• 25Aug

    Biofuel Production: New Research leading to New Possibilities?

    “Limited availability of fossil fuels stimulates the search for different energy resources. The use of biofuels is one of the alternatives. Sugars derived from the grain of agricultural crops can be used to produce biofuel but these crops occupy fertile soils needed for food and feed production.”

    Producing crops for biofuel is important in agriculture today. But not only do current crops for biofuel compete with land that may be needed for food and feed production, biofuel production is arguably an inefficient process. Why?

    A major barrier to efficient biofuel production is lignin, a major component of plant cell walls that help make plants stand up, but which reduce accessibility of plant sugars for biofuel production. Findings recently published in Science Express “identified a new gene in the biosynthetic pathway of lignin… [which] pave the way for new initiatives supporting a bio-based economy” according to a report from ScienceDaily.

    Read more about “New Possibilities for Efficient Biofuel Production” here.

  • 22Mar

    FSA Announces Application Period for Biomass Crop Assistance Program Project Areas

    USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Bruce Nelson announced today the application period for the next round of Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Areas. Proposals will be accepted until April 23, 2012.

    “BCAP provides incentives to farmers and forest landowners to grow non-food crops to be processed into biofuels – a critical element of our national energy strategy to address high fuel prices and reduce reliance on foreign oil,” said Nelson. “Because most energy crops are perennial and take time to mature before harvest, BCAP is designed so that sufficient quantities of feedstock will be available to meet future demand. And because these crops can grow where other crops cannot, it provides farmers with new opportunities to diversify into more markets.”

    The BCAP Project Areas where these crops are grown will be selected from proposals producers or biomass facilities submit to FSA. Information about submitting a proposal can be found on the www.grants.gov website.

    BCAP was created in the 2008 Farm Bill. USDA selected nine project areas in FY 2011, which resulted in the approval of more than 860 producer contracts to grow camelina, hybrid poplar, warm season grasses and giant miscanthus on almost 50,000 acres. The total investment in those projects is estimated to be $55 million.

    On Nov. 18, 2011, Congress enacted the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, limiting the total amount of funding available for BCAP to $17 million.

    The Request for Proposal and additional information can be found at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

    To acquire information about grants available through the federal government:

    Go to www.grants.gov Click on “Apply for Grants” heading on the left side of page. Click on “Download a Grant Application Package.” Type “10.087” in the box with the heading “CFDA Number” and click on “Download Package.”

    To create jobs in rural communities, drive economic growth, and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, USDA is aggressively pursuing investments in renewable energy, investing in or making payments to over 5,700 renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects.

    To learn about other programs offered through FSA, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

  • 21Apr

    USDA Announces May Deadline for Biomass Crop Assistance Program Proposals

    USDA Farm Service Agency Acting Administrator Val Dolcini announced the deadline for project area proposals for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). To be considered, proposals must be submitted to the applicable state office by close of business, May 27, 2011.

    “The nation that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century. BCAP can help rural communities save money, create jobs and improve air quality while reducing the demand for fossil fuels,” said Dolcini. “I encourage all those interested in participating in this program to contact their Farm Service Agency (FSA) state office for details.”

    BCAP was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill and provides incentives to eligible farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for the establishment and production of biomass crops for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuels. BCAP project areas are specific geographic areas where producers grow eligible biomass crops. Producers then receive annual payments for growing those crops.

    For more information, visit the USDA Farm Service Agency’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap

    or contact Kelly Novak at 202.720.4053 or cepdmail@wdc.usda.gov. The BCAP project area proposal submission form is available online at BCAP Form 20 (PDF, http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/bcap_form_20.pdf.

    USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

  • 19Dec

    By Darren Goode

    EXCERPT: The ethanol industry — which is being attacked from everyone from tea party backers to Al Gore — nonetheless may be poised to win another victory on Capitol Hill and continue a decades-long ride of federal help for at least one more year. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) undoubtedly gave comfort to backers of the corn-based gasoline additive when he included a sought-after one-year extension of a key expiring ethanol tax credit as part of a much-larger middle class tax cut package he unveiled Thursday.

    FULL ARTICLE: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1210/45918.html

  • 25Oct

    FROM NSAC

    10/22/10 Vilsack Responds to Letter from Representatives on GIPSA Rule: On October 1, 115 House members submitted a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting additional economic analysis of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.  Earlier this week, Vilsack responded to the representatives, assuring them that the regular process of rulemaking would take place and all the rulemaking requirements are being met, but telling them not to expect anything beyond that. To read Vilsack’s response letter to the Representatives, click here.

    10/22/10 USDA Reaffirms Biofuels Pledge, Announces Subsidies for Advanced Biofuels: Yesterday, October 21, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of measures to expand and develop infrastructure and incentives for the production of advanced biofuels, which include non-corn kernel cellulosic feedstocks including switchgrass, corn stalks, and woody perennials, biofuels derived from waste materials, and other non-food biofuel sources. The new Renewable Fuel Standard rules finalized by the EPA earlier this year call for increasing biofuels production substantially over the next 12 years, with a target of 36 billion gallons of biofuels produced annually by 2022, including 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.  In his speech, Vilsack announced the resumption of financial assistance payments to biofuel producers through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), the creation of five new regional Biomass Research Centers, and the construction of infrastructure to support the increasing supply of biofuels, including new biorefineries, blender pumps, and storage systems.

    10/19/10 New Publication on Farm Bill Programs and Habitat Conservation: NSAC is pleased to announce the release of a new publication - Conserving Habitat through the Federal Farm Bill: A Guide for Land Trusts and Landowners. A group of six organizations came together to contribute to this comprehensive and practical guide for farmers, ranchers, land trusts and other landowners who want to increase wildlife habitat on their land. The guide is available as a pdf document which can be accessed and downloaded from the NSAC website by clicking here.  If you are interested in bulk printed copies, please contact the NSAC office.

    10/20/10 Consumer Groups Get it Wrong on Tester: Today, October 20, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition responded critically to a letter and analysis sent to the United States Senate by a coalition of 9 national consumer organizations opposing an amendment to be offered by Senators Jon Tester and Kay Hagan to S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. “On the basis of a surprisingly inaccurate analysis of what the Tester-Hagan amendment proposes to do, the organizations behind the letter to Senators reach a conclusion in opposition to the amendment,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s policy director.  “Our strong hope is once they look at the actual details of the amendment they will change their position.  The sooner they remove this damaging new roadblock to passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in the short time left in this session of Congress the better.”

    10/20/10 “Why Pollinators Matter” Conference Bee-gins: Today, October 20, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) kicked off its three-day 10th Annual International Conference, “Pollinators and North American Priorities: Why Pollinators Matter: Benefits, Challenges, and Outcomes,” at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.  NAPPC, which is administered by the Pollinator Partnership (P2), is a collaborative group of over 120 organizations and individuals that work to promote and implement a continent-wide action plan to protect the numbers and health of all pollinating animals. The conference program highlighted the economic and environmental value of pollinating animals as well as the many challenges they face, from the much-publicized colony collapse disorder in honeybees to broader threats including habitat loss and competition from non-native species.

  • 07Oct

    What’s Behind the Honeybee Decline? Perhaps Not What You’ve Heard (New York Times)

    By JAMES MCWILLIAMS

    Biofuel Mandates Will Stress Scarce Corn, Oilseed Stocks (DTN)

    by Marcia Zarley Taylor

    Peterson Cautions Against GOP Running Farm Bill (DTN)

    by Jerry Hagstrom

    Soil Fertility: Restoring Your Fertility Level with P & K (farms.com)

    by Stu Ellis

    USDA Announces Rural Cooperative Development Grant Recipients (NSAC)

    USDA to Issue Over $1.6 Billion in Annual CRP Payments to Producers This Month (NSAC)

  • 20Sep

    Link: http://www.completebiogas.com/workshops.html

    Biogas is a burnable fuel, like natural gas, but produced by the anaerobic (oxygenless) decomposition of almost anything once alive (grass, fruit waste, manure, etc.) in a container called a “biogas
    digester”. In an on-going series of classes, and in co-operation several other organizations, David House (author of The Complete Biogas Handbook) is offering workshops about how to understand, make, and use biogas using very low-cost digesters. Attendees will be given a kit for a digester capable of producing enough fuel for a small family to cook meals. Classes now scheduled include Oct. 8-9 in Hawaii, and Oct. 16-17 in Pennsylvania, where a scholarship for some state residents covers up to 75% of the cost of the class.

    We have also been invited by ATTRA/NCAT to teach a workshop in March 2011 (in Iowa), and there is a second class in PA scheduled for Oct 19-20. Full details are provided at the link offered.

    The hands-on focus of these workshops is a new, very low-cost design for biogas digesters, suited to sizes from 200 gal (0.75 cu m) to, say, 3,000 gal (10 cu m). A number of workshops are being scheduled, and *we are interested in working with people and organizations around the country and around the world to set up more workshops*. Biogas is far more efficient than either biodiesel or bioethanol in converting biomass into usable energy. (See http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/03/why-is-biogas-renewable-energys-cinderella for supporting evidence.)

  • 08Sep

    From the USDA Publication Amber Waves:

    Excerpt: In 2007, the U.S. food system accounted for almost 16 percent of the Nation’s energy budget, up from 14 percent in 2002 Greater reliance on energy-intensive technologies throughout the food system, along with population growth and higher per capita food expenditures, boosted food-related energy consumption

    To read the full article click HERE

  • 17May

    From: http://www.scribd.com/doc/30908774/Biochar-and-Sustainable-Agriculture

    Biochar has the potential to produce farm-based renewable energy in a climate-friendly manner and provide a valuable soil amendment to enhance crop productivity. If carbon offset markets develop, biochar can provide income for farmers and ranchers who use it to sequester carbon in soil. This publication will review the current research and issues surrounding the production and use of this emerging biomass energy technology and explore how biochar can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Biochar is the product of turning biomass into gas or oil with the intention of adding it to crop and forest production systems as a soil amendment.

    - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service  http://attra.ncat.org/

    Biochar was initially linked to the exploration and archeological study of early human settlement and soils.

    These early studies of soils being enriched from what appears to be the deliberate mixing of burned biomass in soils around human

    settlements helped spark more recent interest in biochar. These deposits of enriched soils, known as terra preta in the Amazon region

    of South America, have a fascinating history of scientific study of their own (Lehmann et al, 2004).

    More current studies of biochar are focused on its role in a growing demand for biomass-based energy sources that can mitigate

    greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.

    In addition, biochar has the potential to enhance soil quality and soil carbon sequestration.

    A secondary source of interest in biochar comes from the growing need to develop low-cost and healthier biomass-fueled stove technology.

    Article includes sections on:

    • What is biochar?
      • Importance to farmers and ranchers
      • Increased fertility
      • Moisture retention
      • Soil pH balancing
      • On-farm and community-based bioenergy production
      • Potential income off sets, fuel and soil amendments
    • Relationship to climate change and soil carbon sequestration
    • Limits of biochar and climate change: The fuel-versus-food debate
    • Summary: The future of biochar for sustainable agriculture:

    “Biochar has very promising potential for the further development of sustainable agriculture production systems. Also, biochar production provides a great potential for worldwide climate change mitigation that goes beyond its

    uses in agricultural production alone. The research on the many complex issues related to biochar production systems is growing very quickly and will be needed to more fully understand the implications for food systems,

    the environment and bioenergy production. Finally, biochar could play an important basis for rural economic development because its production can be scaled down for smaller communities closer to biomass sources”

  • 17Apr

    USDA Press Release No. 0188.10

    Contact: Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

    WASHINGTON, April 16, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited public comment on several proposed rules designed to increase the production of advanced biofuels and the development of biorefineries. The programs are authorized under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (The Farm Bill).

    “We view these proposed rules as part of the strategy to help meet President Obama’s goal to accelerate the commercial production of advanced biofuels and create a viable alternative fuels industry,” Vilsack said.

    The proposed rules affect the following three renewable energy programs administered by USDA Rural Development:

    Biorefinery Assistance Program – The proposed rule will establish guaranteed loan regulations to develop and construct commercial-scale biorefineries and to retrofit existing facilities using an eligible technology to develop advanced biofuels. Under the proposed rule, USDA Rural Development proposes a rolling application process for the consideration of loan guarantee requests. The Agency will consider a technology that is being adopted in a viable commercial-scale operation that produces advanced biofuels. Read more »

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