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

Biodiesel Finds Allies at Commodity Classic

jobe1Commodity Classic is the annual meeting that attracts more than 7,000 corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers, but it’s also a great place to find biodiesel and ethanol producers. Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) says they make sure to connect with their allies from the commodity groups, especially those soybean growers.

“Biodiesel is made from a variety of feedstocks, but soy has always been the predominant feedstock for biodiesel and will be going forward,” he says, although corn oil from ethanol plants and animal fats have been making their mark in the green fuel as well. “The soybean leadership has really created the roots for biodiesel, and we still come to connect with our soybean farmer friends and leaders and talk about the status of biodiesel.”

And there was plenty to talk about at Commodity Classic when it comes to biodiesel. The double-whammy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing to cut in half the amount of biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit has made for plenty of conversations. Joe is really perplexed at the cut to the share of biodiesel in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) considering how biodiesel is able to make up a lot possible shortfalls from cellulosic and blend wall issues facing ethanol.

“Biodiesel filled virtually the whole advanced biofuel pool, not just the biomass-based diesel pool. And because biodiesel has been so successful, the advanced biofuel goals have been met or exceeded every single year of the [RFS, despite] other advanced biofuels not coming online as quickly as hoped,” Jobe says.

The soybean growers Jobe and his folks have been able to connect with at Commodity Classic have been big allies in the push to get the RFS levels restored, but he’s also seeing help coming from corn growers who obviously have a bigger stake in what happens to ethanol but are pushing to keep the RFS as it was intended because of how it lifts all biofuels. He’s optimistic all of their efforts will be successful. “We have to believe the EPA is going to do the right thing, because the right thing is so easy and so obvious,” said Jobe.

Listen to my interview with Joe here: Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB at Commodity Classic

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Idea Leads to Cellulosic Ethanol, Scholarship

classic14-basf-soyAn idea that started back when he was just an elementary school student has led a Tennessee high schooler to picking up a substantial scholarship that he says will help him further his own energy business. Caleb Brannon of Puryear, Tenn. was selected as the recipient of the 2014-2015 ASA Secure Optimal Yield (SOY) Scholarship, a $5,000 award presented to an outstanding high school senior who has achieved high academic and leadership requirements, and is planning to pursue a degree in an agriculture-related field at an accredited college or university.

“I’m really thankful to the American Soybean Association and BASF who were so generous in this scholarship,” he says. Brannon, a senior at Calloway County High School, will pursue a degree in agricultural business at Murray State University, Murray, Ky. beginning this fall. He already has his very own business, Brannon Agri-Energy, a company focusing on cellulosic ethanol that he actually thought up way back in the fifth grade!

“Our family farm was in a partnership with the University of Tennessee to grow switchgrass in a pilot program to be bailed and put in a coal-fired plant [in Alabama].” While other area farmers gave up after a few years, it led Brannon to researching other crops for what is now his cellulosic ethanol business, finding his own markets.

He adds that the scholarship money will free up what he would have spent on college to invest back into his business. But he says this is more than just his future; it’s the Nation’s future.

“I want to help our country become just a little bit more energy independent. That’s really important to me.”

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Brannon here: Interview with BASF SOY Scholarship Winner


BASF at the 2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Student Talks Biodiesel By-Product at Conference

pickett1The cutting edge of innovation was certainly on display at the recent National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in San Diego. Among the many innovations was a University of Kansas graduate student, who, with a little financial assistance from the folks at the Kansas Soybean Commission (KSC), talked about a new use for the biodiesel by-product, glycerin.

Derek Pickett … was part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (NGSB) program that aimed to educate and collaborate with young scientists.

Pickett presented his findings about using glycerin for power generation during a conference session specifically designed for student-scientists to share their cutting-edge research. Glycerin is a byproduct of biodiesel production, with each gallon of biodiesel producing about 1 pound of glycerin. His research found glycerin that is converted to a synthetic gas has the potential to be an inexpensive source of power.

“Kansas soybean farmers are excited to see young scientists so enthusiastic about research related to biodiesel, which can be made from our crop,” said Dennis Gruenbacher, Andale, who represents the commission’s south-central district. “Those students already are working hard to find even more opportunities for biodiesel to benefit America’s environment and energy security.”

This year, the National Biodiesel Board’s NGSB program brought 36 students from 18 universities to the conference, with 18 of them received scholarships from state soybean organizations and USB. Last month’s gathering also marked the new session that focused solely on university biodiesel research.

Biofuels’ Feedstock Growers to Host Ag Secretary

vilsackccThe growers of the two biggest biofuels feedstocks, corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel, will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”

“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”

The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.

Biodiesel’s Role in Bio-based Products

soy-biobased-erkerDirector of bio-based products for the United Soybean Board (USB), Michael Erker, was one of the many attendees of the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. He works with many bio-based products including biodiesel. He gives insights into what bio-based products that contain biodiesel include and shares how involved USB is in funding biodiesel research.

“When we talk about bio-based products made from soybean oil or meal, that includes biodiesel. Biodiesel soy methyl ester are a great solvents. You not only get biodiesel, you get many other products like hand cleaners, paint strippers or other personal care products.”

USB gets very involved with research projects and are major funders for biodiesel. You can bet that they have had their hand in about all research projects the National Biodiesel Board has conducted. Michael also shared their investment with Ford and research to bring soy tires to vehicles nationwide.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Michael here: Interview with Michael Erker

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Farm Polices Impact on Precision Ag

nbb-14-kevin-rossMember of the National Corn Growers Association Board and director of Western Iowa Energy, LLC, Kevin Ross, chatted with Chuck after the opening session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. They discuss farm policy and how precision agriculture technology has impacted his farming operation where he raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans.

Kevin shared that if we don’t move past what RFS has already provided then we become stuck and the innovation stops. He says everyone needs to do what they can to ensure the investments continue and technologies are utilized. He feels the government has given mixed signals and believes simple education on the issue could help.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) itself is vitally important to my operation at home and to my neighbors. Not just from the farming side, but also from the livestock side. Especially, operations like mine in western Iowa where we can utilize the fats and add value back to the livestock. I am not sure how many people know that its even possible. Let alone be done on an industrial scale. Agriculture is about value-added. Creating markets in those new economies within a broader ag industry is what it is all about.”

Kevin goes on to discuss what types of precision agriculture they have taken advantage of on his operation.

“On our farm it has been a fast ramp up of precision technology. Just a couple years ago on our own farm we’ve gone to auto steer. I couldn’t plant straight rows if I tried. We also use single row shut-offs and it has been a huge plus for us. Overall newer equipment is more efficient with yield monitors and data that we collect. We are going into a new soil data collection phase on our farm which is an entirely new way of doing it then before. We have made major advancement in the recent years and profitability in ag and RFS have really had a huge role in making that possible.”

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Ross

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

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

Minnesotans Encouraged to Think Biodiesel

Minnesota soybean farmers are reminding their fellow Minnesotans just how much biodiesel has cleaned up the air they breathe. The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), better known as Minnesota Soybean, launched a campaign that clearly illustrates the advantages of soy-based biodiesel in improving air quality, including the following video airing local TV and cable stations, as well on the group’s social media channels:


“We want to open the consumer’s eyes to the reality of emissions from vehicles that run on petroleum. In fact, vehicle emissions are the largest source of air pollution in Minnesota,” states Bill Zurn, a Becker County farmer and Minnesota Soybean New Uses Action Team chair. “There is a positive message here in the use of alternative fuels.”

“Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel that’s made in Minnesota,” says Bob Moffitt, communications director for the American Lung Association in Minnesota (ALAMN). “We recognize biodiesel as a Clean Air Choice® because of its ability to significantly reduce tailpipe emissions and help lessen our exposure to air pollutants. Not only does using biodiesel reduce particulate emissions, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

The group also points out that biodiesel in Minnesota alone provides more than 5,600 jobs, adds about $928 million to the economy, and increases demand by 13 percent for the state’s while also increasing in-state soybean processing capacity by 31 percent.

Minnesota Soybean is also offering a “North Shore Clean Air Adventure” to Duluth, rated by the American Lung Association as one of the top 25 cleanest U.S. cities. Winners get a three-night stay in the city and $500 spending money. The website www.biodiesel.mn has more information.

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

Soybean Board Offers Winter Biodiesel Storage Tips

USBlogoAs the latest winter storm bears down on a large part of the country, the United Soybean Board is offering some cold weather tips for biodiesel. This post on Southeast Farm Press says the cold can cause problems for both biodiesel and No. 2 diesel, so there are some things you need to do in the way of tank maintenance.

Many farmers like to use biodiesel blends of 20 percent or greater during the summer months. While not impossible to use higher blends in the winter, it does require a high degree of fuel management and a vigilant tank-maintenance program.

It is highly recommended the average diesel consumer reduce their biodiesel blend to 5 percent during the winter months.

High water concentration in fuel can lead to water-logged fuel filters. When the temperature of the filter gets below 32 degrees, the water freezes and blocks the flow of fuel through the filter.

Paraffin is a naturally occurring component of diesel fuel. When the temperature of fuel is at or below its cloud point, paraffin material can collect on the bottom of the tank. Wax anti-settling agent (WASA) additives can be used to keep paraffins from collecting at the bottom of the tank where they can cause filter plugging.

USB also recommends that you:

• Check tanks for any water
• Install a dispenser filter to keep keep contaminants from reaching the vehicle tanks
• Use a new dispenser filter, 30 micron or higher to handle the increased viscosity of the fuel
• Check hoses, fill/vapor caps and gaskets for leaks.
• Transition to a lower-percentage biodiesel blend in winter months.
• Use an appropriate additive package and/or use No. 1 diesel to ensure operability.
• Fill your tank after harvest season. Fuel tanks should always be kept as full as possible to reduce fuel degradation from exposure to oxygen.

If you’re still having trouble, you can also call the Diesel Helpline at 800-929-3437.

Minnesota Gets First Biodiesel Blender Pumps

StaplesEnterprise1Minnesota gets its first biodiesel blender pumps with some help from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC). Staples Enterprises in Heron Lake has the pumps offering up to 20 percent biodiesel blends.

“The store and the blender pumps have actually been in operation since January and we’re promoting biodiesel now during our fall celebration,” said Daric Zimmerman, Retail Marketing Director for Staples Enterprises. “With these pumps, we now carry up to five blends of biodiesel here at our Heron Lake store.”

Biodiesel, made primarily from the oil of Minnesota-grown soybeans, has been successfully added to every gallon of diesel sold in the state. Biodiesel is the only domestically produced, commercially available fuel that meets the criteria of an advanced biofuel. Biodiesel can be used in existing engines and fuel injection equipment in blends up to 20 percent with no modifications.

According to Zimmerman, it was important for Staples Enterprises to continue their support of the local markets in which they operate. “We felt that the installation of these blender pumps helped further show our commitment to the area and the local producers.”

Officials point out that the pumps gives customers more choices in their fuel options.

Biodiesel Essay Contest Offers College Cash

Cleanairchoicelogo2013aThe American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest is giving some high school seniors a chance to earn some cash for college by showing their knowledge about biodiesel. The organization announced at the recent Education Minnesota Professional Conference in St. Paul, Minn. that high school seniors in the state could win scholarship money of $1,000 for first place and $500 for second in the American Lung Association’s 2014 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Scholarship contest.

With the scholarships sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, the 1,000-words-or-less essays need to help raise awareness of this important and emerging alternative fuel in Minnesota.

Vehicle exhaust is the single largest source of air pollution in Minnesota. One source of this pollution is diesel engines, which consume approximately 600 million gallons of fuel every year in Minnesota and can emit significantly more sooty particles than gasoline engines. To address this issue, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to require nearly all of the diesel fuel sold here to contain biodiesel, a cleaner-burning alternative fuel made and sold in close to home. Diesel fuel sold in Minnesota now contains a five percent blend of biodiesel, and this percentage is expected to grow to 10 percent in 2014. Using higher blends of biodiesel helps to clear the air and protect lung health, which is why the American Lung Association in Minnesota supports biodiesel as a Clean Air Choice®.

More information and the entry form is available here.