Nebraska Governor Heineman declares September as Renewable Fuels Month at HHD

Source: By Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent • Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012

During the last 25 years, Nebraska has seen its ethanol industry develop into the nation’s second-biggest producer at 2 billion gallons a year from 24 ethanol plants.

Gov. Dave Heineman declared September as Renewable Fuels Month on Wednesday at Husker Harvest Days.

Heineman said renewable fuels are important to Nebraska.

“But we are also very aware of the challenge we face with the drought,” he said. “Some of the input costs for your livestock producers are high, but we are all in this together.”

The drought is taking a toll on both corn and soybeans, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on Wednesday.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office, reported that, based on Sept. 1 conditions, Nebraska’s corn crop is forecast at 1.32 billion bushels, 1 percent below last month’s forecast, 14 percent less than last year’s harvest and the smallest crop since 2006.

The report said that yield is forecast at 145 bushels per acre, two bushels less than last month’s forecast and the lowest since 2002. Area to be harvested for grain, at 9.1 million acres, is down 5 percent from a year ago.

The report also said that soybean production in Nebraska is forecast at 200 million bushels, down 7 percent from last month’s forecast and 23 percent less than last year’s harvest. Yield is forecast at 40 bushels per acre, a decrease of three bushels from August’s forecast and the lowest since 2002. Area for harvest, at 5 million acres, is up 4 percent from a year ago.

Despite the challenges, Heineman said, agriculture has helped Nebraska’s economy.

“Because of agriculture, we are in a much stronger financial position economically than the rest of the country, and renewable fuels are an important ingredient,” he said.

Nationwide, corn production is forecast at 10.7 billion bushels, down less than 1 percent from the August forecast, but 13 percent less than the 2011 harvest. That’s the lowest production in the United States since 2006.

According to the USDA, based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yields are expected to average 122.8 bushels per acre, down 0.6 of a bushel from the August forecast and 24.4 bushels below the 2011 average. If realized, the USDA said it will be the lowest average yield since 1995.

Soybean production is forecast at 2.63 billion bushels, down 2 percent from August’s forecast and 14 percent less than last year’s harvest. Based on Sept. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 35.3 bushels per acre, down 0.8 of a bushel from last month’s expectations and down 6.2 bushels from last year.

“Farmers are facing many challenges, especially this year with the drought,” said Tim Scheer, Nebraska Corn Board chairman and a farmer from St. Paul.

Scheer said farmers went into the planting season expecting to grow one of the largest crops on record.

“But we have experienced one of the worst droughts in the last 50 years,” he said.

A saving grace this year for Nebraska agriculture is irrigation, Scheer said.

Last year, Nebraska harvested 8 million acres of irrigated corn and soybeans, with irrigated corn production at 1 billion bushels and irrigated soybeans at 136 million bushels.

“Between the number of acres planted and irrigated, we will still produce a substantial crop, and we strive to meet the needs of both the ethanol and livestock industries,” Scheer said.

He said ethanol production provides a major economic impact to Nebraska’s rural communities.

“It provides jobs, tax revenues, byproducts for livestock producers, and it produces a homegrown, renewable fuel that displaces foreign oil,” Scheer said.

Also, Scheer said a number of Nebraska gas stations with blender pumps will begin to offer E15 for cars and trucks made after 2001 later this month.

“E15 provides additional horsepower, is better for the environment and is cheaper than regular gasoline,” he said.

Scheer said farmers and ranchers across the state “are willing to continue their support of their local economy, educate consumers and promote ethanol and work to bring energy independence to our nation.”

Also speaking was Greg Greving of Chapman, chairman of the Nebraska soy checkoff board.

Greving said another renewable fuel is biodiesel, which is made from soybeans.

“Biodiesel can be made from a variety of feedstocks, including soybeans grown right here in Nebraska,” he said.

Last year, Nebraska was the nation’s fourth-leading soybean-growing state, with cash receipt value of $2.6 billion.

“Soybeans have a positive economic impact here at home,” Greving said.

He said the Nebraska soybean checkoff board has launched a partnership to promote the use of soybean oil in home heating fuel in the northeast part of the United States, including New York City.

“When New York City activates its 2 percent blending mandate for bioheat, it will consume more biodiesel than the entire state of Iowa, which is the third-leading state in biofuel consumption,” Greving said. “Renewable fuels bring many economic and environmental benefits to the state of Nebraska and to the country.”