Publications

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  • Next-Generation Biofuels: Near-Term Challenges and Implications for Agriculture

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2010

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates a tripling in U.S. biofuel use to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Achieving this goal will depend on rapid expansion in cellulosic biofuels, and U.S. agriculture, as a leading source of the Nation’s biomass, will play a significant role in this expansion.

  • Next-Generation Biofuels: Near-Term Challenges and Implications for Agriculture

    BIO-01-01, May 14, 2010

    This report assesses the short-term outlook for production of next-generation biofuels and the near-term challenges facing the sector. Next-generation U.S. biofuel capacity should reach about 88 million gallons in 2010, thanks in large measure to one plant becoming commercially operational in 2010, using noncellulosic animal fat to produce green diesel. U.S. production capacity for cellulosic biofuels is estimated to be 10 million gallons for 2010, much less than the 100 million gallons originally mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Near-term sector challenges include reducing high capital and production costs, acquiring financial resources for precommercial development, developing new biomass supply arrangements, many of which will be with U.S. farmers, and overcoming the constraints of ethanol's current 10-percent blending limit with gasoline.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2019

    OCE-2010-1, February 11, 2010

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2019. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Cellulosic Ethanol From Crop Residue Is No Free Lunch?

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    Harvesting crop residues for use as biofuel feedstocks may provide revenue to farmers but can also impose costs by reducing soil productivity and increasing loss of nutrients. Changes in soil erosion and fertilizer use may also result in off-farm environmental impacts.

  • Science, Technology, and Prospects for Growth in U.S. Corn Yields

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    Recent increases in inflation-adjusted crop prices have sparked renewed interest in the potential for continued increases in crop yields. Investment in scientific research is key for boosting corn yields, making productivity, environmental, and bioenergy goals easier to attain.

  • Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape

    ERR-86, November 18, 2009

    The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S. cropped acreage by nearly 5 million acres by 2015, an increase of 1.6 percent over what would otherwise be expected. Much of the growth comes from corn acreage, which increases by 3.5 percent over baseline projections. Water quality and soil carbon will also be affected, in some cases by greater percentages than suggested by changes in the amount of cropped land. The economic and environmental implications of displacing a portion of corn ethanol production with ethanol produced from crop residues are also estimated.

  • Full Throttle U.S. Ethanol Expansion Faces Challenges Down the Road

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    The large gains in the scale of the U.S. ethanol industry over the past decade were achieved by “picking the low-hanging fruit” on both the supply and demand sides of the market. Achieving further large-scale gains will depend on whether the industry can overcome challenges in producing ethanol through cellulosic technologies and on expanding use of ethanol in automobiles.

  • Feed Outlook: April 2009

    FDS-09D01, April 01, 2009

    The byproducts of making ethanol, sweeteners, syrups, and oils used to be considered less valuable than the primary products. But the increased livestock-feed market for such byproducts in the past few years has switched that perception to one of the ethanol industry making grain-based "co-products" that have market value separate from the primary products. Co-products such as dried distiller's grains, corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, corn oil, solubles, and brewer's grains have become economically viable components, along with traditional ingredients (such as corn, soybean meal, and urea), in feed rations.

  • Growing Crops for Biofuels Has Spillover Effects

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Federal mandates for biofuel production promote expanded crop acreage which can shift cropping patterns and affect livestock production due to higher prices for corn and other grain crops. An increase in the extent and intensity of input use and agricultural land in production increases the potential for environmental degradation. Research on crop productivity and conversion efficiency, as well as conservation practices like no-till and buffer strips, could lessen the environmental impacts of biofuels.

  • Colombia Becoming a New Ethanol Player

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Colombia has emerged as the second largest ethanol producer in Latin America with an energy self-sufficient production process that uses byproducts from ethanol processing–the key byproducts used are bagasse, the product remaining after crushing and extracting the juice from the cane, and vinasse, the product generated after the distillation of fermented molasses.

  • Colombia: A New Ethanol Producer on the Rise?

    WRS-0901, January 01, 2009

    Colombia's sugarcane-based ethanol industry, after operating for only 3 years, is the second most developed in the Western Hemisphere. Most Colombian ethanol plants are energy self-sufficient and even generate surplus power that is sold to the national electric grid. Colombia's sugarcane-based ethanol production is increasing: proposed expansion projects have the potential to more than triple daily production from 277,000 gallons in 2007 to almost 1 million gallons in 2010. Most of the expansion is intended for exports, principally to the United States. However, it is unlikely that Colombia could export ethanol anytime soon because domestic production is insufficient to meet nationwide requirements that gasoline contain a 10-percent ethanol blend.

  • Global Agricultural Supply and Demand: Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in Food Commodity Prices

    WRS-0801, July 23, 2008

    World market prices for major food commodities such as grains and vegetable oils have risen sharply to historic highs of more than 60 percent above levels just 2 years ago. Many factors have contributed to the runup in food commodity prices. Some factors reflect trends of slower growth in production and more rapid growth in demand, which have contributed to a tightening of world balances of grains and oilseeds over the last decade. Recent factors that have further tightened world markets include increased global demand for biofuels feedstocks and adverse weather conditions in 2006 and 2007 in some major grain and oilseed producing areas. Other factors that have added to global food commodity price inflation include the declining value of the U.S. dollar, rising energy prices, increasing agricultural costs of production, growing foreign exchange holdings by major food importing countries, and policies adopted recently by some exporting and importing countries to mitigate their own food price inflation.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2017

    OCE-2008-1, February 12, 2008

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2017. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • ERS Bioenergy Research Plans 2008-09

    AP-024-2, February 01, 2008

    ERS has a broad range of research on how agricultural markets and natural resources might be affected by the increased demand for bioenergy. ERS research on bioenergy encompasses all aspects of the ERS research mission, including economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development. Ongoing bioenergy research focuses on domestic and global agricultural markets; economywide, regional, and household effects; natural resource, environmental, and rural community impacts; and implications for food prices, the range of crops that can be grown for energy production in the future.

  • ERS Bioenergy Research Plans

    AP-024, February 01, 2008

    ERS has a broad range of research on how agricultural markets and natural resources are and will be affected by the increased production of bioenergy. Planned ERS research on bioenergy encompasses all aspects of the ERS research mission, including economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development. Current and planned bioenergy research focuses on domestic and global crop and livestock markets; economywide, regional, and household effects of increased bioenergy production; natural resource, environmental, and rural community impacts; and implications for food prices.

  • ERS Bioenergy Information and Research

    AP-023, January 23, 2008

    The Economic Research Service has a broad range of research on how agricultural markets and natural resources might be affected by the increased demand for bioenergy. ERS research on bioenergy encompasses all aspects of the ERS research mission, including economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development.

  • The Future of Biofuels: A Global Perspective

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2007

    Global biofuel production tripled between 2000 and 2007, but still accounts for less than 3 percent of global transportation fuel supply. Increased demand for biofuels has contributed to higher world food and feed prices. Biofuels will likely be part of a portfolio of solutions to high energy prices that includes conservation, more efficient energy use, and use of other alternative fuels

  • U.S. Ethanol Expansion Driving Changes Throughout the Agricultural Sector

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    A large expansion in ethanol production is underway in the United States, spurred by high oil prices and energy policies. Although corn is the primary feedstock used to produce ethanol in the United States, market adjustments to the ethanol expansion extend well beyond the corn sector to supply and demand for other crops, as well as to the livestock sector, farm income, government payments, and food prices. Adjustments in the agricultural sector to increased demand for biofuels will continue as interest grows in renewable sources of energy to lessen dependence on foreign oil.

  • ERS Bioenergy Information and Research, August 2007

    AP-023-2, August 01, 2007

    ERS has a broad range of research on how agricultural markets and natural resources might be affected by the increased demand for bioenergy. ERS research on bioenergy encompasses all aspects of the ERS research mission, including economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development. Ongoing bioenergy research focuses on domestic and global agricultural markets; economywide, regional, and household effects; natural resource, environmental, and rural community impacts; and implications for food prices, the range of crops that can be grown for energy production in the future.

  • Ethanol Reshapes the Corn Market—Updated

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    This article examines the possible market impacts of the ongoing expansion of the U.S. ethanol sector. To meet the sector's growing demand for corn, some U.S. corn is likely to be diverted from exports and feed. In the future, corn may cease to be the main feedstock for U.S. ethanol production if cellulosic biomass is successfully developed as an alternative.