Radio Interview: “Tax Extenders”

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding the “tax extender” package as it relates to the agriculture sector.  Mr. Ladd can be contacted at for additional details. The Linder Farm Network:

Evolution of Minnesota Biofuels Industry – Part 2 (via

The Minnesota biofuels industry has been evolving since its inception, which was discussed in Part 1 of this feature article.  In this part, we look at how the industry is taking shape in Minnesota and what some of the most promising new technologies are on the horizon.

An interesting element of the biofuel industry is that while it is evolving on a national level, it has also evolved locally. Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, explains that states and regions have differing available resources as well as differing types and tons of biomass available.

“Biofuel producers in any particular region adapt to the availability of various resources including, for example, access to energy, water, transportation infrastructure and so on,” says Rudnicki. “The availability of these important resources helped to accelerate the evolution of the biofuel industry in Minnesota and is what has made, and will continue to make, Minnesota one of the leading states when it comes to the production of biofuels.”

It’s interesting to review what could be deemed the top improvements that the ethanol industry has adopted over the past few years. Randall Doyal, CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, says that since the plant went online they have adapted their process and technology to reduce down time, increase throughput and increase yield.

Al-Corn was designed as a 10 million gallon per year plant, and today they are operating at 50 million gallons per year. “We have increased our fuel ethanol yield from two and a half gallons per bushel to over two point nine gallons per bushel,” says Doyal. “We have added CO2 recovery, distillers corn oil recovery, and focused on our distillers grains quality to add value to our ethanol production.”

So, what are the new best technologies coming down the pipeline? Rudnicki says the future is very exciting because it will involve many facets including the interface between biological processes and technology. He believes some of the processes to watch include technologies that will enable corn oil to be more efficiency extracted as well as the use of existing biomass.

From an ethanol plant perspective the next three to five years could bring big changes.

Doyal says the industry is waiting to see what will happen with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The industry has reached the point where ethanol makes up 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply and the country needs to see growth in the use of biofuels. Doyal believes the industry will primarily grow through “inside the fence” expansion at existing facilities (for example adding cellulosic ethanol technology or biodiesel plant), and today several greenfield projects are beginning to take shape.

In terms of how consumer access will change, Rudnicki says the ethanol industry will make even more progress including enabling more access to consumers for mid-level and higher blends of ethanol and fueling options.

“It’s fantastic to have this production of ethanol and other biofuels, but those clean, renewable fuels must have access to the market. That’s what will finally help to displace finite fossil fuels and help all of us reduce carbon emissions,” says Rudnicki.

When it comes down to brass tax, the biofuels industry must be profitable. Doyal says ethanol plant operators need to focus on efficiency improvements to reduce their cost of operation and consumption of energy inputs. “They need to focus on making fermentation and starch utilization as optimum as possible, to get all the carbohydrate value out of the kernel,” he adds. “They need to focus on producing co-products with high quality and consistency.  And they need to remain vigilant in their search for new technologies that will bring improvements, or new and more valuable products to offer to the market.”

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is also working with biofuels industry to ensure the industry remains competitive. Rudnicki says one of their key goals is to help lower artificial barriers biofuels face in entering new markets. He also notes that the Association is working with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the supply chain to give fuel retailers as well as consumers fuel choice at the pump.

In addition, Rudnicki highlights the important role state legislation has played in the industry’s growth. Minnesota has created public policies that not only support the production of biofuels but also call for greater use of biofuels. In closing, Rudnicki says, “Minnesota law aims to displace at least 30 percent of petroleum by 2025 with biofuels. That’s good for the economy, saves consumers money, creates greater energy independence and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Evolution of Minnesota’s Ethanol Industry – Part 1 (via

The Minnesota ethanol industry is evolving even in the face of growth challenges including continued uncertainty around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Since 2007 the industry has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of technological advancements, energy efficiency and sustainability.

“Minnesota ethanol producers are continually evolving with respect to the use of technology and processes to decrease the inputs of energy and water while increasing their output of ethanol and co-products such as DDGs and corn oil,” explains Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.

Water usage gas v ethanolAccording to a 2011 report from the Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol producers have cut water use in half within a 10-year period. In fact, Rudnicki notes that some producers are using less than two gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. When comparing water use with the production of oil, depending on where the oil is extracted, oil production can require more than seven times that much water to produce one gallon of gas. Other ways ethanol producers are infusing sustainability within water use is by using storm water and treated municipal wastewater.

Specifically, the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant has completely eliminated any process water discharge. Randall Doyal CEO of the Claremont, Minnesota-based plant says, “This cut our water consumption down to just over two gallons per gallon of ethanol. The water that is used is for cooling and is evaporated, so it returns to the atmosphere to recycle back as rain. We continually recover water in the process to reuse again and again.”

In other terms of sustainability, biofuels also offer a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). When using Argonne’s Wells to Wheels methodology, total lifecycle GHG reductions for corn-based ethanol equates to a 57 percent reduction in GHS emissions when compared to petroleum.

“Biofuel producers are decreasing their inputs, increasing the outputs and providing consumers with a lower carbon renewable fuel that helps to reduce GHG emissions,” says Rudnicki.

Energy efficiency is also an area that has seen great improvements over the past few years. Doyal highlights the ingenuity of the ethanol industry when developing solutions to improve aspects of production.

“The ethanol industry has always been made up of people who constantly challenge the norm and try to find better ways to do things,” Doyal explains. This is very evident in how much we have seen energy consumption drop over the years. Our plant in Claremont was constructed in 1996 and over our history we have reduced both our natural gas and electricity consumption by over a third. Our results are fairly consistent with the industry as a whole. We have added thermal oxidation to reduce emissions from our feed drying process, and have integrated that into our operations to gain greater efficiency.”

Doyal says his plant, like many others have added distillers’ corn oil recovery, adding a new and valuable product line to their list of co-products. His team continually reviews new technologies to determine if they can further enhance efficiencies or add a new co-product.

His plant makes use of the advances in enzyme technologies and his team is always trying to push their yield of ethanol per bushel. “All of these adaptations provide our industry with greater sustainability,” stresses Doyal. “Couple this with the vast improvements in corn farming technologies and you can see how great the gains actually are. Farmers in our area are accustomed to achieving 200 bushels per acre or more, with lower inputs and chemicals while using more sustainable farming techniques. The impact of farm equipment technology in reducing fuel consumption while also reducing seed, chemical and fertilizer inputs pushes the efficiency even higher.”

On Monday we’ll hear from Doyal and Rudnicki on the what the next five years might bring for renewable fuels in Minnesota.

House panel to hold hearing on GMO labeling bill (via Agri-Pulse Communications)

Months after the bill was introduced and an initial hearing was planned, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will finally meet on Dec. 10 to consider legislation that would preempt state efforts to mandate labeling of food made from genetically engineered crops.

Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., both members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill – the Safe and Accurate Labeling Act — earlier this year. It would create a federal standard for voluntarily labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods. The bill, which is backed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other members of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, aims to stem the tide of state legislative efforts to mandate labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients.

The bill would require that all new foods containing GMO ingredients being brought to the market first undergo a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It would preempt any mandatory state labeling law, because foods would not need to be labeled if they are deemed safe by FDA.

Critics of the bill, including the Just Label It campaign and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), call it the DARK Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act.

“I don’t believe this is a partisan issue,” Pompeo told reporters in April when he introduced the bill. “This technology is absolutely essential to feed billions of people on this planet.”

The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which consists of 37 trade groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, is organizing to boost support for Pompeo’s bill.

“Our focus right now is getting the coalition refocused, reinvigorated and fully committed to a federal bill,” said Randy Russell of the The Russell Group lobbying firm. With state labeling initiatives coming up for votes every year, “legislation like Pompeo’s is needed now more than ever,” he said.

Mandatory GMO labeling bills have has been introduced in over 20 states and more initiatives are in the works.

Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure in the midterm elections that would have mandated labels for some food products made with GMOs. A similar measure in Oregon lost by about 800 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast and is now headed for an automatic recount.

In recent years, food and agriculture companies spent millions of dollars to fight labeling ballot initiatives that ultimately failed in California and Washington. So far, only Vermont has passed a GMO labeling law without any “trigger” clauses requiring neighboring states to do the same.

The GMA, the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont, saying the labeling mandate unconstitutionally compels speech and interferes with interstate commerce.

Opponents of Pompeo’s law, including the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Food Safety, support legislation introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would require mandatory labeling nationwide. Celebrity chefs took their case to Capitol Hill Tuesday to support their bill.