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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Homegrown Feed, Food & Fuel Project

Homegrown Feed Food and Fuel Project

This project provides important market data and analysis that will be of use to farmers, policy makers and entrepreneurs who are interested in further exploring the opportunities for various oilseed products. 

The Need: Although farmers and biodiesel enthusiasts have been excited about the potential for these products, the full extent of the equipment, capital, and acreage needed to successfully grow, harvest and process these crops has been unknown. Determining the economic feasibility for farmers of such activities is vitally important at this early stage of market development.

The Opportunity: The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund commissioned a number of feasibility studies on the economics and market potential of oilseed crop production in order to explore whether Vermont farmers could sustainably, economically, and competitively produce some portion of Vermont’s liquid fuel and livestock feed demand. We were also interested in the requirements for and characteristics of small-scale, Vermont-made biofuels for local use (for both stationary and mobile facilities), as an alternative to industrial-scale biofuel production.

Results from Homegrown Feed, Food & Fuel: The Market Potential of Farm-Scale Oilseed Crop Products in Vermont:

Growing sufficient quantities of oilseed crops for biodiesel production and/or livestock meal in Vermont is very new, although some farmers have grown soybeans for the feed value for quite some time. But as the price of diesel, No. 2 heating oil and livestock feed continues to rise due to global forces outside of our control, more and more farmers, communities, policy makers and entrepreneurs are beginning to explore opportunities for the local production of oilseed products for local use.

Finding 1: Vermont is a net importer of oilseed products and co-products

Finding 2: Farm-scale production of oilseed products is technically feasible; good yields are achievable

Finding 3: 50,000 to 90,000 acres in Vermont could be shifted to oilseed crops per year

Recommendations from Homegrown Feed, Food & Fuel: The Market Potential of Farm-Scale Oilseed Crop Products in Vermont:

Further action and research related to the development and study of farm-scale oilseed crop and co-product production in Vermont is recommended.

  1. Continue to build a network of farmers, processors, and other business owners involved in oilseed crop production, processing, distribution, and sales.
  2. Establish systematic processes for testing, refining, and recording results of on-farm meal production to establish consistent quality standards.
  3. Investigate small cooperative enterprise models for oilseed processing and biodiesel production.
  4. Investigate the economic feasibility of a mobile oilseed press and/or biodiesel production unit that could travel site to site.
  5. Further investigate the range of equipment, capital and operating costs to set up and run an on-farm oilseed crop production facility.
  6. Conduct further research on the net energy savings to farmers from biodiesel production.
  7. Conduct further research on additional potential markets for oilseed co-products.

Results from Feasibility Analysis: Mobile Unit for Processing Oilseed Crops and Producing Biodiesel in Vermont.

Mobile oilseed processing in Vermont is predicted to be a feasible and profitable opportunity based on the results of this study. It is technically feasible to transport appropriately sized equipment with a truck and small trailer to remote locations to provide processing services. It is also estimated that the cost of processing is below the market value of certain outputs (biodiesel and organic meal). A key challenge to such an operation will be establishing a sufficient initial market to breakeven at a reasonable price while also planning on future growth to capitalize on economies of higher volume production. As production volume increases, the breakeven price will decrease and higher profit can be realized at the same market price. A processor charging a price between breakeven and market value will realize a profit while providing some savings to the farmers they serve.

Results from Homegrown Fuel: Economic Feasibility of Commercial-Scale Biodiesel Production in Vermont

Dr. Kenneth Mulder designed a simulation model to evaluate the economic and environmental effects of small-scale biodiesel production in the state of Vermont.

Finding 1: Economic feasibility of a commercial-scale biodiesel production facility depends heavily on plant capacity.

Finding 2: Plant revenues, and especially profitability, increase as the price of crude oil rises. 

Finding 3: Vermont farmers will produce oilseed crops only if induced to do so by higher-than-average oilseed prices.

Finding 4: The greatest potential employment gains can be achieved when Vermont farmers make a strong transition to oilseed crop production, and the biodiesel plant is able to obtain part of its oilseed feedstock from Vermont sources.

Finding 5: State involvement in the form of a new-capacity credits or other production incen­tive is needed to boost the level of import substitution Vermont can achieve from biodiesel production.

Finding 6: Biodiesel production under every scenario produces a positive energy return on in­vestment (EROEI).

Finding 7: Biodiesel production has a strong potential to reduce Vermont’s carbon footprint, provided that land is shifted into oilseed production from other crops.

Finding 8: The model indicates the highest level of Vermont oilseed production would yield enough net energy to fuel about 10% of total agricultural energy demand, which includes all fuel, electricity and heating.

Funding for this project was generously provided by: the High Meadows Fund, Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council, the Maverick Lloyd Foundation, and the Orchard Foundation.