Missouri biogas-to-fuel project underway

A big renewable biogas project is underway in north Missouri. Murphy-Brown of Missouri – formerly Premium Standard Farms – has partnered with Roeslein Alternative Energy, to capture biogas from hog manure and turn it into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and (CNG) for use as a transport fuel. Bill Homann with Murphy Brown of Missouri says the project will allow them to extend the use of impermeable lagoon covers to 90 of their hog farms, “Then that will function in the future as a digester and so we’ll have, basically, ninety digesters capturing gas in our finishing facilities in North Missouri.”  Sheldon Ripson with Roeslein Alternative Energy says anaerobic digestion is not new but it is underutilized in the United States and there IS a market for it.

Interview with Bill Homann and Sheldon Ripson in Brownfield Ag News Studios (15:00 mp3)

Opportunities in agriculture

There are a lot of opportunities in agriculture, but Cate Sprout, human resources staffing manager at CHS says there is currently a lack of talent available. Sprout says companies like CHS are once again competing with family farms, which means looking at non-traditional students and other professionals to fill available positions. But there is another place CHS is turning to for potential employees, the U.S. military, which has in place a military recruiting campaign called “Soldiers for Hire.”

Audio: Cate Sprout, CHS (8:40 mp3)

Rural job development funds in 17 states

Funding to bolster job opportunities in rural areas is being distributed in 17 states. The USDA’s Rural Development agency is providing more than $12 Million in rural economic development loan and grant programs for those projects.

Lillian Salerno, the USDA’s Rural Business Cooperative Service Administrator, outlines some of the projects.

In Missouri…

“The Justine Peterson Housing Reinvestment Corporation – which is a loan amount of $750-thousand and those funds will be used to establish a revolving loan fund to assist small businesses. And, then, the second one in Missouri is for the Missouri Research Corporation – which the loan amount is $1-Million – and funds will be used to establish a revolving loan fund to assist small businesses in Southeast Missouri.”

In Wisconsin…

“That grant goes to the was to the Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative and that was to support funds to construct a fire station for a fire-fighting association that serves six townships.”

In South Dakota…

“To the West River Foundation for $750-thousand dollars in loans and those funds will be used to provide loans to public and non-profit organizations to re-lend for business and community development projects. These projects are anticipated to save – save or create – approximately 100 jobs.”

In Ohio…

“To the Neighborhood Development Services, Incorporated and these funds will be used to provide loans to public and non-profit organizations to re-lend for business and community development projects in Summit and Portage Counties.”

Salerno made the announcement on behalf of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday at the National Veterans Small Business Conference in St. Louis.

AUDIO: Interview with Lillian Salerno (6:00 mp3) 

Rural Development funds going to small businesses

Fifty-million dollars is being made available to more than 70 rural businesses last week by the USDA’s Rural Development agency, during National Small Business week. Acting Under Secretary of Rural Development, Doug O’Brien, says they work directly with small town community banks and farm credit institutions that want to provide those loans.

“But, they can’t do it because of the risk profile of that loan. What we’re able to do at USDA is provide a guarantee to that small town community bank of 70-or-80% so that they are able to take that risk, to work with that small business so that they can expand and create jobs.”

O’Brien says rural small businesses, many of which provide products and services to farmers, are the “engines” of local economies.

Businesses receiving loans and grants include hotels, restaurants and manufacturers. O’Brien says two out of three jobs created in the U.S. are from small businesses.

Loans are contingent upon conditions being met.  Among the projects to be funded include the refinancing of debt and construction of a 500-thousand bushel grain bin and working capital to purchase gas station convenience stores.

AUDIO: Doug O’Brien (8:00 mp3)

 USDA Rural Development recipients

USDA program expands into more rural poverty spots

The USDA is expanding its program to help local communities in poverty stricken rural areas with economic development and job creation. Speaking in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday, Ag Secretary TomVilsack said, “When people think of poverty they often think in terms of inner city poverty and certainly there is a good deal of that but oftentimes people fail to realize that 90% of the persistently poor counties are actually located in rural areas.”  The “StrikeForce” Initiative is adding 10 more states to the existing six where it’s already in play.

AUDIO: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack (5:00 mp3)

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack, Q & A (3:00 mp3)

~Thanks to our sister network SCRN – South Carolina Radio Network – for the audio~

StrikeForce expands to address rural poverty

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn

The USDA is expanding its program to help local communities in poverty stricken rural areas with economic development and job creation. Speaking in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday, Vilsack said, “When people think of poverty they often think in terms of inner city poverty and certainly there is a good deal of that but oftentimes people fail to realize that 90% of the persistently poor counties are actually located in rural areas.”

The “StrikeForce” Initiative is adding 10 more states to the existing six where it’s already in play. The program has all USDA divisions partnering with local groups – and Vilsack says it’s been a success. He points to the increase in Farm Service Agency direct loans for farmers.

“Even when at sometimes and at some places the overall direct loan applications were going down – applications in StrikeForce areas were going up, meaning more credit and more opportunities particularly for beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers,” says Vilsack.

The StrikeForce program is being expanded to include South and North Carolina, South and North Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Virginia. It began in 2010 with Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi and expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in 2011.

USDA’s StrikeForce is in play in rural areas of persistent poverty – with more than a 20-percent poverty level. Some of its projects include increasing access to healthy foods.

AUDIO: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack (5:00 mp3)

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack, Q & A (3:00 mp3)

~Audio and photo courtesy of our sister network SCRN – South Carolina Radio Network~

Merrigan meets with SD tribal officials

Tribal leaders in South Dakota have met with USDA Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan this week at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, SD and at Fort Thompson to discuss research, education and extension programs and economic development opportunities. Merrigan says USDA wants to extend program opportunities in impoverished tribal areas.  In addition, Merrigan visited an investment company and the Lakota foods facility which is the only Native American owned and operated popcorn production operation.

Merrigan meets with tribal leaders in South Dakota

 

USDA state Rural Development leaders meet

State directors of USDA Rural Development agencies met in Washington last week to discuss their program priorities in light of expected budget cuts. Janie Dunning, director of Missouri Rural Development, tells Brownfield that broadband, housing, business, jobs and infrastructure remain the priorities. Dunning tells Brownfield Ag News, “These priorities have been identified through surveys and discussions with our end users and I don’t think it’s a priority that anybody else wouldn’t have.”

Over the last 18 months, Dunning says she’s already had to cut 22% of her staff. The extent of sequestration cuts this Friday, March 1st is still unknown and she says they’re also looking at the continuing budget resolution that runs out March 27th.

“The best thing we can hope for,” she says, “Is that we at least have a continuing resolution that will take us for the balance of the year and let us keep operating. But, those continuing resolutions always come with some cuts as well.”

Also, the lack of a full farm year farm bill could impact programs. The farm bill extension last as long as the continuing resolution does, at the end of March.

Dunning says they’ve been able to preserve a lot on the program side of Rural Development. Only 3% of their budget is for direct grants, the rest is in loan guarantee programs through local financial institutions and through the Rural Development Agency itself.

Workshop to benefit veterans interested in agriculture

While just 17 percent of the US population resides in rural areas, a reported 44 percent of our US military come from rural backgrounds.  As veterans return to civilian lifestyles after serving our country – Paul Jones, manager of the national and Indiana AgrAbility Projects says agricultural careers are a viable option for many of them.

He says the upcoming Veterans and Agriculture workshop provides veterans with the information they need.  “We have the combined issue of know that a lot of veterans come from rural areas and knowing that a lot of veterans have disabilities of one type or another,” Jones says.  “It’s kind of a natural connection with what we do with Breaking New Ground and AgrAbility.”  He says the two programs focus on disability in agriculture and they realize that veterans can benefit from these types of services.

Jones tells Brownfield the two-day workshop is multi-faceted.  “We’re trying to help meet the needs of both the veterans that are returning and professionals that work with veterans,” he says.  “We know that people like extension educators or people who work in non-profit organizations may have the need to work with veterans, but they may not have the background they need in order to serve veterans appropriately.”

The Veterans and Agriculture workshop is November 7-8, 2012 at the Beck Agricultural Center in West Lafayette, IN.  Registration is waived for veterans who are not attending as representatives of an organization or business.

Registration information can be found HERE.

AUDIO: Paul Jones, Veterans and Agriculture Workshop (10:35mp3)

Survey shows economic growth in Mid-America

Creighton University Economist Ernie Goss says the monthly Business Condition index shows growing strength in the regional economy. The nine-state region includes Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The monthly survey of supply managers had an overall index in April – reaching 60 on a scale of 100. It was the fifth monthly consecutive increase. Goss says an index over 50 indicates economic expansion over the next three to six months.

Goss says “despite higher energy prices, manufacturers – especially those tied to international markets and agriculture – expanded briskly for the month.”

Goss says heavy manufacturing – with export-oriented manufacturers leading the way – continues to be the driver in the region’s economic growth.

Creighton University College of Business