READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 21st

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Court Vacates Midnight Refinery Exemptions

Biofuel groups hailed an order from the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating three small refinery exemptions granted to Sinclair the day before President Biden’s inauguration. The decision came promptly after the Environmental Protection Agency filed a petition asking the court to overturn the waivers on April 30. Sinclair responded on May 18 that it didn’t oppose the EPA request. “We’re pleased the court has vacated these improperly granted waivers and is sending them back to EPA for reconsideration,” says Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “If these exemptions had been allowed to stand, they would have erased RFS blending requirements for 260 million gallons of low-carbon renewable fuels.” He says it would also have destabilized rural communities and been a big step backward in the fight against climate change. National Corn Growers Association President John Linder says, “We look forward to working with EPA Administrator Michael Regan to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard and appreciate his early action to change the EPA course when it comes to waivers.”

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EPA Will Keep Biofuel Mandates Steady in 2021-2022

Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Environmental Protection Agency’s biofuel blending mandates for this year and next will be in line with those from 2020. The agency is said to be accounting for weaker fuel demand since the onset of COVID-19. That would mean the U.S. refining industry would avoid added costs normally associated with the usual expansion in renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard. That will come at the expense of biofuel producers and the corn industry, which depend on regular increases to expand their businesses. The required amounts of biofuels that refiners must blend into the nation’s fuel supply usually increase annually in hopes of reducing foreign petroleum imports and helping the nation’s farmers. Former President Trump delayed the 2021 proposal because of COVID-19 and the 2020 election. The EPA says it intends to issue both the 2021 and 2022 volumes proposals later this summer. In the last ruling back in 2019, the EPA mandated that American refiners blend 20.09 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the nation’s fuel mix for the 2020 compliance year. That mandate included 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels like ethanol. The upcoming volume proposals are expected to largely be the same amounts.

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Ethanol Production Tops One Million Barrels

The Energy Information Administration says U.S. ethanol output topped the one-million-barrel mark for the first time in 14 months, while stockpiles also rose last week. Ethanol production jumped to an average of 1.032 million barrels a day in the week ending on May 14. The latest EIA report says that’s up from 979,000 barrels a day, on average, during the prior week and the highest level since March 13, 2020. The Midwest, by far the largest ethanol-producing region, saw its output come in at an average of 985,000 barrels a day, up from 940,000 the previous week. That’s the highest level since the week ending on February 28, 2020. Gulf Coast production jumped to an average of 20,000 barrels a day, up from 16,000 the previous week. Rocky Mountain output rose to 10,000 barrels a day from 8,000, and East Coast production rose to 7,000 barrels a day from 6,000 a week before. The West Coast was the only region where output didn’t improve, holding fast at an average of 9,000 barrels a day. Inventories rose, but only slightly, coming in at 19.4 million barrels last week, up from 19.39 million the prior week.

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USDA Releases 90-Day Climate-Smart Progress Report

The USDA published its 90-Day Progress Report on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry this week. The agency says it represents an important step toward President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad and the shift towards a whole-of-department approach to solutions. “With the right tools and partnerships, American agriculture and forestry can lead the world in solutions that will increase climate resistance, sequester carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and maintain critical environmental benefits,” says Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “At this pivotal time, the president has called upon USDA to develop a strategy for climate-smart agriculture and forestry as part of a whole-of-government effort to addressing the climate crisis.” He also says central to USDA’s approach is the concept that whatever the agency does must work for farmers, ranchers, and landowners. The goal is to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect the nation’s lands, biodiversity, and natural resources like soil, air, and water. Through research, conservation practices, and partnerships, USDA is looking to find solutions to agricultural challenges, enhancing economic growth, and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers, and private foresters. More information on the progress report is available at www.usda.gov.

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First Long Flight Powered by Biofuels is Successful

A coalition of companies came together to carry out the first long-haul flight powered by a renewable fuel called Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Air France Flight 342 took off from Paris and headed to Montreal with its tanks full of the renewable aviation fuel produced in French manufacturing plants. Renewable Energy Magazine says the flight is a tangible result of four groups that came together to decarbonize transportation and to develop a new supply chain for the fuel. The biofuel used for this flight was made from waste and residue sourced from the French economy. A company called Total produced the biofuel from used cooking oil at a biorefinery and a factory in France without using any virgin plant-based oil. The 16 percent blend of biofuels on this flight lessened the CO2 emissions by 20 tons. Air France-KLM is known as a pioneer for testing sustainable aviation fuels. In addition to this flight, French company Airbus is conducting several series of tests to certify that airliners can fly with 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM, says, “For many years, the Air France-KLM Group has been committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Supporting the emergence of an economically viable French aviation biofuel sector is a priority for our group and the country.”

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U.S. Chicken Producer Charged with Price-Fixing

Claxton Poultry Farms Incorporated has been indicted in Colorado on charges of price-fixing broiler chickens produced for sale to restaurants and grocery stores. A Successful Farming Dot Com article says the U.S. Justice Department announced the charges on Thursday. The company’s president and vice president were previously indicted for their roles in a nationwide conspiracy to fix chicken prices from 2012 to 2019. If the company is found guilty, Claxton could be fined up to 100 million dollars or twice what it gained in the price-fixing. Claxton is based in Georgia and sells 300 million pounds of chicken every year to 750 customers, including some of the country’s biggest restaurant and grocery store chains. In February, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, one of the largest American poultry producers, pled guilty and was sentenced to pay $107.9 million to settle the federal charges that it conspired to fix chicken prices and passed on the costs to consumers and other purchasers. Pilgrim’s Pride is primarily owned by Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Tucker Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.