Setting the record straight about ethanol and air quality

There’s a new study from the University of Minnesota making the rounds that claims ethanol may be worse for air quality than gasoline. The study is based on flawed models and disingenuous assumptions about ethanol production vs. oil production. Nonetheless, it’s generating a decent amount of media coverage.

The study’s authors cherry-pick models and adjust methodologies until they conform to what appear to be anti-ethanol viewpoints. Their work differs greatly from the work done by USDA, the Department of Energy, the National Argonne Laboratory and other academic research institutions that all conclude ethanol is better for the air we breathe than gasoline made from oil.

By a lot.

Geoff Cooper has already refuted the study, citing how the study’s findings differ greatly from real-world data. We’re publishing Mr. Cooper’s science-based response below.

Fair warning: It’s technical and in-depth. When using real-world data and genuine science, sometimes that’s necessary. The truth often can’t be trivialized into a 2 minute video like the study’s researchers would have you believe.

Anyway, thank you for taking a minute to get the other side of this story. Hopefully, this “study” is just another small bump on the road as we continue making progress toward a healthier planet using clean, renewable and homegrown ethanol.


Real-World Ozone and Particulate Data Expose Fallacy of Minnesota Study

Posted on: December 18, 2014 in E85, Emissions, Ethanol, Gasoline

A recent paper by researchers at the University of Minnesota suggests that using corn ethanol in lieu of gasoline would increase emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone.[1] The results are based on numerous assumptions (many of which are unclear or concealed from the reader) and a series of complex hypothetical modeling scenarios. Ultimately, the authors’ conclusions stand at odds with real-world data showing decreases in ozone and PM2.5 concentrations during the period in which ethanol blending substantially increased in the United States. The findings also run counter to an existing body of research that shows ethanol reduces PM2.5 and emissions that contribute to the formation of urban ozone, including exhaust hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide (CO). Further, the paper is contradicted by the results of the Department of Energy’s latest GREET model. Finally, the study omits important emissions sources from the petroleum and electric vehicle lifecycle, resulting in a “stacked deck” against ethanol.

THE STUDY’S CONCLUSIONS ARE UNDERMINED BY REAL-WORLD OZONE AND PM2.5 TRENDS

The paper’s assertion that increased ethanol use would cause higher emissions of ozone and PM2.5 is contradicted by EPA data from actual air sensors. Data from 222 EPA sensing sites show that ozone and PM2.5 concentrations have trended downward during the period in which the use of ethanol-blended gasoline has dramatically increased.[2] Ozone concentrations have fallen 33% since 1980, while PM2.5 is down 34% just since 2000. In recent years, both ground-level ozone and PM2.5 emissions have dropped below their respective national standards, according to EPA. Specific “non-attainment” areas where reformulated gasoline (RFG) is required have shown similar reductions since ethanol was introduced as an oxygenate.

Source: EPA Air Trends & EIA

THE STUDY’S FINDINGS ARE AT ODDS WITH EMISSIONS ESTIMATES FROM THE LATEST GREET MODEL

On a full lifecycle basis (i.e., including the contributions of upstream agriculture emissions), the study’s results are contradictory to the results from the Department of Energy’s latest GREET model.[3] This is particularly confusing because the authors claim to have used an earlier version of the GREET model for their analysis. It is unclear whether the authors adjusted key inputs in the GREET model, and on what scientific basis such adjustments might have been made.

The most recent GREET model shows no increase in PM2.5 emissions or other criteria pollutants when gasoline with 10% corn ethanol is compared to conventional gasoline without ethanol. Further, when E85 from corn ethanol is compared to conventional gasoline, GREET1_2014 shows that using E85 decreases urban emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrous oxide (NOx), coarse particulates (PM10), fine particulates (PM2.5), and sulfur oxide (SOx).

The high levels of PM2.5 and ozone concentration attributed to corn ethanol in the Minnesota study appear to be mostly related to assumed upstream agricultural practices, such as fertilizer application. However, the paper and the supporting material do not clarify what assumptions were used for fertilizer production and application, or other agricultural activities. Further, the study omits NOx and SOx emissions for other fuels if those emissions occur “far from population centers.” Yet, it appears all NOx and SOx emissions associated with agricultural production of biofuel feedstocks are included even though most feedstock production occurs in sparsely populated rural areas.

OTHER RESEARCH SHOWS ETHANOL REDUCES THE POTENTIAL FOR OZONE AND PM2.5

Urban ozone formation occurs from rather complex atmospheric photochemistry, as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and carbon monoxide (CO) react in the presence of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Both the EPA and National Research Council have recognized that CO is a precursor to ozone formation. There is a substantial body of evidence proving that ethanol reduces both exhaust hydrocarbons and CO emissions, and thus can help reduce the formation of ground-level ozone. Indeed, ethanol’s high oxygen content and ability to reduce exhaust hydrocarbons and CO emissions is the primary reason it is used as an important component of reformulated gasoline in cities with high smog levels.

Further, research has shown that increasing the oxygen content in gasoline reduces primary exhaust particulate matter (PM2.5) from the tailpipe. Because ethanol is 35% oxygen by weight, blending ethanol with gasoline increases the oxygen content of the fuel and thus reduces PM2.5 emissions.

THE STUDY USES QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTIONS REGARDING OTHER FUELS

The Minnesota study’s lifecycle emissions estimates for electric vehicles (EVs) do not include emissions associates with battery production, a glaring omission that creates an inconsistent framework for comparing various fuel/vehicle options. The authors admit that emissions associated with battery production account for “about half” of total EV lifecycle emissions—yet those emissions are excluded from the central scenario.

The study also excludes NOx and SOx emissions associated with crude oil extraction, a decision that grossly underrepresents the actual lifecycle emissions impacts of gasoline. These emissions were excluded because the authors assume they occur outside the geographical boundaries of their study area. The authors also assumed all crude oil in 2020 is extracted using conventional methods, which entirely ignores the emissions impacts of unconventional extraction techniques. According to the paper, “oil extraction from oil sands occurs outside of our geographic modeling domain,” and thus they assume “all oil is extracted conventionally (0% oil sands oil).”

Omitting key emissions sources from the lifecycle assessment of EVs and crude oil inappropriately skews the paper’s results for the overall emissions impacts of these fuels and vehicles.


[1] Tessum, C.W.; Hill, J.D.; and Marshall, J.D. “Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States.” Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. 10.1073/pnas.140685311.

[2] EPA Air Trends. http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/

[3] GREET1_2014. Available at https://greet.es.anl.gov/. See “Results” tab, “Gasoline Vehicle: Gasoline” and “Gasoline Vehicle: Low-Level EtOH Blend with Gasoline (E10, Corn, dry).”

– See more at: http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/real-world-data-expose-fallacy-of-minnesota-study/#sthash.INlb7mIw.dpuf

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GMO Awareness Day a missed educational opportunity in Metro area schools

Kristie Swenson

Kristie Swenson is a family farmer in southwestern Minnesota.

Written by Kristie Swenson

Recently, I saw a press release from Minneapolis Public Schools, sharing that five metro school districts (Hopkins, Minneapolis, Orono, Shakopee, and Westonka) held a “GMO Awareness Day” and are aiming to reduce GMOs in school food.

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have prompted much debate in several arenas, from agriculture to politics, at various levels.  I applaud these school districts for broaching a topic with so many different facets; however, I am disappointed that these school districts seem to intentionally advocate anti-GMO propaganda.

According to the press release, Laura Metzger, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Westonka Public Schools, said, “We want to start conversations about the foods we serve and how our decision-making works.  Our students will grow up to make their own decisions about the foods they eat, so this is an opportunity for education.”

I whole-heartedly agree that starting conversations about food and informing students about the decision-making process are educational opportunities. That’s why, as a farmer, I joined CommonGround, a group of volunteer farm women who want to engage in conversations about food and agriculture with consumers.

To me, productive conversations happen when we learn about and gain an understanding of another person’s perspective.  That’s why I am disappointed that these school districts chose to supply students and their families with only one side of information about food choices.

The press release listed the website for the Organic Consumer Association (OCA) and went on to state, “Though there’s been little research on the human health impacts of GMO consumption, animal feeding studies have linked GMOs to cancer, allergies, infertility, and more.”  Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services at the Minneapolis Public Schools, stated, “Reducing GMOs is another way we can support kids’ long-term health.”

Had the press release listed a biotechnology website (such as www.biofortified.org) as well as the OCA website, and been more accurate about the research that has been done on health impacts (for both humans and animals) the GMO Awareness Day could have been seen as a genuine effort to educate. Unfortunately, it appears the GMO Awareness Day aimed to perpetuate misinformation and fears regarding GMOs, rather than giving students the opportunity to learn about all sides of the GMO topic and form their own opinions.

I am a farmer in southwest Minnesota, and you may be wondering why I care about the activities at metro schools. I care because one day, these students will be leaders at companies like Cargill, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Best Buy, 3M, Target, SuperValu, and Medtronic. One day, these students will be doctors, lawyers, teachers, and policy-makers. One day, these students will be working at the state or federal government level.

I care about what these students learn because they will be making decisions that will affect others.  That’s why the information presented to these students is important to me; it is vital that the information be factual and without bias so that students can do their own research and form their own opinions.

As a farmer, I have no problem with organic or biotechnological production methods. I do have a problem with false information and fear-mongering.  As a consumer, I have no problem with choosing organic or GMO foods for my family. I do have a problem with deceptive marketing and labels. As a parent, I have no problem with schools having educational days about broad topics. I do have a problem with schools presenting fears and misinformation as facts.

I would be interested to learn what the students and parents felt about this type of educational activity, and I encourage all institutions of learning to consider all sides of a highly-debated topic. I also encourage schools to invite farmers into your classrooms so we can learn from each other. I sincerely hope that future activities will be more inclusive and provide resources for all sides of the selected topic.


 

Kristie Swenson and her husband raise corn and soybeans in southwestern Minnesota. They have two children.

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MCGA submits comments on DNR penalty plan that impacts irrigators

Alan Peterson

This photo was taken in August when Alan Peterson, right, provided a tour of his irrigated fields near Clear Lake for a group that included Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

Recently, the Minnesota DNR solicited public comments on its Draft Plan for the Use of Administrative Penalty Authority. The plan outlines actions DNR may take if water users who use 10,000 gallons or more of surface or groundwater per day, or 1 million gallons per year, do not obtain the proper permit.

On behalf of its more than 7,000 members, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) issued comments on the draft plan on Dec. 12. This issue is important to corn farmers, particularly corn farmers who depend on irrigation to help grow bountiful crops and remain in operation.

MCGA did not oppose the new penalty system when it moved through the legislature. In order to protect the water supply for future generations, every user should comply with permitting regulations.

However, MCGA did object to a contradictory statement made in the draft plan. On page four, DNR writes that “lack of compliance with water appropriation permit requirements is relatively common.”

MCGA believes that statement is misleading and that most farmers are in compliance. The statement also contradicts the DNR’s own words on the very next page of the plan, where it is written that the majority of water users do comply with the law.

MCGA also objected to a proposal in the draft plan to use a calculation worksheet to determine penalties. Originally, it was understood that penalties were to be assessed based on whether a user possessed a permit. Instead, the DNR proposes using a complicated worksheet with confusing criteria to determine “potential for harm.”

Many users may not even be aware of several factors in the worksheet and will be caught off guard. We want to make sure the penalty system is as fair and as understandable as possible.

Instead of using a convoluted worksheet system to penalize users based on “potential” harm, let’s base penalties on actual harm done. That way, any potentially harmful situations can be addressed in the permitting process, before they reach the actual harm stage.

If increased compliance is DNR’s goal, MCGA hopes the agency will reach out to the groups impacted by these penalties for input on how the system could work effectively. This is a great opportunity for the agency, permit holders and interested parties to come together and achieve actual solutions instead of increasing confusion. We hope our comments can help in this process.

Minnesota’s corn farmers look forward to working with the DNR on this issue and hope that the Draft Plan for the Use of Administrative Penalty Authority is revised to reflect the overall goal of protecting our water supply.

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MCR&PC looks to fill 4 seats in 2015

MCRPC_Logo_FinalThe Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) has four seats up for election in 2015. The council consists of 11 corn farmers elected from throughout the state and administers the effective and efficient investment of Minnesota’s state corn check-off.

Districts voting for council members in 2015 include districts 1, 2 and 4; districts 3, 5 and 6; district 8 and district 9. To see which counties are in which districts, click here.

Interested candidates must return completed application forms to gilbertson@mncorn.org by Feb. 4, 2015. To obtain the forms, click here.

Farmers will automatically be mailed a ballot in March if they voted in last year’s election. Those who have not voted in the past can request a ballot from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) by clicking here.

Farmers can also contact the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) office at 952-233-0333. Completed ballots must be postmarked by April 2, 2015. Results should be available April 21, 2015.

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Taking care of the earth and having fun on the farm

Meyer Dairy

 

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

For Nick and Tara Meyer, taking care of the earth and enjoying the family farming life on their dairy near Sauk Centre is all the same thing.

Tyler, 5, and Madeline, 3, follow mom and dad around the dairy barn and help out and make for lots of fun moments throughout the day.

“They both are funny, and they have a great time out working with us,” said Tara, who keeps a farm blog. She writes about once a month to tell the rest of the world what they’re missing by not being farmers. “Last summer our son Tyler showed a calf at the local dairy show and this year he’ll do a little more of that. He’s learning the ropes of being a showman. Tyler named his baby calf ‘Polkadot.’”

The Meyers have 240 milking cows, and they keep the young stock on site — raising the next generation of milk cows for their operation, while selling off the bull calfs as babies. A crew of 10 trusted employees — one full-time and the rest part-timers — help keep the place running smoothly. Nick’s dad Gerald also helps daily. The family crops 470 acres in corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

Thinking about the future, Nick and Tara decided to take part in the Discovery Farms network, a farmer-funded research project at 11 farms throughout the state. The project captures real-world, on-farm data by measuring sediment and nutrients in run off and tile drainage discharge.

“Discovery Farms is giving us a great opportunity to show what real farmers are doing with the land, and it gives us real data we can use in the future,” said Tara. “First and foremost, farmers are conservationists. That’s certainly true here. We want to make sure that this farm is viable for our kids. When Nick’s father passed the farm on to him, conservation was one of the important values he passed along to us. We work with a crop consultant who helps us with all of our manure management plans. Since we are a dairy farm, we are fortunate to have that nutrient-rich manure to use on our fields. The crop consultant helps us make sure we are applying it at the proper rates for our soils. We also have done some stalk nitrate testing through NRCS.”

Stalk nitrate testing, done after harvest, measures the amount of the essential plant food ‘nitrate’ in the corn stalk. Too little points to nutrient deficiency, while too much means there’s more fertilizer than the plant can make use of, which can lead to leaching of nutrients away from the farm field.

“We are doing grid soil sampling, that’s the most important way we determine the right amount of manure and nutrients to place in the field,” said Nick. “Grid soil sampling has become a pretty common practice across farming. It’s just one more way farmers can target the placement of nutrients.”

These techniques help make sure the crops get the food they need, while assuring that nutrients don’t leak away into nearby streams and ditches and cause environmental problems.

Meyer Dairy 2

The Meyer family farm near Sauk Centre is part of Minnesota’s Discovery Farms network.

The experts with Minnesota Discovery Farms installed a flume and monitoring station to collect and sample rainwater running off a field at Meyers’ farm. The samples are picked up for analysis at a laboratory.

Nick and Tara have been surprised by the results in the first few years. Almost all the sediment and nutrient loss has taken place during a single heavy spring rainstorm in each of the past two years. Setting aside the effect of these two storms, which are major events and rare, the sediment and nutrient levels show that Nick and Tara are putting in the work to ensure water quality in their neighborhood.

“A milking cow will drink about a bathtub full of water a day, so clean water is extremely important to dairy farmers,” said Tara.

The crop rotation itself helps prevent erosion and sediment loss.

“For our dairy — like most dairy farms — alfalfa is an important part of our rotation,” said Nick. “Alfalfa is one of those crops where if you do get these big rain events it’s going to hold the soil in place. There’s been a lot more talk about cover crops in the last few years. We haven’t used them on our farm, but there is talk, and there’s starting to be research into whether cover crops are a good answer for our type of farm operation. It might not be a whole farm or a whole field, but rather it would be an area of a field. In the last few years, we have have been watching closely and seeing where certain areas are more susceptible and so would be a good choice for a cover crop.”

Connecting with other farmers helps the Meyers keep up with the latest information on best management practices for the farm.

“We like to go to typical farm conferences and trade shows,” said Tara. “We just attended the Midwest Dairy Expo here  in St. Cloud. We’ve also been part of the National Outstanding Young Farmers program. We love to travel and meet and network with farmers from other states.”


 

This post is part of an ongoing series to highlight Minnesota corn farmers participating in Discovery Farms Minnesota, which is a farmer-led effort to collect real-world, on-farm water quality information from different types of farming systems.

You can learn more about Discovery Farms here and here. Click here to read the first Discovery Farms Profile in this series and click here to read the second.

Look for other Minnesota corn farmers participating in Discovery Farms to be profiled in the near future.

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MCGA Radio: Warren Formo talks Discovery Farms Minnesota

On this week’s Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) Radio, Warren Formo from the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center provides an update on Discovery Farms Minnesota.

Formo also highlights a series of feature stories we’re doing here at MinnesotaCornerstone.com to profile the farmers who participate in Discovery Farms Minnesota.

Listen to Formo’s interview below, then catch up on the feature stories here, here and here.

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NPR calls out the Food Babe

A recent NPR story examined how the Food Babe uses fear instead of science to win the hearts of consumers.

Remember when celebrity Jenny McCarthy was championing a cause that claimed vaccinating your children might lead to autism?

McCarthy’s outlandish claims have repeatedly been proven false, and she’s now become a bit of a laughingstock because of her viewpoints. However, McCarthy’s anti-vax activism still reached many people with false claims disguised as “science.” A lot of damage was done.

Now there’s a new McCarthy in the activist world, and her name is Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe. As her name indicates, the Food Babe’s issue isn’t vaccinations, it’s food. Also like McCarthy, the Food Babe is an expert marketer, knowing exactly which buttons to push to draw consumers’ attention to herself, her products and her claims, however questionable they may be.

That’s all well and good, but there’s one problem, a major one: A lot of what the Food Babe says is bunk. Often, her claims are based on fear-mongering instead of science and peer-reviewed research. That’s what several actual scientists and researchers said in a NPR story that focused on the Food Babe last week.

“What she does is exploit the scientific ignorance and fear of her followers,” Kavin Senapathy, an anti-pseudoscience blogger who frequently challenges the assertions in Hari’s posts, said in the NPR story. “And most of us are in agreement that we simply can’t accept that.”

A passage from Yale neurologist Steven Novella’s blog is also included in the NPR story:

“Unfortunately, the Web is cluttered with people who really have no idea what they are talking about giving advice as if it were authoritative, and often that advice is colored by either an ideological agenda or a commercial interest. The Food Babe is now the poster child for this phenomenon.”

Be sure to read the entire NPR story for yourself.

Hats off to NPR for doing some actual reporting on this topic and including scientists and researchers as sources. Too often, we see food stories that don’t question claims made by activists and don’t bother offering insight into the science behind an issue.

There’s nothing wrong with the Food Babe, or anyone else, asking questions about food and other food-related issues such as GMOs or additives. However, the dialogue about food should be based on science, not fear or commercial interests.

In the long run, misguided and anti-science efforts by people like the Food Babe end up doing more harm than good in the area of food safety and security.

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Why do Minnesota corn farmers partner with Gophers Sports?

Gophers Speaker Series

KFAN’s Justin Gaard (left) interviews Gophers hockey player Travis Boyd and coach Don Lucia at Monday’s Gophers Speaker Series, sponsored by MCGA.

On Monday, Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia kicked off the first Gophers Speaker Series sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA).

The event was an opportunity for about 75 Gophers season ticket holders and Twin Cities business leaders to hear from Lucia (along with senior forward Travis Boyd) in an intimate setting away from the spotlight of television cameras and beat reporters.

Sponsoring the Gophers Speaker Series is one of several ways Minnesota corn farmers partner with Gophers Sports. MCGA also has a strong presence at Gophers football games through the Farm Family of the Game, Gophers hockey games with a Farm Team-themed Zamboni, Gophers basketball games with signage and Farm Team ads during Gophers radio broadcasts.

At Monday’s event, I was asked a couple of times by attendees why MCGA teams up with Gophers sports. Those asking weren’t being rude, they were genuinely curious to know more about how corn farmers benefit from an alliance with Gophers Sports.

Here’s how I responded:

  • If corn farmers don’t tell their own story, somebody else will, and we might not like what they have to say. Gophers sporting events give corn farmers an opportunity to connect with non-farmers in a fun and positive setting. It’s a chance to tell our own story in a meaningful and informative way to a general public that wants to know more about food and farming.
  • Corn farmers also are asked regularly by non-farmers for more information on what they do to protect land, water and soil resources on their farms. By connecting with fans of Gophers sports, many of whom are non-farmers, corn farmers are able to provide some of that information.
  • For example, the MCGA Farm Team Family of the Game introduces conservation-focused corn farming families to loyal fans at TCF Bank stadium during the third quarter of every Gophers football game. The promotion puts a face on corn farming and highlights corn farmers’ use of buffer strips, wetlands restoration and other everyday conservation management practices.
  • If you climb into a combine or a tractor cab during harvest season, there’s a good chance you’ll hear a Gophers game on the radio. Farmers are huge fans of Gophers athletics. Not only is MCGA’s Gophers Sports partnership a great way to connect with non-farmers, it’s also a great way to reach farmers with information about how their corn check-off investment is benefiting their own farms and corn farming overall.
  • MCGA’s partnership with the University of Minnesota reaches beyond Gophers Sports. Minnesota corn farmers invest about $4 million annually in third-party research that seeks to help farmers manage inputs, protect water resources, grow the use of biofuels and add value to their crop. Most of this farmer-funded research is conducted by the U of M.
  • Minnesota corn farmers also support U of M faculty positions that focus on water quality, nutrient management and agricultural drainage.

So, that was my answer to the question of why MCGA partners with Gophers Sports. Yes, my answer was long-winded, but there are a lot of reasons why we partner with the U of M. I wanted to at least touch on a number of them. We’re very proud of our partnership with both Gophers Sports and the University of Minnesota.

Now that that’s out of the way, corn farmers and the Gophers can get back to focusing on the task at hand: Jerry Kill and the Gophers football team beating Missouri in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Ski-U-Mah!

– Written by Adam Czech, MCGA Public Relations Manager

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Discovery Farms Profile: Measuring up to a high standard in water quality means the world to Simonsen family

Paul Simonsen

Paul Simonsen and his wife Janet farm in Renville County and participate in the Discovery Farms Minnesota program.

written by Jonathan Eisenthal

For years, Diamond Lake has been the summer gathering place for the Simonsen family. Four years ago Paul and Janet built a house there to replace the family cabin. Fishing, swimming and jet skiing all have their devotees among the three generations.

So Paul and Janet Simonsen, who farm in Renville County, are very conscious about water quality.

That might be the top reason they decided to sign on with the farmer-funded research program called Minnesota Discovery Farms — 11 different farm operations across Minnesota, representing the spectrum of crops, cultivation methods, topography and geography that can be found in Minnesota agriculture — united by an interest in developing real-world, on-farm data about the amount of sediment and nutrients that run off their fields.

“Water quality is very important to farmers throughout the country,” Paul Simonsen said in a recent interview. “It’s going to be more and more important as time goes on. I thought, this is something where I can do my part….monitoring nutrients or sediment running off.”

The Simonsens divide their farm into a three-part rotation, raising corn on one third and soybeans on a second third. For many years, they raised vegetable crops on the remaining third, but switched to sugar beets recently.

Paul said the Discovery Farms field monitor has already yielded interesting data in their first three years of participation.

“I’ve learned that run-off from farms is probably not as extreme as what some groups say,” Simonsen reported. “On my farm, we are finding there hasn’t been very much run off. And I’ve got open tile inlets — some people say they’ll soon be a thing of the past, but the amount of sediment and nutrient flowing through and running off has been very low.”

Simonsen noted that even this year, when the field monitor recorded 14 inches of rain on their farm in June, they did not see elevated levels of sediment and nutrients. But Simonsen didn’t join Discovery Farms to pat himself on the back. He, like the other farmers in the program, know that every farm in Minnesota is different and more real-world, on-farm data is needed.

The more years of data from a variety of farm types farmers have, the better farmers can understand how to adjust practices to minimize the impact on the environment.

The Simonsen’s have always been interested in conservation and stewardship of natural resources. Paul and Janet planted 90-foot buffer strips of native prairie vegetation along the entire length, on both sides, of the county ditch that runs across their land.

“The idea of creating wildlife habitat really appealed to me,” said Simonsen. “I really enjoy hunting pheasant, and I like to see the wildlife that’s attracted to the prairie grass and that makes use of it.”

Paul is a past president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and currently serves as chairman of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. His work on behalf of soybean growers has taken him to 10 foreign countries, all in Asia, most recently to Vietnam — the fastest growing export market for American-grown soybeans.

The Simonsen family takes pride in its role providing food to a growing world, and doing it in a way that preserves the natural world for generations to come.


 

This post is part of an ongoing series to highlight Minnesota corn farmers participating in Discovery Farms Minnesota, which is a farmer-led effort to collect real-world, on-farm water quality information from different types of farming systems.

You can learn more about Discovery Farms here and here. Click here to read the first Discovery Farms Profile in this series.

Look for other Minnesota corn farmers participating in Discovery Farms to be profiled in the near future.

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MCGA Radio: What’s next for the Renewable Fuel Standard?

The Obama Administration recently punted on finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — legislation that sets targets for the amount of homegrown ethanol blended in our country’s fuel supply.

So, what’s next for the RFS?

Bob Dinneen from the Renewable Fuels Association and Brian Jennings from the American Coalition for Ethanol shared their thoughts on that question on this week’s Minnesota Corn Growers Association radio.

 

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