USDA announces that their agencies will use biodiesel and ethanol fuels in fleet vehicles where practicable and reasonable in cost. USDA says this new policy shows support for the National Energy Plan as well as improving air quality, the prosperity of rural economies and the nation's energy independence.

“The energy challenges our nation faces today offer tremendous opportunities for agriculture,” says Secretary Ann M. Veneman.

The Department will request the following coordination:

  • All USDA diesel fuel storage tanks nationwide will be filled with blends of 20% (B20) or higher where practicable and reasonable in cost.

  • All USDA-maintained gasoline fueling facilities will buy and use ethanol-blended fuels containing at least 10% domestically produced ethanol to the extent practical, where the fuel is readily available and reasonably priced compared with unleaded gasoline.

  • USDA's over 700 E-85 flex-fuel vehicles will use ethanol fuel where those vehicles operate in areas that offer E-85 fueling stations.

  • USDA agencies will purchase or lease alternative fuel vehicles, including E-85 flex-fuel vehicles, for geographic areas that offer alternative fueling.

Cincinnati Buses Switch To Biodiesel.

Since July, Cincinnati Metro is again using B20 alternative fuel in more than 150 city buses.

Under Metro's contract, the B20 results in about a 10% increase in cost per gallon. The difference is being funded by a grant from the Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality program.

New Deere Combine Panels.

Beginning with the 2002 model year, John Deere's entire line of combines will include panels known as HarvestForm — a new, durable composite made from soybean and corn polymers. The new composite is extremely strong and weighs 25% less than steel, Deere says.

The panels were developed through a collaborative effort between Deere and the United Soybean Board, who invested check-off dollars to help fund the research and development.

New Soybean Education Effort.

If you're looking for answers to tough soybean pest and disease questions, a new program will soon be available called the Plant Health Initiative. It's a project supported by the North Central Soybean Research Program along with university and private industry. The program will use the SCN Coalition education program as the template.

Also, part of the project is a Web site with comprehensive information on where to find, identify and manage a variety of pests and diseases. Check it out at www.ncsrp.com/planthealth

Crop Production Estimates Change.

Corn production will decline sharply to 9.25 billion bushels, down 7.2% from last year's 9.97 billion bushels, according to Doane's.

Their estimates peg the soybean crop at 2.86 billion bushels, up 3.2% from last year's record crop. They've also factored in crop condition ratings in other states.

For example, crop yield prospects in the South and Southeast are quite favorable this year. In addition, record soybean acreage will contribute to higher production despite some of the negative impact of late planting in the Corn Belt.

Historically, Doane's. August crop estimates have been slightly more accurate than USDA's August forecasts in assessing corn and soybean production.

Value-Enhanced Grain Report Card.

The U.S. Grains Council has just released its annual Value-Enhanced Grains (VEG) Quality Report.

The report shows that the VEG market continues to adjust to changing demand and customer preferences in 2000. Among the findings:

  • Corn continues to be the predominant value-enhanced grain, but there's increased interest in value-enhanced sorghum — especially identity preserved, white food-grade sorghum.

  • Nearly one-fifth of the value-enhanced corn (18.4%) was certified non-GMO.

Detailed results of the report, as well as data from the past five years, is available on the Council's new Value-Enhanced Grains Solutions Web site: www.VEGrains.org.