March 13, 2018

Commodity Classic or Vacation?

Take me back to the palm trees.

I spent the week of March 26th in Anaheim, California at the 2018 Commodity Classic and Corn Congress! Before I left for this trip everyone I talked to who had been before said I was in for a treat, and boy were they right! The week was filled with learning, networking and fun!

Reflecting back, I applied for an internship with the Nebraska Corn Board in the first place because I wanted to learn more about the corn industry, in addition to the communication skills. Attending Commodity Classic accomplished that. At Corn Congress, as the delegates moved through the different revisions I learned more about corn policies, insurance and the basic concerns that corn farmers face every day. I was most fascinated by the discussion over base acres. This was a topic I was not familiar with before and the discussion in the room had my wheels turning. Question after question, I came to understand the concept of base acres and its importance to corn farmers livelihood. I learned how base acres are used in the different corn insurance policies as well. Another major topic was RINS (Renewable Identification Numbers) and RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard). The discussion also included topics on GMOS, trade, satellite imagery, conservation, greenhouse gases, biotech, labeling and drift.

My social butterfly skills were put to the test, I attempted to meet and get to know as many people as possible. It was sort of like a family reunion. All of the staff and board members from different states took this as an opportunity to catch up. I got to be a part of that. I met wonderful people who are making things happen for corn on a national level and others from different states who face problems just like Nebraska. The community support and comradery I saw made me realize how lucky I was. This is a trait I will now look for in future positions. However, National Corn has set the standard pretty high!

While I may have missed a week of school the week was still full of learning. However, I did have my fair share of fun with staff, board members and others while I was there. I want to go back, that’s for sure. The corn industry and all the wonderful people that work for it have roped me in!

It is great to be back, “Living the Good Life” but I definitely had a blast while I was on the west coast!

Catherine Jones
Marketing and Communications Intern
Nebraska Corn Board
301 Centennial Mall So.
Lincoln, NE 68509
Office: 402-471-2676

Nebraska intern takes on D.C.

This past February the Nebraska Corn Growers Association took 13 new leaders to Washington D.C. for the annual D.C. Leadership Mission. Throughout the week we made several industry stops. On Monday night we met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary, Greg Ibach. He gave us an update on the progress of the 2018 Farm Bill and other federal issues. We also had the opportunity to meet with the Corn Refiners Association, National Pork Producers Council, CropLife, American Farm Bureau, Growth Energy, US Grains Council, Renewable Fuels Association, and Animal Ag Alliance, just to name a few. When talking to our industry partners we focused on trade, the Renewable Fuel Standards (RSF), 2018 Farm Bill, and Waters of the US (WOTUS). Each group shared their concerns on these topics and discussed how they plan to work on these issues. They all had similar concerns for the coming year.

While we were in D.C. we also had the opportunity to meet with all of our congressional leaders; Senator-Deb Fischer, Senator-Ben Sasse, Congressmen- Adrian Smith, Jeff Fortenberry, and Don Bacon. When we met with them we discussed several issues including trade, the RFS, 2018 Farm Bill, and WOTUS. We shared how important NAFTA is to our local agricultural economy in Nebraska. We also talked about the need to protect crop insurance for our farmers.

We wrapped up the week on Thursday afternoon at the National Corn Growers Association office. The attendees shared their thoughts and experiences from the trip. Many said it pushed them out of their comfort zone and helped to build their leadership skills as well as share their passion and concerns they have on policy and legislation. They were able to see first-hand how policy affects their farming operations every day. One leader said that policy affects us all whether we are a big or small farm, and we the producers are the ones that have a voice to impact the decisions that congressional leaders make in D.C. It is our job as leaders in the corn industry to share our stories. The attendees were excited to network with different industry partners and build connections with other producers from the state that will last a lifetime.

We also had a little fun while we were in DC. Some of our group leaders took us on a hike around DC to see the beautiful monuments at night. This is a view one doesn’t get to see during the day. It also helped to walk off the delicious meal that we had earlier that evening! Needless to say, it helped contribute to my 9-mile average workout each day.

Overall, the trip was very educational, and our leaders were eager to come back to Nebraska and share their leadership experiences with fellow corn producers. If you are interested in attending in 2019, contact Morgan Wrich at 402-438-6459!

Brooke Tempel
Nebraska Corn Growers Association
1111 Lincoln Mall #308
Lincoln, NE  68508
Office: 402.438.6459

November 13, 2017

More choices at the pump: It's a good thing

When you pull up to a flex fuel pump, there are a lot of options—and American Ethanol is responsible for providing most of them. The result is a wide range of choices—and a lot of numbers. Here’s a quick way to decipher what you see:

What is a flex fuel pump? 

A flex fuel pump offers several American Ethanol blends. While higher blends of American Ethanol (E20 and above) are approved for use in flex fuel vehicles only, flex fuel pumps also offer E10, E15 and may offer ordinary unleaded gasoline and “premium” gasoline. “Blender pump” is another term used to describe this type of dispenser.

Where can you find higher blends of American Ethanol? 

A list of flex fuel locations across Nebraska can be found by visiting and clicking on “Fueling Your Vehicle.”

Your options:

“NO ETHANOL” - Some retailers offer fuel containing no ethanol at all—and, as result, it is typically priced higher than E10. “Ethanol-free” fuel is one more choice offered by retailers. But if you believe in the clean-air, renewable, domestically-made benefits and decades of proven performance of American Ethanol, then choosing ethanol blends makes sense.

E85 - The highest American Ethanol blend available at retailers, E85 is approved for year-round use in flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). E85 is typically identified with a yellow hose and/or nozzle handle.

E15 - is approved for use in all standard vehicles from September 16 through May 31. If you drive a flex fuel vehicle (FFV), you can fill up with E15 throughout the entire year. Thanks to the higher percentage of ethanol, E15 should be priced less than E10— and significantly less than fuel containing no ethanol. E15 is frequently identified with a blue hose on the dispenser.

E10 - The most widely available ethanol blend and warranted by all automakers. E10 can be used in any standard vehicle as well as in motorcycles, lawnmowers, boats and other engines.

To read the see the whole edition of the latest CornsTalk please visit

Ethanol Simplified

Q: Are we really using food to make fuel?

A: No. The corn used to make ethanol is not the sweet corn humans typically eat. Some 99% of the corn grown in Nebraska is field corn, which is used primarily for livestock feed and ethanol production. Field corn is rarely used for human food, but through processing it is transformed into fuel, meat, milk, eggs and food ingredients. ONE BUSHEL OF FIELD CORN CREATES FUEL, FEED, FOOD AND MORE!

Renewable Fuel- The starch from a bushel of corn produces about three gallons of clean-burning, high octane ethanol. Some ethanol plants are also producing renewable diesel fuel for trucks and heavy equipment.

Animal Feed- Once the starch is removed to make ethanol, the remaining components of the corn kernel are used to make high-quality animal feed. This feed goes to beef cattle, dairy cows, pigs and poultry to create nutritious meat, milk and eggs.

Food Ingredients- Ethanol plants also produce corn oil (used in hundreds of food products) and carbon dioxide used in bottling and carbonated beverages.

Green Chemicals- Ethanol plants are developing technology to create environmentally-friendly chemicals that replace petroleum-based products.

Q: How much water does it take to make ethanol? 

A: An ethanol plant uses about three gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. And that water is used with incredible—and increasing—efficiency. Most of the water in an ethanol plant is recycled and reused within the plant for additional production, cooling and other processes. A significant percentage of the water leaves the ethanol plant in the form of distillers grains (livestock feed). That water is taken up by the animals, supplementing their water requirements. The rest of the water re-enters the atmosphere in the form of steam from the boilers and other equipment.

Q: Is the ethanol industry subsidized? 

A: There are no federal or state programs that provide direct payments or subsidies to ethanol producers. Congress passed the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in 2005 and 2007 requiring a specific volume of transportation fuel in the United States fuel supply to contain renewable fuels such as corn ethanol, biodiesel, and ethanol made from cellulosic sources such as cornstalks, switchgrass and wood waste. The RFS was passed in order to provide market access for domestically produced renewable fuels in a fossil fuel-dominated marketplace, reduce our reliance on imported oil and spur economic development—especially in rural areas of the United States. All of those goals continue to be achieved through the RFS.

Q: Does ethanol improve air quality?

A: When the American Lung Association recommends the use of renewable fuel such as American Ethanol, you can be pretty sure that improved air quality is part of the equation. Toxic emissions and particulate matter from vehicle exhaust are a huge threat to human health—and the use of clean-burning American Ethanol has a significant positive effect on air quality. “Every time you pull up to the pump, you have the opportunity to make a choice for cleaner air,” said Angela Tin, vice president for environmental health for the American Lung Association. “Choosing fuel with American Ethanol is a simple and easy way to help reduce pollution and make the air safer and healthier for you and your family.” According to a 2017 report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with corn-based ethanol are about 43% lower than gasoline when measured on an energy equivalent basis. The Alternative Fuels Data Center at the U.S. Department of Energy states: “Using ethanol as a vehicle fuel has measurable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions benefits compared with using gasoline. Carbon dioxide (CO2) released when ethanol is used in vehicles is offset by the CO2 captured when crops used to make the ethanol are grown.”

Q: Does making ethanol result in more energy? 

A: A 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture focused on calculating the “energy balance” of ethanol production—the amount of energy required to produce ethanol compared to the amount of energy that results when that ethanol is produced. The study found, on average, ethanol production resulted in 2.1 BTU to 2.3 BTU of ethanol for every 1 BTU of energy input. In some areas, the energy balance ratio was 4:1! This study took into account the entire cycle of ethanol production—from the energy used to plant, fertilize and harvest corn; transport the corn to the ethanol plant; and process the corn into ethanol. Importantly, the study also provided an energy credit for the distillers grains (livestock feed) produced during the ethanol process. Only the starch in the kernel is used to make ethanol, so it makes sense that ethanol plants get credit for creating more than one product from the corn they use. Ethanol plants are continually squeezing even more ethanol out of each kernel, reducing water and energy use, and creating more products from a bushel of corn. And corn farmers are continuing to grow more corn per acre, with less water and less fertilizer. So we can surmise that the energy balance of ethanol production will only continue to improve.

To read the see the whole edition of the latest CornsTalk please visit

Does ethanol reduce my miles per gallon?

Ethanol contains less energy (BTUs) than petroleum-based gasoline. That difference is negligible in lower ethanol blends such as E10 or E15. (Many consumers actually report improved gas mileage and performance with ethanol blends above E10, especially with E15 and E30.)

Because of the lower energy value, you may see a slight drop in your gas mileage when you use even higher blends such as E85. However, the price advantage of higher ethanol blends needs to be taken into account when you make your fuel choice.

In other words, it’s not just about miles per gallon. It’s also about cost per mile.

This is especially true if you drive a flex fuel vehicle that can use the entire range of American Ethanol blends.

Here’s how the math works:
  • Assume that using E85 may result in a miles-per-gallon reduction of up to 12%. 
  • If E85 costs 12% less (or greater) than E10, you’re miles— and money—ahead. 
  • So, if E10 costs $2.00 per gallon, E85 would need to cost 24¢ less ($1.76) in order for you to “break even.” And every penny discount above 24¢ reduces your cost per mile even further. 
In truth, E85 should always be priced at a much greater discount than 12% compared to E10. If it’s not, then you need to find another retailer!

This is an online calculator that allows you to quickly determine the price advantage of ethanol blends vs. fuel that contains no ethanol.

To read the see the whole edition of the latest CornsTalk please visit

Straight answers to key questions about Nebraska's clean air fuel

Ethanol has become a major player in America’s fuel supply—and in Nebraska’s economy. In Nebraska, ethanol production has become a significant contributor to the success of agriculture—adding value to the corn we produce and generating jobs and tax revenue all across the state.

Billions of miles have been driven on ethanol-blended fuels in the past 30+ years alone. NASCAR has been using 15% American Ethanol (E15) under the Sunoco Green 15 brand—driving a total of 6 million trouble-free racing miles since 2011. And that says something about the reliability and performance of American Ethanol.

Originally blended at 10% with gasoline (E10), higher blends of American Ethanol are becoming even more prevalent and more available. Still, many consumers have questions about ethanol—its benefits, its performance and its environmental impact.

In the latest issue of CornsTALK, you’ll discover straight and simple answers to those questions so you can be even better informed when you pull up to the pump.

 Nebraska’s ethanol industry is a major economic driver for the state:

  • Nebraska is the nation’s second largest ethanol producer with 2.18 billion gallons annually 
  • Nebraska’s 25 ethanol plants employ 1,300+ people 
  • Nebraska’s ethanol plants consume 750 million bushels of corn each year 
  • Nebraska’s ethanol plants produce 6.4 million tons of distillers grains (livestock feed) annually 
  • Nebraska’s ethanol plants produce 515 million lbs. of corn oil annually

August 24, 2017

A Time for Reflection

A Time for Reflection As my internship at the U.S. Meat Export Federation comes to an end I have taken the time to reflect on how much this summer has impacted me and how beneficial my experiences at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) will influence my future. I am so grateful that I had this incredible opportunity and I will cherish the memories made, the knowledge gained, and the lessons learned. The last few weeks of my internship have been focused on putting the finishing touches on my projects, asking last minute questions, and unfortunately, saying goodbye.

During my last week in Denver the Executive Committee and Board of Directors conducted a meeting in the Denver office. It was an honor to be a member of the team and help organize and host the meetings, as well as, greet guests as they arrived and give tours of the office. These meetings were planned and organized to discuss budgeting and membership. It was exciting to see the representation from all sectors of USMEF members in action.

The knowledge I have gained this summer while at USMEF is something I will take with me throughout the rest of my college career, graduate school, and when I enter the workforce. The meat and export industry knowledge I learned at USMEF in invaluable to me. I started my internship with the expectation that I would have a lot to learn; that was an understatement, all that I learned and gained during this summer far exceeding my expectations.

My internship gave me many opportunities to learn new skills and refine my abilities and talents. I learned graphic design during my work on my major project, something I never thought I could feel confident doing; I can definitely say I am comfortable using Photoshop and InDesign programs. I also had the opportunity to practice being able to make on-the-spot decisions, being adaptable to changing circumstances, and being innovative in the business setting.

A significant benefit I took away from my internship at USMEF was the important professional contacts I was able to make. The people I met are now some of my close mentors and people I definitely look up to. It was truly an honor to work with people I had read about in industry publications and was familiar with their professional accolades. They helped me build my self-confidence and emphasized that it is necessary to ask questions.

Overall, my summer has been extremely successful and I look forward to the possibility of future opportunities. I appreciate all the generosity and kindness I received at the U.S. Meat Export Federation and I would like to sincerely thank the Nebraska Corn Board for providing me the opportunity to work at the USMEF for the summer. I was sad to leave Denver, but I recognize this summer experience will greatly assist me as I continue to grow. This will be a summer I will always cherish.

Michaela Clowser
U.S. Meat Export Federation
1660 Lincoln Street, Suite 2800
Denver, CO 80254
Office: 303.623.MEAT

Living Abroad

With another wave of news updates in the White House, the country seems to have forgotten about the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. Remaining up-to-date on the negotiations is important, but there are reporters more qualified than myself covering it. Instead, I wanted to take a minute to step back and look at the future of trade for the U.S.

This is an important topic. With increasing rhetoric from US officials and civilians about American nationalism, there is fear that U.S. trade will be thrown to the side. As the U.S. considers its role in the globe, other nations have taken advantage of our vacancy. Floyd Gaibler, the U.S. Grains Council Director of Trade Policy & Biotechnology, cited that U.S. grain trade has already declined 7% pre-NAFTA negotiations this year. This demonstrates that U.S. uncertainty and rhetoric alone has caused some trade partners to look elsewhere for trade. I saw this in Mexico where there is an increase in vessels bearing Brazilian corn. Furthermore, the European Union is making strides with a trade agreement between the them and Japan following the Trans-Pacific Partnership fallout.

In an increasingly global economy, it is clear the United States is not the only source of trade anymore. And there is an interesting juxtaposition in the agriculture world to make matters more perilous. The U.S. has seen significant strides in agriculture production due to innovations in research and technology. Driven by the mission to feed the world and with the promise of expanding markets, U.S. farmers have worked hard to push production to its highest levels yet. But all these successes lead to the potential of one huge crash. If the U.S. lost access to or competitiveness in foreign markets, domestic farmers would be left with a gross oversupply of goods. This could lead to defaults on loans, significant debt, and strife for many of our nations hardest workers. U.S. consumption is simply not large enough for world-leading production.

On the other hand, we must acknowledge that some U.S. jobs have suffered due to global trade. Florida fruit and vegetable farmers struggle to compete with Mexican counterparts. The sugar producers in the same state face similar challenges. Certain manufacturing industries have declined. Despite this, the U.S. economy continues to grow. That is not to say that the U.S. government should not look to help and support these people. But we also live in a free market where U.S. consumers are often price sensitive and enjoy the benefits of cheaper goods from free trade.

In a sense, the United States let the cat out of the bag when it comes to FTAs and global trade when we pioneered NAFTA in 1994. Now, many nations have adopted their FTAs modeled after our own. If the U.S. is to withdraw from global trade, we can expect fiercer competition from nations eager to improve their own economic and political standing in the world.

I believe in our nation and our standing in the world. Living abroad helped me realize how amazing our country truly is. It is good to come together and consider our role moving forward. But let’s not take too long nor forget about the consequences of our actions.

 Stephen Enke
 U.S Grains Council
Jaime Balmes No. 8-602 "C" Col.
 Los Morales Polanco Mexico, D.F., Mexico 11510
 Office: 011-52-55-5282-0244

August 23, 2017

At what point are there too many internship blogs?

You’ll have to forgive me for adding another one to the pile, but the point of how invaluable internships are cannot go missed. I was in Washington, D.C. for ten weeks this summer with the National Corn Growers Association, and the first three weeks were a major adjustment. I didn’t express that sentiment in my first two blog posts—I’ve always been outgoing, curious, and adaptable; overall, these feelings were a first.

Despite the unease of acclimating myself to D.C., the culture, transportation, verbiage, and even the swampy weather, I knew with confidence that this internship was something I wanted, and needed. Following dreams of being an artist and a fashion designer (circa 2001), working in public policy in the agriculture industry has long been an interest of mine. I interned with a risk management firm last summer, and can’t say enough good things about my experience with the firm and the producers we worked for—I received invaluable mentorship that summer and learned more about risk, hedging tools, and relationships than the classroom could ever teach me. However, I still had a yearning for policy work. I knew that if I didn’t get policy experience under my belt I would be holding myself back, and letting myself down. Lucky for me, I had another summer left before graduation (December 2017) to pursue policy. Some may find my sentiment exaggerated, and sure, I could jump into a full-time position in public policy when I graduate and figure it out then, but an internship first provides a few advantages.

Internships are a low risk, high reward, environment. You are able to immerse yourself into a company, their culture, and daily operations, without a long-term commitment. Eight to twelve weeks, that’s your only obligation. While that is a simplified notion, and there are many more pieces to an internship, such proving that you are an asset to a team, you can use it as a time to explore if the company and the field is right for you. If not, no harm, no foul. You can follow through on your commitment and leave on strong terms, whereas if you jumped into a job straight out of college that wasn’t the right fit, leaving may be a little more awkward, and you may be faced with thoughts of unease and uncertainty, between fight or flight.

Secondly, you are getting paid to learn. For most new positions, it takes time to operate in autonomy with confidence. In my experience from the two internships I have held during undergrad, I didn’t feel like things truly “clicked” until my last two-three weeks. The majority of the summer is an exciting, fun, and yet huge, learning curve. You have to ask a few more questions, tasks take you a little bit longer to navigate, and you’re still sorting out what exactly your role is. Most companies recognize the return from having interns, that’s why they continue to recruit, and then support them through the learning-curve each summer. However, I want to reiterate this point to parents that are hesitant to support their son or daughter through an internship, students who don’t really have interning as a priority, and any business owner that has entertained the idea of developing an internship program. The personal and professional growth that can be achieved by interning is invaluable and irreplaceable.

Third, internships are an opportunity to see how you handle adversity. This adversity can come in a variety of forms. Perhaps it is a series of challenges that come with moving 1,400 miles away from home. Perhaps it is the challenge of micromanagement, or on the flipside, navigating autonomy. Maybe you have to recognize your own abilities, and ask for more responsibility. Are your daily tasks not lining up with the job description? Or, maybe you are trying to succeed but the company’s structure and communication habits are restricting that. Some of these points are my own, others come from the experiences that peers have had. Bottom line, these are challenging waters to navigate, and I know that I will be able to hit the ground running much faster, in my first full-time position, than if I had never interned during my undergrad years.

Interning has helped me reflect on my interests, identify what I value in a company, and also to develop expectations for myself and what I am able to contribute to a cause. Culture, engagement, and autonomy are priorities of mine when considering future employers. From one internship to the next, I was able to reflect and identify what I think I did really well, but also set new standards for myself and identify how I thought I could perform better round-two (this summer with NCGA).

I by no means have it all figured out, and don’t think that I ever will, but I assure you that because of internships I am more excited than nervous, or unsure, to graduate in December. So, thank you Nebraska corn farmers, Nebraska Corn Board and National Corn Growers Association, for supporting internships and taking the time and resources to invest in me this summer. Your support helped me to intern, and knowing I had the support of family, friends, and advisors, I was able to take advantage of a summer of growth.

P.S. I included some weekend fun in my last two blog posts and wanted to share a few photos from hikes that I went on the last two weeks I was in D.C. It was so refreshing to get out and visit some local gems. The pictures shared here are from Harpers Ferry, WV, and Great Falls, VA/MD.

Jacy Spencer
National Corn Growers Association, Washington D.C. Office
20 F Street NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20001
Office: 202-628-7001

August 17, 2017

Stages of Growth: Growing

"Knee high by the Fourth of July"

A saying that is often heard in Nebraska as state residents talk about the beautiful green corn fields they drive past on a daily basis. While we are celebrating the Fourth of July and enjoying our summers, corn is busy growing.

Rapid Growth and Dry Matter Accumulation (V10 to V17)

After corn has surpassed the emergence stages they move on to the rapid growth and dry matter accumulation. This includes V10 to V17. During these stages it is vital that plant stress is reduced. Management and climate both effect the growth of a corn plant. Ideally, adequate nutrient levels and a proper climate will help maximize the potential yield grades.

  • V10 Stage
    • This stage can be identified by 10 leaves, elongated stalk and the tassel begins to rapidly grow.
  • V11-V15 Stage
    • These stages are bringing the corn plant closer to pollination. This means that soil moisture and nutrient availability are extremely important. Also during this time kernel row determination is almost complete. 
Pollination (V18 to R1)

Finally, nine to 10 weeks after corn emergence the corn plant begins pollination. Again, in this stage it is important to monitor moisture and heat stress. If these stressors occur this could led to loss of entire ears or barren tips, decreasing yields. 
  • VT Stage
    • Stage VT is all about the tassel. This begins when the last branch of the tassel is visible, but the silks have not emerged. Tassels normally appear two to three days before silk emergence. 
  • R1 Stage
    • Stage R1 is all about the silks. This stage begins when the silk is visible outside the husk. This helps with pollination. 
Grain Fill (R2 to R6)

We have finally reached the last stages of growth. The intentions of growth shift from vegetative growth to reproductive growth. We have already determine the number of kernels by this point, so at this time we determine the size of the kernels. At this point we are also not out of the woods. Corn can still be killed or yields damaged. 
  • R2 Stage
    • The kernel is white and shaped like a blister. 
  • R3 Stage
    • The silks are brown, the kernel is yellow and the dry matter accumulation occurs very quickly. 
  • R4 Stage
    • This is 24 to 28 days after silking and the starch levels of the kernel begin to increase. The kernel has accumulated half of its total dry weight. 
  • R5 Stage
    • The kernels begin to dry down from the top of the kernel toward the cob. This less to a dent on the top of the kernel. 
  • R6 Stage
    • This is it, this is the last stage of growth. The kernel continues to gain weight until maturity occurs. Kernel moisture ideally ends at 30 to 35 percent.