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POET?Biomass Encourages Farmers To Look Toward 2010 Harvest

By Staff | Jan 28, 2010

ERIC BRUHN Regional Biomass Coordinator

POET Biomass is moving forward in Emmetsburg. Eric Bruhn, Regional Biomass Coordinator, has an office at the POET complex and he is busy setting up appointments to meet with area farmers.

Bruhn is a native of the Fenton area and graduated from Sentral High School in 2004. At Wartburg College he majored in business. A month before college graduation Bruhn applied for the grain buyer position at POET.

“I thought it would be nice to get back in the local area,” Bruhn said. “Now I have the opportunity to pursue a career in the biomass program. I believe there is a real future for that market.”

As Regional Biomass Coordinator, Bruhn will be getting with farmers and telling them about the cob/biomass program.

“It’s a lot like being a grain buyer,” he explained. “We need to see who’s interested in getting a contract to harvest biomass. We will be concentrating on a 25-mile radius this first year.”

Bruhn will be meeting with individual farmers the first two weeks in March.

“We have a lot more information on contracts, incentive program, and collecting methods,” said Bruhn. “I will be contacting farmers to see if they are still interested.”

Bruhn noted that area farmers all want more information. They want to learn every detail and POET wants to keep farmers as informed as possible.

“We will be looking to sign up from 70 to 100 farmers for fall 2010,” said Bruhn. “Those who participated in the test market in 2009 looked at it favorably and will continue.”

The 2009 harvest was mostly an experimental year. Cob collecting equipment was provided to 15 local farmers and they gave POET their opinions on different types of cob collectors.

“Overall, farmers didn’t care for loose cob collectors,” said Bruhn. “It requires an extra person (during the collecting process) and when transporting loose cobs you couldn’t get enough tonnage on the truck to pay for transport. So we decided to go with bales. We need to keep things simple, efficient and easy for the farmer.”

“Cobs” include anything that goes through a combine: cob, husk and a little stalk. A bale of cobs will normally be 80-percent cobs and 20-percent moc (material other than cob). Currently there are six piles of cobs on the west side of POET where they are doing storage testing.

“Cobs are amazing,” said Bruhn. “It’s amazing that something so small can be used in such a revolutionary way.”

Bruhn has been fielding more questions about corncobs than grain. Farmers with questions can contact Eric Bruhn at the Biomass office at 712-852-4244 or contact the POET main office at 712-852-8700. Bruhn’s office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.



What is BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program)?

Bruhn explained BCAP as money the government is going to give to the farmers to subsidize the program. These funds can be used to help purchase equipment. These funds will also match what POET pays for cobs, up to $45/ton, for the first two years. The bill has been written on the federal level, but it is not known when the program will begin.

What is the best way to collect cobs?

Based on information from this past fall, Bruhn says round bales and square bales are best and will still be within the percentage of moc.

Bruhn noted this is a great way for farmers to harvest cobs since they would not have to bale the same day as they are harvesting. Farmers could, for example, go out with dew on the ground and bale cobs. He also noted that bales are easier and more cost-efficient to transport.

What will POET be paying for cobs?

Loose cobs – $65/ton. While this process is more costly to farmers, due to the time it takes farmers to harvest and transport, it requires one less step in processing.

First pass baling system – $60/ton. This is also known as clean bale.

Second pass baling system – $45/ton. With this system, cobs are collected from windrows.

How many farmers will be involved in the 2010 harvest?

In 2010 we want 100 farmers to sign up to deliver a minimum 750 tons for each of the next four years. In 2011 we need another 100-150 farmers, and in 2012 we expect a total of 450-500 farmers on board, said Bruhn.

How many cobs are needed?

Project LIBERTY will require 750 to 850 bone dry tons of cobs every day, or 260,000-300,000 tons annually. Bruhn noted, this is about one-third of the corn acres within a 35-mile radius of Emmetsburg.

What cob harvest equipment will be needed?

POET is working with manufacturers like AGCO, Case IH, John Deere, Redekop and Vermeer. The best cob harvest option will be determined by each farmer. However, POET is looking at two general methods, both of which collect grain and cobs separately. One distributes cobs into a cart towed behind the combine. Another collects cobs with some leaves and husks in bale form.