March 24, 2012

A Roundtable with Sharp Corners

Kelly Brunkhorst of the Nebraska Corn Board
makes a point during a presentation to
Hungarian ag and biofuels officials.

FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012: Our long day ends with a roundtable discussion with representatives of Hungary's agriculture and biofuels industry. Kelly Brunkhorst, staff member with the Nebraska Corn Board, began the meeting with a presentation on the corn and ethanol industries in the United States with an emphasis on Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. His presentation was augmented with information from Shannon Textor of Iowa and Phil Thornton of Illinois.

The discussion was surprisingly frank and open—and at times heated—as participants on both sides discussed regulations, biofuels, livestock production, animal nutrition and the new CAP program in the EU (their version of the farm bill). Some highlights:

 - The EU has set a deadline of 2020 for its member states to achieve a 10 percent minimum of renewable fuels in their transportation fuel supply. However, it was felt among the group that many, if not all, states would not be able to comply by this time frame.

Vanda Zhola-Pollak, corporate affairs director
for Hungrana Ltd, an ethanol production company,
takes notes during the meeting.
- E85 is generally available in Hungary, with 400 stations offering the fuel—most of them are mom and pops, not the majors. But similarly to the U.S., the oil industry is protesting the increased availability of higher blends.

- Hungary offers both E5 and E85. About 75% of the stations carry an E5 blend. (During our travels, we saw several stations offering E85.)

 - There are two ethanol plants in Hungary. One produces 135K metric tons/year. The other produces 160K. Biodiesel is also a player in the Hungarian fuel supply.

- The livestock industry in Hungary is at a crossroads. Poultry is seeing some growth, especially duck, turkey, waterfowl and broilers. However, swine production is on the decline and may virtually disappear. Dairy is small and is not meeting its quota of production. Overall, the outlook for livestock production in Hungary is not positive.

 - There was some considerable discussion between our team and a DuPont animal nutritionist regarding DDGS. He said mycotoxins were a considerable concern for livestock producers—though his contention that DDGS resulted in five times (or more) the level of mycotoxins in feed was disputed by our group. He also mentioned that the inconsistency of color in DDGS was a concern to producers, but our group noted that DDGS were being mixed with different feed products in Hungary than in the U.S. Essentially, he said he would not recommend the use of distillers grains in livestock diets to his clients—especially in pork diets since is results in "belly softness."

A team photo from the Ferenc Miko farm. The photo includes
Ference Miko (center, front row),
his wife (2nd from right, front row) and the
Dekalb seed representative (first left, front row)
- The new CAP (farm bill) program in the EU is focusing on the "greening" of agricultural production. They are moving toward a simplified support system—and support is being reapportioned to reward "green" initiatives. Additionally, a social aspect of agriculture is being proposed as a factor in support in terms of the employment created by ag enterprises. A cap on CAP is being discussed at a maximum of 250,000 euros per enterprise.

- The seed representative from Hungary was surprised to learn that efficiency increase in ethanol production in the U.S. were not based on ethanol-specific corn hybrids, but on technology and improvements in the ethanol production process itself.

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