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Friday, February 26, 2016

RFA CEO: Ethanol Responded to Low Oil Prices with Jobs, New Technology

(RFA) On a radio talkshow this week, Bob Dinneen, RFA CEO, praised the diverse group of speakers featured at the National Ethanol Conference, saying, "We had a tremendous keynote speaker; the former president of Shell Oil Company, John Hofmeister, was there talking about the global oil price and what he saw happening in the future and his message was remarkably upbeat. He does not believe that the Saudis can continue hemorrhaging their future by keeping the oil price so low and he believes that there's going to be a rebound soon, which was refreshing news for the producers in the room. But more importantly, here you have the former president of Shell speaking quite enthusiastically about ethanol and its role in the future of fuel markets."

Every side of the fuel industry is hurting from poor profit margins, Dinneen said. Responses between the oil and ethanol sectors to $30 oil, however, have been night and day. "This industry - the ethanol industry - faced with the same economics with low oil prices driving our value down, we increased employment by 2,000 jobs last year. We invested in new technologies in our industry, in infrastructure that would make our fuel more widely available, and we double-down on the investments in our industry ... and there really is a stark difference in terms of the reaction to the market conditions between the two industries."

Dinneen thanked KY Corn during his state of the industry address for generating thousands of postcards to automakers with the Flex My Choice campaign. Kentucky was well represented at the NEC by attendees Mick Henderson and Chad Hancock, Commonwealth Agri-Energy, LLC, as well as Joseph Sisk and Adam Andrews, KY Corn. KyCorn is a longtime member and is very engaged in RFA's efforts to increase the volume of ethanol sold, because higher ethanol sales mean higher corn demand.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Farmers and Anglers Talk Ethanol

Pack up the cooler and grab your fishing poles, because KY Corn was fishing for conversations about Ethanol at The National Farm Machinery Show last week in Louisville.  KY Corn showcased efforts to dispel the myths about ethanol's impact on marine motors and other small engines.  The cornerstone of these efforts is a partnership with the Crappie Masters Tournament Trail and an angler team sponsored by American Ethanol.  KY Corn and Commonwealth Agri-Energy joined together as presenting sponsors for Crappie Masters' KY/TN State Championship, occurring in May at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.  American Ethanol will be the identity of the sponsorship.

At National Farm Machinery Show, KY Corn board members and Crappie Masters partners worked hard to put the common misunderstandings about ethanol to rest.  The booth displayed the boat that is used by American Ethanol's angler team.  It stopped trade show traffic and served as a gateway to conversations about ethanol in special use engines with those attending the show; curiosity got the best of many attendees, they asked about the purpose of this project and then would begin asking questions about ethanol and learning ways that they can help clear up misunderstandings in their communities.

Kevin Jones, the crappie angler sponsored by American Ethanol, participated in the efforts and shared his experiences with the partnership "the boat has been a big attraction this week at the show, on the water and at boat ramps. A lot of people have had questions about my boat being a billboard for a fuel that carries so much controversy.  These conversations turn into opportunities to clear the air about ethanol.  I also have noticed people are curious and just do not want to ask," said Kevin. "The two most common misunderstandings are that ethanol draws moisture from the atmosphere into the fuel system and that ethanol deteriorates the rubber and plastic engine components. There are a lot of misunderstandings, and our job is to clear them up and explain to consumers that ethanol is safe to use."  These fuel system complications are primarily caused by poor fuel maintenance when the fuel is not stabilized prior to storage. 

While the corn and ethanol industry can employ key influencers like Kevin in niche audiences to assist in making sure ethanol gets a fair shake, it is extremely important for farmers to be their own advocates.  Farmers need to become versed about ethanol's benefits and its controversies.  "I had many conversations with attendees that were curious about ethanol and hadn't been sure where to find the answers," said Chris Pierce, member of Ky Corn Growers Board of Directors "I enjoyed spending the day talking to people and answering their questions.  KY Corn wants to ensure the farmers have the tools that they need to engage consumers about ethanol.  Ethanol's importance to the corn market can't by understated and there are many industries that want to confuse the subject.  But, if consumers reject our product because they don't understand it, we'll have ourselves to blame if we don't speak up."

U.S. Grains Council Delegates Attend Annual Meeting

Approximately 230 U.S. Grains Council delegates from across the United States congregated this week in Sarasota, Florida for the 13th International Marketing Conference and 56th Annual Membership Meeting to evaluate existing programs and develop marketing tactics for the upcoming year. Representing KY Corn Growers Association was Philip McCoun, Promotion Council Chairman and Delegate, Henry Sanger, Delegate, and Kenneth Hayden, Delegate, Laura Knoth, Executive Director. 
Once a year, USGC representatives from the grain commodities can come together and discuss the organizations efforts directly with the Council's international staff. 

"It is extremely important for KY Corn to stay involved with the USGC. Their main priority is exports and improving other lives in other countries," said Philip.  "KY Corn will benefit from higher exports whether in the form of grain or ethanol, but if we could get the export of Ethanol increase it would help corn tremendously."  
Members from state checkoffs, agribusinesses and other organizations met with USGC staff this week during Advisory Team meetings that were focused on topics including trade policy, biotechnology, value-added opportunities and ethanol and regions including Asia, the Middle East and Africa and the Western Hemisphere.
The meeting came to an end with attendees meeting to share input from the small group sessions with the USGC Board of Delegates and Directors. Priorities laid out in the A-Team meetings included aggressive market development for ethanol exports, promoting a global understanding of biotechnology and providing U.S. agriculture a voice during global trade policy negotiations.

More about this weeks meeting and discussions can be found here

Friday, February 12, 2016

KY Corn Discusses Waterways Infrastructure with Courier Journal

This week KY Corn staff Laura Knoth and Kirstie Darnall accompanied the Waterways Council, Inc. President and CEO Michael Toohey and Senior Vice President Deb Calhoun in a visit with Executive Editor, Neil Budde and Reporter, James Bruggers of the Courier Journal.  
Also present were Matt Ricketts, Vice President of Crounse Corporation and Mark Knoy, President and CEO of American Commercial Barge Line.  All in attendance conveyed the significance of the inland waterways to their unique segment.  The importance of funding to repair and modernize our current waterways features was communicated.

"WCI believes in a 3-pronged approach to educating its audiences about the critical importance of the waterways and its infrastructure. The first is lobbying. Second is grassroots activities. And the third is media relations. We have a great story to tell, so meeting with editorial boards and reporters is a priority," said Deb Calhoun, Senior Vice President, Waterways Council, Inc.
KY Corn discussed the importance of inland waterways to grain farmers. "The Ohio and Mississippi River are crucial to our farmers ability to reach a large portion of its market. Nearly one-third of our corn travels to the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone of those bushels pass through a series of locks along the way,"  said Laura Knoth, Executive Director, Kentucky Corn Growers Association. "Waterways are the safest, greenest and most efficient method of transportation of grain and other products important to our industry. We were excited to participate in this collaborative effort and portray these points to one of Kentucky's most important media outlets."

Most of the technical aspects of the discussion are linked in this document.

Friday, February 5, 2016

NCGA Focuses on Ethanol: Life-Cycle Analysis, Marketing Tactics

This past week Adam Andrews, KY Corn Programs Director, attended NCGA's Ethanol Action Team meeting in California. The State of California is very relevant to the viability of corn ethanol with nearly one-third of our nation's auto fuel utilization occurring there.  California has its own fuel standard, and scores fuels based on their calculated carbon intensity.  California EPA has designated CARB, California Air Resources Board, to approve, update and revise the methodology.

The Committee met in Sacramento, where CARB is headquartered. To gain the highest access to California fuel market, CARB analyzes individual fuel's life cycle, and develops a carbon index.  Permission to enter the market is granted based on those results, similar to a permitting system. The committee met with a regulator from CARB regarding corn ethanol's life cycle analysis, and submitted several items of consideration for improving corn ethanol's position within CARB's measurement.  "We hope this is the beginning of some very necessary and extensive dialogue between the Midwestern corn industry and CARB, a governing body whose viewpoint of corn based ethanol is vitally important to its acceptance and commercialization."
The committee also met with the CEO of Propel, a biofuels retail company. "Propel is a great success story for retail E85," said Adam.  Propel's business model is to approach existing fuel retailers and propose to add a separate fuel canopy.  These satellite fueling canopies are located on a retailer's property, but they are branded and owned by Propel.
"Propel has an astounding amount of knowledge about what makes consumers purchase E85, the fuel's growth potential, pricing strategy, etc.," said Adam.  "They have captured three times the percentage of flex fuel miles, compared to the rest of the country.  Propel is a  true testament to how to maximize your sales potential by learning the audience, creating a recognized brand, pricing appropriately and building  loyalty. We benefitted immensely from our conversation, and have taken back several tactics that will help us increase demand for ethanol in our region.  I'm excited about how we can implement these ideas to increase ethanol utilization east of the Rocky Mountains, and thus increase corn grind for Kentucky grain farmers."