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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

July 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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Maas shares inspiration, insight behind NW Washington biodigester operations

"In Person: Manure Entrepreneur Kevin Maas Turns Dairy Waste into Green Energy," published June 5, 2011, in the Seattle Times, provides the background story behind Farm Power, the company that installed and operates biodigesters on dairy farms in Lynden and Mount Vernon, Washington. Interviews with Kevin Mass, the company’s founder, as well as the dairy farm’s owners, lend an interesting and informative perspective.

Biochar less harmful to earthworms than previously thought

Research published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry suggests that when biochar is adequately wetted, it does not repel or damage earthworms in the soil. Prior research using dry biochar revealed evidence that earthworms avoided the enriched soil, and that exposure decreased their weight. To learn more, read "Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy May Be Safe for Soil Animals," published June 5, 2011, at


An overview of greenhouse root zone heating

Root zone heating can be an effective, efficient alternative or supplement to heating the air inside the greenhouse. "Root Zone Heating Systems for Greenhouses" was published on the WSU Extension website and updated June 22, 2011. It describes the components and operation of commonly used systems, and provides links to further resources.


Pathogens can remain in manure after anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digestion of manure has been shown to greatly reduce, but not eliminate, harmful pathogens. "Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion of Manure in Reducing Pathogens," published on June 21, 2011, on the eXtension website, provides a sensible view of pathogen handling during and after anaerobic digestion. The article presents results from studies showing which pathogens are reduced or eliminated during the course of anaerobic digestion, and provides links to further resources.


Crop scientists release statement on crop adaptation to a variable climate

On June 16, 2011, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) released a position statement which analyzes the current and potential impact of climate change on agricultural systems. Recommendations made by the statement include an increase in cropping systems research and crop development, and infrastructure improvements to increase agricultural resilience. To learn more, read the CSSA press release.

Three organizations release joint position statement on climate change

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) released a joint position statement on climate change in May 2011. The 12-page statement outlines the potential threats of climate change to food production and securitybased on the current state of scientific knowledge and understanding, and recommends steps the agricultural and scientific community can take towards the endpoints of adaptation, mitigation, and remediation.


REAP, BCAP funding still uncertain

After the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee voted to eliminate funding for the Rural Energy for America program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) on May 24, 2011, an amendment was added by Marcy Kaptur of Ohio that restored enough funds to proceed with REAP for 2012 and plan for 2013. The Senate has yet to vote on the issue, and a full House vote has not yet been scheduled. For more information, read "BCAP, REAP still on chopping block, but some hope remains," published June 7, 2011, at

Four new BCAP areas announced

Four additional project areas, in the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, will be added to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) for the purpose of growing giant miscanthus (a hybrid grass used to produce biomass for biofuel production). For information, read the June 15, 2011, press release.

White House Rural Council formed

On June 9, 2011, President Obama announced the formation of the first White House Rural Council. The council will explore strategies to strengthen rural communities using a multi-faceted approach; target areas will include economic growth, job creation, agriculture and food systems, and renewable energy and biofuels development. To learn more, read the White House press release.

Senate votes to end three decades of corn ethanol subsidies

On June 17, 2011, the U.S. Senate voted by a bipartisan 73-27 margin to end the Volumentric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and the ethanol import tariff. To learn more, read "Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to End Corn Ethanol Subsidies," published June 17, 2011, at, or "Senate Votes to End US Ethanol Tax Credits on July 1, Rejects McCain Amendment Against Blender Pumps," published June 17, 2011, in Biofuels Digest.


International initiative for intensive, yet sustainable, agriculture

On June 13, 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations announced an initiative SCPI (sustainable crop production intensification) and a companion book, Save and Grow, which outlines a sustainable and intensive approach to global agriculture. The approach combines minimal tillage, cover crops, precision irrigation, and integrated pest management in a manner designed to maximize yield while protecting ecosystems and the environment. The methodology has broad applications, but is primarily designed to target small scale farms in developing countries. FAO has also issued a press release about the initiative.

AgStar conference materials now available online

Conference materials from the May 2011 Sixth AgSTAR National Conference are now available to download from the conference website. Topics include livestock digester offsetting, financing structures for biodigesters, biogas recovery, energy policy and regulations, co-digestion, and more.


Wind energy Q&As from eXtension

"Wind Energy for Homeowners, Farmers, and Small Business" is a feature article from eXtension, published on June 6, 2011. Common questions about wind energy covering a variety of topics, including operation, financing, maintenance, insurance, and valuation, are answered clearly and succinctly. Links to further information and resources are provided.


Conservation innovation grants for farm and forest carbon reduction

On June 8, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved funding for nine major greenhouse gas mitigation projects involving farms, ranches, range, and forestlands. The funds will be administered through the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); grant recipients are required to provide matching funds. To learn more and read the list of projects, see the USDA press release.


Oregon BEST FEST '11
September 12, 2011, Portland, Oregon
Register now for Oregon BEST FEST '11, which brings together university researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders engaged in renewable energy and the sustainable built environment for an all-day networking event and research expo in downtown Portland. The program features speakers, research presentations, and interactive workshops focused on creating jobs through informed innovation and filling the gaps in developing new products and services. Save the date now and plan to discover how research, innovation, and collaboration are fueling Oregon's green economy.

Harvesting Clean Energy Conference XI
October 23-25, 2011, Boise, Idaho
Join us in Boise in 2011 for another successful Harvesting Clean Energy conference. We will feature panel discussions designed to answer questions including: How can farmers, ranchers, food processors and rural communities prosper in the new energy economy? Where are your best opportunities in: wind power, solar technologies, geothermal, small hydro, biomass or biofuels, upgrading to energy efficient equipment? What financing, technical expertise, and partners are available to help? If you are interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 2011 Harvesting Clean Energy conference, please contact Dana Colwell: 253-445-4575.

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