Against a backdrop of golden distillers grains, a parade of speakers from state and federal government leaders to local corn farmers and ethanol plant owners spoke out Friday in Iowa against the EPA proposal to lower the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014.
“The EPA proposal for 2014 guts the RFS which would lead to higher gasoline prices and lower farm income,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw at the “Protect the RFS” event held at Lincolnway Energy near Nevada, Iowa..
“The federal government made a commitment to renewable energy, and the EPA is undermining the commitment,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “All of us who support homegrown, clean-burning energy and forward-thinking energy policy need to speak out and let the Administration know that its proposal is short-sighted and irresponsible.”
“We all need to stand together in opposition to this EPA proposal,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who started a website and petition drive ProtectTheRFS.com.
Others who spoke at the Iowa RFS Coalition event included Congressman Steve King, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and former National Corn Growers Association president Bill Northey, Iowa Corn Growers Association President Roger Zylstra, Lincolnway Energy CEO Eric Hakmiller, Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwarck, among others.
The EPA publicly announced the proposal on November 15, but it has yet to be published in the Federal Register, which must be done before comments can be submitted. What has been published in the Federal Register is a notice for a public hearing to be held on the proposal Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. “The event will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end when all parties present who wish to speak have had the opportunity to do so.” This could be a very long hearing.
They call it black gold and Texas Tea but I prefer to call it environmental anathema; that rare combination of disgrace and abomination. Better that than using the words that I would like to use that got my mouth washed out with soap as a child.
Ok, Thanksgiving is almost upon us so I want to purge a little bile so I will enjoy the day a little more. What better target than Big Oil?
You know, those heavily subsidized global scale polluters who control…I mean contribute to every politician to make sure they have their bases covered. Well after an announcement today, I guess we will see how well their “investment” pays off.
It seems gas and oil are almost singlehandedly responsible for the bulk of all the man-made global warming emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Chevron, Exxon and BP are among the companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, according to a new analysis.
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
I have always been a big fan of irony but this week takes the cake. It seemed bizarre that earlier this week EPA announced their proposal to significantly weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard, reducing the volume of renewable fuels like ethanol for 2014; thus making us even more dependent on oil.
Odd that an agency with “Environment” in their name would turn away from a program that has cut emissions of greenhouse gas by 110 million metric tons, making it one of the most successful programs in the EPA arsenal. This is the equivalent of taking more than 20 million vehicles off the road.
Now it will get even more interesting to see how this same administration that purports to be on a crusade to fight greenhouse gases will deal with Big Oil now that the emperor has no clothes.
The House Transportation Committee made a long-awaited move Wednesday and introduced a water resources development bill that adds an extra R to WRDA and provides some hope that improvements will finally be made to outdated locks and dams on waterways that move crops to export markets.
According to the committee, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA) “cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, promotes fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America’s competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.”
The issue was a major topic of discussion at the Farm Progress Show where committee member Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) told farmers he expected the bill to be introduced this month.
“We’ve got to have better policies in place, because even the Corps of Engineers says with full funding right now it would take them 40 years to complete the upgrades to the lock and dam system on the Mississippi,” said Davis. “That’s unacceptable.”
The committee’s bill includes a provision authored by Davis and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) to improve waterway infrastructure though public-private partnerships “with one goal in mind, to speed up the process that will allow us to have greater locks and dams,” he said. Interview with Rep. Rodney Davis
National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Martin Barbre of Illinois hopes members of Congress understand how critical the situation is before it’s too late. “One of these days, there’s not going to be any salt going to Chicago in the middle of winter because the locks and dams are broke down, then they’ll realize what the corn growers have been fighting all this time,” Barbre said during an interview at Farm Progress Show.
The Davis-Bustos language authorizes the creation of a pilot program that would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to identify 15 water resources development projects eligible to be financed through public-private partnerships. Similar legislation was included in the Senate version of WRDA which passed in May.
The newly confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the Iowa State Fair last week, where she spoke about her goal of building a better relationship with farmers.
“My commitment to you is that at the end of my term, we will have a stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during her brief remarks.
In an interview with USDA Radio from Iowa, McCarthy also had some encouraging words about renewable fuels. “We’re at a pretty exciting time,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of activity, especially here in Iowa where they have advanced ethanol plants. We’re working closely with the farming community and we’re looking at new feedstocks all the time, new ways of producing biofuels.”
In addition, McCarthy offered her views in support of the RFS. “We see that the Renewable Fuel Standard is operating effectively, that the law gives us plenty of tools and flexibility that we can move this forward,” she said.
McCarthy was just confirmed as the administrator of EPA last month. Listen to her comments about farmers, working with USDA, and renewable fuels here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Despite what the critics have to say, commercial cellulosic ethanol is already a reality and the fastest pathway is by getting more from traditional corn ethanol.
The latest achievement is the groundbreaking of a new cellulosic “bolt-on” ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. Quad County Corn Processors Cooperative general manager Delayne Johnson says the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project will increase their production capacity by utilizing more of the corn kernel. “We get six percent of additional cellulosic ethanol out of a kernel of corn,” said Johnson of the new technology, which equates to another two million gallons of ethanol per year from the 13-year-old farmer-owned facility.
The technology has the potential to be adopted by other corn ethanol plants. “If implemented industry-wide, ACE will be able to create an additional two Billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol on an annual basis,” Johnson said. Delayne Johnson, Groundbreaking Remarks
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was on hand for the groundbreaking event. “I have consistently said we should work to add value as close to the corn stalk as possible and that is exactly what is happening in Galva,” said King. “They have found new ways to squeeze even more out of a bushel of corn and this is paving the way for new technology both here in Iowa and across the country.”
In the maelstrom that is modern society, with a hyperactive media and a beleaguered work force, I think many of us rarely have the time to do research or critical thinking related to the issues of the day. I place myself firmly in that ilk.
Today a very simple question set the wheels turning. The question came from a farmer who asked how we can explain complex farm programs and support programs designed to keep family farmers producing food and raw materials to a well fed public.
Several thoughts immediately came to mind. First, farm programs have changed and today policy is moving toward a new paradigm, one that focuses on a safety net approach. At a fundamental level this insurance kicks in to assist growers only when developments beyond their control – such as a wide spread drought – put farm survival at risk.
This well considered and analyzed approach recognizes the intrinsic value of the small slice of our population that feed us and much of the world today. This small group is the receptacle of generations of irreplaceable farming knowledge that have made American agriculture the envy of the world. They have allowed generations of us to take food for granted, and miss a very simple fact…once a farmer calls it quits they don’t return.
Unlike a factory layoff, when a farmer moves on so does the complex storehouse of diversified skills that make farmers a productive juggernaut. There are no recalls when things get better. Likewise there is little incentive for another generation to return to the farm given the entry level investment and associated risk.
So I suggested rather than try to give someone a crash course in agriculture, we speak to the public with the goal of giving this issue a perspective that is undeniably powerful and defies flippant responses and misinformation.
So here goes. The next time you speak to a group or an individual ask them to name the industries that are the top contributors to the Gross Domestic product. Then add agriculture to the list if it isn’t already there. Now tell them they can only save one. In my experience, nearly without fail, they will universally select agriculture. This simple exercise puts the incredible necessity of a safe and abundant food supply under the bright light of reason.
Now take the next step in your thinking and consider the important role an agricultural safety net, and the stability it brings, plays in allowing us to spend less of our disposable income on food than any other nation. (About 10% in recent years). Suddenly, that agricultural safety net, becomes an investment in consumers number one need…sustenance. Not a “farm subsidy.”
If you are wondering, the hottest industries in terms of contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Department of Commerce:
Wholesale Trade – raw and intermediate materials used to produce non-durable goods
Top Industries in terms of job creation:
Interestingly, five of the top ten industries in terms of job creation are social media and internet related. But when the rubber meets the road, social networks feed nobody, video games are not nutritious, and wires and processors have little to do with our immediate survival.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing last week on government perspectives of the Renewable Fuels Standard. The hearing featured testimony from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Adam Sieminksi with the EIA, made several points during his testimony regarding the RFS. “The RFS program is not projected to come close to achievement of the legislated target that calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable motor fuels use by 2022,” he noted first, adding that “Substantially increased use of biofuels can only occur if they can be used in forms other than the low percentage blends of ethanol and biodiesel that account for nearly all of their current use.”
Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, noted that the agency has expanded the number of approved fuel pathways to help meet the RFS “including the recent finalization of a rule that includes certain renewable fuels from camelina, ethanol from energy cane, and renewable gasoline from various feedstocks” adding that they have also “proposed a rule that will expand the opportunity for use of additional new advanced biofuels, including cellulosic fuels from landfill biogas and advanced biobutanol from corn.”
USDA Chief Economist Dr. Joe Glauber focused his testimony on the impact of the RFS on agriculture. “Driven by a combination of favorable market forces and government biofuel policies, including the RFS, the increase has spurred corn production and corn use for ethanol and has been one of the factors in the recent grain price boom and overall improvements in farm balance sheets including record farm incomes over the past few years,” said Glauber. Noting that while livestock, dairy and poultry producers have “faced more uneven, and in some cases, declining returns” since 2005, Glauber said the ethanol co-product DDGS has increased as a livestock feed and USDA anticipates pressures on corn prices to continue to mitigate as more alternative feedstocks are used for biofuel production.
As an Iowa farmer, National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson knows how important biotechnology is for American farmers and this week she was on the road trying to get the message out that it is vital to the world as a whole.
“The continued use of biotechnology in agriculture is a key component to food security,” Johnson said during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture in New York on Tuesday. “However, we need to greatly improve the public’s acceptance of biotechnology. Agriculture needs to lead the conversation on this important topic and provide education on the advancements of the industry. Consumers should be able to make decisions based on science and facts, not fearmongering.”
“For NCGA members, the biggest challenge is the approval of corn and corn products that are derived through biotechnology,” she said. “Unjustified regulations are costing family farmers millions in lost sales to the EU and could result in even great losses of U.S. exports if they are adopted by other countries.” She pointed out that 88% of the corn grown in the United States is derived from biotechnology, as it is in Brazil and Argentina.
The main point Johnson said the corn growers want to get across to USTR in these trade negotiations is that any agreement must be comprehensive and address any sanitary-phytosanitary barriers to agricultural trade up front. That means, she says, “nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Thanks to highly mechanized planting and harvesting, plus the advantage of a crop that can be stored for long periods of time, corn growers are largely able to function without the use of a migrant work force. But, even those row crop farmers who don’t directly employ migrant laborers have a reason to care about comprehensive immigration reform.
The dairy industry is very dependent on a stable work force – year round, not just seasonal – and Dairy Farmers of America Board Chairman Randy Mooney made some pretty compelling points during a USDA forum on comprehensive immigration reform held Friday in Kansas City.
“We know from experience that too few domestic workers want these jobs and the issue is bigger than dairy,” said Mooney. Highly perishable specialty crop producers obviously need these workers, but Mooney says corn, bean and wheat farmers do as well, to meet the needs of the farms that buy their products. “For example, the U.S. dairy herd consumes more than 133 billion pounds of feed in the form of corn, corn silage, soybean meal and alfalfa each year,” he noted.
“Because of America’s farmers, we enjoy abundant, safe and affordable food in this country,” Mooney said. “In order to ensure that continues, we need Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Mooney added. See Mooney’s remarks at the event in the YouTube video below.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was the keynote speaker at the Kansas City event. “We are blessed by the most productive, most innovative and most hard-working farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said. “American agriculture is the greatest in the world, but we risk that if we don’t have certainty in our farm policy and we don’t have comprehensive immigration reform.”
The comprehensive immigration bill being considered by the Senate – with a final vote expected possibly this week – includes provisions for agriculture including a new “Blue Card” program for current experienced farm workers and a new agricultural visa program to meet future labor needs. The provisions in the bill were the result of an agreement reached between farm worker groups and agricultural organizations.
“This bill has been bipartisan from start to finish,” said Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “The House agriculture committee passed a bipartisan farm bill last year but for whatever reason the full House didn’t consider the bill. The good news is this year it looks like it’s going to be different.” Comments by Senator Debbie Stabenow
“It has been 354 days since the Senate passed its last farm bill,” said Senator Amy Klobachar (D-MN). “What we have here is a bill that saves the taxpayer $24 billion in 10 years over the last farm bill. That’s why it makes no sense to me to play a game of Green Light, Red Light and then at the end of the year we extend the last farm bill that’s even more expensive.” Comments by Senator Amy Klobachar
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) was pleased to be part of passing a farm bill in her freshman year. “It is a year late but it is a bill that will send a message to the American people that we need to provide a certainty, we need to do things in a timely fashion,” she said. Comments by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
“The Senate has again passed a deficit-reducing, bipartisan bill that will help our farms, our families, our economy, our environment,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) upon passage of the bill. “We’ve shown the Senate can do its work.” Comments by Senator Sherrod Brown
So, can the House do its job so a farm bill can be completed by the end of summer? Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, a member of the House agriculture committee, is hopeful. “Certainly that should be the goal,” says Rep. Hartzler. “I know the leadership of the House Ag and I think the Senate Ag Committee as well want to see this done and wrapped up by August, so we’re certainly going to try.” Interview with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)