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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

November 2012

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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Cost and profitability calculator for energy crop production

The Feedstock Cost and Profitability Calculator, an online tool to estimate the expenses and breakeven data of energy crop production, was recently developed by Madhu Khanna, an agricultural economist from the University of Illinois. Currently the calculator contains data to support three states: Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma, but more states may be added depending on interest level. Information about the calculator, and a request by its developer for feedback from users, can be found in "Switching to an Energy Crop: Break Even or Make a Profit," released October 30, 2012, at


More crop diversity equals fewer chemical inputs

Research conducted at Iowa State University suggests that diverse, multi-year cropping systems (utilizing three- or four-year rotations and incorporating small grain, red clover and/or alfalfa) require fewer chemical inputs than a conventional two-year corn-soybean rotation to maintain the same profitability. Additionally, more diverse cropping systems are beneficial to weed management; weeds are suppressed with a fraction of the herbicides used in less diverse systems. To learn more, read the October 11, 2012, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture news release, or download the entire study, "Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health," published October 10, 2012, in PLoS ONE.


The nuts and bolts of forage quality

"Managing for Forage Quality: A Key to Forage Profitability," published September 27, 2012, at, provides tips for keeping forage quality high in order to insure maximum consumption by livestock, more milk, healthier cows, and more reliable calving. The author emphasizes the importance of maturity level; careful rotations ensure that the grass is eaten at its most nutritious stage, that of relative immaturity.

Biodigestion by third-party ownership

"Adding Dollars to Dairy," published in the October 2012 issue of Biomass Power & Thermal, provides examples of dairies which successfully incorporated dairy biodigesters into their farm operations using a third-party ownership model. This model reduces risk and expenses for the farmer, but requires a communicative, healthy partnership to be successful.


Winter grazing video

"Winter Grazing – A Better Way to Feed" is a 16-minute video posted on YouTube by the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on August 24, 2012. The video features livestock producers in the field, describing how and why they use stockpiling and strip grazing to extend the grazing season. These methods can be used anywhere in the US, and provide numerous benefits for both the farmer and the environment.


California law helps on-farm energy producers

New legislation in California will help producers of on-farm renewable energy by allowing farm-produced energy fed back to the grid to count against multiple meters on the same property. To learn more, read "Governor Signs Bill to Ease Small-Scale Renewable Energy Generation," published October 2, 2012, in Western Farm Press.

Edaleen Dairy to benefit from REAP funds

On October 19, 2012, 244 new projects were selected to receive funding through the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program. Among the recipients is Edaleen Cow Power, LLC, in Lynden, Washington; over $2.6 million in grants and loans will assist in the development and construction of an anaerobic digestion system to process the manure of Edaleen Dairy’s 2450 cows. The resulting electricity will be sold to Puget Sound Energy. To learn more and see the complete list of recipients, read the USDA press release.


M2M to analyze food, farming, economics, health, and the environment

Measure to Manage (M2M) - Food and Farm Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health is a new program under development by the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). The program’s stated goal is "to develop, validate, and apply analytical systems quantifying the impacts of farming systems, technology, and policy" on food nutritional quality, food safety, agricultural productivity, economic performance, and natural resources and the environment. Learn more in "Science-Based Tools Measure Sustainability, Health of Food, Ag," published October 16, 2012, in WSUNews.


Tilth Producers Annual Conference
November 9-10, 2012, Port Townsend, Washington
The Tilth Producers 38th Annual Conference is titled "Growing Forward: Holistic Management of Organic Farms." More than 600 farmers, researchers, advocates and organic industry representatives will convene for three days of educational and networking events focused on Washington organic and sustainable agriculture. Friday features a one-day WSU Symposium, Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in our Plant Genetic Resources, focused on germplasm issues and management. The keynote speaker for the conference is Allan Savory. Twenty-six workshops feature a great line up of growers, researchers and educators sharing their expertise on organic farm practices and issues, plus a Beginning Farmer Series planned in conjunction with Washington Young Farmers Coalition.

Washington Future Energy Conference: The Business of Renewable Energy and Efficiency
November 14, 2012, Seattle, Washington (day-ahead programs November 13)
Returning for its third year, and again incorporating the Washington State Energy Summit, this is the state's signature clean energy event of the year, bringing together members of the energy industry, energy project hosts, and users of energy services. The conference will include five sections: Energy in Context; The Business of Renewable Energy; The Business of Energy Efficiency; Transportation Innovation; and Industry Showcase. Day-ahead programs include the Bioenergy Research Symposium, Natural Gas and Washington, and the Washington Smart Grid Forum (see descriptions above).

Focus on Farming Conference
November 15, 2012, Everett, Washington
Spend an outstanding day of learning, networking and enjoying farm fresh local products prepared by regional gourmet chefs. Learn about innovative ideas from local and national farmers. See how new and upcoming farmers are shaping the future of the agricultural world and providing tomorrow's food. The agenda features 28 great workshop classes with seven industry tracks presented by some of the top experts in the country.

Our Food Footprint: Strengthening Regional Food Systems and Improving Social, Environmental and Economic Outcomes
December 6, 2012, Portland, Oregon
University of Oregon Sustainability Leadership Program offers a one-day workshop providing an overview of the food-related issues, challenges, and solutions in developing strong, sustainable food systems. The class will highlight tools and resources for setting and implementing food-related policies and practices, and showcase several examples of companies and institutions making positive, fundamental change.

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