Corn Commentary

Ohio Corn Growers Helping Educate Farmers

Ohio Corn GrowersIt’s always good to see what the various state corn grower organizations are doing. Right now the Ohio Corn Growers Association have a nice building getting lots of activity on the grounds of the Farm Science Review. One of their board members has been involved with it for many years. He’s Ron Rockhold, pictured on the right. Ron says he farms in southern Fayette County and has been on the board for going on 20 years. He spends one day working in the exhibit and one day with his brother “taking in the sights.”

Ron says this show is a great thing for agriculture. He says the message they’re trying to get across to growers is what’s happening with legislation, especially the farm bill and the rfs standard. In fact, he says, “. . . talking about the RFS which is even more important than the farm bill because it increases the demand for corn and has raised the price of corn to where farmers are getting their money from the market now instead of from the government.” That’s something he says he’s always wanted to see.

You can listen to my interview with Ron here:

Corn Condition Great at Farm Science Review

Corn at Farm Science ReviewI thought you might enjoy this picture from the Farm Science Review taking place in London, OH. The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture has this displayed outside their building.

I just spoke with show manager, Chuck Gamble and he says this will be the first show where farmers are getting to see full harvest and tillage demonstrations. Many of them, like the Farm Progress Show, weren’t able to offer that this year due to weather and crop conditions.

Here in Ohio I’d say conditions are excellent and there is a huge line of farmers waiting to get out into the field to see the live demonstrations.

Corn for Ethanol Usage May be Overestimated

The Renewable Fuels Association thinks that USDA is overestimating the amount of corn that will be consumed for ethanol production in 2008/09.

RFAThe September USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand report lowered feed and residual use for corn by 100 million bushels compared to the August report, to 5.1 billion bushels. Ending stocks were also be lowered, by 115 million bushels, to 1.018 billion bushels. However, the estimate for ethanol use of corn is unchanged at 4.1 billion bushels, or about one third of this year’s total production.

RFA thinks that’s too much, especially when it does not consider that every 56-pound bushel of corn that enters the dry mill ethanol process yields 2.8 gallons of fuel ethanol and 18 pounds of distillers grains. When the distillers grains feed is considered, the net usage of the 2008 corn crop would actually be more like 22%.

According to an analysis done by RFA, they believe that USDA is overstating gross demand for corn for 2008/2009.

Based on USDA’s calculations, American ethanol biorefineries will produce approximately 11.3 billion gallons of ethanol between September 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009 (the corn crop marketing year). Given current ethanol market dynamics and the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard (which calls for 10.5 billion gallons of starch-based “conventional” ethanol use in calendar year 2009), it is unlikely that ethanol production will reach the levels estimated by USDA in that time frame.

RFA also notes that USDA overestimated corn use for ethanol in the 2007/08 marketing year by 400 million bushels.

Former EU Commissioner on Ethanol and Trade Talks

The former commissioner of agriculture for the European Union says the food versus fuel controversy is unfair.

“They don’t differentiate between food price and agriculture price and the agriculture price is usually only a small component of the final food product,” Franz Fischler told me during an interview in Austria Friday.

Franz FischlerFischler says that second generation biofuels will be key in meeting long term renewable fuels goals for all countries, but it has to start with first generation ethanol from corn. “That’s why we have to start now,” he added.

Austria has ten biodiesel plants but so far only one ethanol plant. “It seems to me that biodiesel is the most difficult concept as far as sustainability is concerned,” Fischler said, mainly because soybeans and other oilseeds are less economical to grow in that region, compared to corn.

Listen to Fischler’s comments on ethanol here:

On the first day of the IFAJ Congress in Austria, Chuck Zimmerman asked Mr. Fischler what he thought about the Doha Round and if there will ever be any progress made. You might remember that Fischler was very involved in the GATT negotiations once upon a time. Fischler said it is regrettable that a conclusion has not been reached yet. “The negotiations were so advanced that a solution was very close,” Fischler said. “But now I think we must be patient because I don’t see a continuation of the trade talks until a new administration in the US is in charge. Only then I think can we re-launch the round.”

Listen to Fischler’s comments on trade here:

Journalists in the Corn

Austria CornSome 260 agricultural journalists from all over the world are on an annual congress this week that goes to a different country every year. This year it is Austria and Slovenia.

One of the excursions in Austria was to a biomass facility in the southern part of the country where nearly all of the town of Gussing has locally generated energy. Biofuels are not a major part of the renewable energy in the country – just one ethanol plant and ten biodiesel plants total. More vehicles run on diesel, but while they grow lots of corn they have to import oilseeds for biodiesel feedstock, so it is pretty expensive right now.

Austria CornIt is always interesting to get perspectives on agriculture from other countries. There was a huge corn field across from the biomass facility we were visiting and many of the journalists were more fascinated by the corn than the piles of wood chips that were being used to generate local energy. Some of the countries represented here grow very little, if any, corn – countries like Japan and Finland, for example. Biofuels are a big topic of discussion and the people that I talked to were very interested in our work here in the United States to start making ethanol from corn stover.

If you are interested in seeing more about the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress, check out AgWired. We leave Austria today for Slovenia and will be visiting another biomass facility, as well as a hog operation and a dairy farm.

Corn Greetings in Austria

Austrian CornThe International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) are meeting this year in Austria and Slovenia for their annual congress. As we arrived in Graz yesterday and headed from the airport to the hotel, the first landscape that greeted us was corn. Even though they are farther north latitude-wise than even Minnesota, their corn is pretty close to harvest at this point.

KornlandOnce we checked in, we found a Kornland yogurt bar awaiting us on the pillows of our hotel room bed. This Austrian company makes lots of grain-based products like cereals and granola bars. These bars are made with corn flakes and oats and topped with a yogurt cream. Not bad when you are starving after a 22 hour trip!

Our host for this year’s IFAJ Congress is former European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler who we plan to interview to get his thoughts on the current state of world trade negotiations.

Ethanol Means Rural Prosperity

Many people support ethanol because it’s a cleaner fuel than gasoline, better for the environment and helps us reduce our dependency on foreign oil. But it really means much more to our nation than even those important reasons.

NE Corn“It’s about small town diners, grocery stores, schools, libraries and churches,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Ethanol, by being produced across rural Nebraska and rural America, benefits all of these community-based businesses and groups. It does this by generating economic activity and taxes, which touches nearly every business, school and organization in town.”

Hutchens said the rural development aspect to ethanol should not be overlooked. “Ethanol production is well-suited to smaller communities, places that some people haven’t heard of,” he said. “Yet we all benefit because of the clean-burning fuel the ethanol plants produce. They add to our fuel supply and reduce oil imports, which saves us all money at the pump.”

To celebrate ethanol – and all renewable fuels – and what they contribute to Nebraska and the country as a whole, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman will declare September Renewable Fuels Month at Husker Harvest Days this Wednesday.

Colorado Corn Celebrates E85 Openings

Colorado Corn Growers are celebrating the grand openings of new E85 fueling stations opening in the Centennial State this month.

The events will take place at the Eagle Travel Stop in Sterling on September 16 and Western Convenience in Montrose on September 23.

The Colorado Corn Growers Association is joining with the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition to help sponsor the events which will feature live remotes, hot dogs, refreshments, flex-fuel vehicles and fuel promotions.

The addition of these two new E85 facilities will bring the total of E85 stations in the state to 70.

New Technique Could Make Corn Ethanol More Efficient

A process used in breweries and wastewater treatment facilities could make corn ethanol more energy efficient.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are exploring the use of oxygen-less vats of microorganisms that naturally feed on organic waste produced from the ethanol fermentation process.

According to a university release, a WUSTL team has tested anaerobic digestion on waste from ethanol plants and found that the process could cut down an ethanol facility’s use of natural gas by 50 percent. They published the results in the recent issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

A complete story on the research is available at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review.

Trendy Corn Trash Cans

This trendy trash can is green in more ways than one.

A winner of numerous design awards , the iconic Garbino garbage can from Umbra is now made with corn-based plastic. According to the Umbra website, “Over the years Umbra has designed products with sustainability in mind. We have taken the “Reuse” mentality and adopted a new approach that includes sustainable items like corn and plantation grown wood. Our new line of eco-friendly products promote our objective to provide contemporary, casual and affordable products that foster a healthy environment.”

The 10-quart Garbino, and it’s smaller desktop cousin the Garbini, were named among BusinessWeek’s “Hot Green Products” earlier this year.

Umbra debuted the Garbino Trash Can in 1996, designed by Karim Rashid. “Known for its swerving rim, flowing curves and negative spaces, the Garbino brought glamour to trash cans. The Garbino, with a 10-quart capacity, remains a key part of Umbra’s line; it is a core product that each year introduces Umbra’s newest colors.”

The trendy trash can does come in a variety of colors, but the eco-version is only available in green or black – and the price is pretty reasonable at around $6, but not real easy to find. I did find black ones in a few places, like here at The Container Store, but the greens are on back order.

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