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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

February 2011

Welcome to this edition of EnergyAg Newsbriefs brought to you by the Washington State University Extension Energy Program Library. Please forward this issue to those of your colleagues interested in energy-efficient agricultural practices. Archives of past messages

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Practical analysis of the evolving Biomass Crop Assistance Program

The USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) faced some initial controversy, and was revised in October 2010. "The Practical Effects of the Revised BCAP," published January 13, 2011, on, provides a brief analysis and critique of the program before and after the revisions. Remaining problems with the matching payments component of the program are identified, while the strengths of the BCAP projects areas component are highlighted.

Snohomish biodigester is paid a visit during conference field trip

Qualco Energy, a nonprofit organization run by of members of the agricultural, environmental, and tribal community in Snohomish County, Washington, commenced operation of a state-of-the-art dairy waste biodigester in 2008. The Qualco Energy facility was one of several visited on a field trip by Pacific West Biomass Conference attendees. A write-up about the facility, "Qualco Energy Biomass Project is Paying Off," was published on the Biomass Power and Thermal website on January 10, 2011.

Perspectives on beet-based biofuel

Projects are underway in several states which will test the economic viability of sugar beet ethanol, and some buzz is being generated from this humble vegetable's potential conversion.

"Will Consumers Buy Energy Beet Biofuel?," published on the eXtension website on January 18, 2011, speculates that 20% of U.S. consumers would be willing to pay a premium for beet ethanol. The assertion is based on the results of a study conducted in Brazil on consumer purchasing of cane sugar ethanol.

"Sweeter Ethanol Can Skip Subsidy," published on January 7, 2011, in Capital Press, describes some of the positive aspects of sugar beet ethanol production, but ends with the recommendation that subsidies should be eschewed.


Gills Onions, one of the world's largest onion producers, is now processing 100 to 150 tons of onion waste per day in a methane-producing anaerobic biodigester. The methane is used to run a generator, which provides electricity for on-farm use. For details, see "Processor Turns Waste into Power," published on January 20, 2011, in Capital Press.


More ideas for on-farm energy efficiency from eXtension

"Selecting and Maintaining Greenhouse Thermostats," published January 18, 2011, gives tips for thermostat selection, placement, and maintenance which will save energy on the farm with minimal effort and cost.

"Greenhouse Ventilation," published January 11, 2011, provides information and advice regarding all components of greenhouse air circulation, including fans, motorized and non-motorized vents, evaporative cooling, and winter ventilation.

"Ventilation and Cooling Systems for Animal Housing," published January 18, 2011, discusses the importance of animal housing ventilation and cooling, describes the types of systems available, and provides links to further resources.


Study finds strip-tilling method reduces greenhouse gas emissions

Researchers at Greenley Research Center in Missouri found that banded fertilizer and tillage between row crops reduced greenhouse gas emissions in corn, when compared with the application of fertilizer to the surface without tillage. For details, see "MU Scientists Find New Farming Method to Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Increase Farm Yields," published by the University of Missouri News Bureau, January 13, 2011.

Global organic horticulture is growing, study finds

A recent study, co-authored by WSU Extension educator David Granatstein, examines the distribution and rate of growth of organically grown crops worldwide. Although some countries have not released data, organic horticulture in the countries for which data exist is experiencing dramatic growth. The report, Organic Horticulture Expands Globally, was published in the December 2010 issue of Chronica Horticulturae, and is available in summary or full text via Organic eprints.


'Biobased' labeling launched by USDA

The BioPreferred biobased labeling program, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), will provide voluntary certification and labeling of products whose main ingredients are composed of renewable plant or animal materials. The qualification criteria vary by product type, and food, fuel, and feed products are ineligible. A January 19. 2011, New York Times article, "USDA Lowers Bar for New 'Biobased' Product Label," analyses the program, and compares its progression to that of organic certification and labeling.

Ethanol waver sparks controversy

On January 21, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expanded the allowance of up to 15% ethanol blended fuel for use in model-year 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles (see the EPA's E15 page for details). The ruling raised questions among animal agriculture and environmental groups; a joint statement outlining some of the concerns was submitted to Capital Press on January 21st.

Greenhouse gas requirements deferred for biomass energy production

Carbon-emitting energy operations which utilize biomass will be exempt from permit requirements under the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule for three years, while the science and politics are reexamined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "U.S. Biomass Energy Facilities Escape Greenhouse Gas Rule," published January 13, 2011, at Environment News Service, provides more information and explores some of the controversies surrounding this ruling.


Six Oregon studies receive REAP grants

Six projects in Oregon are among 68 selected nationwide to receive funds for feasibility studies for farm- and forest-related renewable energy projects. The grants are administered under the USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) program. A January 20, 2011, summary of the Oregon projects, and a list of all recipients nationwide, are available on the USDA website.

Grass Energy: Pelletization & Market Development

This RFP is for the research and development of a pelletizing system capable of processing grass fibers into fuel. In addition, proposals shall include a business plan that identifies steps leading to new markets utilizing pelletized grass as a heating fuel in Vermont. The submittal deadline is February 28, 2011.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational Programs

The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture, including farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry (both urban and agroforestry), aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding. Through this support, AFRI advances knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. Letter of Intent Deadline: March 16, 2011.


New analytical tool for bioenergy collaboration

A new online collaboration, communication, and data coordination tool for all facets of the bioenergy industry was recently unveiled by the US Department of Energy (DOE). The Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework uses interactive mapping features to display data on biomass feedstock production, fueling stations, and biorefineries at the national, state, and county level. Registered users will be able to submit data sets, which will then be integrated into the map tool. This resource is intended to expand the possibilities for coordination and analysis of bioenergy feedstocks, transportation, and production.

Information and resources for efficient livestock operations

"Introduction to Energy Efficiency and Conservation for Livestock Production" is a new guide published in the Farm Energy section of the eXtension website, January 24, 2011. This feature briefly describes strategies for efficient, environmentally sound livestock production, and provides a wealth of links to other resources.


California Small Farm Conference

March 6-8, 2011, San Jose, CA

Providing a venue for small farmers and their supporters to come together to network, learn, discuss and grow, the California Small Farm Conference has continually gained momentum and attendance....Our Mission is to conduct an educational conference on topics relevant to family farming, direct marketing and issues related to agricultural sustainability.

11th Annual Oregon Small Farms Conference

February 26, 2011, Corvallis, OR

The conference includes presentations by Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs and Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, plus over 20 concurrent sessions. Farmers, food advocates, farmers market managers and agriculture professionals should attend the conference. Lunch includes locally available winter produce. (Description from SARE)

Food Policy from Neighborhood to Nation

May 19-21, 2011, Portland, OR

This is going be the most comprehensive national conference on local and state food policy in the US! Building on CFSC's 2009 Food Policy Council national gathering, this conference will bring together people from across North America who are working to influence local and state food, agriculture, or nutrition policy.

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