Biodiesel and renewable diesel are growing in popularity and demand as the push in on for lower carbon fuels. Recent research through Clean Fuels Alliance America (CFAA) indicates that human health impacts may be an even more compelling benefit to biofuels. CFAA Director of State Government Affairs Floyd Vergara joins this episode of Field Talk.


Fuels with higher blends of ethanol are becoming increasingly available at Minnesota fueling stations and consumers are taking notice. As Lynn Ketelsen reports, a record amount of E15 was sold last year and Minnesota's corn farmers are working to keep that trend moving upward.

Farm News

March 1, 2023

After a nearly 10-month delay that ran counter to the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) deadlines, the EPA today proposed to approve requests from a bipartisan group of Midwest governors, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, that will effectively allow the year-round sale of E15. Despite public assurances that the rule would be done in time for the 2023 summer driving season, the proposal would not take effect until the summer of 2024. Coalition members say the delay is unacceptable because the EPA had ample time to make a decision in time for the 2023 driving season. Proponents say the delay will cost consumers at the pump.

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings says the delay is very disappointing, but ethanol proponents will keep pressing for year-round E15 use in 2023. Listen

Adding  ethanol to the nation's gasoline supply improves energy security and saves the average American household more than $750 annually, according to a new study by energy economists from the University of California-Berkeley. The analysis concluded that "adding ethanol to gasoline decreases the price paid by U.S. drivers at the pump." The researchers estimate the average discount per gallon to be $0.77 between 2019 and 2022, reaching a total savings of $95.1 billion annually for U.S. consumers. The authors of the study attribute much of this benefit to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said the study's results come at a critical time for U.S. policymakers. Cooper says, "American consumers would be paying much higher prices at the pump if not for the inclusion of more than 14 billion gallons of low-cost, low-carbon ethanol in our nation's gasoline supply each year."

RFA commissioned the new study.

The USDA acreage outlook for 2023 shows an expected growth in total planted area of corn, wheat, and soybeans compared to last year. Combined acreage for the three crops is projected at 228 million acres, up nearly 3% from 2022.

Wheat acreage is projected at 49.5 million acres, corn at 91.6 million acres and soybeans at 87.5 million acres. Prices for all three commodities are expected to be substantially lower in 2023 than they are in the current marketing year. Rich Feltes with R.J. O'Brien says that information should serve as a wakeup call for farmers who haven't marketed their crops. Listen

The farm bill funding squeeze is on as farmers face increasing financial and regulatory headwinds amid competing nutrition interests in writing the 2023 Farm Bill. Those challenges were on display at the House Ag panel this week. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says  USDA’s latest farm income forecast shows a decrease in net farm income, down 15.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that’s an 18 percent drop, while farm/ranch production expenses will  increase 18 billion dollars. Duvall says those factors support the need for a strong farm bill. Listen

Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish says his organization is supportive of establishing a grain indemnity fund, which would pay farmers if an elevator goes out of business before paying farmers grain they've delivered. Bills have been introduced in St. Paul that would include some one-time funding to start the program. If funds become depleted, a voluntary checkoff could be used to refill the coffers. Wertish says elevator closures in Minnesota and Iowa have had very different consequences for farmers in the two states. Listen

A bill that would change the makeup of the Board of Animal Health is under consideration at the Minnesota legislature. Under the proposal, the board would grow from 5 to 11 members, with representatives based on congressional district. Starbuck farmer and Republican lead on the Minnesota House Ag Committee Paul Anderson says requirements for potentially serving on the board would simply be a knowledge of the livestock industry. Opponents of the reorganization prefer the current board makeup. Listen

The production of Minnesota’s field and miscellaneous crops was valued at $17.0 billion in 2022, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Crop Values 2022 Summary. This was up 13 percent from 2021.

The value of corn for grain production totaled $9.35 billion, up 14 percent from the previous year. Minnesota’s corn price averaged $6.40 per bushel, 49 cents above the last marketing year.

The value of soybean production was $5.25 billion, up 10 percent from 2021. The average price increased 80 cents from the previous year to $14.20 per bushel.
Many areas of Minnesota have received higher than normal snowfall this winter. Minnesota State Climatologist Kenny Blumenfeld says in many areas of the state, frost is not very deep, so melting snow and rains have a better chance to be absorbed into the soil. That's good news for potentially mitigating spring flooding concerns and resupplying soil moisture. Listen

Drought conditions have improved across Minnesota in the past several months according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Less than 2% of Minnesota is classified in severe drought, compared to about 16% three months ago. Areas considered to be under moderate drought or classified as abnormally dry have also been reduced from three months ago. You can view the latest map here. 

Dr. Jeff Strock with the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton says conditions over the next week to ten days are setting up for a favorable freeze-thaw pattern. Warmer daytime temperatures allow the snow to thaw slowly during the day with a freeze happening again at night. This process allows more water to soak into the ground instead of running off. With generally shallow frost, much of that moisture is helping to recharge the soil. However, with many areas of the state still in need to moisture, spring rains are still going to be needed to get soils more fully recharged. Listen

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft guidance to help ensure appropriate labeling of plant-based products that are marketed and sold as alternatives to milk, called plant-based milk alternatives, or PBMA. This draft guidance will provide industry with recommendations designed to deliver clearer labeling that gives consumers information to help them make more informed purchasing decisions. It also clarifies that the common or usual names of some PBMA have been established by common usage, and these names include “soy milk” and “almond milk.”

The FDA recommends that PBMA products that are labeled with the term “milk” in their names, and that have a nutrient composition that is different than milk, include a voluntary nutrient statement that conveys how the product compares with milk based on USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitutes nutrient criteria. 

Clay Detlefsen, National Milk Producers Federation-Senior Vice president of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs says the FDA Guidance is mixed bag for the industry. Listen

Veteran agriculture professional Neil Caskey assumed the role of CEO for the National Corn Growers Association this week. Caskey had been NCGA's vice president of communications and industry relations. His previous roles include working for a communications agency and the American Soybean Association.
Commodity Classic
Commodity Classic takes place in Orlando next week. The event is put on by the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Commodity Classic features national policy meetings for the agricultural organizations and a large trade show. The Linder Farm Network will be there with live broadcasts and reports. 

Upcoming Events
Mar. 8                  UMN Strategic Farming Webinar: Tar Spot
Mar. 9-11             Commodity Classic, Orlando
Mar. 15                 ARC/PLC Program signup deadline
Mar. 15                 UMN Strategic Farming Webinar: Alfalfa weevil
March 22             UMN Strategic Faming Webinar: Soybean dieseases

Farm Fun Fact

March 1 is National Pig Day, which is appropriate for Minnesota, which is one of the nation's leading pork producing states. As if it's needed, there's one more reason to eat bacon!


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