National Ag News for May 16, 2023

Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Classify Corn as an Advanced Biofuel

New legislation introduced Monday in the House of Representatives would allow for ethanol from corn starch to qualify as an advanced biofuel. The Fuels Parity Act would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Argonne GREET model to determine the greenhouse gas emission profile of biofuels under the RFS. Corn is currently prohibited from qualifying as an advanced biofuel, even if it can meet the required scientific thresholds, by a provision in the 2007 RFS expansion known as the “corn discrimination clause.” No other feedstock is limited – only corn starch used for ethanol. Allowing corn to qualify as an advanced biofuel would incentivize lower emissions from ethanol production and allow corn to access another bucket of the RFS. If ethanol can meet the scientific thresholds, then it should be allowed to qualify as an advanced biofuel and generate an advanced biofuel RIN, according to lawmakers introducing the legislation.

NCGA: Ethanol Bill Would Level the Playing Field

The National Corn Growers Association supports the Fuels Parity Act introduced in the House of Representative’s Monday. NCGA President Tom Haag says the legislation “Recognizes the declining carbon intensity of today’s low-carbon ethanol and helps level the playing field.” Published analysis from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory concludes corn ethanol’s carbon intensity decreased 23 percent from 2005 to 2019 due to increased corn yield, reduced fertilizer intensity and improved ethanol production efficiency, with corn ethanol now between 44 and 52 percent lower in carbon intensity than the gasoline it replaces. Argonne’s analysis is consistent with recent research from Environmental Health and Engineering that corn ethanol today is 46 percent lower in carbon intensity than gasoline, with the potential for further reductions from additional corn feedstock and production process improvements. Under the law, advanced biofuels must deliver a 50 percent or more reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, a requirement today’s ethanol now meets.

New Survey Reveals Farmer Use of Automation

Growers now spend an average of $500,000 a year on automation in response to the persistent ag labor shortage. Western Growers discovered the data in its Specialty Crop Automation Report. The report, which tracks and measures industry progress in harvest automation across the fresh produce industry, is part of the Western Growers Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which aims to accelerate ag automation by 50 percent in ten years. Most progress was made in the weeding and harvest assist segments; market-ready solutions are able to meet grower economic targets and alleviate key challenges, such as lack of labor availability. Growers reported ROIs for weeding solutions of less than one to two years, depending on the type of crop and technology used. Growers want more trained agtech personnel, with 50 percent indicating that they had internal employees who dedicated the majority of their time to the integration of automation investments.

Groundwater Organizations see Nitrate Contamination As Top Concern

New data from USDA’s Economic Research Service finds that 30 percent of groundwater organizations cite nitrate contamination as a groundwater quality concern. Nitrates can come from animal manure and chemical fertilizers that leach into groundwater. When groundwater pumping exceeds the volume of groundwater recharge, the concentration of contaminants like nitrates can increase. Nitrate contamination is a concern on more than half of the groundwater-fed irrigated acreage within groundwater organization service areas. USDA’s Survey of Irrigation Organizations collected information on the estimated 735 local entities that manage on-farm groundwater use through statutory, regulatory, or other powers. While nitrate contamination was the most common groundwater quality concern reported, contamination by salinity, other nutrients, and heavy metals are a concern for 27, 19, and 18 percent of groundwater organizations, respectively. USDA’s Economic Research Service says contaminated groundwater can harm crops or make the water unusable for irrigation entirely.

Rodale Institute Applauds USDA Investments in Organic Farmers

The Department of Agriculture is expanding opportunities for organic farmers, a welcome investment, according to the Rodale Institute. USDA announced the expanded opportunities last week. Through the newly-established Organic Market Development Grant Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will issue up to $75 million in competitive grants to fund projects designed to expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products. In addition, the Farm Service agency increased the cost share amount under the Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which helps organic producers cover organic certification costs, to the maximum amount allowed by statute. Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Tkach says, “Consumer demand for organic products is growing rapidly and the USDA’s support will help American farmers meet the needs of the market.” Recent USDA data shows farms and ranches in the United States sold over $11 billion in certified organic commodities in 2021, a 13 percent increase from 2019.

Gas Prices Edge Higher, Diesel Lower

For the first time in several weeks, the nation’s average gasoline price increased, rising four cents from a week ago to $3.51 per gallon. The national average is down 14.9 cents from a month ago and 95.6 cents per gallon lower than a year ago. The national average diesel price fell four cents in the last week and stands at $3.97 per gallon, $1.59 lower than one year ago. GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan says, “We’re likely to soon see gasoline prices slip to their largest year-on-year deficit since COVID hit, when prices fell over $1 per gallon from 2019, so the relief at the pump has been significant.” With continued discussion over the U.S. hitting its debt limit, oil prices have seen additional volatility. De Haan adds that it’s looking more likely that, barring a major hurricane or series of refinery outages, the national average may not end up hitting the $4 per gallon mark.


By Tucker 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.

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