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Technology helping to increase ag productivity

Technology helping to increase ag productivity

A recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) confirms what farmers have been saying for a while now: there are fewer growers, but they are producing more while using fewer chemicals and less land, labor and water.

The report credits new technology-driven production practices — like precision agriculture — with this increase in productivity and decrease in environmental impacts.

Farmers and ranchers are also relying more on contracting and shifting to partnerships and corporations, allowing risks to be spread over a wider set of stakeholders, according to the ERS report, "The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming."

According to the report, although production has shifted to larger farms over the past 25 years, 97 percent of all farms remain family farms generating more than 85 percent of the total value of domestic agricultural production.

To download the full ERS report or view the report summary, click here.

New Chesapeake Bay guidelines confusing to Virginia farmers

VIRGINIA SMALL ACREAGE GROWERS and livestock producers like Steven Pittman are most severely affected by changing guidelines
<p> <em><strong>VIRGINIA SMALL ACREAGE GROWERS and livestock producers, like Steven Pittman, are most severely affected by changing guidelines.</strong></em></p>

Just when Virginia farmers thought they had a handle on the Chesapeake Bay restoration issue along came some changes to the nutrient management planning model from the EPA, and when applied to county and local areas, these changes are forcing farmers to ask the all too common question: What next?

Katie Frazier, who took over as Executive Director of the Virginia Grain Growers Association in 2011, says when she took the job she was convinced by the end of the year grain farmers in Virginia would have a clear understanding of exactly what they needed to do to comply with EPA guidelines for nutrient management.

In December of 2010, the EPA approved the final TDML, or total daily maximum load for discharge of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from farmland into streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Based on these guidelines, Virginia began holding local meetings to determine how each county or municipality would best comply.

When applied at the local level, some significant abnormalities began to show up.

For example, in some cases farmers who met TDML by using best management practices and a nutrient management plan agreed to by the EPA were not only not given credit for these practices, but in some cases were penalized for using them.

“I don’t understand, I think most farmers don’t understand exactly how or why EPA made these changes to the Nutrient Management Model,” Frazier says.

“One of the major problems with these changes for Virginia’s row crop farmers is the loss of nutrient credit. After the changes were made, about 50 percent of Virginia farmland that was targeted for the nutrient management plan to meet the state’s allocation for discharge into the Chesapeake Bay was re-classified as receiving negative credit for having a nutrient management plan in place,” she explains.

The rationale from EPA’s new Bay Model was that having a nutrient management plan would put more nutrients on the land based on having a plan. Therefore, the individual farmer would receive negative credit for doing what they were asked to do to meet the nutrient model guidelines set forth in the EPA’s December 2010 plan for total daily nutrient load into streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is totally backwards to what most farmers consider to be the impact of using best management practices to implement a nutrient management plan. It just doesn’t make much sense to farmers,” Frazier says.

Confusion is not a new state of mind for Virginia growers over the whole issue of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration. Since the Federal government took over implementation of the Chesapeake Bay restoration, there have been conflicting messages at to what is expected of farmers to meet these guidelines.

Concerned with data used

The first concern among Virginia farmers was the data used to create the guidelines. Farmers claimed, and later documented, that EPA data concerning the number of acres in Virginia in conservation-tillage was off by more than 70 percent.

Subsequent farmer-provided data has been more carefully considered by the EPA in developing TDML guidelines for the Bay Restoration. In general, farmers were positive about the December 2010 guidelines and appeared to have some measure of closure, or at least some indication that final, workable guidelines were forthcoming.

That positive attitude has been significantly deflated by application of the model, including recent changes made by the EPA, made to counties and local municipalities.

Perhaps more troubling for agriculture in general is that the six states that contain streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, and the subsequent plan to restrict the flow of nutrients from farmland in these states, will be the model used nationwide.

Next up will be the Mississippi River and its thousand mile trip from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. The impact on agriculture will be ramped up significantly when EPA models are applied to the heart of America’s farmland.

If there is a bright side for Virginia’s farmers it is that Federal aid to farmers trying to meet TDML guidelines continued to flow for the 2011 cropping season.

 “The Action Plan for FY 2011 reflects a deep commitment and unprecedented coordination among federal agencies and the Obama Administration to improve our results in protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed,” said Pete Silva, EPA Associate Administrator for Water.

“The proposed funding and planned activities will help support state and local efforts, as well as be an investment in countless communities and local economies throughout the region,” he concludes.

Among the restoration projects and programs identified for FY 2011 is $72 million in financial and technical assistance targeted to help farmers implement voluntary conservation practices in high-priority areas.

More than $20 million is targeted to go directly to the states to implement stronger regulatory and accountability programs to control urban, suburban, and agricultural runoff, plus $30 million for land protection.

Federal dollars targeted for Chesapeake Bay Restoration may be but a small drop in a big bucket if local governments are accurate in their cost assessments.

In Maryland, which has been placed under a strict plan for meeting EPA guidelines, officials in Anne Arundel County estimate the plan could cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Where the money will come from has left county officials scrambling to find local, state and federal funds.    

In nearby Prince George County, Md., officials haven’t made public what the restoration costs may be. However, in a recent presentation before the Prince George's County Council earlier this month, it was estimated it would cost the county and municipal governments $777.2 million through 2020 to meet the pollution-reduction goals.

County governments throughout Virginia are in the process of making similar cost assessments. Changes to the EPA model not only make it difficult to assess the final cost, but make it economically risky for farmers to develop a TDML plan.

“We are urging our farmers to continue with the best management plans they have in place, but it’s difficult to ask a farmer to go the extra step that could cost them money and reduce the credits they get for implementing nutrient management plans,” Frazier says.

“Virginia farmers are continuing to do the best management practices that have been a part of their farming operation and they continue to apply these practices to the nutrient management plan. However, most farmers are skeptical of how all this work out at the end of the day,” Frazier concludes.

rroberson@farmpress.com

 

 


 

 

Randall Selman wins Georgia hay contest

Randall Selman wins Georgia hay contest

Chattooga County Farm Bureau member Randall Selman won the 2011 Georgia Farm Bureau Quality Hay Contest.



Selman, who runs Selman Farms, submitted Tift 44 Bermuda grass for the contest and earned a relative forage quality (RFQ) score of 168.1.

He lives in Armuchee and grows hay on a total of 200 acres of rented land in Chattooga and Floyd counties, 130 in bermudagrass and the rest in fescue. His primary customers are horse owners. 



The contest drew 36 entries from 23 counties and consisted of quality analysis of hay grown by entrants using the University of Georgia's RFQ testing method, which measures nutrient content of the hay.

Georgia Farm Bureau sponsors the annual contest to encourage superior hay production in the state.



Entered samples had to have nitrate levels below 4,500 parts per million to be eligible for contest prizes.

The winners were announced during the 2011 GFB Annual Meeting on Jekyll Island.



Dene Channell of Greene County finished second, achieving an RFQ score of 158.6 with his submission of Tift 85 bermudagrass.

Neil Wingfield of Lee County was third with an RFQ of 154.6 for his coastal bermudagrass submission.

Mandy Elliot of Bibb County submitted bermudagrass and placed fourth at 152.6.

Keith Boozer of Monroe County was fifth, achieving an RFQ score of 146.2 with Tift 44.

Read more at http://www.gfb.org/gfbnews/GFBNewsMoreInfo.asp?RecordID=2467#ixzz1hkm3HEs6.

Tomato industry has February meeting in Florida

Tomato industry has February meeting in Florida

Representatives of the fresh tomato supply chain will convene at the headquarters of the Florida Tomato Exchange in Maitland this February to review how well the Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain, more commonly referred to as the Tomato Metrics, have worked over the past year.

The purpose of the Tomato Metrics is to provide guidance on effective food safety systems for tomato production and handling, and as an audit tool to demonstrate the effectiveness of those systems.

The meetings, Feb. 1-2, are open to all stakeholders interested in safe production and handling practices for fresh tomatoes.

During the meetings, the group will also hear observations from auditors and customers, opportunities to improve and enhance the standards, and briefings from FDA officials like Michelle Smith from the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, on recent tomato operation investigations.

"It's been invaluable to watch the development of the Tomato Food Safety System and Audit Protocol. This work helped inform our draft Tomato Supply Chain guidance in 2009,” said Smith.

“I'm looking forward to hearing about the industry’s efforts to foster adoption of this program and how it has worked over the last year. We congratulate the tomato industry on its continuing efforts to ensure the adoption of best practices for the growing, packing and handling of tomatoes along the supply chain."

Single audit checklist

The Tomato Metrics were originally developed by the industry in a series of meetings in 2008 in an attempt to create a single audit checklist for fresh tomato production and handling anywhere in the U.S. or Mexico. Those meetings included dozens of the tomato industry’s major growers, handlers and foodservice and retail customers, as well as federal and state officials, third party auditors and academic researchers.

The Tomato Metrics were ultimately released as four standards, with corresponding audit checklists, covering open field production, harvest and field packing; greenhouse; packinghouse; and repacking and distribution.

The standards were last reviewed by the industry in 2010 and revised documents were released in 2011.

Spanish translations were developed by La Confederación de Asociaciones Agrícolas del Estado de Sinaloa (CAADES).

United Fresh Produce Association serves as the secretariat for the Tomato Metrics and all of the standards and checklists are available on the United Fresh website at   http://www.unitedfresh.org/tomatometrics.

“The Tomato Metrics remains a joint effort of the entire supply chain and it's rewarding to all involved that the resulting protocol is becoming a requirement of major buyers in the United States,” said Ed Beckman, president of California Tomato Farmers.

“California Tomato Farmers remains committed to the harmonization of food safety protocol and the adoption of a single audit, universally accepted by all customers.”

“The food safety standards of the Florida State Regulatory program were based on the Tomato Metrics process and the State continues to work with the Tomato Metrics to maintain a harmonized audit program for the tomato industry in Florida,” added Reggie Brown, executive director of the Florida Tomato Exchange.

Those wanting more information about the February meeting should contact Erin Grether at 202-303-3400, ext. 402.

Soybean growers found success in 2011

 Soybean growers found success in 2011

American Soybean Association (ASA) farmer-leaders recently reviewed some of the key accomplishments from a year that saw ASA serve soybean farmers by protecting and increasing the market value and opportunities for U.S. soybeans.

“ASA members play an effective role in domestic and international policy development,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean producer from Syracuse, Neb. “Working with our state affiliates and industry partners, ASA advanced soybean farmer interests in numerous areas in 2011.” 

The essential elements of ASA’s 2012 farm bill proposal that would help farmers manage risk were included in the farm bill developed by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in 2011. 

“Even though the Super Committee process failed, ASA’s collaborative work with Ag Committee leadership and the progress made on a revenue program that complements crop insurance will be key to maintaining our forward momentum toward a farm bill in 2012,” said ASA Chairman Alan Kemper, a soybean producer from Lafayette, Ind. Kemper served as ASA President in 2011.

ASA successfully pressed for passage of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that represent nearly $3 billion in additional agricultural exports. ASA also worked to maintain access for U.S. soybean exports to the European Union (EU) by addressing the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. 

ASA worked to protect the GPS signals and equipment important to farmers by urging additional testing of the interference caused by a proposed nationwide broadband network. 

“Record U.S. soybean production and export values and record biodiesel production were clear indicators of the benefit of ASA’s long-term efforts to increase both domestic and international market demand,” Kemper said. “While we are proud of our work, this is a shared record of accomplishment that was made possible by the work of ASA, our state affiliates, the soybean checkoff at both the national and state levels, and our industry partners.”  

“ASA had a highly successful year in 2011 for our members and soybean farmers, and 2012 promises to be a year full of challenges,” added Wellman. “ASA will continue its close involvement in the development of the new farm bill; defend biodiesel’s renewable fuel standard and work to extend the biodiesel tax incentive; fight regulatory overreach; and increase market access for U.S. soybeans.” 

See ASA’s complete summary of accomplishments for soybean growers in 2011 at http://www.soygrowers.com/policy/ASA_2011Accomplishments.pdf

ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA’s advocacy efforts are made possible through the voluntary membership in ASA by over 21,000 farmers in 31 states where soybeans are grown.

 

Farm labor laws crippling Carolina fruit, vegetable operations

KENDALL HILL says labor a shortage is a major threat to vegetable producers in North Carolina
<p> <em><strong>KENDALL HILL says labor a shortage is a major threat to vegetable producers in North Carolina.</strong></em></p>

Kendall Hill is co-owner and president of Tull Hill Farms, one of North Carolina’s longest running, largest and most successful vegetable crop farming operations.

The biggest risk to operations like his, Hill says, is the availability and affordability of labor.

“I’m 72 years old. I can’t work in the fields, and I can’t find local people willing to work — I have to depend on migrant labor,” Hill says.

Tull Hill Farms is a model for how H-2A labor should work. Workers at the farm have heated, air-conditioned living quarters, complete with Dish Network TV. Their travel costs to and from their home country are paid and they are guaranteed at least minimum wage.

By diversifying his farming operation Hill has been able to spread out the cost of his H-2A workers, but most growers don’t have the opportunity of land and processing facilities to do that. Many growers, even larger acreage growers, are in the ‘no-man’s land’ of legal, but not affordable H-2A labor and the high risk of working illegal migrant workers.

Changes in migrant labor laws in the Deep South are making the labor situation much worse and are crippling the growth of what should be burgeoning fruit and vegetable industries in the Carolinas and Virginia.

“What too many politicians and people in the general public don’t seem to understand is that these migrant workers aren’t taking jobs from American citizens. I’d love to hire local labor, but they simply aren’t available.

“The migrant laborer who comes to work on our farm doesn’t pay taxes, but doesn’t utilize tax-paid services either. But most importantly, what too many people don’t seem to understand is that these migrant workers allow folks like me to stay in business and pay taxes.

“Farms are small businesses and that’s what every politician seems to think we need more of in this country, but they are making it real hard for farm businesses to stay in business and pay taxes,” Hill says.

Everyone wants a viable visitor worker program, but nobody seems to know what that is, the North Carolina farmer says.

“We want the same migrant crews to come to our farm every year and we do everything we can to treat them well and pay them well, so they’ll come back next year. I can’t imagine any farmer who wants to stay in business very long would do anything other than take good care of his or her labor force,” Hill says.

Though each state has different laws for migrant workers, changes in one state can have a devastating effect on others. Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, with some of the strictest migrant labor laws in the nation are pass-through states for workers moving eastward from Mexico and Central America.

Rather than travel through these states and risk legal problems, many simply take another route to find plentiful farm labor jobs in other regions.

And, it’s not just farm jobs that are affected. In Alabama, a prominent auto manufacturer fell victim of the state’s harsh migrant worker laws for employing a mid-level manager from Korea, who didn’t have the proper paperwork.

Georgia’s version of the Arizona-like migrant labor law is HB 87, which requires that certain employers check their new workers’ immigration status and gives law enforcement officers more leeway to check a suspect’s immigration status.

Being challenged in court

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill May 13, but, like Alabama’s HB56, it’s being challenged in federal court.

In South Carolina, the state legislature passed S20, again similar to migrant labor laws passed in Alabama and Georgia. The bill was signed into law by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at the end of June.

The South Carolina law requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of someone who had been arrested for an unrelated reason, if the officer suspects the person is in the country illegally.

South Carolina’s law, effective in January, is similar to Georgia’s but requires the creation of a specialized police unit to monitor illegal aliens.

In South Carolina the Hispanic population increased 148 percent in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Census. Hispanics now make up 5.1 percent of South Carolina’s population and are mostly of Mexican origin.

Though laws in North Carolina and Virginia stop well short of such Draconian measures, they don’t do anything to help alleviate the farm labor shortage and they don’t offer any assistance for migrant workers to avoid being detained, jailed and deported by simply passing through states with harsher migrant labor laws.

Perhaps the ultimate loser in what has become a legalized shut-down of migrant farm labor is the American public. At best, new labor laws, even revamped H-2A laws are going to create more paper work and more care in hiring and housing farm labor — all of which is going to cost farmers more money and ultimately raise the price of fruits and vegetables grown in the Southeast.

A characteristic of fruit and vegetable crops is that it takes a relatively few people to plant a crop, or to manage an existing fruit orchard, but it takes large numbers of seasonal labor to harvest these crops.

Knowing how much of which crop to produce is an ongoing challenge for farmers, but nothing compared to figuring out what to do with an excess of a crop, if labor is not available to harvest it.

“We’re looking for alternative sources for our peaches, even for use as biofuels, because we don’t have the labor to pick the crop or to run our packing house,” says one South Carolina peach grower. He doesn’t want his name used because he fears it will bring down investigations of his farming operation and his use of migrant labor.

The vegetable industry in the Palmetto State is equally challenged. One Charleston County, vegetable grower says he ended up burning 25 percent of his 80-acre tomato crop, because he had no labor to hand-pick the crop.

"I could have used 300 pickers. I had 40. I burned 25 percent of my tomato crop. These people don't cause any trouble. They just come here to work," he says. Like the South Carolina peach grower, the Charleston County vegetable grower fears reprisals and is hesitant to say ‘too much’ about the labor situation in his state.

Federal lawmakers are making efforts to correct some of the harsher elements of these state laws, but with grudging, if any, support from the states.

Bill would overhaul H-2A program

U.S. Congressman, Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed a bill to Congress to overhaul the H-2A program.

Congressman Smith says the current H-2A program is not being used by most fruit and vegetable growers. Instead, he contends, these farmers have turned to an estimated 1.1 million illegal immigrants.

With the new laws, these workers are vanishing from key Southeast production areas at an alarming rate.

Unlike their neighbors to the south, North Carolina has taken a comprehensive look at the impact such harsh migrant labor laws would have on the state’s economy.

North Carolina trails California, Texas, Washington and Florida to be the country’s fifth most populous farm worker state. The state’s tobacco, sweet potato and rapidly growing vegetable industries simply couldn’t operate without migrant labor.

A majority of the estimated 200,000 migrant workers who help sustain the state’s agriculture industry are of Latin descent, and a majority call Mexico home.

This labor force is critical to the continued survival, much less growth, of the state’s $2.2 billion tobacco, greenhouse-nursery, vegetable, and fruit industry.

Lee Wicker, who is deputy director for the North Carolina Growers Association, says he was expecting an increase in available farm labor, based on passage of the stringent immigration laws passed in neighboring states. “I thought they would come here to find work and to avoid the states with Arizona-type legislation,” Wicker notes.

“Though I don’t have any verifiable numbers, my sense is there is a more acute lack of farm labor, though I don’t think it’s all attributable to passage of new laws in other states.

“The downturn in the economy, especially the housing industry, has forced migrant labor to look to other areas for work — I think it’s a combination of things, but the end result is an increasingly short labor supply for our farmers,” Wicker says.

Debbie Hamrick, who heads the specialty crops program for the North Carolina Farm Bureau, says the lack of legal labor and the expense of using the H-2A program has been particularly difficult for growers trying to get into the specialty crop industry in the state.

Like Wicker, Hamrick says she has no hard and fast evidence on the level of labor shortage or the economic damage it is causing North Carolina. She says visits with farmers and talk by farmers at meetings indicates the shortage is significant and causing growers to reevaluate how they grow crops in many cases.

rroberson@farmpress.com

 

Grains Council Remains Focused On Moving Trade Even Further

Grains Council Remains Focused On Moving Trade Even Further

The nation's ag groups are grateful for Congressional passage of and the President's signature on the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. At the same time, they're looking ahead encouraging the administration to continue moving forward in the area of trade.

U.S. Grains Council Chairman Wendell Shauman says the next priority for his group is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he says will take some skill on the part of the U.S. Trade Representative to get it done because of the number of countries involved. He says that anytime you have seven or eight players at the table it is difficult, but that it will be tremendously rewarding if completed.

"You've got a lot of markets there with rapidly growing economies in Southeast Asia," Shauman said. "If we get some tariff help there it will improve our opportunities there. We've been very successful with distillers dried grains; when you have growing economies with more people with middle class incomes they eat better and it'll be an opportunity for us."

According to Shauman, the Grains Council sees additional opportunities in relatively untapped markets in other areas of the world.

"India, we don't have a free trade agreement with them and there will be some tariff issues, but it's a market we need to be into," Shauman said. "It will take a while; we've been in China for 25 years before we finally got it opened up. I don't think India will take that long but India will not open up without some effort on our part and we are trying to figure out how to best approach that market. We've also just sort of stuck our toe in the water of sub-Sahara Africa, you've got some countries there that are getting more stable governments and having some better economic times. Again it's probably a long-term market, but one that we need to be looking at."

With all of the trade opportunities, Shauman says infrastructure here in the U.S. remains a challenge that needs to be addressed.

"We're going to Panama in February; they decided roughly 10 years ago that canal wasn't big enough for them that they needed bigger locks," Shauman said. "They made the decision to do it and have it done by 2014 while we're still talking. We need to get on the ball and move into the modern world."

With the right infrastructure improvements and progress on new trade agreements, Shauman says trade will work, and when trade works he says the world wins.

Signup Time Limited for First Conservation Stewardship Program

Signup Time Limited for First Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced that producers interested in their Conservation Stewardship Program are facing an early January deadline to be part of the program's first funding period of 2012. 

 The Conservation Stewardship Program was developed as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.  Darren Moser, Soil Conservationist with NRCS, says the goal of CSP is to encourage producers to undertake more conservation practices on their operation and reward them for what they are currently doing.

Moser explains that producers can choose from a variety of practices to introduce on their operation.  He says those that enroll in CSP also receive a nice payment.

"If you're a no-till farmer you're going to get the potential for a lot higher dollars than the conventional tillage type producers, but the average is $18 per acre for five years," Moser said. "NRCS is going to ask the applicant to complete one additional activity, maybe extending filter strips, stalk testing, to lowering boom heights on your spraying, those types of things. Even if you're doing all those there are still things buried into the activity list that you can do."

CSP is available to all producers, however there are some guidelines for eligible operations.  A five year contract is required, but Moser feels the Conservation Stewardship Program is more flexible than other past programs.

"The land owners are not eligible for this program, this program is designed specifically for the operators," Moser said. "The great thing about this program is you're not lock into you can't do this tillage, you have to plant 15-inch row soybeans, no you can plant 30. But it's broader than the old Conservation Security Program where you were tied to having to do that every day for the rest of the contract. There is a lot of money invested with this and we just want producers to sign up."

Applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program should be completed at your local USDA Service Center.  The program is in continuous signup, however the deadline to be eligible for the first ranking period of 2012 is Jan. 13.  Contact your local NRCS office to learn more.

Angus Breeders Face Registration Requirement

beef calf

A New America Angus Association rule, which takes effect on January 1, 2012, will impact producers who want to register embryo transfer calves. The new rule states: If the first owner of the calf is different than the owner of record of the donor female, and the embryo removal date is on or after January 1, 2012, the owner of the donor female must obtain and transfer an ET Authorization to the account of the first owner before the calf is eligible for registration.           

Don Laughlin, Angus Association director of member services, points out those embryos may pass through several hands before a calf is born and registered. ET Authorizations will allow the person who is responsible for flushing the donor cow to confirm dates, sires and type of flush on a calf through the Association's AAA Login service.

The new rule will not affect every Angus producer. In fact, numbers at the end of fiscal year 2011 showed approximately 15% of all embryo registrations would need an ET authorization to be registered, if the rule was previously in place.

NBB 2013 Biodiesel Goals Announced

NBB 2013 Biodiesel Goals Announced

The National Biodiesel Board went beyond the Environmental Protection Agency's final rule establishing U.S. renewable fuel requirements for 2012 and called on the Obama administration to act quickly in completing a 2013 rule that maintains the EPA's recommended volume increases for Biomass-based Diesel. The 2012 rule raises the Biomass-based Diesel program to 1 billion gallons, up from 800 million gallons this year.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at NBB says that this industry has shown without a doubt that it can meet and exceed the goals of this program in a sustainable way, with a diverse mix of feedstocks.

"Our industry has plants in nearly every state in the country that are hiring new employees and ramping up production," Steckel said. "That is in part because of the demand that this policy creates."

A recent economic study on biodiesel found that domestic production of 800 million gallons supports more than 31,225 jobs, generates income of nearly $1.7 billion to be circulated throughout the economy, and creates more than $3 billion in Gross Domestic Product.  At 1.28 billion gallons of production, the EPA's initial proposal for 2013, the industry would support 50,725 jobs, generate $2.7 billion in income, and create nearly $5 billion in GDP.

Biodiesel makes up the vast majority of the Biomass-based Diesel program under the RFS. Because it also qualifies as an advanced biofuel under the program, with greenhouse gas emission reductions of 57% to 86%, biodiesel is also eligible to help meet general advanced biofuels requirements under the program.

According to the latest EPA figures, the biodiesel industry had produced some 908 million gallons through the end of November, exceeding the 2011 requirement with one month of production remaining. EPA has postponed finalizing the 2013 volume, saying it needs more time for review public comments.