Wednesday, the See For Yourself group started out in Portland, Oregon with a presentation from Doug Whitehead who advocates for biodiesel at the national level. He has been involved for more than 20 years and shared some victories along with current problems. It boils down to certainty for investors: Will the renewable fuel standards last? Will tax incentives last? He stated that our Federal government could be acting more favorably in the interests of biodiesel while at the same time, some states have been mandating non-fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, that type of state policy is a good thing for biodiesel and acts as kind of an insurance policy for the industry. He mentioned that biodiesel adds about $25 per acre or 63 cents per bushel for ND soybean farmers. Information from the National Biodiesel Board states that their fuel reduces greenhouse gas by 57% to 86%, making it attractive to several East coast states as well as here in Oregon and California.
Our party of North Dakota producers (and one valuable grower from South Dakota who serves on national soybean boards and is an NDSU Bison supporter) then got on a bus and went across town to see how Sequential recycles soybean oil. It started in 2002 when a couple of college kids decided to collect used cooking oil from restaurants and refine it to biodiesel. They now collect from thousands of businesses in the Pacific Northwest and sell to schools, cities, farms and delivery fleets to power their vehicles. They have never lost a customer due to fuel-quality issues.
We then crossed over the Columbia River and into the state of Washington where we visited three different port facilities that handle your soybeans. They were EGT, the newest ocean vessel loading terminal in the USA which is owned by Bunge North America, MOCHU International (of Japan) and STX Pan Ocean of S. Korea. Secondly and also along the Columbia River was TEMCO – a joint venture between Cargill and CHS. Lastly we visited the Kalama Export Company owned by ADM, Gavilon Grain and Mitsubishi Corp. Needless to say, that is big business. All three had hosted groups from North Dakota before and were not only gracious but also grateful for the visit from those who produce the beans they ship. Generally, the percentages of wheat, corn and soybeans shipped by these entities had been about evenly split, but this year wheat and corn were about 40% each while soybeans have fallen to a 20% level. One manager expressed hope for the trade tiff to be over soon while at the same time saying that what China, Brazil and others have done to expand infrastructure and production nearly ensures we will be a very long time recapturing those markets, if ever. Our group members had a lot of questions all day long so there is a lot of learning going on here.