Ethanol's impact on food prices
was minimal, says CBO report

An April 2009 report by The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that from April 2007 to April 2008, the rise in the price of corn resulting from expanded production of ethanol contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index (CPI).

cbo ethanol report

April 2009 | The Impact of Ethanol Use on Food Prices and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions. CLICK HERE to download pdf file (2.5 MB).

Over the same period, certain other factors—for example, higher energy costs—had a greater effect on food prices than did the use of ethanol as a motor fuel.

Factors that influence
the high cost of fertilizer

According to The Fertlizer Institute:

The United States is the largest importer of nitrogen (over 50 percent of supply) and potash (over 90 percent of supply) and the largest exporter of phosphate.

Natural gas is the feedstock for producing ammonia, which is the building block for all nitrogen fertilizers.

The cost of natural gas accounts for 70 to 90 percent of the production cost of ammonia.

Thus, with U.S. natural gas prices increasing significantly since 2000,
average U.S. ammonia production costs rose by 172 percent from fiscal year 1999 to fiscal year 2005.

While fertilizer prices have risen, many U.S. producers were faced with negative margins due to the severe escalation in production costs.

High natural gas prices have caused 26 U.S. ammonia plants to close since fiscal year 1999. Several plants also remain idle.

As a result of ammonia plant closures, U.S. ammonia production fell by more than 42 percent since fiscal year 1999.

Consequently, the U.S. fertilizer industry, which typically supplied 85 percent of farmers’ domestic nitrogen needs from U.S. based production during the 1990s, now relies on net nitrogen imports for more than half of new nitrogen supplies.

This situation also impacts phosphate fertilizer production, as average U.S. production costs for ammonium phosphates increased by 20 percent from 1999 to 2003.

These costs are expected to show continued increases as ammonia prices have risen further.

After years of relative stability, North American potash prices increased significantly beginning in mid-July 2003.

The bulk of the price increase realized has resulted from the 17 percent growth in global potash demand since fiscal year 2001.

Energy Tools
offer ways to cut costs

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed four energy tools designed to increase energy awareness in agriculture and to help farmers and ranchers identify where they can reduce their energy costs.

Photo: Karl Ohm
milking parlor
Whether it's lighting, ventilation, fuel, irrigation or nitrogen use, the information found in "Energy Tools" can help save energy on the farm.

The results generated by these tools are estimates based on NRCS models and illustrate the magnitude of savings.

You can contact your local NRCS office for additional assistance.

Otherwise, you can also start by linking to the Energy Consumption Awareness Tools page at: ENERGY TOOLS

USDA announces funding
for Conservation Innovation Grants

On January 16, 2009, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the availability of funding for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG).

Funds for single- or multi-year projects (not to exceed three years ) will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process, and applications will be accepted from all eligible non-federal government or non-government organizations or individuals. Read more. . .

Farm Energy News Blog

Also, don't forget to visit our (click on) Farm Energy News Blog and participate by submitting material, joining in discussions and offering feedback.

You can also link to the Farm Energy News Blog near the bottom of this home page.

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) fundiing increased

On July 7, 2009, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Funding was increased by U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Go to: News and Information

On-farm processing of soybean oil
helps stretch diesel fuel supplies
Mark (left) and Ed Walder, Wittenberg, Wisconsin, developed serveral pressing systems so farmers can convert oilseed crops into meal for feed and oil.

On-farm fuel and feed

Processing system
turns oilseeds into valuable commodities

By Karl Ohm

You could easily consider brothers Mark and Ed Walder to be strong supporters of value-added agriculture with a sincere desire to help other farmers.The reason is simple. Several years ago, the brothers started exploring and tinkering with ways to literally squeeze more profits out of grain crops.

What this mechanically savvy duo, of Wittenberg, Wis., came up with are several configurations of presses that can be used right on the farm to process crops like soybeans and canola, turning out low-moisture meal and vegetable oil. The oil can either be mixed with petroleum-based diesel fuel or converted into straight bio-diesel fuel, if you’re so inclined.

Since their father, Dan, farms about 300 acres and raises Angus beef, processing soybeans and rapeseed has worked out very well economically.

“Pressing our own soybeans or rapeseed produces high-quality meal that is fed to the cattle,” says Mark. “On-farm processing reduces out-of-pocket costs for feed and transportation. As a bonus, oil is also produced to help stretch diesel fuel supplies or it can be further processed and turned into 100% bio-diesel fuel.

“The soybean meal is the chief thing we’re after; we really consider the oil as a byproduct but a very useful and neat one from an energy-savings standpoint.”

The system’s layout

The layout of the system consists of two HeNan Double Elephant screw presses bolted on a very hefty metal stand in a side-by-side by fashion – about 18 inches off the ground.

Soybeans are pressed in two stages producing oil for fuel and high-value meal, which the Walers store in a tank. Pressing drops moisture content from about 14% to 8%.
Photos: Karl Ohm

On one end, soybeans from a 150-bushel gravity box are fed into the first press via a hydraulically operated auger. If the moisture content is below 14%, warm water is gently sprayed on the beans just before being drawn up into the auger that feeds the first press.

“A water jacket, which is heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, is also housed inside the auger to help keep the beans warm and more pliable for better pressing,” says Mark. “Sometimes we heat the water with an outdoor wood-fired furnace. However, since the presses can be powered by the tractor’s power take-off, an exchanger can be used to draw heat from the engine to warm the water jacket inside the auger.”

The brothers have also designed turnkey systems equipped for full-scale processing and with a stationary diesel-powered engine where its heat can be captured to warm the water.
“The turnkey systems are ideal to use inside a building where pressing can be done in more controlled and comfortable surroundings,” says Ed.

These turnkey systems usually involve two side-by-side presses and vary in price from $7,000 to $11,500, depending on their rated processing capacity.

For example, a six-ton press (as rated by the manufacturer) indicates it can process six tons of feedstock – or oilseeds – in a 24-hour period. Besides 10- to 13-ton presses for larger farms or commercial applications, Walders also offer two- and four-ton presses at lower prices.

Two-stage pressing
When the soybeans go through the first screw press, the moisture content drops from around 14% to 10%.

The meal or cake then exits out into another small catch basin at the front end of the first press. There another auger draws the meal into the second and final stage of pressing that squeezes the moisture down to about 8% – a good level for storage.

The low-moisture meal from the second stage of pressing collects in a small basin where another auger transfers it into a meal storage tank.

The oil from the final pressing drains by gravity into a lower pan that funnels it into a small 20-gallon drum equipped with a small tube near the top. The oil then slowly spills over into a smaller drum where it is pumped into a larger barrel for storage.

Double pressing saves time and heat, according to Mark. Meal comes out of the first machine at about 160 degrees, and it exits out of the second machine at about 220 or more degrees.

“We’ve sent samples of our on-farm processed soybean meal to an independent feed analysis lab,” says Mark, “and the product is very comparable, if not the same, to commercial-grade meal. Samples have tested slightly above 42% for bypass protein.”

The Walders also estimate a savings of  $120 to $135 per ton in out-of-pocket feed costs by processing the soybeans into meal on their farm.

Pressing capacity

The Walders use two six-ton presses in tandem to double the overall processing capacity. For example, two six-ton presses can produce about 12 tons of meal and nearly 400 gallons of oil in 24 hours.

“In eight hours, the tractor uses 16 gallons of fuel, but we produce about 130 gallons of bio-diesel fuel, leaving a net of about 114 gallons,” says Mark.

Presently, the Walders have been buying raw soybeans for processing; however, they did raise 10 acres of canola last year. On the average, one bushel of soybeans yields about one gallon of oil. With canola, the average oil yield per bushel is 2.25 gallons, according to Dan.

Walders use about 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel per year just for fieldwork. This year, they produced about 400 gallons of vegetable oil that was diluted on a 50/50 basis with regular No. 2 diesel fuel. This 50/50 mix was used in their skid loader and two other tractors.

“So far, we’ve never had cold-starting or running problems,” says Mark. “Adding a little kerosene to the mixture usually eliminates this problem, if it does occur.”

In the future, the Walders may also consider transesterfication to produce 100% bio-diesel fuel. “Most farms are sitting on a lot of energy, and we want to help others capture it while also adding good feed value to their oilseed crops,” he says.

Editor’s Note: For more information, contact: Walders Mfg., 1525 S. County Rd. I, Wittenberg, Wis. 54499. E-mail: or visit

Added-Value Example
On-farm processing turns one bushel of soybeans at $5.80 into a bushel worth
$10.82. For example:    
• 1 gallon of oil =    $ 2.40  
• 53 lbs. of meal @ $ .14/lb.=                                            $ 7.42  
• Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuel (IRS Form 4136) = $ 1.00/ gallon $ 1.00  
Total Net:   $ 10.82  
Source: Walder Mfg., Wittenberg, Wis.

Reprinted from Successful Farming®
© Copyright 2007 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.
Prime Enzymes
Wisconsin-based biotech firm
seeks to extract more ethanol from crop

Middleton, Wis. –– Unlocking and converting starch into simpler sugars so yeast can ferment them into ethanol are all in a day’s work for microscopic enzymes, such as amylase.

But as tiny as they may be, enzymes other than amylase may quickly become the heavyweight champions in producing ethanol more efficiently and in greater quantities from corn and other crops. READ MORE. . .
Simple ways to save fuel on the farm
Columbus, Ohio –– With diesel prices on the rise -- up nearly 50 cents from this time last year and a dollar higher than in 2004 -- a little bit of savings can go a long way when it comes to taking steps to conserve fuel on the farm.

Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer, said that being diligent with farming tasks, however mundane or unimportant they may seem, can put a few extra dollars in a farmer’s pocket.

Examing grain drying costs
London, Ohio –– With natural gas prices at all-time highs, it wasn't surprising that many farmers attending the 2008 Farm Science Review show sought out more information about conserving energy in drying grain.

Ohio State University agricultural engineers are reacquainting farmers with natural-air grain drying -- a low-energy drying system that boosts grain quality by increasing test weights and potentially cuts energy costs by as much as two-thirds, compared to more commonly used high temperature drying systems.

Just launched with a few entries. Go to:
You might of heard about the famous "Soybean Car" that generated some fame for Henry Ford. Well, here are some facts about it from the Benson Ford Research Center.

The frame, made of tubular steel, had 14 plastic panels attached to it. The car weighed 2000 lbs. –– 1000 lbs. lighter than a steel car. The exact ingredients of the plastic panels are unknown because no record of the formula exists today.

To learn more, click on: Popular Research Topics / Soybean Car

Note: Copy and use restrictions of photo apply
Photo: The Henry
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