Social Media in the War Room

ZimmCast 429Social media part of a war room discussion? Yep. It was at the 2014 National Ethanol Conference. Participating in a panel titled, “Communications and Social Media War Room” was Christina Martin, Executive Vice President, Renewable Fuels Association. We chatted about her panel at the conclusion of the conference.

Christina MartinChristina says that the purpose of the session was “to capture the momentum that a lot of our companies built during the EPA comment period. They reached out as they never have before to their employees, to their investors and local communities and general supporters.” Many ventured into social media for the first time and she says they want to keep that momentum going regardless of where the EPA decision on the RFS ends up.

You can listen to this week’s program here. Social Media with Christina Martin

Thanks to our ZimmCast sponsor, GROWMARK, locally owned, globally strong, for their support.

Led Zep 2 Rocks the Ethanol Industry

Led Zep 2I never got to see Led Zeppelin live but last night I found out what it would have been like when Led Zeppelin 2 performed for the National Ethanol Conference. This band is fantastic. You can see what I mean in the video below (Dazed and Confused).

Playing Jimmy Page on stage is Paul Kamp, founding partner of Leifmark and heads the commercialization efforts for Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. In other words, he’s directly involved in the ethanol industry. After his performance I got to talk with him about his dual role career.

You can listen to my interview with Paul here: Interview with Paul Kamp

There are lots of photos from last night’s event in our photo album:

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Live Speech on State of Ethanol Industry

2014 National Ethanol ConferenceHello from the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, FL. This morning we’ll live stream Bob Dinneen’s, Renewable Fuels Association, annual state of the industry address. Introductions will start at 8am, est., with Bob scheduled at 8:15am. We’re also recording it to post afterward. When you click on the player below it will start with a short commercial before the live feed.

Post Update: You can now watch the recorded video of the live stream below.

Video streaming by Ustream

Audio Feed Only: RFA's Bob Dinneen state of ethanol industry address

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Talking Ethanol in Orlando with RFA

National Ethanol ConferenceTalk about getting a break from winter. The attendees at the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Fl are loving it! It’s a beautiful sunny day to start things off with some fun activities like the annual golf tournament or an Everglades airboat ride. I took golf pictures while Cindy is checking out the Florida wildlife.

To kick off our coverage of this year’s conference, most of which will be posted on Domestic, I interviewed the Reverand of Renewable Fuels, Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. As you might expect, Bob says they’ll be talking a lot about the EPA and the Renewable Fuels Standard. He likes the mood of attendees and says they’re optimistic. I personally think the sunshine and warm temps are helping!

You can listen to my interview with Bob here: Interview with Bob Dinneen

How about some conference photos: 2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFS Hearing Goes 12 Hours, Draws Hundreds

Over 140 stakeholders testified at a hearing Thursday on the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower the biofuels targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2014, and those opposed to the plan outnumbered those in favor by a ratio of more than two to one.

dinneen1“More than 100 of the 144 speakers support #ethanol, #biodiesel & advanced biofuels,” tweeted Renewable Fuels Association (RFS) president Bob Dinneen. “Don’t mess w/ the RFS!” Bob Dinneen testimony at EPA hearing

The hearing, which lasted 12 hours, included livestock producers from Iowa who testified against lowered the RFS requirements. Among those testifying in favor of the proposal was National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) past president and Illinois farmer and rancher Steve Foglesong.

“I am a corn farmer, I just choose to feed it to cattle, it’s value added,” said Foglesong. “It’s not that different from the ethanol industry who takes corn to feed it into their plants and produce ethanol, dried distillers grains (DDGs), and carbon dioxide instead of beef. The process is identical, all but the RFS mandate, which gives the ethanol industry an advantage in purchasing corn. We’re not opposed to corn ethanol, but it’s time to look at reforming the RFS and let the market pick winners and losers instead of the government.”

The National Corn Growers Association had dozens of witnesses from around the country, but one of their best advocates was a young man with no ties to either side. “Coolest witness of the day at #RFS hearing: college student from Michigan drove in with E85 to testify!” tweeted NCGA. “He uses E10 in his lawn mower.”

All of those who testified at the hearing Thursday submitted written comments to the EPA regarding the RFS plan for 2014. Comments will be accepted until Jan. 28.

Lowering Biofuels Targets Could Hurt Farmers

Protect the RFSRepresentatives from state government, the agriculture community, and the ethanol industry all say the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuels requirements would have a negative impact on agriculture and rural economies.

During a telephone press discussion today about the proposal Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said he was proud of his state’s leadership in biofuels production and he believes lowering the volume obligations would be detrimental for jobs and land values in rural America. “I’m concerned that this would be devastating to what has been a robust economic recovery” in the agricultural heartland of America, said Branstad. “I think the president’s made a terrible mistake caving in to Big Oil on this issue.” The governor launched a new website in response to the EPA proposal – – which is collects commenting from citizens about the proposed changes and sending them to the EPA.

american-farm-bureau-logoAmerican Farm Bureau economist Matt Erickson noted that the proposal has already led to lower futures prices for corn, which could mean 2014 will see prices below the cost of production. “Looking at USDA’s cost of production forecast, the breakeven for corn for 2014 is forecasted to be over $4 a bushel,” Erickson said, explaining that if it drops much lower than that, farmers will be losing money. “This would really be the first time we’d seen this on a national scale since 2005.”

Reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil was the primary objective of the RFS, but “revitalizing rural communities, boosting farm income and reducing farm program costs were also important policy objectives,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The RFS has certainly helped to do that and this proposal will reverse that policy as well.”

Listen to comments from Branstad, Erickson and Dinneen with questions from the media here: Comments on RFS Proposal Negative Impacts

EPA Unveils 2014 RFS Renewable Fuel Volumes

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the amount of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. The EPA has proposed to set the cellulosic biofuel category at 17 million gallons, biomass-based diesel at 1.28 billion gallons, advanced biofuel at 2.20 billion gallons and renewable fuel at 15.21 billion. Development with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input.

fuels-americalogoFuels America coalition hosted a media call in reaction to the EPA’s proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) today. The biofuels industry said they were disappointed and that the proposed volumes would set the entire industry back and that the EPA’s proposal cannot stand.

During the call, Bob Dinneen from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) unveiled a new analysis showing how the RVOs, if implemented, would impact gas prices. In addition to Bob Dinneen, participants included Brent Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President, BIO; Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union; Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy; and Jeff Lautt, CEO of POET.

The Fuels America said of today’s proposed 2014 RFS numbers, “We are astounded by the proposal released by the Administration today. It reflects an “all of the above, except biofuels” energy strategy. If implemented, would cost American drivers more than $7 billion in higher gas prices, and hand the oil companies a windfall of $10.3 billion. The impact of this proposal on the renewable fuel industry– both first and second generation – cannot be overstated. It caps the amount of renewable fuel used in our gasoline far below what the industry is already making, and could make next year, using an approach that is inconsistent with the RFS.

Dinneen said during the press conference, “By re-writing the statute and re-defining the conditions upon which a waiver from the RFS can be granted, EPA is proposing to place the nation’s renewable energy policy in the hands of the oil companies. That would be the death of innovation and evolution in our motor fuel markets, thus increasing consumer costs at the pump and the environmental cost of energy production. This proposal cannot stand.”

Buis noted that this is a proposed rule and not a final rule and there will be a 60 day comment period. “We welcome the opportunity to ensure that biofuel stakeholders are able to express their concern with this proposed rule, while also laying out a reasonable pathway to achieve the goals of the RFS during the forthcoming comment period.

This fall, the corn industry is looking at a record breaking harvest while the EPA has proposed renewable fuel volumes well below what the ethanol industry is capable of supplying. Lautt responded during the call that the opportunity to offer more affordable fuel options to consumers has never been better.

Listen to the full Fuels America press call here: Industry Responds to 2014 RFS RVO Proposal

Cattle and Ethanol Debating RFS

rfa-ncba-debateNational Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts is live right now on AgriTalk in a debate with Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Great RFS Debate is being co-hosted by Agri-Pulse.

Pictured here, left to right, as the debate begins – Bob Dinneen, AgriTalk host Mike Adams, Agri-Pulse editor Sara Wyant, and Kristina Butts.

Archived program available here.

RFA and NCBA to Debate Renewable Fuel Standard

Representatives of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will be squaring off to debate on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this week in Washington D.C.

and Agri-Pulse will be hosting the debate via broadcast and the web on September 12 starting at 11:00 am Eastern time live from the Longworth Building, Room 1300. Participants will be RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen and NCBA Vice President Government Affairs Colin Woodall.

ncba-logo“We appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). America’s cattlemen and women are not opposed to renewable fuels; it’s the arbitrary mandate of their use that is at issue,” says Woodall. “This mandates places cattle feeders and the entire cattle sector on an un-level playing field for the finite amount of corn produced.”

RFA-logo-13“The Renewable Fuel Standard is decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, creating jobs, and revitalizing rural communities. I am all geared up to explain the facts and debunk the negative attacks,” Dinneen says. “It is an excellent time for this debate. USDA is expecting a robust corn crop and just last month USDA issued a report showing that food prices are rising at a slower rate than expected.”

Questions from AgriTalk and Agri-Pulse listeners and readers will be included in the debate led by Mike Adams and Sara Wyant. If you have questions on this topic, please submit them to or to no later than Wednesday, September 11. The Agri-Pulse team will be live tweeting from the event @AgriPulse. Look for the hashtag #RFSdebate.

Ethanol Fueling Legends Ride at Sturgis Rally

Robert White Renewable Fuels AssociationThe Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in full swing and one of the highlights of the event is the 2013 Legends Ride. The event started in Deadwood, South Dakota and ended at the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground where the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is a sponsor. This is the site where RFA is also pumping free 93 octane E10 for riders.

Chuck Zimmerman caught up with RFA’s motorcycle expert and enthusiast Robert White just before he rode off with the tens of thousands of other riders for the Legends Ride. White said that this is the fifth year Ethanol, Fueled with Pride has sponsored the event. The event is limited to 200 riders, comprised of celebrities, motorcycle builders, riders and more and the event is designed to raise money for charity. This year White said all the funds raised will go to the Black Hills Special Olympics and part of the effort is to fund the vehicle they take to the events.

RFA, or “ethanol” is also involved in other events taking place at Sturgis including the art exhibit at the Buffalo Chip Campground, where motorcycles that can’t be seen anywhere else are on display as well as a few other events. But White said beyond that, they are here for one main reason and that is to promote ethanol.

“This year we’ve had a lot of push back from the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) and it’s really focused around E15 and it has gotten really confusing to a lot of people. We want folks to use the right fuel; to know what type of fuel they can use, and in fact Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-4 pm at the Buffalo Chip, we have 93 octane E10 that I has especially blended for the riders who can come and fill their tanks for free….And we’ll show them that indeed E10 will work just fine.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Robert here: Interview with Robert White

2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Ethanol Fuel

Renewable Fuels Association at SturgisOn my way to Sturgis, SD this weekend for my second trip to the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground and the 73rd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I’ll be working with our good friends at the Renewable Fuels Association. They are partnered with the event and venue to promote the use of ethanol fuel to motorcycle enthusiasts. And having been there once, let me tell you, these are motorcycle enthusiasts!

RFA has produced promotional and educational materials, banners and merchandise including koozies and t-shirts (featured above) exclusively for this event that will be handed out at various locations during the week. The RFA’s promotional trailer will be featured at The Crossroads, a gathering area for riders. The Sturgis Rally offers an opportunity for attendees to be educated on ethanol-blended fuel as it is often mischaracterized as a problem fuel for engines found in motorcycles.

New this year, campers at the Buffalo Chip will see more ethanol promotional efforts on the jumbotrons during the day and concerts at night as videos play 144 times each day. Banners will now also wrap the jumbotrons.

Returning this year is the opportunity for riders to fuel their motorcycles for free. The “Free Fuel Happy Hours” promotion will allow motorcyclists to fill their tank, free of charge, with 93 octane E10 (10 percent ethanol). This high octane fuel is not available in the area, and will be brought in specifically for this event. To fill up, riders must have a Buffalo Chip wristband and no fuel containers will be allowed. The Free Fuel Happy Hours will be on Tuesday, August 6, Wednesday, August 7 and Thursday, August 8 at The Crossroads at the Buffalo Chip from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

“We’re very pleased to have the Renewable Fuels Association at the Chip and offer our campers some education and free ethanol-blended fuel,” said Rod Woodruff of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. “The RFA will be here to address some of the loose talk we all hear about motorcycles and ethanol. Personally, I’ve used home-grown American ethanol-blended fuel in my motorcycle for years. Naturally, I’m looking forward to getting a free fill at the Buffalo Chip’s CrossRoads during the RFA’s ‘Free Fuel Happy Hours’ and, hopefully, even get some free ‘Fueled with Pride’ stuff.”

Senate Farm Bill Markup Today

NAFB Washington WatchThe Senate Agriculture Committee meets this morning to consider the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, their version of a “Farm Bill.” Yesterday, farm broadcasters meeting in Washington D.C. had the chance to interview a number of representatives from various agricultural and renewable fuels organizations and most of them had something to say about what the House and Senate have in their respective draft bills.

American Soybean Association director and farmer from Delaware Richard Wilkins said they are pleased to see that both bills allow some flexibility for growers. “They both contain provisions that allow the soybean grower to choose which type of “safety net” they feel works best for them,” he said.
Interview with Richard Wilkins, American Soybean Association

Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation says both drafts contain the Dairy Security Act and he expects the Senate to pass this proposal which they support, but on the House side there is another proposal being offered which they oppose. “Basically it would turn farmers into takers of government welfare because it would not allow the marketplace to correct quick enough,” he said.
Interview with Chris Galen, National Milk Producers Federation

Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association says there is an energy title in the Senate draft. “And we hope to be able to have some funds in that to allow USDA to continue to make funding available for blender pumps and do some other things for future technologies,” he said.
Interview with Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association

Colin Woodall with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says as far as they are concerned, they would rather not be in the farm bill at all. “Our number one priority was to make sure there was not a livestock title in either bill, right now there’s not so we’re happy with that,” he said.
Interview with Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Association

2013 NAFB Washington Watch Photo Album

Find more NAFB Washington Watch interviews on

Obama Picks for Energy and EPA

nomineesPresident Obama announced his picks for Secretary of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Monday. The President nominated MIT professor Ernest Moniz as energy secretary and EPA official Gina McCarthy as administrator for the agency.

While Moniz is a virtual unknown, McCarthy has served as EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation and her appointment is being well received by agricultural and biofuels organizations.

“We appreciated working with Assistant Administrator McCarthy over the past few years in her role as head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, which was responsible for the approval of the E15 ethanol blend fuel option in 2012. We look forward to working closely with her and her team on ethanol and other issues that come before the agency,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson.

gina-iowaRenewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen says McCarthy is “knowledgeable, willing to listen, and straight-forward. She knows the EPA inside and out and has typically approached challenges with a common-sense determination to resolve them in a timely manner.” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis added that “McCarty has been a strong supporter of biofuels and we look forward to working with her to bring sustainable, clean, homegrown American fuels to the consumer.”

In September of 2009, McCarthy was one of two high-ranking EPA officials to visit farm operations and biofuel facilities in Iowa. She is pictured here during that visit with Margo Oge, director of the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality and Senator Chuck Grassley on the farm of Rick Kimberley. (Photo from Iowa Farm Bureau Flickr)

Sequester Could Cause FSIS Inspector Furlough

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has shaken up the meat and poultry industry with his comments about how sequestration might impact agriculture during a speech to the National Ethanol Conference last week.

vilsack-nec-13Answering a question about funding for a farm bill, Vilsack talked more broadly about what might happen after March 1 if Congress fails to act and sequester creates automatic budget cuts. “It is likely if sequester is triggered that in our food safety area we will have to furlough workers for a period of a couple of weeks,” Vilsack said, adding that would cause plants to shut down, supplies to decline and prices to go up for consumers.

Those comments generated reaction from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute. “(W)e are severely disappointed Secretary Vilsack has chosen to take this path of threatening to halt FSIS inspections.” said NCBA president Scott George. AMI President J. Patrick Boyle wrote to both Secretary Vilsack and President Obama stressing USDA’s legal obligations to provide meat inspection even under sequestration.

Secretary Vilsack responded that taking inspectors off the job would be a last resort, but is a very real possibility. “Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, FSIS will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order stay within the budget Congress has given it,” Vilsack wrote. “Because we understand that furloughing our food safety inspectors would not be good for our consumers, the economy, the meat and poultry industry, or our workforce, we view such furloughs as the last option we would implement to achieve the necessary sequestration cut.”

Listen to Vilsack at ethanol conference comment about sequester impacts on ag: Vilsack on sequester at NEC

EPA Denies Ethanol Waiver Request

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition by the governors of poultry producing states that would have waived the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its requirement for ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.

In its decision to deny the request, EPA said Friday that the RFS itself is not causing economic harm and that suspending the standard would reduce corn prices by only 1%. “We recognize that this year’s drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers,” said EPA’s Gina McCarthy in a statement. “But our extensive analysis makes clear that congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the RFS will have little, if any, impact.”

The ethanol industry is obviously pleased with the decision and so are corn farmers. “The National Corn Growers Association supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to deny the Renewable Fuel Standard waiver request,” said NCGA President Pam Johnson “We believe Administrator Jackson appropriately recognized petitioners did not properly prove severe nationwide economic harm had occurred thereby creating no justification for a waiver of the RFS.”

“The RFS is working as designed,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen. “The flexibility that is built into the RFS allows the marketplace to ration demand, not the government. Indeed, the ethanol industry has responded to the market by reducing output by approximately 12%.”

Listen to or download interview with Bob Dinneen. RFA reacts to RFS Waiver Denial

Livestock and poultry producers, however, are not so happy. A coalition of livestock, poultry and dairy organizations issued a statement expressing “extreme disappointment” with the denial.

“We are extremely frustrated and discouraged that EPA chose to ignore the clear economic argument from tens of thousands of family farmers and livestock and poultry producers that the food-to-fuel policy is causing and will cause severe harm to regions in which those farmers and producers operate,” the coalition said.

In fact, dozens of poultry, pork, beef and dairy operations have filed for bankruptcy, been sold or simply gone out of business over the past several months because of rising feed grain prices.

“How many more jobs and family farms have to be lost before we change this misguided policy and create a level playing field on the free market for the end users of corn?” the coalition asked. “It is now abundantly clear that this law is broken, and we will explore remedies to fix it.”

Ag Group Leaders Trade Talk on Policy

ZimmCast 373Having the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual meeting start the day after a presidential election gives leaders of agricultural organizations plenty to talk about at Trade Talk.

In this edition of the ZimmCast, we hear from farmer leaders, lobbyists and staff members with eight different agricultural and renewable energy organizations commenting on the election, farm bill, fiscal cliff and other related issues.

Chuck, Jamie and I did about 65 interviews total at Trade Talk this year and we would have liked to have done more but there’s just not enough time! In this podcast, we have comments from Bob Stallman with American Farm Bureau, Luther Markwart with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Tom Buis of Growth Energy, Missouri cattle producer Don Pemberton on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association board, National Corn Growers VP for Public Policy Jon Doggett, Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association, US Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight, and US Wheat Associates farmer leader Dan Hughes.

Listen to this week’s ZimmCast here: Policy Comments from NAFB Trade Talk

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

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“Fuels America” Campaign Launched

In the face of increasing calls to waive the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard, biofuel industry stakeholders today announced a major new communications campaign to educate consumers and policy makers about the benefits of renewable fuel to America’s economy, energy security and environment.

The new coalition – Fuels America – includes several agricultural organizations in addition to ethanol companies and groups such as Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), and American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). Farm and commodity groups represented include National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) National Association of Wheat Growers, National Farmers Union, and National Sorghum Producers.

The Fuels America campaign will be a national effort, including advertising, beginning in Washington, DC and several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Delaware and Montana. Each state will have its own online platform reachable through and feature the stories of renewable fuel innovators and communities with a stake in maintaining the RFS. The coalition also has a Twitter feed @FuelsAmerica.

A telephone press conference was held this morning to announce the new coalition and campaign with BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood, Novozymes president Adam Monroe, Marion (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce president Pam Hall, and ZeaChem president and CEO Jim Imbler.

Listen to or download that press conference, which starts with comments from Jim Greenwood: Fuels America press conference

Corn Growers Call for Careful Analysis Over RFS

At least two governors, Bev Perdue of North Carolina and Mike Beebe of Arkansas, have petitioned the EPA to waive the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for ethanol in light of the drought gripping much of the corn-producing region of the country. The National Corn Growers Association… which has alliances with the livestock producers who want to see lower feed prices and are pushing for the waiver and the ethanol industry which says the waiver is unnecessary… is asking all parties to carefully examine the facts of the case. NCGA President Garry Niemeyer acknowledges that all sides in this debate are suffering, but encourages a careful analysis before any decision is reached:

“There currently is a lot of public discussion about the role and impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Unfortunately most of this discussion is unencumbered by facts and reality. The facts clearly show that the RFS has been of significant net value to the entire U.S. economy.

“While we believe that it is still somewhat premature to consider a temporary, partial waiver to the RFS (as there will be much more accurate information available with September’s and October’s USDA crop reports), we do respect the right of those with standing to exercise the language contained in the RFS. The waiver process language in the RFS calls for careful objective analysis of the economic impact of the RFS on the U.S. economy. We have faith in, and support, the process laid out in this language. Continue reading