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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

September 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

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.


Call for nominations from Harvesting Clean Energy

Do you know a farmer who is a true innovator in clean energy, who is harvesting a range of clean energy resources - renewable power, biofuels and/or energy efficiency? An ag producer that is building a long-term integrated energy strategy to control costs, manage risk, and benefit the bottom line? This year’s Harvesting Clean Energy Conference – October 23-25 in Boise -- will honor the Northwest’s "Best of Breed" – awarding a producer from each of the region’s four states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Let us know who you think should get the award and why. (Yes, you can nominate your own operation!) Deadline is September 9, 2011.


Biomass crop assistance program deadline is September 15

Agricultural producers growing within Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) areas have until September 15, 2011, to sign up for participation. BCAP will provide funds for farmers within designated areas of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Oklahoma, and California to plant designated crops for the production of biomass. To learn more, see the August 25, 2011, USDA press release.

PGE considering locally farmed giant cane as coal replacement

Portland General Electric must stop burning coal at its power plant in Boardman, Oregon, by 2020, and is investigating the potential of using farmed giant cane (Arundo donax) as a fuel source. The plant would be grown locally, and is projected to require 60,000 to 90,000 acres of irrigated land. Concern has arisen among farmers and others that the crop could potentially displace food production in the area. To learn more, read "PGE Looks to Giant Cane for Fuel," published August 11, 2011, in Capital Press.

Energy cycling in soybean agriculture

"Energy in Soybean Agriculture," a feature article by Dev Shrestha, Associate Professor of Bioenergy at the University of Idaho, was updated August 2, 2011 on the website. The article presents information derived from a number of soybean energy studies, and compares and contrasts the differing calculation methods and results. A comprehensive bibliography is provided.


Potential effects of rising energy costs for agriculture

A new report from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture and Rural Economies, examines the direct and indirect impact of higher energy prices on the agricultural sector and on rural economies as a whole. The report models the outcome of different scenarios of energy cost increases, and determines that energy cost increases from any cause would raise the price of agricultural products and lower farm income.

Research traces the pathway of crop carbon

New research, published in August 2011 in the journal Biosciences, examines how carbon flows through agricultural systems, from the fields and crops themselves to the eventual place of consumption, often many miles away. The report shows concretely how agricultural production areas become carbon sinks, whereas areas of high population which consume rather than produce become carbon emitters. The full report, "Regional Uptake and Release of Crop Carbon in the United States", is available on the Biosciences website. A summary, "Carbon Hitches a Ride from Field To Market," appeared August 3, 2011, on the Pacific Northwest Regional Laboratory (PNNL) website.

Evidence strengthens case for biofuel production from natural grasses

Research from Michigan State University (MSU) shows that converting natural grassland into cropland for the production of biofuel crops such as corn and soybeans creates a carbon debt which takes decades to pay off, even with the use of no-till farming practices. In contrast, harvesting natural grasses from reserves and using them to create biofuel creates no such debt. "To Avoid Carbon Debt, CPR Beats Fields of Corn, Soybeans," published August 9, 2011, on the MSU website, provides a summary of the research.


USDA Conservation Innovation Grants announced

On August 22, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the award of 52 Conservation Innovation Grants to recipients in 40 states. The awardees will pursue projects which address a variety of natural resource conservation issues, including erosion control, the development of ecosystem markets, and the expansion of solar energy use on farms. Matching grants for 50% of project costs will be provided. To learn more and see the list of recipients, read the USDA press release.

REAP grant recipients announced

More than 900 agricultural producers and small business have been selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive grants through the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP grants can finance up to 25% of the cost of a renewable energy or energy efficiency project. To learn more, see the August 17, 2011, press release, or view the list of recipients.

Joint funding for bioenergy crop research

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture have awarded over $12 million for research into improving the yield, adaptability, and quality of certain biofuel and bioenergy crops. Switchgrass, miscanthus, and brachypodium are among the crops to be studied. To learn more, see the August 11, 2011, press release .


Conserve Heat Energy in the Farm Shop is a free publication, published in August 2011 by the Iowa State University Extension Service, which provides ideas and solutions for building an energy efficient farm shop building. Recommendations for insulation R-values, window and door placement, and supplementary heating are provided.


Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Grants

Proposals for five types of grants are currently being accepted by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) in the following categories: Research and Education, Professional Development, Production, Professional and Producer, and Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture. Deadlines vary, with most proposals due in December 2011.


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