April 30, 2009

A reality check on sensationalism and H1N1

Michele Payn-Knoper has a great blog post on H1N1 that folks should take a look at.

Here's how it starts:

Media outlets around the globe have been in a frenzy spreading fear about the flu, now known as H1N1. Pandemic is the best way to describe it - and I’m not talking about the sickness, but the sensationalism surrounding the mutated virus. May I suggest a perspective check?

Take a look by clicking here.

A previous post that linked to Michele's blog is here.

Some good thoughts on H1N1 virus

A great article and interview with Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association, about the H1N1 virus (aka the swine flu) is on Brownfield's website - click here for the full report and audio.

DeHaven used to head the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service for USDA, and was there when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) exploded into the limelight several years ago. So no, you're not going to fluster him.

Anyway, DeHaven noted that the H1N1 virus is "transmitted from human to human and, as far as we know right now, it does not involve pigs, livestock or pets."

He may be right in saying that we may never know where the hybrid virus originated. “It is in a family of influenza viruses that have thousands of different varieties or versions, this one, the H1 is most commonly associated with pigs and hence the name swine flu," he said.

He adds, though: “This particular H1N1 virus has no known origin back to swine.”

Be sure to check out the report and help set the record straight - AVMA has also put out a statement. For that, click here.

Some scientists are also beginning to believe this virus strain is fairly mild. Good news, for sure.

April 29, 2009

Podcast: An update from inside the Beltway

In this Podcast, National Corn Grower Associations' Jon Dogget gives an update on important issues going on in Washington, D.C. This was originally recorded in early April - well before before the H1N1 flu (swine flue) jumped to the forefront.

April 27, 2009

Nebraska corn: 27 percent planted

Nebraska corn planting well is ahead of last year, with 27 percent of the crop already in the ground. A year ago, only 8 percent of the crop was planted at this time. Two years ago, only 13 percent was in the ground. The five-year average for this week is 18 percent planted.

A week of dry and warm weather allowed planting to progress rapidly, especially considering that just 3 percent of the crop was in the ground a week ago.

A majority of the state’s corn crop is typically planted between April 25 and May 20, so there is still plenty of time for the crop to get in the ground.

The Nebraska Corn Board has more information available online through its Crop Progress Update, which compiled by interns every other week during the growing season. This week is the first posting for the year. Click here or on the icon above.

As in the past, the Nebraska Corn Board's updates will feature photos taken by members of FFA Chapters throughout the state to document the crop year.

The photo to the left was taken by the Loup City FFA Chapter and shows a view from the tractor cab.

The swine flu and you

Actually, should this post be called the "North-American influenza and you"? That would be more appropriate, of course (as noted here), but that ship has sailed.

In the mean time we get to watch hog markets fall, grain markets react and some countries ban shipments of perfectly safe U.S. pork. Yes, of course countries know that U.S. pork does not harbor any sort of virus. This is just a convenient excuse to prop up trade barriers.

Toss in all the anti-meat and anti-animal agriculture folks harping on modern livestock production and things go south real fast.

Meanwhile, the CDC and other organizations have repeatedly said eating pork is perfectly safe. That's the most important voice through all of this: for CDC updates, just click here.

Watching the live stream on Twitter has been fascinating - folks posting a lot of rumors and theories. Yet there is also a lot of positive information, especially from people involved in agriculture. Getting the word out is important. Twitter and social media sites are another way to do just that.

That's where you come in. Re-posting the truth time and again is helpful, as is setting the record straight with neighbors, the person in town or a buddy in the city. The more it is out there, the better.

For real "Swine Influenza and You" information, visit this CDC faq web page.

In the mean time, maybe some pork producers will have an opportunity to get out in front of the media to tell their stories and build some relationships.

As we learn more about the flu over the next few days, hopefully it will all come into a bit better perspective for those who are fanning the flames. From the media to those who carry their own soap box everywhere they go.

A-FAN: It's important to tell the farmer's story

Roger Berry, field director for the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), was in Washington, D.C., today to address the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) during their Washington Watch meeting.

Berry addressed the group over lunch - and Chuck Zimmerman did a blog post and audio interview with him. You can access both right here.

Berry and Zimmerman spoke about the use of social media to allow farmers to tell their own story even though it’s not really their nature to do so.

To see some videos A-FAN has produced, click here to visit its YouTube channel - NebraskaAgricultue. More videos are on their way, too.

To visit A-FAN's website, click here.

April 26, 2009

California remains top corn ethanol state

California uses more ethanol than any other state, with a 5.7 percent ethanol blend required in gasoline sold the state (about 1 billion gallons of ethanol), which is expanding this year to 10 percent. That means in 2010, California will be using nearly 2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol.

And a decision by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt a low carbon fuel standard will not change that. What it could change at some point in the future, at least in theory, is the source of that ethanol.

Ethanol (and corn) groups are generally supportive of the idea of a low carbon fuel standard. They just do not agree with a component of ARB’s plan, that being that corn going to ethanol will result in land use changes elsewhere. (As in an acre of corn going to ethanol results in an acre of rain forest being plowed up elsewhere, releasing tons of carbon.)

Ethanol from the Midwest greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and ARB acknowledged that. However, ARB's land use penalty pushes corn-based ethanol over “the limit”, or says that in the end it is no different than regular gasoline and won’t reduce carbon output of the final fuel.

Corn and ethanol groups also don’t agree with some components of the standard on items like distillers grains and future corn yields.

ARB has told its staff to form an expert panel on the land use issue, and ethanol groups are hoping to work with the panel to better the science and make their case.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen, for example, said RFA remains cautiously optimistic that its decision to form an expert work group will provide an opportunity to get the standard right.

ARB chairman Mary Nichols’, in a letter (.pdf) to Growth Energy, said the panel will consider agricultural yield improvements, co-product credits, land emission factors, food price elasticity and other relevant factors. The results of the panel and recommended changes to the rule are to be presented to ARB on or before December 2011.

That is encouraging, as was Nichols statement that corn-based ethanol will “will play a significant role well into the next decade.”

One of the problems is all the uncertainty that ARB’s now existing low carbon rules create.

Where should investors spend their money? What technologies, existing and in the works, will be able to meet California’s rules by 2020? (And what if a dozen states follow suit - roughly 30 percent of the country’s fuel market?) Will the corn ethanol industry qualify? Will farmers be able to demonstrate that their carbon output is lower than what ARB believes? Or that their ability to sequester carbon greater?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also considering rules along these lines. It will be interesting to see where EPA ends up when it comes to corn-based ethanol and land use. ARB has said it will consider EPA’s position on the matter to “harmonize data” where possible.

For more, check out this post on several U.S. Senators sending a letter to EPA on land use changes, and this post on how ARB’s land use ‘model’ is an unproven theory.

Cattle farmers support wildlife, ecosystems

In addition to cattle, America's cattle farmers are raising a lot of wildlife on their ranches, according to a recent survey:

From endangered species to native trees and grasses, America's farms and ranches are hosting, and often actively supporting, wildlife, natural ecosystems and the environment.

The report said 88 percent of cattle farmers and ranchers surveyed said their land includes areas that support wildlife. More than half report wildlife populations on their land have increased in the past 10 years. That's important because approximately 73 percent of land in the United States is privately owned, and the majority of the country's natural wildlife habitats are found on those lands, according to information cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In fact, the land managed by America's farmers and ranchers supports migratory birds, fish and other wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species ranging from whooping cranes in Nebraska to gopher tortoises thriving on a cattle ranch in Florida.

The survey results show how beef production helps preserve the environment for future generations by protecting and restoring wildlife habitats, maintaining hundreds of miles of rivers and streams and sustaining millions of acres of open space.

The news release included a nice quote from Heather Johnson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program:

No one is more passionate about the environment than ranchers working to increase the quality of their grass and water, for both their cattle and the fish and wildlife that call their operations home. These private landowners love the land and have a strong environmental stewardship ethic that they pass on from generation to generation.

Click here for the full news release.

Legislation aims to prevent 'cow tax'

Several U.S. Senators have sponsored legislation to block an Environmental Protection Agency plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions - including emissions from cattle - as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

The legislation would prevent the regulation from adversely affecting livestock producers by amending the Clean Air Act to preclude regulation of naturally occurring livestock emissions, including methane and carbon dioxide.

Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is among the group. Others include Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Johanns said such a regulation would have a “devastating impact on livestock producers because cattle emit methane, one of the gases the EPA proposes to regulate.” He referred the to possible regulations as a “cow tax.”

“This ‘cow tax’ could cost farmers and ranchers tens of thousands of dollars per farm per year. With the rising costs of production, this could put family farms at risk of going under. The legislation I am co-sponsoring applies some common sense to ensure the Clean Air Act isn’t stretched to far-reaching applications that it was never intended to cover,” he said.

Sen. Thune said such a move would be the “first step in a slippery slope” that could result in implementation of a tax on all CO2 emissions.

For a full story, click here.

Ethanol in pipelines may expand in U.S.

Transporting ethanol via pipeline has gone so well for Kinder Morgan Energy Partners - in its 105-mile pipeline between Tampa and Orlando - that it is now evaluating shipping ethanol via its Plantation pipeline.

This pipeline goes from Louisiana to Virginia.

According to a Reuters report: "We are evaluating the Plantation pipeline ... as the next possible pipeline system that can handle ethanol," Jim Lelio, a renewable fuels business development director at the company, told the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles conference last week.

For the full report, click here.

Some folks still say ethanol can't be shipped via pipeline - but Kinder Morgan (and the entire country of Brazil) says otherwise.

April 23, 2009

Good report on HFCS

NBC News last night did a pretty good piece on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The conclusion of those it interviewed was that HFCS is no different than table sugar.

To view the report, click here.

We've blogged on this before - including this study that helped clear the air on HFCS (and prompted a USA Today article) and this post on websites that promote the facts.

The Corn Refiners Association put out a news release on the report. It is here.

In it, Audrae Erickson, president of CRA, concluded, "This NBC Nightly News story sheds the light of day on an important health and nutrition matter for American consumers. There is no nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar. A sugar is a sugar. It is the calories that count."

CRA also noted that Dr. David S. Ludwig, associate professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, stated in the NBC report: "High fructose corn syrup is one of the most misunderstood products in the food supply."

Certainly Ludwig's assessment is correct.

There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there, and the way websites/social media work it is very difficult to rid the world of them.

Every good report helps, though.

Corn planting: A $3.5 billion boost to Nebraska

The Nebraska Corn Board sharpened its pencil and did a bit of math on what kind of investment it takes to get corn planted in the state.

The result? $1.4 billion in fuel, seed, fertilizer and other planting costs.
With a multiplier impact of 2.5 times, that grows to whopping $3.5 billion.

That's a pretty big investment.

The Nebraska Corn Board got the initial figure from the Nebraska Farm Business Association and University of Nebraska Extension NebGuides, which estimate that Nebraska corn farmers make an investment of $160-170 an acre just to get the crop in the ground. Early estimates are that Nebraska will plant 8.8 million acres of corn.

"Investments in putting a crop in the ground provides not only a ripple effect in rural communities, but tremendous job opportunities in the agribusiness sector along with stimulus for the rest of the state, not to mention the value of what ultimately is harvested in the fall," said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board.

For the full news release on this subject, click here.

April 22, 2009

Podcast: Corn crop potential; ethanol's positive numbers on GHG

In this Podcast, farmer Greg Whitmore of Shelby talks about the possibilities of this year's crop, based on the planting intentions report. He also summarizes research that reaffirms ethanol's ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Whitmore is a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

April 21, 2009

High oil prices add $5.1 billion to cost of food programs

Exxon reached the top of the Fortune 500 list this year - thanks to revenues of $442.9 billion and profits of $45.5 billion.

In fact, oil companies were three of the top five companies on the list. (Chevron and ConocoPhillips were the other two.)

Yet some headlines last week (and tweets and blogs this week) declared that corn-based ethanol was raising food prices - without qualifying where the bulk of food price increases came from - primarily higher energy costs that we all paid to oil companies.

These higher energy costs also drove up the price of producing crops like corn, so the impact there is double.

Exxon's revenues are more than 8 times the value of the entire corn crop this year and last year. Last year's corn crop value: $54.6 billion. This year's: $50.8 billion. At the same time, the cost of producing those crops soared (thanks to high energy prices) and set new records.

Shouldn't the headlines on the Congressional Budget Office report have been "High oil prices add $5.1 billion to cost of food programs"?

(Here's the math for that: If ethanol was responsible for 15 percent of the increase in government food costs, or $900 million, than the total increase in the cost of food programs was $6.0 billion. Subtract $900 million from $6.0 billion and you get $5.1 billion...or $5,100 million. If ethanol was responsible for only 10 percent, high energy costs would be responsible for $5.4 billion.)

The best alternative to oil is not more oil. It's renewable fuels like ethanol. Otherwise next year or the year after we'll be again staring at $100 oil and $4 gas.

It's only a matter of time.

April 20, 2009

Videos: Ethanol blender pump grand opening

Below are three videos from the ethanol blender pump grand opening that was held last Friday in Grand Island, Nebraska. The blender pumps are at Bosselman's Pump & Pantry located just south of the Conestoga Mall on 13th Street, and are the first blender pumps in the state.

The first two videos feature speakers at the event, while the last one shows the lines of cars waiting to get into the station.

Grand opening, part 1, featuring Fred Bossleman Jr. of Bosselman Energy, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, a letter from U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith and Ginger Langemeier of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture:

Grand opening, part 2, featuring corn farmer Jon Holzfaster of the Nebraska Corn Board, Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Grand Island Mayor Margaret Hornady and Charlie Bossleman of Bosselman Inc.:

Lines of cars at the grand opening:

Study says farmers are widely adopting sustainable practices

Rabobank released a study today that says nearly 70 percent of U.S. farmers and ranchers it surveyed have taken steps toward implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

"Sustainability is an increasing priority among consumers as well as for many areas of industry and commerce, and this survey shows that U.S. farmers and ranchers share that view," said John Ryan, president and CEO for Rabo AgriFinance. "Sustainable agricultural practices are the cornerstone of long-term strategy for success."

According to the survey, three out of every four U.S. farmers are aware of sustainable practices, and most have used direct seeding, minimized the use of chemicals or employed crop rotation.

For the news release on the study, click here.

April 19, 2009

A handful of corn

In his latest column, farmer Clayton Rye explains corn to his grandson, Graham. Along the way he ponders - "Is this what my life is all about? A handful of corn?"

Rye's answer to that question is below.

In some ways, yes, it is. Corn is the main commodity here. The corn bushels outnumber the soybean bushels by over six times. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to grow the most corn for the least amount of money. We also want to deliver the best corn which is why it is dried and stored and yes, checked a handful at a time looking for broken kernels, damaged tips, and fines.

On a day-to-day basis, which becomes year by year, corn is the centerpiece of what we do. I do enjoy being a corn grower and as a corn grower, occasionally I get to show a boy a handful of corn and tell him about what it means. Then, best of all, a boy like Graham understands what it means to have something to care about and pursue it to the best of your ability whether you are driving a tractor or sitting at a desk.

Rye lives on a farm in Iowa where his dad grew up - a farm that's been his family since 1875.

For Rye's full column,
click here.

It's a good, quick read.

April 17, 2009

Ethanol blender pumps up and running in Nebraska

Cars were lined up today along both service roads leading to the Bossleman Pump & Pantry location just south of the mall in Grand Island.

They were drawn to the station's grand opening by fuel specials that were provided by Bossleman's and the Buffalo-Hall County Corn Growers Association (e10 was selling for $1.29, e20 for $1.19, e30 for $1.09 and e85 for $1.00!).

While there, motorists had the opportunity to talk with members of the Nebraska Corn Board and Corn Growers Association about ethanol and the importance of higher blends.

Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy was on hand (photo). Sheehy addressed the crowd and explained the importance of ethanol to the state.

Fred Bosselman Jr. and Charlie Bosselman also spoke, as did Ginger Langemeier of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Jon Holzfaster of the Nebraska Corn Board, Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and Margaret Hornaday, mayor of Grand Island. A letter from Congressman Adrian Smith was also read by Charlie Bossleman.

It is appropriate that Bosselman's is the first station in Nebraska to have a blender pump. The family has a history of farming and raising corn in Nebraska that goes back to 1872. Charlie Bossleman noted that this is just the first of what will be many blender pumps the company installs across the state.

For more on blender pumps, click here.

UPDATE: Videos from the grand opening can be found here.

April 16, 2009

Groups call for hearing on food prices

Folks from the National Farmers Union, Growth Energy, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Corn Growers joined in a news conference today lauding the recent Congressional Budget Office report that concluded the bulk of last year’s food price increases was do to high energy costs. (As in NOT ethanol!)

That seems to me to be exactly what corn growers and many other folks were saying all along. In fact, Tom Buis of Growth Energy said exactly that: The CBO report made a point that we’ve been trying to make for a year.

(Also check out this and this and this.)

The groups also noted today that several hearings were held last year that were an attempt to blame corn and ethanol – and perhaps some of those people should come before Congress again.

Buis reminded people that “someone” out there orchestrated a campaign and they owe us an apology. (Perhaps this is the someone?)

NCGA CEO Rick Tolman said he was looking for an apology from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “I think that grocery manufacturers and others owe farmers a huge apology for the damage they’ve done to the reputation among consumers,” Tolman says.

Tolman makes some great points - such as it is not a "zero sum game", that the "pie" that is the corn supply is getting bigger, allowing growers to produce plenty of corn for food, feed and fuel.

For the audio from the news conference, visit Brownfield here.

Ethanol blender pumps come to Nebraska

The grand opening of Nebraska's first ethanol blender pumps - installed at the Bosselman Pump & Pantry location at 1235 Allen Dr. in Grand Island (just south of the mall) - will be celebrated Friday (tomorrow!) by Bossleman's, the Nebraska Corn Board and a number of local and state dignitaries.

A ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 10 am, and corn growers will be on hand for "full service fill-ups" from 11 am to 1 pm. Rumor has it there will be fuel discounts for ethanol blends during this time as well. And you may be able to pick up a $5 coupon for for your next fill up of e20, e30 or e85 fuel - with prizes and other activities happening all day.

In addition to e10, ten percent ethanol, and e85, which 85 percent ethanol, this Pump & Pantry location in Grand Island offers e20 and e30 via a blender pump. Blender pumps combine ordinary 87-octane unleaded gasoline with e85 to get the 'mid-level' blends. All from the same pumps - in this case six pumps.

These mid level blends, just like e85, are targeted to owners of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs).

According to a Nebraska Corn Board's news release, there are thousands of flex-fuel vehicles registered in Nebraska - with more than 2,000 in Hall County alone.

Although this is the first location for blender pumps in Nebraska, they are gaining in popularity, with numerous such pumps already installed in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. Blender pumps are a great way to increase the use of ethanol - and give motorists the ultimate in fuel flexibility.

If you're in the neighborhood on Friday - be sure to stop by!

FYI - for a map of all e85 pumps in Nebraska, click here.

April 14, 2009

Farmers on Twitter: Another tool in the communication toolbox

There are so many ways for farmers to communicate to consumers these days - with some popular methods being through blogs, a Facebook page and YouTube videos.

And don't forget about Twitter.

Yes, Twitter, the 140-character conversation tool is 'hot' right now - and some may be wondering what all of the fuss is about. To be honest, I'm still learning - but who isn't? Social media, of which Twitter is a component, is evolving rapidly. And ways people can use Twitter - or mine it for information - change daily.

But what if farmers could push out information to anyone who cared to follow (or find) - through a text message, web page or other application? Things like planting updates, weather, comments on production, markets, risks, concerns, fears, long days, life on the farm, animal care, etc.

Would that help tell the story of agriculture? Help others learn about all the hard work farmers do on a daily basis? Help put a face on food production? Wouldn't that be good for agriculture and food producers in general?

At the same time, Twitter, which is free and open to anyone and everyone, can drive traffic to websites, blogs, Facebook pages and more. It is simply another tool in the communication toolbox.

There are many farmers on Twitter already - including two folks in Nebraska that you may know.

One is Brandon Hunnicutt, current president of the Nebraska Corn Growers. His Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/cornfedfarmer

Another is Debbie Borg, current president of the Nebraska Soybean Association. Her Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/iamafarmer2

By clicking on their feeds, you can see their tweets (what they posted) and what they have been up to. Join in the conversation!

Or just follow along to get a feel for the place.

On the right side of this blog is a link to my Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/MikeHowie). Feel free to follow along or ask questions.

Please point me in the direction of any farmers that you may know on Twitter.

I'll compile and post a list so anyone who is interested in farming/food production can find 'real time' updates - from farmers themselves.

April 13, 2009

Podcast: Corn growers are confident they can meet demand

In this Podcast, farmer Steve Ebke of Daykin talks about how corn growers continue to increase corn production in a sustainable way - and notes that they've battled (and proved wrong) a host of myths and misinformation over the last year.

Ebke, a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, said farmers will always respond to demand and produce all the corn the market needs - and, like last year, probably a little extra.

April 10, 2009

Responding to another Dennis Avery viewpoint

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, has written a viewpoint that will appear in the April 13 edition of Feedstuffs.

It is in response to another viewpoint written by Dennis Avery. I say 'another' because Avery also penned the piece blaming corn and ethanol for the crash of Flight 1549 into the Hudson River (check that out here).

Avery's March 30th viewpoint in Feedstuffs, "Will future generations be left powerless?", can be found on his website here.

Below is a piece of Hutchen's response. For the full reply, click here.

It is amazing to those of us in the corn industry how an educated economist just can’t get the math right. Avery states: "Ethanol is already gobbling up 1/3 of our nation’s corn for its 1% energy, and doubling that will redouble food prices." ...

People and organizations like Dennis Avery, PETA, HSUS and the Grocery Manufacturers Association should take greater care before they criticize production agriculture while there mouth is full with the cheapest, most abundant and safest food supply in the world.

For the record, U.S. corn supply (total available) in 2007-08 was 14.3 billion bushels of which 21% was used to supply the ethanol industry, and if you credit back the amount of corn that came back out for distillers grains, then we only used 14.7% of our true corn supply for ethanol alone. ...

I know it was much easier and dramatic for Avery, an economist, to just round up to 33% of nation’s corn crop going to ethanol, but every time I tried that rounding up idea in my math classes it normally got me a wrong answer and a poor grade.

Lastly, Avery wants you to believe that the nation’s corn crop only represents a 1% energy value and that corn to ethanol doubles your food prices. Again let’s get the facts straight or at least give agriculture a little more credit.

In 2007-08 the U.S. used 137 billion gallons of gasoline, and we replaced a portion (6.28%) of that with 8.6 billion gallons of ethanol; while ethanol will never replace all the gasoline we use, it’s sure a heck of lot more than the 1% that Avery leads you to believe, and has potential to be much more.

And, let’s be clear, this idea of corn/ethanol “doubling or redoubling” (Avery’s words) food prices is nonsense or we would be seeing consumer food prices plummeting. Corn prices, along with most other commodity prices, are anywhere from 30-45% less than their highs of last year and yet food prices for many products have yet to drop.

April 9, 2009

CBO: Ethanol had minor impact on food prices

A report released today by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that corn-based ethanol added between a 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices in 2008. (As measured by the consumer price index. The study used figures between April 2007 to April 2008.)

In other words, if you bought $100 worth of groceries, CBO says that ethanol added between 50 and 80 cents to the cost. Yes - a mere 50 to 80 cents.

So what was responsible for the other 4.3-4.6 percentage points - the other 84-90 percent of the increase?

CBO said other factors had a larger role in food prices - particularly higher energy costs (remember oil at $140 and gas at $4/gallon?).

Corn growers and ethanol companies had said all along that oil/energy had a much bigger impact on food prices than did corn ethanol. And that there was plenty of corn to go around.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association - the Grocery Gang - however, blamed corn and ethanol behind price hikes - at the same time most of its members were raking in outstanding profits.

Here's a comment from DTN's Chris Clayton (from his blog): I'm shocked that this wasn't on the front of the New York Times today. And I'm waiting for the Grocery Manufacturers Association to issue a news release saying "Our bad."

CBO also provided a bit of info on the environmental impact of ethanol - citing Argonne National Laboratory that the production, distribution and consumption of ethanol creates about 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent processes for gasoline. That means a reduction of about 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases in 2008.

As Clayton concluded: In other words, the CBO basically stated in its report Wednesday that the impact of ethanol on food prices has been over-inflated by critics using ethanol is better for the environment than gasoline.

For the full CBO report, click here (.pdf).

April 6, 2009

Nebraska: Happiest place in the U.S.

Good Morning America this morning featured a list of the 'Happiest place in the United States'
from MainStreet.com - and topping that list was Nebraska.

Click here to watch the short video report.

The reason's Nebraska folks are so happy, according to GMA's report?
  • Low unemployment
  • Low debt
  • Low foreclosure rate
  • Conservative attitude towards money
  • Ethanol plants that have flourished
  • Growing industries creating jobs
For the report at MainStreet.com, click here.

April 3, 2009

Report says no difference in sow crates vs pens

A report by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) said there appears to be no difference in the welfare of pregnant sows kept in individual creates compared to pregnant sows kept in group pens.

Dr. Stanley Curtis of the University of Illinois is well respected in this area - and he chaired the task force that reviewed the issue.

He told Brownfield that systems using crates and those using open pens each have their own advantages and drawbacks - "six of one and a half-dozen of the other, as the saying goes."

For more - and an interview with Dr. Curtis - click here.

To access the full CAST report, via a free download, click here.

Podcast: Corn growers can meet expanded demand

In this podcast, corn grower Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner talks about how farmers in Nebraska and across the country produced a lot of corn last year - and expanded corn stocks even after all feed, food, fuel and export demands were met.

Because growers have a tremendous ability to grow more corn in a sustainable way, Hunnicutt notes that increasing the ethanol blend rate is doable and makes sense.

Hunnicutt is the current president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

April 1, 2009

Another study shows benefits of ethanol on GHG emissions


The number of studies and researchers arguing against making policy decisions involving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and corn ethanol using historical data grew by one today with a report from IEA Bioenergy.

The study reports that corn-based ethanol helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent today and will grow to 55 percent in 2015 as production technology and yields advance.

It also notes that ethanol provides more energy than it takes to make it - 42 percent more energy today and nearly double that by 2015.

The entire report (.pdf) is available here.

Meanwhile, here's a good quote from the news release:

The GHG emissions savings from ethanol production and use have more than doubled between 1995 and the projected level in 2015. This indicates the danger of making policy decision(s) based on historical data without taking into account learning experiences and the potential gains that can be expected as industries develop. The GHG emissions reductions in 2015 from corn ethanol would qualify as advanced biofuels under proposed US regulations.

Related post: University report slams corn ethanol myths