April 28, 2008

Podcast: Food and Fuel from Corn

National Corn Growers CEO Rick Tolman has a few things to say about the food and fuel issue.

Corn planting slowed a bit by weather

As expected, wet weather this spring has slowed planting across Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Corn Board’s Crop Progress Update. The Corn Board’s first crop update for the season noted that 9 percent of the state’s corn crop was in the ground as of April 27. A year ago, 13 percent was planted at that time.

There is still plenty of time for planting, though – as a majority of the state’s corn crop is typically planted between April 25 and May 20.

To view the Crop Progress Update, and see pictures sent in by FFA students, click here.

April 26, 2008

Video: Energy victory with flex fuel vehicles

There are several videos of aerospace engineer and author Robert Zubrin floating around the internet, but this is a good one. In it, basically sums up in a few minutes an hour long presentation he gave earlier this year in Kearney for the Kappa Ethanol annual meeting.

His visibility has gone up in the last few months as his book, Energy Victory, has been drawing some interest. Zubrin believes foreign oil-producing countries are imposing a huge regressive "tax" on the rest of the world and sucking billions of dollars from both developed and developing countries. The result, he says, isn't pretty and certainly isn't good for our security. Instead, he says we need a battle plan to create an open fuel market -- a market that hinges on biofuels like ethanol.

Part of his plan for
“winning the war on terror by breaking free of oil” is to make all vehicles flex-fuel, which will help break the oil cartel.

He also addresses an ethanol myth or two.

This is from a segment of the Business News Network, a nationwide TV show in Canada.

April 25, 2008

Texas Gov. ignores research, asks for RFS waiver

Texas Governor Rick Perry ignored a study he requested from Texas A&M and has asked the EPA for a partial waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Needless to say, corn producers are not thrilled with his view and the fact that he chose to ignore his own research. Here's a line from NCGA's news release on the subject:

“If granted, the waiver request made by Gov. Perry today will hurt—not help—U.S. consumers by increasing fuel costs and sending a signal to farmers to plant less grain,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer. “A waiver from the RFS would undoubtedly result in higher gasoline prices and it seems very improbable that grain prices or food prices would be reduced."

We should also point out that a study released this week by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at Iowa State University found that the growth in ethanol production has caused retail gasoline prices to be 29 and 40 cents per gallon lower than would otherwise have been the case.

April 24, 2008

Cost of raising corn rising

It's not just diesel fuel and gasoline prices that are up. So is Phosphorus. So is anhydrous ammonia. So is seed. All the things a good corn grower needs to grow a good crop.

According to estimates, costs are up 17-18 percent, led by the sharp price increases for fuel and fertilizer. Diesel fuel is up more than 30 percent, phosphorus prices are up 180-200 percent and anhydrous has continued its steady rise, up 60-70 percent since 2006. That puts anhydrous ammonia at more than $700 per ton this spring, phosphorus more than $1,000 per ton and diesel more than $4.00 a gallon. At least some producers can take advantage of livestock manure -- but it does cost a lot to haul it any distance. So if you're a corn grower, make friends with your neighborhood livestock and poultry producer and maybe you can work something out.

April 21, 2008

Podcast: Texas A&M study on RFS

In this podcast, Alan Tiemann of the Nebraska Corn Board discusses the Texas A&M study on oil and food prices.

Ethanol getting more efficient

Confirming what many in the corn ethanol industry already suspected is an updated analysis of the amount of water and energy it takes to produce ethanol. The details are pretty dramatic.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol facilities in the U.S. are using less energy and water than five years ago -- but producing more ethanol. Water consumption is down 26.6 percent, grid electricity use down almost 16 percent and total energy use about 22 percent lower.

The analysis is a comparison of ethanol industry data from 2001 to 2006. In 2001, U.S. ethanol production was 1.77 billion gallons, but in 2006, that had grown to 4.9 billion gallons, an increase of 276%.

The Argonne analysis also found that nearly a quarter of today's ethanol producers today are capturing their carbon dioxide emissions for use in dry ice production and carbonated beverage bottling. Plus 37 percent of distillers grains – the livestock feed co-product of ethanol production – are now sold in the wet form, saving drying and transportation costs (and energy!).

The Renewable Fuels Association's Bob Dinneen said it best: “This is not your father’s ethanol industry anymore.” Instead, he said, the industry has adopted new technologies, is looking at new feedstocks and is becoming more efficient every day.

Want to view the full report? Click here.

April 14, 2008

Podcast: Increased petroleum prices

Joel Grams of Minden puts a little perspective on the high prices we're paying for fuel results and how ethanol is saving us money at the pump. He also discusses the testimony on Capitol Hill by a pack of oil executives.

April 11, 2008

$100 oil and your food bill

A report released today by the Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center says that consumers can thank higher oil prices for their rising food bills. This isn't a surprise to a lot of corn growers, but it is nice to have some third-party confirmation.

The report, “The Effects of Ethanol on Texas Food and Feed” examines the food and fuel argument and finds that relaxing the Renewable Fuels Standard would not result in lower corn prices for livestock and poultry feeders in Texas. The study was requested by the state's governor because of the increasing noise in the state about the impact of increasing biofuels production on Texas agriculture and its overall economy.

If you don't have time to read the whole report, the executive summary is good -- and here's a good quote from it:

The underlying force driving changes in the agricultural industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs, evidenced by $100 per barrel oil.

April 10, 2008

Big Oil holding us hostage


An editorial authored by corn producer Allan Tiemann of Seward, a director at large for the Nebraska Corn Board, appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star April 10. In the editorial, Tiemann noted that oil companies have enjoyed record profits but have not used those profits to increase supplies. Instead, he said, we are fortunate for corn ethanol, which is much lower priced than regular gasoline and is saving consumers up to $14 billion at the pump this year alone.

There's a lot of good stuff in the editorial - but here's a good line:

American corn growers, though, have increased acres and are poised to plant the second-largest corn crop in history in order to meet demand. They’ve aided local economies by investing in new equipment and technology to become more efficient and lower costs. They’ve met demands for feed, food and fuel and are working hard to meet the demand for corn in the future.

What has Big Oil done for you lately with its record high profits? Is it working to meet your demands — or its own?

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) has said it well: “We have to move to a renewable energy economy. We can never get out of this trap as long as the oil companies want to hold us hostage to this old agenda.”

April 9, 2008

Corn ending stocks shrink a bit.

U.S. corn ending stocks for 2007-08 were projected down some 155 million bushels this month to 1.283 billion due to increased feed use and exports.

USDA increased feed use 200 million bushels and exports 50 million. Exports have been simply astounding this year despite higher corn prices. The weaker U.S. dollar helps, but weather-related problems has caused a shortage of other grains, too -- many of which are used as feed. Or could some countries be stocking up?

Corn use for shrunk by about 100 million bushels, which USDA attributed to a slowing of new plant startups. Still, USDA said rising ethanol prices continue to support producer margins and capacity utilization for existing plants “remains strong.” For details on this report, check out USDA’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates website.

April 7, 2008

Podcast: Growers support A-FAN

Corn producers will always consider the livestock and poultry sector to be their most important market. That's why corn growers support the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska. After listening to the Podcast, check out A-FAN here.

April 4, 2008

Connecting corn to the world


A lot has changed since the corn checkoff was approved in Nebraska 30 years ago, but one of the most important is the work of the Nebraska Corn Board has done to build connections between corn and dozens of places and products.

Just take this from their news release on the subject:

Nebraska corn producers are connected to markets throughout Nebraska and the world. From the beef producer down the road to the ethanol plant in the next county, from pork served in Tokyo to a deli container in Atlanta, from a poultry producer in California to a feed mill in Egypt, and back home to expand opportunities to bring more dairies and livestock to rural communities.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

To celebrate, the Corn Board has published a 30-Year Report called, if you haven't guessed, "Creating Connections." It's online here, so be sure to check it out.

April 1, 2008

Mirror mirror on the wall

The oil industry seems to be quick to blame corn ethanol and grain prices for high food costs. But maybe they should look in the mirror, especially since the price of grain has little to do with food prices. Energy and oil prices, though, impact everything.

“Farmers have been taking it on the chin while oil companies are raking in record profits,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, in this press release.

Exxon alone had profits of $40.7 billion last year, while the five leading oil companies had a combined profit of $123 billion. Ironically, the entire U.S. corn crop for 2006-07 had a gross value of $32 billion, and only 20% of that crop was used to produce ethanol.

“When you compare the profit of one oil company last year to the total gross value of an entire year’s U.S. corn crop, you can quickly understand why Congress is asking oil company executives to explain why their profits are hitting record levels while the American consumer pays for those profits at the pump and supermarket,” said Hutchens. “The oil companies are also fighting to keep $18 billion in tax breaks over the next decade.”

Hutchens is referring to a hearing called in Washington, D.C., this week to question the oil industry.

The National Corn Growers Association says a more logical explanation for this year’s food inflation can be found in examining energy pricing trends. Retail diesel and gasoline prices are up nearly 40% since January 2007 — and fuel contributes to costs at every step in the supply chain. A recent analysis by economist John Urbanchuk of LEGC found: “By a factor of two to one, energy prices are the chief factor determining what American families pay at the grocery store.”

Yet the oil industry plays dumb. Or maybe they have a magic mirror to boost their egos.