Could an ethanol by-product be the next big thing in food?

DDG cookies

Padu Krishnan, far right, and his team at South Dakota State University and developing food-grade DDG products.

Food, feed, fiber, fuel and…cookies?

Minnesota’s corn farmers take great pride in growing the first four items on that list. But cookies? That’s not something that comes to mind when thinking about corn farming.

However, thanks to funding support from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Dr. Padmanaban Krishnan at South Dakota State University is working on a project that adds food-grade distiller’s dried grains (DDG) to baked foods like cookies, flatbreads, pizza crusts and snacks.

DDG are a by-product of the ethanol-making process and are most commonly used as a high-protein livestock feed. When a 56-pound bushel of corn is made into ethanol, you get 2.8 gallons of fuel and about 18 pounds of DDG.

There are currently no food products on the market that contain DDG, but continued research is progressing toward bringing a product to grocery store shelves one day. By using DDG to replace a small portion (2-10 percent) of the flour in food products, that product’s protein and dietary fiber percentages increase significantly.

“That’s what the food industry is begging for right now,” Krishnan said. “Good tasting foods with higher nutritional values.”

Taste is something that Krishnan is always experimenting with. If using DDG in food products is going to catch on, the initial products have to taste good right away. So far, Krishnan says the reviews of products like cookies, flatbreads and a corn puffs snack that contain DDG have received favorable reviews.

“People have liked the products they’ve tried, but I’m always working to make improvements and get a wide variety of people to give me feedback on taste,” he said. “Shelf life and texture are also critical as we keep moving forward.”

This snicker-doodle cookies contains 5 percent DDG.

This snicker-doodle cookies contains 5 percent DDG.

At a recent MCGA Expanded Uses team meeting, Krishnan shared samples of cookies and a corn puffs snack that contained anywhere from 2-10 percent DDG. Both products received a thumbs up from the farmers around the table who tried them.

MCGA is supporting Dr. Krishnan’s research because food-grade DDG offer yet another use for corn and add to the list of ethanol by-products that already includes livestock feed, corn oil and carbon dioxide.

“Developing new uses for corn is especially important these days with lower corn prices,” said Northfield farmer and MCGA President Bruce Peterson. “We need to keep finding ways to add value to the crops we grow.”

Once Dr. Krishnan grinds the DDG into flour and sterilizes it, it’s ready to be used in the test kitchen. Instead of focusing on using a large quantity of DDG in a single product, Dr. Krishnan adds small amounts in a wide variety of foods.

He says flatbreads can handle up to 20 percent DDGs while cookies are best around 6-10 percent.

“We have an opportunity here to improve the world food supply and increase profitability for our farmers,” Krishnan said.

Look for Krishnan handing out samples of his food-grade DDG products at various events this summer. The more feedback he gets on taste, the better he can refine his products and get them closer to market.

“We’re making steady progress,” he said. “We still have a lot of work left to do, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

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Minnesota Corn welcomes new research director

Paul Meints

Dr. Paul Meints

As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting innovative research with a focus on agriculture, environmental stewardship and biofuels, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) recently announced the hiring of Dr. Paul Meints to serve as the organization’s Research Director.

Meints will oversee a farmer-funded research portfolio totaling $4 million annually that supports projects at institutions such as the University of Minnesota, as well as on-farm initiatives such as Discovery Farms Minnesota.

“I’m looking forward to working on behalf of Minnesota’s corn farmers and maximizing their research investments to seek solutions to a variety of issues,” Meints said. “Whether it’s improving water quality or finding new uses for corn, Minnesota’s corn farmers have demonstrated their commitment to supporting quality research. This is a great opportunity.”

Meints, who grew up on a family corn, soybean, pork and beef farm in Chippewa County in Western Minnesota, has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in plant breeding genetics from the University of Minnesota. Meints earned his Ph.D. at Oregon St. University.

After working on the faculty at Mississippi St. University from 1997-2004, Meints lived in Kenya for three years where he helped the East African nation improve its agricultural and plant-breeding practices.

When Meints returned to the United States, he remained at Mississippi St. until accepting a position as Research Program Manager at the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, where he served until he joined the MCGA staff on March 10.

Meints replaces Dr. Adam Birr, who was named MCGA Executive Director in September.

MCGA has nearly 7,200 members and represents the interests of more than 24,000 corn farmers throughout Minnesota. The Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) administers the efficient and effective investment of Minnesota’s corn check-off. The shared mission of both organizations is to identify and promote opportunities for corn farmers, while building better connections with the non-farming public.

To learn more about MCGA, visit mncorn.org, follow @mncorn on Twitter, or “Like” Minnesota Corn on Facebook.

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Last chance to win a 20-game Minnesota Twins season ticket package

Gleeman and the Geek

MCGA is partnering with the “Gleeman & the Geek” podcast to give away a 20-game Twins season ticket package.

If you have yet to enter for your chance to win a 20-game Minnesota Twins season ticket package courtesy of Minnesota’s corn farmers, this week is your last chance.

If you have already entered, enter again! You can enter every week to increase your chances of winning.

Here’s all you have to do to enter:

  • Download the latest “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast here.
  • Listen to the podcast to learn this week’s keyword (Hint: It has something to do with ethanol being clean, RENEWABLE, and homegrown).
  • Go to MNFarmTeam.com, click the contest link, and enter the keyword to receive one entry.
  • Use the Twitter and Facebook icons to re-tweet or share the contest with your friends and followers to receive five additional entries.
  • Winner will be announced on the March 29 edition of “Gleeman and the Geek.”

Yes, it’s really that simple. All you have to do is listen to the podcast, enter the keyword at MNFarmTeam.com, Tweet/Facebook the info (if you want) and you and a friend could be going to 20 Twins games at sunny Target Field this year courtesy of Minnesota’s corn farmers.

While you’re at MNFarmteam.com, be sure to check out all the information about clean, RENEWABLE and homegrown ethanol. The contest is a great way for Minnesota’s corn farmers to reach a new audience with a positive message about homegrown biofuels like ethanol and the benefits to Minnesota’s air quality and economy.

Good luck!

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Corn Views: Farmers are losing the public perception battle

Bruce Peterson

MCGA President Bruce Peterson farms in Northfield and wrote about Gov. Dayton’s buffer strip proposal this week.

Northfield farmer and Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) President Bruce Peterson wrote a new “Corn Views” column this week that focused on Gov. Dayton’s proposed buffer strip legislation and the importance of farmers telling their own conservation story.

Peterson wrote that MCGA strongly supports the use of buffer strips, but opposes a portion of the governor’s legislation that calls for a one-size-fits-all 50-foot buffer requirement. Peterson writes:

Agricultural research shows that a one-size-fits all buffer solution is not the most effective or efficient strategy for improving water quality.

Peterson went on to write that farmers need to step up and do a better job of telling their own conservation story. Right now, that story is being told by others, resulting in farmers falling behind in the public perception battle when the topic of farming and conservation is discussed. From Peterson’s column:

It’s up to farmers themselves to take the lead and tell their own conservation story at the grassroots level. Right now, we’re letting others tell our story for us. It’s time for farmers to regain control of the public perception battle by standing up and speaking out on their conservation efforts.

The column was sent to every media outlet in Minnesota. You can read the entire column here. Be sure to encourage fellow farmers, along with your non-farming friends and neighbors, to give it a read.

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Minnesota corn farmer replies to Star Tribune’s “Big Ag” editorial on buffer strips

Kirby Hettver

Kirby Hettver, a fifth-generation farmer in Chippewa County, wrote a response to a recent “Big Ag” editorial in the Star Tribune.

On Sunday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an editorial dismissing the conservation efforts of farmers by labeling farmers and the grassroots organizations they belong to as “Big Ag.”

The editorial was spurred by the opposition of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and other family farm organizations to Gov. Dayton’s proposal to mandate 50-foot buffer strips along all Minnesota waterways in farm country. This statement from MCGA President Bruce Peterson highlights why the organization opposes to the one-size-fits-all legislation.

What was troubling about the Star Tribune’s editorial was its cliched and lazy labeling of Minnesota farmers as “Big Ag.” Here’s an excerpt from a response to the editorial written by Kirby Hettver, a farmer in DeGraff, Minn., who also serves on the MCGA board of directors:

As the spotlight shines brighter on farming and water quality, we need to do all that we can to ensure that the discussion remains informative and constructive. Using meaningless and inflammatory labels such as “Big Ag” to paint farm organizations opposed to the one-size-fits-all legislation with a broad and inaccurate brush accomplishes the exact opposite.

Hettver’s complete response was published in the March 19 Star Tribune and can be read here.

If you farm in Minnesota, be sure to read Hettver’s response and stand up for Minnesota farmers in the comments section. Also, share Hettver’s response with your fellow farmers, friends and neighbors.

As farmers, it’s up to us to help people better understand why farmers and groups like MCGA fully support the use of buffer strips to protect water quality, but do not support a one-size-fits-all buffer law. It’s also up to us to push back whenever a major media outlet or anti-ag activist groups attempt to score cheap points in a discussion about an important topic like water quality by labeling all Minnesota farmers, whether they’re large, small or somewhere in-between, as “Big Ag.”

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Let ExxonMobil know how ethanol “fuels you”

Want a chance to win $1,000 in free fuel and let one of the world’s largest oil companies know how important homegrown renewable fuels like ethanol are to you? Then enter ExxonMobil’s “What Fuels You? contest.

All you have to do is upload a photo of yourself next to an example of “what fuels you?” You are to include a 140-character caption that finishes the sentence, “I’m fueled by…” Entries that pass ExxonMobil’s review process will appear online for voting. Each week, the the entries with the most votes win $1,000 in Exxon and Mobil fuel.

The odds are probably good that the bigwigs at ExxonMobil will filter out any references to ethanol and renewable fuels during the review process, but why not give this a shot? It might turn out to be a great way to potentially promote homegrown biofuels to millions of people.

Picture ideas include blender pumps, your flex fuel vehicle, or an ethanol plant. Shots of you working on your farm to harvest food, feed, fiber and fuel for a growing world population would also be good.

Be sure to highlight the importance of homegrown biofuels like ethanol in your caption. Sample captions include:

  • “I’m fueled by American-made, high-octane ethanol.”
  • “I’m fueled by a better economy provided by renewable fuels, like ethanol.”
  • “I’m fueled by lower cost of fuel provided through homegrown choices at the pump.”

It only take a few minutes to enter and you could make a major impact. Good luck!

LINK: ExxonMobil’s “What Fuels You?” contest.

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This week’s ag update from the Minnesota state capitol

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Last week was a crazy week in St. Paul. There were numerous pieces of legislation introduced, advanced or debated that impact Minnesota’s corn farmers. Let’s get right to it:

Buffer strip legislation
For the sake of keeping this post as concise and easy to follow as possible, I’m going to focus on an update with where we’re currently at on buffer legislation. Stay tuned throughout the week for additional posts on the buffer issue that will include more opinion and commentary.

  • The Governor’s proposal to mandate 50-foot buffer strips along all Minnesota waterways was heard in both the House and Senate Environment Committees last week. You can read the full bill here.
  • MCGA opposes a one-size-fits-all buffer requirement. Here is a statement issued by President Bruce Peterson last week detailing our opposition.
  • The bill was authored in the House by Paul Torkelson (R — Hanska), who issued a statement saying he carried the legislation “in hopes of making significant improvements to it during the committee hearing process.” Here is an excerpt from Rep. Torkelson’s statement: “Farmers care about water quality and in fact have worked with state and federal agencies to implement a variety of existing water quality programs. But forcing a one-size-fits-all approach on them amounts to the state condemning personal property. That must change in order for any new buffer legislation to have needed legislative support.”
  • You can read Rep. Torkelson’s full statement here. The Senate author is John Marty (D — Roseville).
  • The bill was laid over in the House, with Chair Denny McNamara saying it would need considerable work for it to advance. The bill passed the Senate Environment Committee and was sent to the Agriculture Committee late last week.
  • Media coverage of buffers and the pending legislation was abundant. Gov. Dayton held a news conference where he asked Minnesota farmers to “look into their souls.” The governor also issued a press release. To say I’m disappointed in some of the judgmental and combative language the governor used in his comments during Thursday’s news conference is an understatement (more on that another time).
  • The Star Tribune published an editorial on Sunday lumping all farmers in the “Big Ag” pile (seriously, it was probably the laziest editorial about farming I’ve ever seen). Here’s a particularly snarky opinion piece from Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson on the legislation. MCGA President Bruce Peterson was featured in this KARE 11 news story and in this story on KTTC out of Rochester. The Pioneer Press attempts to give an overview of the entire issue in this piece.
  • If you’re interested in knowing which groups support the Governor’s legislation, the governor’s office released this document containing statements of support from several organizations and individuals.

Bioeconomy bill
This is a bill that would create incentives to make biofuels from sources such as corn stalks. The full bill can be viewed here.

  • The bill is opposed by several environmental groups, who are citing water quality concerns. They would like to see a 50 percent requirement to use perennial feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol instead of a 20 percent bonus payment for using biomass that is from perennials/cover crops currently in the bill.
  • We’re continuing to work on potential compromises. The budget targeting process will also be a major factor in the future of this bill.
  • Here is a news story on the bill and its current progress.

MPCA citizen’s board reform
This bill would make significant reforms to the duties of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen Board. More on why changes are needed can be read in this recent Star Tribune story.

  • The bill passed its first House committee on Thursday and now goes to its next committee stop in the Government Operations committee.
  • Unfortunately, this is yet another issue that gets swallowed up by the tiring Big Ag vs. Small Ag “debate.” When talking about MPCA Citizen’s Board reform, be sure to emphasize what this bill actually would accomplish: improving efficiency and removing unnecessary roadblocks to important projects that help drive the rural economy.

Irrigation
HF 1494 is a complicated bill that would modify groundwater appropriation permit requirements. The bill amends current law to say that groundwater appropriation permits that will have substantial negative impacts to surface waters that can be proven must be limited. The next step for this bill is possible inclusion in the omnibus environment bill.

Final thoughts
If you are a farmer reading this, please know how difficult I realize the last few days have been and how much is at stake. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or examples of how legislation in St. Paul would affect you. I am tremendously proud to work on your behalf.

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Why was Big Oil out in full force attacking ethanol and the RFS this week?

Big Oil tax breaksBig Oil is out in full force this week attacking homegrown biofuels like ethanol and calling for an end to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Perhaps it was the nice spring weather that brought the oil industry out of its hibernation. Maybe it was the fact that six of the nine republican presidential hopefuls expressed support for the RFS at an Iowa ag forum over the weekend.

Or maybe Big Oil is getting desperate. Their profits are down, consumers are still demanding cleaner burning, homegrown choices at the pump, and ethanol continues to cut into the oil industry’s monopoly on America’s fuel tanks.

This week also marked the 102nd anniversary of Big Oil tax breaks, which were first adopted during the Wilson administration and remain in effect today. Instead of throwing a party to commemorate the occasion, the oil industry decided to lash out against biofuels, the only real threat to Big Oil’s government-supported monopoly.

Whatever the reason, Big Oil ratcheted up the misinformation, half-truths and talking points disguised as independent studies this week.

  • There was this op-ed in the New York Times, which was written by the author of a Manhattan Institute report on “The Hidden Corn Ethanol Tax.” Turns out the author, Robert Bryce, has heavy ties to the oil industry. The Manhattan Institute has received $635,000 from ExxonMobil and nearly $2 million from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable foundation, where Big Oil powerhouse Charles Koch and his wife sit on the board of directors. It isn’t the first time Bryce has shilled for Big Oil in the New York Times and regurgitated long disproven myths about renewable fuels.
  • The Wall Street Journal trashed ethanol, questioning why we need the RFS to mandate 10 percent ethanol in our fuel supply. Of course the Wall Street Journal — a longtime shill for the oil industry — didn’t mention anything about the billions in tax breaks enjoyed by the oil cartels.
  • Even former Tonight Show host Jay Leno penned an anti-ethanol tirade in Auto Week magazine. Leno’s outburst was strange since he previously expressed support for farmers and homegrown biofuels. Writing on the E-xchange blog, syndicated car show host and auto technician Bobby Likis refutes Leno’s misguided rant. Likis also says the article reeks of B..O., aka Big Oil.

Several biofuels leaders held a press call on Wednesday morning to set the record straight about the blatantly false claims made earlier in the week about ethanol. The call was also an opportunity to highlight how the RFS has benefited America’s economy and the air we breathe. A summary of the call can be viewed here.

One would think Big Oil would be in a more festive mood this week, given spring is finally here and they’re celebrating 102 years of taxpayer subsidies.  Instead, the oil industry was its usual bitter, bullying and misguided self.

Rest assured, as long as Big Oil keeps making desperate and misguided claims about ethanol and homegrown biofuels, we’ll keep refuting them.

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Statement from Northfield farmer and MCGA President Bruce Peterson on buffer strip legislation

Bruce Peterson

Bruce Peterson will begin his term as MCGA President on Oct. 1.

The following is a statement from Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and President of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, on legislation introduced this week that would require farmers to use 50-foot buffer strips along waterways:

“The Minnesota Corn Growers Association supports the use of buffers as one of the many best management practices farmers use to protect water quality. We also support existing buffer laws and their vigorous local enforcement, which allows for farmers and local authorities to work together to seek water quality solutions that take into account the diversity of Minnesota’s farmland. Research shows that a one-size-fits-all approach to buffers and water quality likely will not be effective. This issue requires thoughtful consideration on how policy can best be crafted to make meaningful improvements in water quality. The impact any legislation will make on Minnesota farmers also must be considered. We do not believe a political debate during the few weeks remaining of the legislative session can adequately address all of these issues. Therefore, we do not support the governor’s one-size-fits-all proposal.

MCGA is proud of the relationship it has with Gov. Dayton, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and other state agencies. We remain committed to working with agencies, legislators and local government officials to seek meaningful solutions to water quality concerns.”

MCGA will continue to speak with legislators with our concerns, and will communicate any legislative action taken on this proposal.

Minnesota corn farmers fund millions of dollars and research projects focused on water quality. Here are a few examples:

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College students: MCGA wants YOU (to become an Agvocate)

MN Corn Agvocate

Maria Wingert, a 2014-15 MCGA Student Agvocate and a student at the University of Minnesota, helping out at the MN Corn auction at MN Ag EXPO 2015.

Are you a post-secondary student who wants to develop hands-on leadership experience with agriculture professionals? Are you passionate about farming and want to use your energy to improve agriculture overall? Do you enjoy talking with consumers about important issues related to food, farming and biofuels? Would you like a $3,000 scholarship?

If you answered “yes,” then the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) would like you to be a 2015-16 Student Agvocate.

Applications to work on behalf of Minnesota’s corn farmers as a Student Agvocate are currently being accepted through April 10. MCGA Student Agvocates will be selected by May 15. More information, including all application materials, can be found here.

Applicants must be enrolled in a two- or four-year post-secondary education or training program and possess strong written and verbal communications skills. Applicants do not need to be corn farmers or come from a corn-farming family. Anyone who meets the qualifications with an interest in food, farming, biofuels or corn may apply.

“Minnesota’s corn farmers are committed to developing the next generation of leaders in agriculture,” said Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and MCGA President. “The MCGA Student Agvocate Program is a great way for our young leaders to gain hands-on, real-world experience working on important farm-related issues.”

Got questions? Email Cara Soper, MCGA Field Coordinator at csoper@mncorn.org. Or head to mncorn.org for complete details and application material. You can also learn more by reading about the three current MCGA Agvocates who have been working on behalf of Minnesota corn farmers over the last year.

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