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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

September 2013

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

While every URL in EnergyAg Newsbriefs is checked for accuracy prior to distribution, URLs may change, and servers may temporarily fail to connect to working URLs.


Submit now to present at Harvesting Clean Energy 2014

Harvesting Clean Energy, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), has put out a general call for presentations for the 2014 Harvesting Clean Energy conference, to be held February 4-6 in Helena, Montana. The conference brings together farmers, foresters, energy experts, and other interested parties in order to advance rural economic development through clean energy.

Oilseed conference videos now available

Video presentations from the 2013 WSU Oilseed Production and Marketing Conference, held in January 2013 and sponsored by Washington State University Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, are now available online. Over sixty videos feature keynote speakers, growers, and researchers presenting on a wide range of topics in both general and breakout session formats.


Better biofuel with fungus and bacteria

Researchers from the University of Michigan have developed a way to make biofuel which more closely matches the properties of gasoline than ethanol. Isobutanol is made from inedible plant materials with the help of a fungus and E. coli bacteria. To learn more, see “Microbial Team Turns Corn Stalks and Leaves into Better Biofuel,” published August 19, 2013, by University of Michigan News Service.

Switchgrass plastic

Plastic from Grass” was written by David Talbot, Chief Correspondent, MIT Technology ReviewM; it was published in the July/August 2013 issue of that journal. Engineers at Metabolix in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a polymer from genetically-engineered switchgrass. If successful, the new polymer might replace petroleum-based and non-biodegradable plastics.

Online bioenergy curriculum

Curriculum developed by the Bioenergy Training Center is available as a series of free online courses accessible through The Bioenergy & Sustainability course series includes curriculum units covering bioenergy crop production, harvesting, water issues, community economic development, and more.


Quantifying farm and forest greenhouse gases

Science-Based Methods for Entity-Scale Quantification of Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks from Agriculture and Forestry Practices” was released as a public review draft by The USDA Climate Change Program Office on August 27, 2013. The report outlines a set of consensus methods, formulated by top experts in the field, for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage at the farm, ranch, or forest scale. The public has been invited to review the document and submit comments prior to October 12, 2013.


Sustainability standards primer

Sustainability Standards for Farm Energy” was updated August 2, 2013 at A variety of information about farm sustainability is presented, including sections on sustainable biofuel systems, greenhouse gases, production efficiency, net energy balance, food security, water and air quality, and more. Links to further resources are also provided.


NRDC calls for crop insurance reform

Soil Matters: How the Federal Crop Insurance Program Should Be Reformed to Encourage Low-Risk Farming Methods with High-Reward Environmental Outcomes” is an issue paper released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in August 2013. The paper explains why the Federal Crop Insurance Program may encourage risky farming methods which ignore the realities of climate change, and recommends reforms to encourage soil-building practices which increase crop resiliency. An associated crop loss and weather map is also available.

REAP funding announced

Recipients of funding through the USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) program were announced on August 15, 2013. 631 projects were selected to receive grants and loans for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and/or energy efficiency improvements. To learn more, see the USDA press release.

USDA energy efficiency programs guide

Energy Efficiency Opportunities at USDA,” a white paper published by ACEEE in August 2013, outlines the main programs at USDA which provide financial incentives for energy efficiency in rural America. Better known programs such as REAP are covered, as are lesser known programs which might go overlooked. The white paper is introduced in “Growing the Rural Economy with Energy Efficiency,” a brief article published August 15, 2013, on


Distributed wind market report

A new report produced by the Pacific Northwest Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, in collaboration with two wind energy associations and an energy consulting firm, finds that localized (distributed) wind turbines comprise over half of wind energy systems installed between 2003 and 2012. In addition, the potential for energy production from the turbines has increased. For details, see the “2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications,” published in August 2013.


Farm Walks with Tilth Producers
Selected Mondays, Spring/Summer 2013

A series of farm walks sponsored by Tilth Producers of Washington will take place throughout the Spring and Summer of 2013. The last walk of the season will visit Maple K Farms a Highland cattle farm in Colfax, Washington. Pre-registration is encouraged; see the website for details.

Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair
September 7, 2013, Seattle, Washington

Participate in this fun, lively hands-on community festival with workshops, cooking demonstrations and fun activities for all ages. Eat tasty food and enjoy live music with friends and family. Harvest season is a time to celebrate!

Small-scale Micro-irrigation Design and Components Webinar
September 10, 2013, 11:00 AM PST

Small-scale micro-irrigation is on the rise and producers are taking advantage of NRCS' programs to install micro-irrigation systems to enhance resource conservation, food security, produce quality, and rural livelihoods. Learn the basics of micro-irrigation design and components with emphasis on small-scale systems within the context of NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 441.

Inland Northwest Small Farms Conference
October 19, 2013, Spokane, Washington

Join us October 19, 2013 at the Spokane Falls Community College for the 3rd Annual Inland Northwest Small Farms Conference: Country Living with Purpose & Profitability. There will be three seminar tracts with seminars like Farm Design, Adding Critters to the Farm, Where and How to Sell, and Bad Dirt, Good Dirt, Better Dirt. There will also be a variety of vendors, and vendor bingo with prizes.

Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference
November 8, 2013, Yakima, Washington

This action-packed event is Washington’s largest gathering of the sustainable agriculture industry, with more than 400 growers, businesses, researchers, students and advocates in attendance. We’re proud to bring you this year’s conference: Nourishing the Future: Cultivating our Farming Legacy.

Want to Contribute? If you have information on events, publications, or other ag-related topics that you would like mentioned in an upcoming issue of EnergyAg Newsbriefs, please contact Talia Mathews at