News Article | May 15, 2017
Facing overstuffed silos and forecasts for another huge harvest this year, U.S. farmers are trying to find new uses for their corn and soybeans. Robust demand for processed foods, animal feed and biofuels isn’t keeping up with a record glut of crops in the U.S. and around the world, after several years of bumper harvests and largely benevolent weather. To sell the surplus, farmers and trade groups are wooing new customers, from car makers to toy companies. In recent years, corn and soybeans have been added to the recipes for Ford Motor Co. seat cushions, IKEA mattresses, Danone SA’s yogurt cups and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Olay moisturizers. Adidas AG’s Reebok brand recently unveiled sneakers made with corn. Lego A/S earlier this year said it was toying with using grain-based materials to mold its famous bricks. Industry groups also are calling for more research into new ways that the crops could replace petroleum as a raw material in industrial and construction applications. “We’re sitting on a pretty good surplus,” says Paul Bertels, vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, which recently called for more research to put corn in more products. “We stepped back and said, ‘We need to find new uses.’ ” U.S. corn and soybean stockpiles swelled to a combined 10.35 billion bushels in the first quarter of 2017, a record. Soybean futures have fallen more than 10% at the Chicago Board of Trade since mid-January. Corn prices are also under pressure. Analysts expect big harvests in South America to increase the global glut, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in March that U.S. farmers also are expecting record acreage of soybeans this year. The hunt for alternative uses for grains and oilseeds isn’t new. NatureWorks LLC, the world’s first and largest maker of a bioplastic called PLA, started in 1989 as a Cargill research project. But the multiyear glut, which has pushed many farmers deeper into debt and some out of business, is adding urgency to that work. Argo Genesis Chemical LLC of Illinois recently developed its own highly flexible, soy-made plastics for use in products like road-paving materials, cardboard and diapers adhesives. The company says such compounds can help shield manufacturers from volatile oil prices. “Long term, we see this being the way the plastics industry moves,” says Steve Davies, spokesman for NatureWorks. “There’s tremendous potential to grow.” For consumers of these new products, the use of corn and soybeans could be a positive. Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainability. Switching to raw materials that can be grown year after year allows companies to tout their “green” credentials, though researchers are divided over the overall environmental impact. Still, these new uses account for only a fraction of the output in an industry geared toward cranking out billions of bushels a year for animal feed, alcohol and food. Some 96% of global agricultural land is used to produce food, feed and pastures, according to trade association European Bioplastics. Crops for bioplastics took up just 0.01% in 2014; rubber and cotton plants along with crops for biofuel made up much of the remainder. “Those fringe uses of corn are so specialized that they’re interesting, but really people are looking for uses that develop 5 billion bushels of demand,” said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, a founding partner at Summit Commodity Brokerage in Des Moines, Iowa. “That’s where the big swing could come.” But boosters see room for rapid growth, and point to ethanol’s trajectory in the U.S. as an example. Less than 1% of U.S. corn was used as ethanol in the 1980-81 crop year, according to the Agriculture Department. In 2015-16, 5.2 billion bushels, or 38%, of the U.S. crop became biofuel. Some food-security groups say redirecting grain and soybeans toward factories takes away land that will be needed to feed a growing global population. Others say the added value from such alternative uses won’t trickle down to the farmers themselves, since they aren’t the ones processing the grains into these higher-priced products. “A lot of these folks are going to continue to be caught in the system where they’re getting a tiny fraction of what the final product brings to the processors,” says Greg Fogel, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “That’s not going to solve the problems that currently exist with the rural farm economy.” John Motter, an Ohio farmer and chairman of the United Soybean Board, says that for now U.S. farmers need all the buyers they can find. “Farmers are businessmen. We all take a longer view,” he says, proudly pointing out that the seats in his 2013 Ford F-250 pickup truck are made from oilseed foam. That’s the kind of business opportunity farmers want U.S. companies to see in their fields. “Ford isn’t running soy in their seats because they think it’s a neat thing to do,” says Keith Cockerline, director of industrial uses at the United Soybean Board. “It’s because they’re making money at it.” Mr. Parkin is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Chicago. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News Article | October 31, 2016
Four Delaware Tech scholars recently completed Biotech University thanks to a scholarship from the Delaware Soybean Board. Caitlin Chaney of Bridgeville, Jenna Hitchens of Georgetown, Samantha Monroe of Bridgeville and Kevin Shuman of Seaford completed the one-day course held at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University in Phoenix Oct. 28. The course included classroom and lab work on biotechnology, including a hands-on DNA extraction experiment and a farm tour. The students now have the opportunity to compete in a multimedia contest to win scholarships and additional travel opportunities. “Soybean varieties which have been improved through biotechnology represent the majority of our crop,” says Jay Baxter, a Georgetown, Del., farmer and chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board. “Yet in spite of how common they are, we see and hear a lot of misunderstandings about them. Giving these young journalists the opportunity to learn about biotechnology and ask questions about how it works will help them help others understand the technology in their future stories.” Monroe, a former Delaware Tech student, currently is pursuing her bachelors in Media Communications at Wilmington University. Hitchens is also a DTCC grad. Chaney and Shuman continue their journalism studies at Del Tech. Biotech U is co-sponsored by the United Soybean Board, the National Corn Growers Association, the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute and Arizona Farm Bureau. Delaware farmers plant about 180,000 acres of soybeans each year, and the crop generates approximately $60 million in value to the state. Delaware’s agricultural industry contributes about $8 billion per year to the Delaware economy. The Delaware Soybean Board consists of nine farmer-directors and the Secretary of Agriculture. Funded through a one-half of one percent assessment on the net market value of soybeans at their first point of sale, the checkoff works with partners in the value chain to identify and capture opportunities that increase farmer profit potential. One-half of the soybean checkoff assessments collected by the state boards are forwarded to the United Soybean Board. About Delaware Soybean Board: The Delaware Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Delaware for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. To learn more about the Delaware Soybean Board, visit http://www.desoybeans.org.
News Article | December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Partnership commemorates World Soil Day on Dec. 5 by encouraging farmers to reflect on steps they can take to make their land healthier. World Soil Day celebrates the importance of soil as one of our most vital resources. To mark the occasion, the SHP has released an educational and fun white board video, “Farmers to the Rescue: How Healthy Soil Can Save the Planet.” “Soil health is the next frontier in agricultural sustainability,” said Nick Goeser, SHP director. “Restoring organic matter through practices like growing cover crops will help soil sequester more carbon while making it more resistant to drought, and more resilient to floods. These are important goals worldwide as the population grows.” With more than 65 farm sites already enrolled in nine Midwestern states, the SHP is the leader in field-scale testing and measuring of management practices that improve soil health. These practices include: The program’s goal is to quantify the benefits of these practices from an economic standpoint, in addition to positive environmental benefits they provide, like protecting water resources. “By changing some practices, farmers hold the power to rebuild organic matter in their soil,” the white board video says. “This helps the planet by improving crops and removing excess carbon from the atmosphere….More organic matter in the soil means better soils for farming, healthy crops, and protecting the environment.” The World Soil Day campaign aims to connect people with soils and raise awareness on their critical importance in our lives. In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences made a resolution proposing the 5th of December as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing. About the Soil Health Partnership The Soil Health Partnership brings together diverse partner organizations including commodity groups, federal agencies, universities and environmental groups to work toward the common goal of improving soil health. Over a period of at least 10 years, the SHP will identify, test and measure farm management practices that improve soil health and benefit farmers. We believe the results of this farmer-led project will provide a platform for sharing peer-to-peer information, and lend resources to benefit agricultural sustainability and profitability. An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, we provide the spark for greater understanding and implementation of agricultural best practices to protect resources for future generations. For more, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.
News Article | January 25, 2016
On January 8, 2016, seven biofuel and agriculture groups requested the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 . The Petition was filed by Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Americans for Clean Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association.
News Article | November 16, 2016
ST. LOUIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--#BHB--Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company unlocking the genetic potential of plants, today announced a strategic partnership and grant from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). The primary goal of the funding and partnership initiative will be to accelerate breeding and development of new corn hybrids utilizing CropOS™, a cognitive engine that uses cloud biology to empower a new era of plant genomics innovation, subsequently introducing new
News Article | November 1, 2016
Jacob Taylor, a graduate student of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, recently completed Biotech University thanks to a scholarship from the Maryland Soybean Board. Taylor, of Elkridge, Md., completed the one-day course held at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University in Phoenix Oct. 28. The course included classroom and lab work on biotechnology, including a hands-on DNA extraction experiment and a farm tour. He now has the opportunity to compete in a multimedia contest to win scholarships and additional travel opportunities. “In the Chesapeake region we rely on innovation to succeed as farmers. Biotechnology offers us the opportunity to choose soybean varieties which allow us to farm more sustainably and efficiently,” says Travis Hutchison, a Cordova, Md., farmer and chairman of the Maryland Soybean Board. “We hope that, through Biotech U, we are allowing the next generation of journalists to learn about biotechnology and be able to present biotech stories with knowledge and balance.” Biotech U is co-sponsored by the United Soybean Board, the National Corn Growers Association, the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute and Arizona Farm Bureau. The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. It is funded by farmers through an assessment of one-half of one percent of the net market value of soybeans at their first point of sale. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Maryland for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. In Maryland, farmers grow about a half a million acres of soybeans, producing more than 20 million bushels of beans each year. With a value of $173 million to the state’s economy, soybeans are one of Maryland’s top crops. About Maryland Soybean Board: The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Maryland for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. To learn more about the Maryland Soybean Board, visit http://www.mdsoy.com.
News Article | December 21, 2016
FRESNO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Netafim USA, the leader in drip irrigation technology, congratulates three of its Drip Irrigation Champions on their first place finishes in the 2016 National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest. All users of Netafim drip irrigation, Kevin Matthews of East Bend, North Carolina (304.8757 bu/ac – Irrigated Land), Dan Luepkes of Oregon, Illinois (315.6245 bu/ac – Irrigated Land) and Kelly Garrett of Arion, Iowa (289.7270 bu/ac - No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated) recorded yields that out-paced all other growers (per category) to take top state-level prizes at the 52nd annual Corn Yield Contest. “Each of these award winning yields is the result of a crop management strategy that included the use of Netafim subsurface drip irrigation technology to deliver precise amounts of nutrients and water to the crop during the critical growth stages,” said Zeev Barylka, Marketing Director for Netafim USA. “We could not be more excited for Kevin, Dan, and Kelly on this great achievement. All are great examples of how Netafim technologies together with the expertise of our Crop Advisory Team enable growers to maximize growth, yield and profitability.” Luepkes, who farms in Northern Illinois, turned to drip irrigation a few years ago as a way to overcome the poor soil composition on a piece of land he had recently bought. “A lot of people told me that this property had such poor soil that I would go broke if I tried to raise a crop on it,” said Dan. “The Netafim system allowed us to better manage our nitrogen application in order to stretch it out later in the season to maximize efficiency and yield. We monitored the crop very closely with tissue sampling, and when the crop was hungry, we were able to feed it in real-time using the drip. Despite having some pretty poor soil on this land, I believe we can out-produce some of the best ground in this area on this property with Netafim drip irrigation.” Garrett says it was the topography of Western Iowa that influenced his decision to install drip irrigation on his award-winning field. “With our rolling hills, elevation changes, creeks and ditches we knew that a pressure compensating drip system was going to be the only way to get water and nutrients to this crop,” said Kelly. “It's cheaper than buying more land, you don't need another planter, you don't need more help, you don’t need another combine, you don’t need more seed, worse case scenario is you need another truck to haul away the bushels. It was a no-brainer for us.” For Matthews, the decision to install subsurface drip irrigation on his North Carolina farm was based on his previous experience with the limitations of a center pivot system. “We felt like we needed to make a change,” explains Matthews. “We've had center pivots for awhile, but they just don't work in our small field sizes, so we decided we had to do something different and went with subsurface drip irrigation. SDI allows us to irrigate fields that you just cannot irrigate with a center pivot. Our goal is to farm fewer acres while producing more bushels and SDI has done exactly that.” More on each of these award-winning growers stories is available by visiting www.netafimusa.com/agriculture or the Netafim USA Youtube page. Netafim USA, based in Fresno, Calif., develops and manufactures drip irrigation systems for agriculture, landscape & turf, greenhouse & nursery, mining and wastewater. Netafim offers an extensive range of irrigation solutions including driplines, filters, sprinklers, valves, water meters and automation equipment for complete dripline system installations. For more information go to www.netafimusa.com.
Kim S.,Michigan State University |
Dale B.E.,Michigan State University |
Keck P.,National Corn Growers Association
Bioenergy Research | Year: 2014
This meta-study quantitatively and qualitatively compares 21 published life cycle assessment (LCA)-type studies for energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of maize production in the USA. Differences between the methodologies and numerical results obtained are described. Nonrenewable energy consumption in maize production (from cradle-to-farm gate) ranges from 1.44 to 3.50 MJ/kg of maize, and GHG emissions associated with maize production range from -27 to 436 g CO2 equivalent/kg of maize. Large variations between studies exist within the input data for lime application, fuels purchased, and life cycle inventory data for fertilizer and agrochemical production. Although most studies use similar methodological approaches, major differences between studies include the following: (1) impacts associated with human labor and farm machinery production, (2) changes in carbon dioxide emissions resulting from soil organic carbon levels, and (3) indirect N2O emissions. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York.
News Article | November 30, 2015
« Global billionaires unite in “Breakthrough energy coalition” to support development of zero-carbon energy | Main | ARPA-E awards U-M $1.9M to develop advanced low-cost high-efficiency engine; boosting, highly dilute combustion and 48V system » The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017. This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June (earlier post), but still represents a reduction compared to the original statutory requirements. The final 2016 standard for cellulosic biofuel—the fuel with the lowest carbon emissions—is 230 million gallons, or about 7 times more than what the market produced in 2014. In June, EPA had proposed 206 million gallons. In the original legislation, the volume for 2016 was 4,250 million gallons. The final 2016 standard for advanced biofuel is 3.61 billion gallons—35% higher than the actual 2014 volumes. In June, EPA had proposed 3.4 billion gallons; the original legislation called for 7.25 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2016. Biodiesel standards grow steadily over the next several years, increasing every year to reach 2 billion gallons by 2017. Under the final rule, the total required volume of all renewable fuels is 18.11 billion gallons—11% higher than 2014 actual volumes. In June, EPA had proposed a total of 17.4 billion gallons for all renewable fuels. EPA said that it finalized 2014 and 2015 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) that represent significant growth over historical levels. Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said that while his group was pleased to see the upward revision, “the fact remains that any reduction in the statutory amount will have a negative impact on our economy, our energy security, and the environment.” Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, was more blunt, saying: Today’s rule is a severe blow to American consumers and the biofuels industry. To date, BIO member companies have invested billions of dollars to develop first-of-a-kind advanced and cellulosic biofuel production facilities. EPA’s two-year delay in finalizing the rule created untenable uncertainty and shook investor confidence in the RFS program. BIO estimates that investment in the advanced biofuel sector has experienced a $13.7 billion shortfall due to EPA’s delays and proposed changes. Unfortunately, this final rule exacerbates the problem. However, Elizabeth Farina, president of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) was more sanguine about the changes: