President Obama plans to make the GOP pay dearly if they resist his demand for another round of “tax hikes on the rich” before he’ll even consider more judicious cost-cutting; where the goal would be to cut where it would cause the least pain for the public and the national economy instead of the most pain possible to lay at the feet of the GOP, with an eye toward 2014 elections.

For example, he spent the week stumping in city after city warning that unless the GOP agrees to more tax hikes, “food aid would be denied to pregnant women, new mothers and infants.”

He warned of “cutbacks in vitally-needed federal aid to local police and fire departments.”

However, USDA found $75 million in new grant money for “research, education and extension activities to ensure greater food security in the U.S. and around the world.” In a nation where obesity has become the number one health threat; that strikes cynics as an odd priority over keeping the nation’s meat supply safe and flowing.

But USDA insists its hands are tied; every single department has to be trimmed.  It can’t just “move money around.”

For example: $75 million divided among 8,400 federal meat inspectors works out to $8,930 each. So unless these folks are earning more than $4,465 per week, just cutting out a portion of this week’s research grants would avoid having to shut down the nation’s livestock and meat pipeline for two weeks at an estimated cost to the national economy of $10 billion.

But alas, discretion is not an option under sequester rules, says Ag Secretary Vilsack.

A new organization calling itself “Solutions from the Land” has released its first report “Developing a New Vision for United States Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation.” The report identifies five broad challenges and potential frameworks around which policies and practices might be constructed and will serve as a starting point for ongoing discussion among all stakeholders involved in land management.

The report will be released at the Farm Foundation® Forum on March 6. You can view live via webcast by contacting Ernie Shea, by email at, or by phone at 410-952-0123.

RFA accused a House subcommittee of “stacking the deck” in this week’s hearings on the future of midlevel ethanol blends. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dineen sent a blistering letter to committee members saying, in part, “It both saddens and angers me that in this day and age such a lopsided, stacked hearing could actually happen,” adding, “It is shameful to see how tight a grip oil companies have on Congress.”

The sole voice supporting E15 was Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., who also noted the “stacked deck” and chastised the committee for not even having anybody from the Department of Energy at the hearing.

Cellulosic biofuels are far from dead according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Last year only 20,000 gallons were produced, not even a “drop in the bucket” towards the 500 million gallon target set by Congress. But in 2013, breakthroughs in technology are expected to raise last year’s output 250-fold; to 5 million gallons. Some will scoff that’s still only 1% of the original target, but miss the point: EIA says cellulosic production will finally rise above the “heel” of the classic “hockey stick” formation on a long-term production charts.

They see potential for a vertical boom time in output beginning this year as companies who have struggled to find a way to do it on a commercial scale at competitive costs have met that goal and are now poised to rapidly ramp up production of biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks. Uncertainty over biofuel mandates has fueled a run on RINs!

The term stands for “renewable identification number” and every gallon of ethanol produced gets one. Refiners can get around blending renewables into gasoline themselves by purchasing RINs from refiners who have actually used more renewable fuel than was required of them. And they hit a new record high of 45 cents last week.

Now that ethanol consumption in the U.S. has hit the “blend wall”, refiners would rather stock up on RINs than risk booking more ethanol than they’ll be able to blend.