” he said.

He added ASA supports the extension of the $1-a-gallon federal tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of December. He believes it could be reinstated as part of a tax extenders package, but he would also be happy to see the stand-alone legislation proposed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) get passed.

Listen to Danny’s portion of the ASA news conference here: American Soybean Association Chairman Danny Murphy

2014 Commodity Classic Photos