Bill in Congress Would Destroy Renewable Fuel Standard – and Biofuels Industry – As We Know It

WASHINGTON  – The following statement was released today following the introduction of a bill that would eliminate the corn-based ethanol mandate for biofuel production and restrict overall volume targets. The following statement should be attributed to Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union.

“The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation’s biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy. This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation’s attempts to manage its carbon emissions. We urge Congress to reject this policy and continue to embrace the vision of a robust renewable fuels industry as a component of this nation’s overall energy portfolio.”

NFU Disappointed with Delay in RFS Volume Standards

from the National Farmers Union

nfulogo-postWASHINGTON – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement today that the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets would not be released before the end of the year a ‘serious disappointment.’ Johnson also noted that NFU remains hopeful the delay will allow the agency to return the RFS target levels back to the statutory targets.

“Ethanol and all biofuels have been the best thing to happen to farm country in generations, and the volume standards that are supposed to be set by EPA are a significant help in establishing the market for biofuels,” said Johnson. “Rural America and the biofuels industries rely heavily on these targets for planning and investment purposes. Any hint that the administration might not be fully behind renewable fuels is a major step back for working farmers and the biofuels industries.”

The RFS is our nation’s main policy driver for renewable fuels, and since its creation by Congress has created $184.5 billion in economic impact while supporting 852,056 jobs nationwide. Johnson noted that the biofuels industries – and the farmers who grow the grains they use – are poised for continued growth here in the U.S., but need a clear signal that the targets will remain firm. Johnson hopes that the delay will give EPA the time it needs to get the numbers right.

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Farmers Union Statement on 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard

from the National Farmers Union

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements:

“We are deeply disappointed in EPA’s apparent willingness to reduce total renewable fuel requirements based on the oil industry’s fictitious ‘blend wall’ argument. Big oil has determined that biofuels are taking their market share, so they have prevented increased amounts of biofuel to be sold at gas stations.

“At a time when advanced and cellulosic biofuel plants are just starting to come online, the EPA is sending a negative signal which will stifle investment in this nascent industry.

“Lowering renewable fuel targets below that which can be produced and below what is already being produced will sink corn prices, kill jobs and damage rural economies.

“The administration needs to stay true to its word that it will tackle climate change. The RFS is America’s only real climate change policy, and biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 30 percent compared to regular gasoline.

“We look forward to commenting on the proposed targets and EPA’s flawed methodology so that we can continue to support the biofuels industry.”



AP Ethanol Stories Draw Fire from NFU, Other Ag Orgs

The Associated Press has come out with a few stories and data for infographics that you may have seen in your local newspaper or online in the past few days. The stories questions whether or not ethanol production in the U.S. and its effects on agricultural production of corn are having negative consequences in other environmental areas.

What follows is the official reaction from the National Farmers Union. If you’d like to see what AP produced in its reporting for yourself, check out this PDF file I’ve put together of what stories I could capture online. The Associated Press is essentially a member-based news organization – its members are the media outlets which subscribe to its stories – and in some cases your local paper or favorite online source may not have chosen to run any or all of these stories. (They may also not be a member of the AP)

PDF File of the AP Ethanol Stories November 2013

NFU Reaction:

WASHINGTON (Nov. 12, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to a recent story by the Associated Press that blames biofuels for causing environmental harm:

“The story blames biofuels for the reduced acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). What it neglects to mention is that Congress reduced CRP by roughly seven million acres in the 2008 Farm Bill and is poised to be reduced by seven to eight million acres in the next farm bill.

“In addition, climate change and new seed varieties are mostly responsible for the expansion of corn production, with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons making it possible to plant corn in places like North Dakota and Canada.

“American-produced biofuels are a clear and environmentally-friendly alternative to oil. Today’s ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 percent compared to gasoline.

“NFU will continue stand up for the Renewable Fuel Standard that is cleaning up the environment, diversifying fuel sources and supporting rural economies.”


Ag News Update – October 26, 2011

A few interesting stories from around Ohio and the U.S. from the past few days …

The fracking industry’s war on the NYT – and the truth

Huffington Post – by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

American sourced natural gas might also have helped free us from our debilitating reliance on foreign oil now costing our country so dearly in blood, national security, energy independence, global leadership, moral authority, and treasure amounting to $700 billion per year — the total cost to our country of annual oil imports — in addition to two pricey wars that are currently running tabs $2 billion per week.

My caveat was that the natural gas industry and government regulators needed to act responsibly to protect the environment, safeguard communities from irresponsible practices and to candidly inform the public about the true risks and benefits of shale extraction gas.

The opposite has happened. …

Read the rest at the Huffington Post

Farm Bill process rolling with Ag leaders striving for Nov. 1 deadline

Wallaces Farmer

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is laying out USDA’s farm bill priorities this week. But given the current economic climate, and the efforts of the Congressional Super Committee tasked with finding more than $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says USDA’s leadership may not carry much weight. He says that he thinks there won’t be time for the Administration to have much of an impact.

That’s because the leaders of the Agriculture Committees Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have told the members of the Super Committee that they’ll have a detailed set of 2012 Farm Bill policy suggestions aimed at achieving the $23 billion in savings they previously recommended by Nov. 1. Grassley believes it will mostly affect Title I, food stamps and perhaps conservation. His understanding is that programs outside those areas will be handled next year.

Read the rest at Wallaces Farmer

Corn ethanol may heighten food scarcity for world’s poor

The Iowa Independent

Pumping that golden elixir — corn-ethanol — into the gas tank can do a world of good, or so goes the argument.

It relieves the U.S. from dependency on foreign oil, some reports say, and it reduces the pollution spewed out the tailpipe.

But, those benefits may take a high human toll.

Over 80 percent of the world’s supply of corn comes from five countries. The U.S. leads the pack, supplying over half of world’s exports, according to a study released Oct. 13 at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

Read the rest at The Iowa Independent

Bridging the GAP: Bringing food safety regs to small farms

Food Safety News

For large farming operations, food safety audits are commonplace. Most buyers require them before purchasing produce. However, small farms are rarely inspected by auditors, because the cost of implementing a safety plan can be too expensive.

That’s where Bridging the GAPs – a program designed to help small and mid-sized growers find a way to meet food safety guidelines – comes in.

Organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the initiative will allow modest-sized operations to reach broader markets such as schools, grocery stores and restaurants, most of which now require Good Agricultural Practices certification.

Read the rest at Food Safety News

New rules proposed for kids working on farms

Ohio Farmer

An update of federal labor regulations governing youth employment could mean significant changes in the types of work young people can do on the farm, according to the leader of Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health program.

“The Hazardous Occupations Orders For Agricultural Employment hasn’t been touched or changed for the past 40 years,” says Dee Jepsen, with OSu’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “What the hazardous occupations order for agriculture does is prohibit youth under the age of 16 from working in and around certain types of environments, outside two basic exemptions.”

One of the two exemptions allowed for in the order historically included allowing children to work on farms owned and operated by their parents. The second traditional exemption was for children under the age of 16 who completed a prescribed farm safety education and training program.

Read the rest at Ohio Farmer

NFU Opposes Changes to Renewable Fuels Standards

WASHINGTON (Oct. 5, 2011) – National Farmers Union (NFU) and a coalition of organizations joined today in a letter opposing legislation from Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., that would arbitrarily reduce or eliminate the volumes of renewable fuel use required by the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) based upon corn stocks-to-use ratios.

“American farmers have met, can and will continue to meet our domestic and international commitments for food and feed while still making a significant and growing contribution to lessening our dependence on imported oil,” the coalition wrote.

According to researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin, ethanol has proven beneficial to the economy, reducing the price consumers pay at the pump by 89 cents per gallon in 2010 alone.

“This legislation represents backward-looking thinking regarding our economic and energy security,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We need policy that continues to transition our economy away from imported fossil fuels and towards homegrown biofuels.”

NFU policy supports an expanded RFS and ambitious mandates for production of biofuels.

Ag News Update – August 31, 2011

Just a few things the NFU has taken notice and a couple of things from me …

State centralization of Ohio’s municipal taxes has few fans

The Columbus Dispatch

Opposition is growing to a Kasich administration proposal that hasn’t yet seen the light of day.

Centralizing municipal income-tax collections is an idea Gov. John Kasich has kicked around for months, and it continues to percolate within the Department of Taxation.

But as Tax Commissioner Joseph Testa approaches some municipal leaders about the possibility, he has been met with tough questions from some and opposition from others.

“Conceptually, we don’t agree with the statewide collection of local taxes,” said Brian Hoyt, a spokesman for Gahanna Mayor Becky Stinchcomb.

Testa recently spoke with Stinchcomb about statewide local tax collections, a notion that is opposed by the Ohio Municipal League.

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Ohio Farm Bureau takes stand for anti-union law

Youngstown Business Journal

Meanwhile, the Ohio Farm Federation, which represents more than 200,000 members in all 88 Ohio counties, announced its support Tuesday for the “reasonable reforms” of Issue 2, which if approved by voters would keep in place Senate Bill 5. Passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year, the legislation curtails collective bargaining rights for state and local public workers in Ohio.

The farm bureau said it determined that Ohio taxpayers would be best served by Issue 2’s passage, according to John C. Fisher, its executive vice president.

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Ohio’s Farm Science Review will include financial advice for farmers

The 2011 Farm Science Review, Sept. 20-22 will include a series of presentations to provide financial strategies, tools and resources to help farmers achieve stability and success in the agricultural industry.

One presenter, Ohio State University agricultural economist Luther Tweeten, says continued demand for agricultural products has kept agriculture more financially stable than other sectors of the U.S. economy. “Farmers will play a key role in getting the country back on track,” he said.

But, while he’s optimistic, Tweeten’s presentation, “Income and Employment,” is geared toward helping larger farming operations make cautious decisions in light of recent financial volatility. It will take place Sept. 20 at 11:30 a.m. on the stage in the OSU Area on Friday Avenue.

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U.S. farm income tops $100 billion for first time


U.S. farm income will soar past $100 billion for the first time in 2011 following rising cash receipts for everything from corn, wheat and cotton to soybeans, the Agriculture Department said on Tuesday.

U.S. farm income is forecast at $103.6 billion for 2011, up $24.5 billion, or 31 percent from 2010. Much of the increase is the result of higher crop values, which are expected to rise by $33.6 billion.

“Many different crop and livestock categories are expected to achieve record high sales,” said USDA. It forecast crop receipts to be 19 percent higher than in 2010 and livestock receipts to rise by nearly 16 percent.

Volatile energy prices will make their way to the bottom-line of U.S. farmers with total expenses forecast to increase by $32.5 billion in 2011, exceeding $300 billion for the first time, USDA said. Overall, electricity and petroleum and oil inputs will increase by $3.3 billion to $21.1 billion.

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Drought, high demand makes hay hard to find

Associated Press

A scorching drought in the southern Plains has caused hay prices to soar, benefiting farmers to the north but forcing many ranchers to make a difficult choice between paying high prices or selling their cattle.

Ranchers in much of Texas, Oklahoma and even Kansas are having to pay inflated prices for hay and then shell out even more to have it trucked hundreds of miles from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska or South Dakota. Their only other options are to reduce the size of their herds or move cattle to rented pastures in another state.

“It’s pretty ugly,” said Don Davis, who raises grass-fed beef on his ranch about 75 miles northwest of San Antonio.

Davis said he used to think last year’s dry weather couldn’t get worse, but this year’s record-setting drought has put even more pressure on ranchers.

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Irene leaves behind hard times for East Coast farmers

Associated Press

Far from the beach towns that took Hurricane Irene’s first hit, the storm inflicted some of its worst damage on inland farms as crops were pummeled by wind, scalded by salt spray and submerged by floodwaters. Some farmers are reporting total losses.

“My tobacco crop is completely wiped out. I can’t harvest any of it,” said Keith Beavers, whose Mount Olive farm lies about 70 miles from the ocean. “It’s either blown off the stalk or off the limb, and what’s left is raggedy.”

It could take days or weeks for federal agriculture officials to estimate overall losses, but the toll is already clear for many individual farms after a growing season that was too hot in the South and too wet in the Northeast. Especially hard-hit were tobacco growers preparing to harvest in North Carolina and Virginia — two top tobacco states — and blueberry growers in New Jersey whose damaged bushes could spell trouble for future harvests.

After surveying farms in North Carolina on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farmers to file crop damage claims with their insurers and said federal assistance may cover additional losses and damage to rural infrastructure.

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 Dairy orgs disagree on proposed dairy policy impacts

Dairy Herd Network

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) takes strong exception to assertions made by the National Milk Producers Federation regarding the impact of proposed dairy policy reform on exports. NMPF claims that eliminating the Dairy Product Price Support Program will provide more incentive for exports. However, economic models show that the Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP), included in draft legislation offered for discussion by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), would have significantly lowered U.S. dairy exports and hurt industry growth at a cost of thousands of U.S. jobs if it had been in effect in 2009, according to respected economists.

The March 2011 study by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) of the University of Missouri, The Economic Impact of the Dairy Market Stabilization Program on 2009 Dairy Markets, directly calculates that U.S. dairy exports would have dropped significantly if the DMSP had triggered limits to farm milk production during the dates reviewed. Study results from the appendix table show that during three months – March, April and May of 2009 – U.S. exports of nonfat dry milk would have fallen by 38 percent, butter exports by 16.4 percent and American cheese exports by 8 percent.

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Dave Juday: The ethanol era is over

Daily Caller

For more than two decades, ethanol has been the third rail of Iowa presidential politics. John McCain famously skipped the Iowa caucus in 2000 because of his anti-ethanol position.

Times have changed. These days, support for ethanol is not the touchstone in Iowa politics it once was. In this summer’s Ames straw poll, a remarkable 84 percent of voters backed candidates who are either questioning or openly critical of current ethanol policy.

Indeed, the winner of the straw poll was ethanol critic Michele Bachmann. Bachmann opposed the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which established the federal ethanol mandates, citing ethanol’s “mixed results in efficiency and costs.” Moreover, she voted against the 2008 agricultural authorization bill, saying it was “loaded with unbelievably outrageous pork for agricultural business and ethanol growers.”

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Food & Ag News Roundup – August 11, 2011

Dept. of Energy panel seeks stronger rules on drilling of gas wells, fracking

New York Times

A federal Department of Energy panel issued recommendations on Thursday for improving the safety and environmental impact of drilling in shale formations for natural gas.

In a report on the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used currently in most oil and gas wells, the seven-member Natural Gas Subcommittee called for better tracking and more careful disposal of the waste that comes up from wells, stricter standards on air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with drilling, and the creation of a federal database so the public can better monitor drilling operations.

The report also called for companies to eliminate diesel fuel from their fracking fluid because it includes carcinogenic chemicals, and for companies and regulators to disclose the full list of ingredients used in fracking.

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Farmers Markets on the Rise

USA Today

The newly released 2011 National Farmers Market Directory shows a total of 7,175 farmers markets in the U.S. this summer, up from last year’s 6,132.

These markets allow farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers and often bring fresh fruits and vegetables into neighborhoods that lacked them.

There could be even more than the 7,000-plus on USDA’s list, says agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. The USDA’s list is compiled as part of a voluntary, self-reporting system by the Agricultural Marketing Service. It used information from farmers market managers collected April 18 through June 24, 2011.

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USDA has new scheme to trace animal disease

Food Safety News

For most of the past decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to get farmers and ranchers to accept the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) without success. NAIS was to be a high tech solution, with top down coverage of nearly every critter on the land. But, as everybody in rural America knows, NAIS is dead. Still U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has every reason to worry about tuberculosis, brucellosis, scabies, pseudorabies, hog cholera and like animal diseases. So to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving through interstate commerce when animal diseases do strike, Vilsack Tuesday rolled out a new, decidedly low tech tracking system.

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Renewable Fuels Standard emerges as ethanol’s Sacred Cow

National Journal

You wouldn’t know it from the political cloud over ethanol, but the federal government will keep propping up the industry even if Washington eliminates its three-decade-old tax subsidies.

A newer law quietly ensures ethanol’s sustained growth. And that mandate isn’t going anywhere.

By year’s end, the congressional “super committee” charged with reducing the federal deficit likely will topple the $6 billion in annual ethanol industry tax credits and a corresponding government tariff on imported ethanol. But another prong of ethanol’s government support – the “renewable fuels standard” – will remain. And it may ultimately be more important to corn farmers and the ethanol industry.

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U.S. DOT: No changes to road rules

If you haul grain as part of a crop share agreement with your landlord, you’re not going to have to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

That’s what the Department of Transportation says in an official guidance issued today, hoping to calm members of Congress and farm groups who feared a new set of burdensome regulations.

Instead, the Department is not changing any federal rules that apply to requirements for CDLs for farmers.

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RFA Says Ethanol Subisidy Not Affected by Debt Agreement

Here’s a statement from the Renewable Fuels Association regarding ethanol, the debt agreement between President Barack Obama and both houses of Congress and what they are looking for in future budget negotiations:

“The current deal to raise the debt limit does not include any revenue raising measures, including the compromise to reform ethanol tax policy. As this deal calls for a commission and a future budget framework, the possibility still exists for a more comprehensive dialogue about energy tax policy, including how to assure the continued evolution of the ethanol industry to new feedstocks and technologies, how to assure needed investments in vehicles and infrastructure to accommodate higher ethanol blends, and how to end the billions in subsidies and tax preferences still enjoyed by very mature and profitable petroleum fuels. With the debt ceiling crisis looking as though it has been averted for now, we hope Congress and the Administration are now prepared to address the nation’s worsening energy crisis, as oil and gasoline prices continue to rise and the nation’s investment in home grown renewable fuels languishes.”

Ethanol Subsidies on the Budget Block in Washington

The Lincoln Journal-Star of Lincoln, Neb. ran a story this morning about the ethanol blenders credit and the tariff on foreign-produced ethanol and how these issues are caught up in the debt ceiling/budget cutting debate in Congress:

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