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Friday, September 21,2012

EPA seeks comments on Iowa CAFO plans

by Todd Neeley - DTN
One week after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) responded to an Environment Protection Agency (EPA) report criticizing the state’s handling of its concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) program, EPA opened a 30-day public comment period on Iowa’s proposed changes to the program.

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Friday, September 14,2012

Aflatoxin variability angst; Kansas elevator reports high toxin levels

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Southeastern Kansas farmers are learning there could be something worse than drought-diminished corn yields. As harvest wrapped up near Hartford last week, producers hauling in average yields of 30 to 35 bushels an acre were often met with more devastating news: Much of that corn contained aflatoxin.

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Saturday, October 29,2011

Bill provides certainty to rural America

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Though Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson told members of Congress that the agency has no intention to regulate farm dust, some lawmakers and their rural constituents aren’t convinced.

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Friday, October 14,2011

Lawsuit asks court to review EPA's ruling

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Companies planning to use biomass to produce electricity and biofuels got a break from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this summer when it handed down a three-year exemption from carbon dioxide emissions regulations.

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Friday, May 28,2010

State ag secretaries call for renewal of blenders credit

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Secretaries of agriculture in eight states have asked congressional leaders to renew ethanols volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or the 45-cent-per-gallon blenders credit, which is set to expire at the end of 2010.

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Friday, April 9,2010

Report: U.S. ethanol subsidies not needed

by Todd Neeley - DTN
The U.S. ethanol industry is running out of reasons to defend its reliance on federal subsidies and import tariffs, an Iowa State University (ISU) economist said in a new report.

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Monday, November 19,2007

Regulatory bottleneck limits ethanol

by Todd Neeley - DTN
In a video produced by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), scientists from the Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota disassemble the engine of a 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe. Part by part, they compare what a year’s worth of driving on E85 has done to a standard engine—and part by part, the technicians show that the engine is in better shape than a comparable engine run on regular unleaded gasoline. Despite the positive results, ACE officials say they would not recommend burning E85 in standard vehicles. But the test demonstrates what could be a pivotal point in ethanol’s future: Maybe, just maybe, standard vehicles will be able to run on higher ethanol blends (though not as high as E85) without ruin. Two things have prevented the use of higher blends thus far. One is federal regulatory hurdles. The other is the automakers, who won’t warranty engines to be used with blends higher than E10. Now there’s a chance the regulatory hurdles will come down. There’s no guarantee it will happen, but the government is taking another look. One concern the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is that higher blends have the potential to increase harmful emissions that contribute to air pollution. Those pollutants include nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. However, newer model vehicles are better equipped to reduce harmful emissions, making it less likely that higher ethanol blends would contribute significantly to additional air pollution, according to NRDC. Federal approval to use such blends in standard vehicles would create a much larger market for an industry that is about to hit the E10 “blending wall” as new ethanol plants continue to come on line. Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president, said his organization shares the same sentiment that the federal agencies do in wanting to thoroughly study the potential effects of using higher ethanol blends. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say frustrated,” he said. “We have a vested interest in ensuring that a fuel blend—whether E10, E20, E30, etc.—is going to be compatible with autos, that the fuel will work effectively and efficiently, that it will be safe, reliable and meet EPA emissions regulations. So, we recognize the hoops are in place for a reason. I think our concern is how would-be opponents might try to draw out the process and stand in the way. After all, we would be attempting to increase our market share.” The day when higher ethanol blends will be available to standard vehicles, however, is squarely in the hands of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Margot Perez-Sullivan, EPA media representative, said EPA and DOE have been looking at higher ethanol blends since the establishment of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the 2005 Energy Act. At this time, she said, the federal government will not share results of testing that is ongoing on the current U.S. vehicle fleet. “When we have results, we will make a public announcement,” Perez-Sullivan said. Denny DeVos, director of corporate finance for Sioux Falls, SD-based ethanol producer Poet, said that regulatory bottlenecks are a major constraint to additional ethanol sales, rather than poor ethanol economics or an RFS that’s too low. Federal authority to allow blending of ethanol above the legal 10-percent cap, he said, would be the fastest, most effective way to cure the ethanol industry’s current glut. Simply increasing the RFS up to a proposed 36 billion gallons from the current 7.5-billion-gallon cap by itself won’t fix the problem, DeVos said. “The nation’s non-flex fuel vehicles could use ethanol blends of 20 to 40 percent without harming the environment and without the infrastructure challenges of E85. “It’s definitely very safe to blend ethanol at 30 percent without engine modification,” DeVos said. Higher blends up to 40 percent are the “upper operating range” of what oxygen sensors can detect in today’s engines. At $93-per-barrel crude oil, he said blenders could make an estimated $1 more per gallon with ethanol than using conventional gasoline, with federal tax credits included. The reason blenders aren’t doing it now with crude oil approaching $100 per barrel is that retailers can’t sell more ethanol because of federal regulatory barriers, DeVos said. Federal studies are underway looking at both exhaust emissions and evaporative emissions from the fuel blend or blends we would want approved, Jennings said. Scientists are looking at materials compatibility—immersing parts and materials in the higher ethanol blends to compare how they react versus how those same materials react to gasoline. Jennings said the work also includes studying drivability and durability, or how well cars operate on the higher blends, and the potential health effects and air quality. In 1999, ACE published the results of a year-long study conducted at Minnesota State University in Mankato; the study looked at the effects E30 and E10 ethanol blends had on 15 different vehicles including Ford, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, Cadillac and Geo, ranging in year from 1985 to 1998. The study found a reduction in fuel economy on E30 and “no apparent trend in vehicle emissions was identified,” the study said. “Some emissions increased, while others decreased. Almost all emissions were below federal standards.” Researchers applied the same vehicle-emissions test used by EPA, the study said. “There was not one drivability problem reported during the study,” the study said. “There were no fuel system compatibility problems experienced by any participants.” If the federal government decides to allow higher blends, attention will turn to whether the automakers will warranty cars for their use.

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Monday, February 14,2005

RMA may require pre-watering

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Farmers who are considering not watering before planting this spring as a way to save on production costs may want to think again. USDA’s Risk Management Agency has changed the basic crop provisions rule for 2005, so that farmers who pre-watered in the past but decide not to this year could see their current actual production histories adjusted. APH, used to determine crop insurance coverage levels, is an average based on four to 10 years of yield data. The changes made to the basic crop provisions in August 2004 outline a number of situations where farmers could see their APH adjusted downward on all major crops except wheat. DTN Agronomist Dan Davidson said it’s difficult to know how many farmers and number of acres will be affected by the new rules. He said the RMA considers pre-watering to be a best-management practice and that most of that is done in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. “My own gut instinct is that it is in these three states and probably not much even in Kansas,” Davidson said. “Again the key is spring rainfall patterns and spring drying weather. In Texas they have a lot of drying before planting goes on because temps are warmer and that will dry out the soil enough that the crop will not germinate. So pre-watering will help get the surface to have enough moisture to germinate.” He said many farmers believe there will be enough available surface moisture this upcoming planting season. Dan Delano, a spokesperson for the crop insurance company Rain and Hail LLC in Omaha, said the new provisions were added by RMA as a result of the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Act of 2000. He said farmers who usually pre-water will likely be required to use production records from a year when pre-watering was not done if they decide not to water. Depending on the years selected, Delano said the APH may or may not be adjusted downward. For example, let’s say a non-irrigated crop unit is typically watered once before planting but the crop is not watered prior to planting for the current crop year. Delano said the approved APH yield would be adjusted to be consistent with other non-irrigated units where a crop had not been watered prior to planting previously. It could be limited to the non-irrigated transitional yield if other such units do not exist in a farmers APH database, according to RMA. Delano also said farmers should be aware of another change in RMP’s rules regarding APH. He said the rules now say that if the actual yield reported is “excessive” for any crop year the approved yield will be adjusted. Delano said the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. defines “excessive” yields as those of at least four times the county average for a given crop. If verifiable records are unavailable to support such a yield, the yield will be adjusted. For example, he said an excessive yield could occur if a farmer decides to plant a crop on ground previously used as a feedlot, where the soil is typically more fertile as a result of animal waste. Yield also will be adjusted if the approved APH yield is greater than 115 percent of the average of approved yields on record, or greater than 115 percent of the county transitional yield if a comparable database doesn’t exist. Under the Federal Crop Insurance Act transitional yield is the maximum average production per acre or the equivalent measure that is assigned to acreage for a crop year.

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Monday, February 14,2005

RMA may require pre-watering

by Todd Neeley - DTN
Farmers who are considering not watering before planting this spring as a way to save on production costs may want to think again. USDA’s Risk Management Agency has changed the basic crop provisions rule for 2005, so that farmers who pre-watered in the past but decide not to this year could see their current actual production histories adjusted. APH, used to determine crop insurance coverage levels, is an average based on four to 10 years of yield data. The changes made to the basic crop provisions in August 2004 outline a number of situations where farmers could see their APH adjusted downward on all major crops except wheat. DTN Agronomist Dan Davidson said it’s difficult to know how many farmers and number of acres will be affected by the new rules. He said the RMA considers pre-watering to be a best-management practice and that most of that is done in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. “My own gut instinct is that it is in these three states and probably not much even in Kansas,” Davidson said. “Again the key is spring rainfall patterns and spring drying weather. In Texas they have a lot of drying before planting goes on because temps are warmer and that will dry out the soil enough that the crop will not germinate. So pre-watering will help get the surface to have enough moisture to germinate.” He said many farmers believe there will be enough available surface moisture this upcoming planting season. Dan Delano, a spokesperson for the crop insurance company Rain and Hail LLC in Omaha, said the new provisions were added by RMA as a result of the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Act of 2000. He said farmers who usually pre-water will likely be required to use production records from a year when pre-watering was not done if they decide not to water. Depending on the years selected, Delano said the APH may or may not be adjusted downward. For example, let’s say a non-irrigated crop unit is typically watered once before planting but the crop is not watered prior to planting for the current crop year. Delano said the approved APH yield would be adjusted to be consistent with other non-irrigated units where a crop had not been watered prior to planting previously. It could be limited to the non-irrigated transitional yield if other such units do not exist in a farmers APH database, according to RMA. Delano also said farmers should be aware of another change in RMP’s rules regarding APH. He said the rules now say that if the actual yield reported is “excessive” for any crop year the approved yield will be adjusted. Delano said the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. defines “excessive” yields as those of at least four times the county average for a given crop. If verifiable records are unavailable to support such a yield, the yield will be adjusted. For example, he said an excessive yield could occur if a farmer decides to plant a crop on ground previously used as a feedlot, where the soil is typically more fertile as a result of animal waste. Yield also will be adjusted if the approved APH yield is greater than 115 percent of the average of approved yields on record, or greater than 115 percent of the county transitional yield if a comparable database doesn’t exist. Under the Federal Crop Insurance Act transitional yield is the maximum average production per acre or the equivalent measure that is assigned to acreage for a crop year.

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