Getting Cellulosic #Ethanol Out of #Corn

In Audio, CUTC, Ethanol by Cindy

The combination of corn developed for ethanol production and new process technology is helping corn lead the way to affordable advanced biofuels.

cutc-16-araba-interviewedMiloud Araba, head of technical services for the Enogen group at Syngenta, spoke at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference this week in St. Louis.

Araba says that Enogen is working with Quad County Corn Processors to introduce Cellerate, a process technology designed to enable dry grind ethanol plants to convert corn kernel fiber into advanced and cellulosic ethanol, increasing a plant’s ethanol production. “You’re not only bringing value to the ethanol plant, you’re bringing value to the farmer – the corn grower,” Araba explains. “In this case you’ve turned the farmer not only into a corn provider, but also an enzyme provider. And so this is what we like to call a win, win, win. A win for the community, a win for the farmer, and also a win for the ethanol plant.”

He is also hearing a positive response from participants at the conference because of the simplicity of the process. Technologies do not have to be complex to bring a lot of value is the resounding theme.

Listen to Chuck’s full interview here: Interview with Miloud Araba, Syngenta

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album

#CUTC16 Addresses New Wet Milling Technologies

In Audio, CUTC, Research by Cindy

cutc-16-panelNew technologies for wet milling were explored during the Corn Utilization Technology Conference this week in St. Louis. Chuck Zimmerman interviewed each of the panel members who gave an outline of their topic.

Brent Shanks with Iowa State University covered the conversion of biomes and bio-based carbon into chemicals and materials and the paradigm of how to go after those products.

Kevin Coffman, part of the market development in ag environmental strategy group at Monsanto, addressed corn in the pipeline be it traded material for an ethanol plant or any other food grade type of opportunity for the market for corn producers. Most importantly, Coffman said, was the idea that a low carbon agriculture product like ethanol might be the fuel of the future.

John White, Ph.D. at White Technical Research works as a consultant to the food and beverage industry in the area of sweeteners. The milling process of corn can produce a wide range of sweeteners, he explained, including new ones being designed for today’s demands.

Raghunath V. Chaudhari, Ph.D. works at the University of Kansas in the area of converting biomes to chemical with the use of a catalyst. He explained how new catalytic materials can change our use of current technologies to create something better.

Chairman and panel moderator Tom Binder says he hopes CUTC attendees went home with a better idea of future new uses for corn, in wet milling and otherwise.

Listen to Chuck’s full interview with the panel here: Interview with CUTC Wet Milling Technologies Panel

2016 CUTC Photo Album

Optimism Expressed at Open of 2016 CUTC

In agribusiness, Audio, CUTC, New Uses by Chuck

Chris NovakIn light of a lot of negativism directed toward farming today the opening speakers for the 2016 Corn Utilization Technology Conference (CUTC) were very optimistic in their outlook. Welcoming us to the 10th CUTC was Chris Novak, CEO, National Corn Growers Association.

New technologies have allowed corn farmers to produce so much corn that a surplus was created. That has made a need for new markets for the commodity. He points to NCGA’s new strategic plan which has a focus on building corn demand.

You can listen to Chris’s opening remarks here: Chris Novak, NCGA

Kris LuttNext up on the podium was Kris Lutt, President, Sweeteners, Starches and Acidulants, ADM. Kris had a very optimistic outlook and noted several areas that will provide more opportunities for the use of corn. These include building more foreign market demand, the development of new products made from corn, increasing worldwide demand for meat, focusing more on food safety and security and continuing to develop alternatives to petroleum

You can listen to Kris’s opening remarks here: Kris Lutt, ADM

Wade EllisOur next speaker was Wade Ellis, Vice President and General Manager of Milling, Bunge North America. Wade talked about the changes in the corn market of late have pushed his company to look at alternative inputs but at the same time learn from that experience to find new ways to utilize and re-build their corn business.

You can listen to Wade’s opening remarks here: Wade Ellis, Bunge North America

After the remarks came a question and answer session from the folks attending. You can listen to the question and answer session here: CUTC Open Session Q&A

You can find lots of photos from the conference here: 2016 CUTC Photo Album

The Corn Utilization Technology Conference is Underway

In Audio, CUTC, New Uses, Sustainability by Chuck

CUTC PostersAttendance at the 2016 Corn Utilization Technology Conference is higher than two years ago. The Chair of the committee for this year’s conference is Gene Fox, Cargill. I talked with him about the program this year. By the way, this is the 10th CUTC which continues the 20 year tradition of presenting the latest research on corn technology.

Gene has worked with his committee to find sessions and speakers to fulfill the needs of corn growers, companies like Cargill and large food manufacturers. Some key topic areas being addressed include mycotoxins, sustainability, making high end chemicals for manufacturing processes and more. Gene says that he hopes research being displayed here will make it to the commercial market. He also hopes attendees will go home excited about what’s going on in the industry including the development of new products.

There are over 40 technical posters on display here from students as well as industry professionals.

You can listen to my full interview with Gene here: Interview with Gene Fox, Cargill

Check out photos from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album

Breaking News: IARC Creates Carcinogen Confusion

In Biotechnology, Food, government, International, Media, Regulations by Cathryn

Cancer terrifies all of us. Given the painful memories almost every person has in America, this is completely reasonable. Yet, the precise global agency tasked with assessing cancer risks most probably generates a great deal of unnecessary fear according to a Reuters report released today.

Delving into how experts in public health, academia and industry view the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a narrow sub-agency of the World Health Organization, Reuters found considerable cause for confusion and concern. Noting that IARC is held in respect in relevant circles, the article looks at how IARC’s pronouncements can cause confusion even amongst scientists and, thus understandably, among consumers as well.

How does this impact agriculture?

Last spring, IARC announced the reclassification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. In the fall, the agency listed processed meats in the same category as plutonium. The classifications made by IARC impact public perception of farming practices and, in these instances, provide scary support for anti-ag activists.

Whether one questions IARC’s scientific rigor or its approach to research supplied by third parties, it is abundantly clear questions about the relevance of IARC’s findings in public discourse are, increasingly, becoming more prominent.

Next time a report issues a proclamation citing the cancer risk of a new product, ask questions. Did IARC call something deem something else available for decades secretly as carcinogenic as nuclear material? Stand with science. Sometimes, common sense actually makes scientific sense too.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Easter Basket: The Sugar Is the Same

In Activism, Biotechnology, Current News, Food, Guest Blogger, HFCS by Cathryn

Sugarbeet_GMO_Photo1Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from Michigan CommonGround blogger Barbara Siemen. A passionate agvocate who blogs at, Barbara shares the insight a once city girl turned farmer has on why moms across the country can feel excited filling Easter baskets.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Easter Basket: The Sugar Is the Same

By Barbara Siemen
Barbara is a city girl turned country chick. She and her husband, a fourth-generation farmer, raise dairy, beef, corn, wheat, hay and sugar beets in Michigan.

Right around the corner is one of my favorite holidays: Easter! Our clever Easter Bunny hides baskets filled with toys, books, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and candy. Chocolate candy to be exact.

Since I’m a farmer, moms come to me with questions about food and how it’s raised, and that includes chocolate. On our farm, we don’t grow chocolate, but we do grow sugar beets, which provide a main source of sugar in chocolate. Sugar beets are also one of the eight commercially available genetically modified crops (GMOs) in the U.S.

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about GMOs, so I wanted to give you some facts and resources to help ease any concerns you might have, because nobody should be afraid of the chocolate in their Easter basket.

GMOs have been extensively tested.

GMOs are repeatedly and extensively tested for consumer and environmental safety and have been for about 20 years. In the U.S., those tests are reviewed by the Department of AgricultureEnvironmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration.

World-renowned health and safety organizations have deemed GMOs safe.

On average, it takes 13 years to bring a GMO seed to market because of the extensive research, testing and regulatory processes required. People have eaten countless meals containing GMOs over the last few decades, and no ill side effects on human health have been reported. Additionally, every regulatory agency and major scientific body in the world has deemed GMO foods to be safe. Foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same food-safety requirements as foods derived from traditionally bred plants.

Now let’s talk about sugar beets in particular.

Sugar is sugar.

Last year, an independent testing organization tested every sugar beet processing plant in the U.S. and Canada and found the sugar derived from GMO sugar beets is indistinguishable from non-GMO sugar beets. The sugar is the same. Sucrose is identical, whether it comes from sugar cane, conventional sugar beets or GMO sugar beets.

Growing GMO sugar beets on our farm helps the environment.

On our farm, we grow GMO sugar beets. Planting these sugar beets has been great for our farm and helped us become more sustainable in many ways. For example, we have reduced the amount of products we apply to protect against weeds, bugs and disease by around 55 percent, and our fuel consumption has dropped by 50 percent. The fewer products we need to apply, means less tractor trips across all of our fields. That’s a savings in not only fuel but also environmental impact.

As a farmer, a mom and a chocolate lover, I hope that Bunny will deliver a bounty of chocolate goodies to you on Easter morning. And I hope you can trust that I will deliver the best and safest sugar possible to make those chocolates. If you have any questions about sugar beets or GMOs, please leave a comment or connect with us on Facebook to keep the conversation going.

It’s Not All Bad News For Ethanol

In Biofuels, Ethanol, Exports by Mark

ethanol-prideNews in agriculture can seem a little bleak these days; $3.50 corn will do that. But given that it’s Friday I thought it might be a good idea to send out a positive vibe to give your nerves a break. And I didn’t have to look to far to find the goods.

First, ethanol is not dead or even dying despite reports to the contrary. Domestic expansion has slowed and that stinks considering we have the corn and the market demand but not the market access. Thank you big oil for hooking that up. But while this political melodrama plays out on ethanol in the U.S. foreign customers are having no problem seeing the clean air and performance benefits of ethanol.

In fact, the U.S. exported $2.1 billion in ethanol in 2014, replacing Brazil as the world’s largest ethanol exporter. 2015 data is expected to show 850 million gallons of exported ethanol, second only to a record year in 2011 and up from the 835 million gallons exported last year.

It was also nice to see the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) make a very public statement in support of ethanol and maintaining the Renewable Fuels Standard this week during an Ag Executive Outlook Panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville. AEM named RFS one of their top issues for 2016.

So, chin-up and let’s keep chipping away on our nation’s leaders to show them the light regarding the benefits of ethanol. Oil has money but it never hurts to be right on an issue.

What Facts Are Really Facts?

In Activism, American Ethanol, Biofuels, Current News, Environmental, Ethanol, Guest Blogger by Mark

whats in gas

(This guest blog is provided by Matt Reese who writes for Ohio’s Country Journal).

It can be really hard to know which way to feel about some issues because these days it seems everyone has their own set of “facts” that conclusively proves their point. The problem, of course, is that as soon as you conclusively prove a point, you run into someone else who has an entirely different set of facts that definitively proves their point, which happens to be the opposite view of the first point that was proven. Confused yet? I know I am.

One only has to sit and listen to a political debate on any issue between any candidates of any party to get all caught up in a muddled mess of my-facts-versus-your-facts. Then there is often a behind-the-scenes reporter who does a fact check on the aforementioned facts to clarify the situation. Unfortunately, more often than not, these fact checks often just compound the problem by providing another opportunity to spin the issue with a set of suspect facts about the facts.

Of course, in my line of work I see this all the time in great detail with the wide variety of complicated issues facing food and agriculture. This is certainly true in the current debate over the Environmental Protection Agency’s impending decision about the levels set in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The recent story by Joel Penhorwood on this issue highlights the divergent facts in the RFS debate. Here is an excerpt:

ACCF (an anti-ethanol group) Executive Vice President Dave Banks responded strongly to the outcry by Ohio ag and pro-ethanol groups.

“I think these guys sometimes get lost in this weird, parallel universe in which they actually convince themselves that this mountain of damning, definitive science and data about corn ethanol’s environmental impact doesn’t exist, or that folks don’t actually know about it,” Banks said in a statement.

That environmental impact Banks spoke of is one of negative consequence. The ACCF points to research that they say shows the production of ethanol doubles greenhouse emissions when compared to gasoline over 30 years, making it a dirtier fuel in the end — a highly disputed claim. 

“It’s just misinformation,” said Ohio grain farmer Chad Kemp about the anti-RFS ads. “The things they’re saying there is no scientific backing for. They’re trying to get the people to jump on board with it and basically, their idea is to kill renewable fuels in this country.”

The heated debate over the RFS really ramped up in recent weeks with dueling ad campaigns in Ohio and Washington, D.C. highlighting very different sets of facts pertaining to ethanol’s impact on the environment, the economy and so forth. So whose facts are right?

In the end, the complexities of these various issues generally boil down to some basic truths. The key for me is getting down to those basic truths and sorting out how I feel about those. So, here are some facts about the RFS (that are really facts) that helped me to form my opinion.

  1. Congress created and approved the RFS.
  2. Businesses planned their investment strategies based upon the RFS.
  3. The RFS was implemented and businesses responded as they saw fit.

While there are many more nuances to the RFS debate, for me this set of undisputable facts is reason enough to support it. The government made a deal. Regardless of whether you like the deal or not, it was made and I believe it should be upheld and seen through to fruition. Maybe this set of facts doesn’t address your primary concerns about he RFS. Here are more real facts.

  1. Ethanol offsets the purchase of foreign oil.
  2. Ethanol is made from corn produced by American farmers.

I would rather support farmers in the U.S. with my energy dollar than who knows who I am supporting when I use petroleum.

In the end, there is usually at least some kernel of truth in either side of these debates. Which facts matter to you? The way I sort through them is by identifying the key (and real) facts of the matter that really matter to me.

Either way, the RFS is a no-brainer in my book.

Love the Earth? Organic May Not Be Your Best Bet

In Biotechnology, Conservation, Environmental, Land Use by Cathryn

Switching to an all-organic agricultural system in the United States would have serious, negative consequences according to analysis of government reports published in Forbes. With clear documentation of a yield gap between conventional and organic production indicating increased land use would be required to make such a switch, the authors detail why, amongst many other reasons, organic is not the more environmentally-friendly choice.


Noting that all-organic crop production would require the use of an area the size of “all parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states,” the piece examines the findings of the USDA’s recently released survey of organic farmers. The implications of such a land shift to America’s environment would be catastrophic.


Today, Americans have an incredible array of healthy, nutritious foods from which they can choose. With less than half a percent of U.S. farmland in organic production, it is still increasingly easy for consumers to choose organic options if they so desire. It does not make sense for them to do so, however, under the assumption that switching to all-organic farming would benefit the environment.


To read the full article, click here.

Who Will Farm the Land When Farmers Are Gone?

In agribusiness, Blogroll, Current News, Education, Farming, Sustainability by Mark

Picture1“They keep farming even when their eyesight is failing and their hearts are going bad.” So starts a great story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today regarding escalating farm accidents among older farmers. “They get back on their tractors after farm accidents have put them in the hospital, sometimes with permanently disabling injuries.”

And it is very true that unlike most of us farmers might slow down but they rarely stop working at 65. As the article points out many die on the job, “because they gamble with their aging bodies once too often.” This is an accurate and tragic story, and likely not one that is going to go away.

Nationally, the typical farmer is past 58 years old and isn’t slowing down, up from 50.5 in 1982. Buried beneath this headline is an even broader social issue of who is on deck as these warriors of the soil drive their tractors into the sunset?

Farmers via their sheer efficiency and productivity have pulled a bushel basket over their incredible job performance. Society often takes them for granted, but this article begs the question who’s next. The recent rural renaissance brought on by large crops, steady exports and growing ethanol production, combined with higher prices had launched a migration of youth coming back to the farm.

However, this process appears to have stalled now, due to a return to break even prices, before the movement has even taken full flight. The vast majority of Americans say they want these family farmers, these storehouses of generations of specialized knowledge, to continue to provide their food, fuel and fiber. I am guessing most people have no clue how tenuous the future of family farmers really is, and unless we get creative it will be too late.