November 24, 2015

Harvest Near Completion

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending November 22, 2015, snow blanketed western counties early in the week and northeastern counties over the weekend, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rain preceded the snow in many areas with an inch or more common in the eastern two-thirds of the State. Fieldwork came to a halt as soils became too wet or snow covered to work. Harvest was near completion in most areas except for the Panhandle. Temperatures averaged above normal across the east and below normal in western areas. There were 3.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 21 short, 71 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 25 short, 69 adequate, and 1 surplus. Corn harvested was at 95 percent, equal to last year, and near 97 for the five-year average.

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

'The Bachelor' and 'DWTS' celebrity farmer promotes benefits of ethanol

Growth Energy and Chris Soules, Iowa farmer and star of The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars announced a new television ad emphasizing the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol. The ad points to the significant harm that the EPAs proposal poses to Americas farmers and features Soules urging politicians in Washington to support clean, secure, American-made ethanol.

Growth Energy Co-Chair Tom Buis spoke to the major progress in revitalization and job creation in rural America thanks to ethanol production. Currently the ad is airing in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the ethanol industry has helped to generate more than 852,000 jobs throughout America and helped farming communities make a strong comeback. In Iowa alone, the renewable fuel industry spurs more than 73,000 jobs, generates $19.3 billion in annual economic output and $5 billion in wages annually, and contributes $1.7 billion in state and federal taxes each year.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is a great American success story, said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. More renewable fuel like ethanol means more investments in rural economies across America. Homegrown renewable fuel is also helping consumers at the pump, driving down our dependence on oil from hostile foreign regions, and reducing pollution in our air and water.

American-made ethanol reduces our dependence on foreign oil, said Chris Soules, a fourth-generation Iowa farmer. Our farmers are also leading the way in helping reduce carbon emissionsthe use of corn ethanol results in a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular gasoline. We need a strong Renewable Fuel Standard so we can continue providing opportunities for our countrys farmers and produce clean energy right here in America.

November 17, 2015

Corn Harvested at 92%

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending November 15, 2015, temperatures averaged six to eight degrees above normal across the northeast and two to four degrees elsewhere, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rainfall of up to an inch was recorded across portions of the eastern third of the State, with lesser amounts elsewhere. Snow was recorded in central and southwestern counties with harvest progress slowed at midweek. Producers with harvest complete were working on fall tillage, fertilizer applications and livestock care. There were 5.1 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 26 short, 67 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 28 short, 65 adequate, and 1 surplus. Corn harvested was at 92 percent, near 89 last year and 94 for the five-year average.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables HERE. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

November 16, 2015

Sugar is sugar. Not lawsuits.


If sugar is sugar, then what is the fuss about and why are two groups in agriculture against each other?

Recently, an ongoing lawsuit has shown its ugly head coming from eight makers of processed table sugar and two sugar trade associations suing the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), claiming that their public education campaign is "false and misleading." The public education campaign initiated by CRA was to communicate the simple fact that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a form of sugar, widely accepted in the medical and nutrition communities to be nutritionally equivalent to other forms of sugar, including table sugar.

In October 2011, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs (refined sugar industry) failed to present any evidence that they have been injured by CRA’s statements, or that CRA’s speech has influenced any consumer purchasing decisions. The Court also ruled that CRA’s speech was “in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest.”

Now, the CRA member companies have also filed a Counterclaim against The Sugar Association based on The Sugar Association’s false and misleading representations that processed sugar is different from HFCS in ways that are beneficial to consumers’ health. The Counterclaim further alleges that The Sugar Association’s statements deceive consumers into believing that they will be healthier if they consume foods and beverages with processed sugar instead of HFCS. The lawsuit is scheduled for a jury trial to begin in November 2015 in federal court in Los Angeles, California.

For one, as a consumer – I believe sugar is sugar. Two - I find it disgusting that the two processed sugar companies are having to attack each other. Agriculture is already small (2% of the population), so why the need to fight amongst ourselves.

As corn farmers, we obviously want to continue to have HFCS as an option because it provides a market for our corn. But all of us are consumers (because we all eat!), and we have choices! We can drink our pop with HFCS or we can choose to eat a refined sugar-filled candy bar. News flash – neither is “healthier”/good or bad for us – but we have a choice to eat what we want. Also, HFCS is not only a sweetener, it also is used to keep foods fresher longer, like breads and frozen foods.

Fear-mongering is what the refined sugar association is building. They are misleading consumers to believe that sugar from beets or sugar cane is “healthier” than corn. All three of these are plants – grown naturally – so this claim is ridiculous. Sugar is sugar and we all have the choice to consume it or not.

November 12, 2015

Soils Store and Filter Water


2015 International Year of Soils

Functional soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and drought. Water infiltration through soil traps pollutants and prevents them from leaching into the groundwater. Moreover, the soil captures and stores water, making it available for absorption by crops, and thus minimizing surface evaporation and maximizing water use efficiency and productivity. Healthy soils with a high organic matter content have the capacity to store large amounts of water. This is beneficial not only during droughts when soil moisture is crucial to plant growth, but also during heavy rainfall because the soil reduces flooding and run-off by slowing the release of water into streams. Healthy soils are therefore crucial for maintaining food production and clean groundwater supply, while also contribution to resilience and disaster risk reduction.

The amount or percentage of water in the soil (by weight) is generally referred to as soil moisture content. The maximum amount of available water that a soil can retain (the available water capacity) will vary depending on the soil's texture, organic matter content, rooting depth and structure. Soil organic matter is particularly important in that it can retain about 20 times its weight of water. By implementing sustainable agricultural practices, farmers can influence the structure and organic matter content of the soil to improve its water infiltration and retention.

Water is the "lifeblood" of agricultural practice worldwide--improved soil moisture management is critical for sustainable food production and water supply. Reduction of a soil's capacity to accept, retain, release and transmit water reduces its productivity, whether of crops, pasture species, shrubs or trees. The great challenge for the coming decades will be the talk of increasing food production with less water, particularly in countries with limited water and land resources. In order to minimize the impact of drought on food security, soil needs to capture the rainwater that falls on it, store as much of that water as possible for future plant use, and allow plant roots to penetrate and proliferate.

Problems with or constraints on one or several of these conditions cause soil moisture to be a major limiting factor for crop growth. In fact, poor crop yields are more often related to an insufficiency of soil moisture rather than an insufficiency of rainfall. Poor and unsustainable land management techniques also decrease soil moisture content. Overcultivation, overgrazing and deforestation put great strain on soil and water resources by reducing fertile topsoil and vegetation cover, and lead to greater dependence on irrigated cropping. Meeting food scrutiny targets requires the implementation of sustainable agricultural policies that ensure improved soil quality and water retention. As most smallholder farmers in developing countries are reliant on rainfed agriculture, improved soil moisture optimization and management is crucial.

A number of sustainable agricultural and land management practices can help to improve soil moisture retention capacity, including:

  • Residue covers, cover crops and mulching protect the soil surface, improve water infiltration rates, and reduce both erosion and evaporation, thus improving soil moisture compared to bare soils, even under low rainfall.
  • Conservation tillage is a general term which has been defined as "whatever sequence of tillage operations that reduces the losses of soil and water, when compared to conventional tillage"
  • Zero-tillage, which is the practice of leaving residue of the previous season's crops on farmland, can increase water infiltration while reducing evaporation as well as wind and water erosion.
  • Conservation agriculture employs the three principles of minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations to improve soil conditions, reduce land degradation and boost yields.
  • Use of deep-rooting, drought-resistant, or less water-demanding crops can help preserve soil moisture and improve food security
  • Capture of runoff from adjacent lands can lengthen the duration of soil moisture availability

November 10, 2015

Harvest Continues to Advance

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending November 8, 2015, the eastern half of the State was dry, with temperatures averaging six to nine degrees above normal as fall harvest activities wound down, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Harvest continued to advance in the west with precipitation of more than a half inch limited to North Central counties. Producers with harvest complete were turning their attention to fall tillage and fertilizer applications as well as livestock care. There were 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 29 short, 63 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 29 short, 64 adequate, and 1 surplus. Corn harvested was at 87 percent, ahead of 76 last year, but equal to the five-year average.

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables HERE. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

November 9, 2015

Social Soil: Blogging

*Welcome to Social Soil - a series of social media posts for farmers. Whether you're a seasoned social media veteran or just trying to start, we want to help farmers with their "ag+advocacy" skills ("AGvocacy") so together we can promote Nebraska corn and agriculture.*

The blogosphere is made up of any blog you can imagine. Basically, anyone can start their own blog (essentially their own website) and publish anything they want! I’ll cover a couple of blogging platforms in this post, as well as some great ag blogs to follow.

First, if you’re reading this post, you’re familiar with blogs because you’re reading this! When a blogger publishes a post, readers can read it directly by going to that person’s blog page with the URL, or they may subscribe to an RSS Feed, where blogs are directed to. By subscribing to a feed, you can read several blogs in one place….you can setup your email with RSS feeds to come directly there, or through a an RSS reader like Feedly.

If you’re looking to start a blog, I recommend three platforms – all are a little different but you can choose which seems like a best fit for you. All of these are free – I know there are platforms out there you can pay for, but I do not have experience with them.

The first is Blogger – it is a platform through Google (and how the Nebraska Corn Kernels is setup). Blogger is a simple setup that allows you to choose your blog name and custom URL, choose from blog designs or allows you to create your own, and gives you a lot of creative flexibility.

The second platform I recommend is Wordpress. Wordpress is also free and easy to setup with choosing your own blog name and custom URL. Once you get into Wordpress, the options are much more detailed and broader than Blogger and allows for more customization to your site. is a Wordpress platform site.

With both Blogger and Wordpress, you can purchase your domain (ex: allowing your blog to be instead of or You can also use a program like GoDaddy to purchase a domain and source it from your blog. The benefit of purchasing your domain is that you own the content.

The third blogging platform I recommend is Tumblr. It is slightly different than the Blogger or Wordpress formats, and is a simpler layout. But it is still a great blog to share your thoughts and easily share with others. I think that having a Tumblr site along with your blog is beneficial to re-post blogs you put on your Blogger/Wordpress site as it will reach different readers. It’s all about SEO and leveraging your great content!

Ok, here are some great ag blogs to follow (this list could go on and on….if you have more, please share in the comments):

Ag- It’s not a job, its an adventure
Big Picture Agriculture
Corn Commentary
Corn Hugger
Dust in My Coffee
Feed Yard Foodie
Fuels America Blog
Farm Meets Fork - Nebraska Farm Bureau Blog
Innovating Agriculture and Natural Resources - Dr. Green's Blog
Midwest Agricultural Law Guide
Real Farmwife on the County Line
The Farm Wife

Read other Social Soil posts here!

November 3, 2015

Corn Harvested at 75%

For the week ending November 1, 2015, limited precipitation combined with near normal temperatures allowed fall harvest activities to advance, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Precipitation was limited to half an inch or less in most areas. Corn harvest was slow to advance in Panhandle counties as producers waited for grain moisture levels to decline. Cattle producers continued to move livestock to crop residues. There were 5.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 28 short, 64 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 29 short, 64 adequate, and 1 surplus. Corn harvested was at 75 percent, ahead of 57 last year, but near 77 for the five-year average.
Photo Courtesy of Heartland FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables HERE. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

November 2, 2015

5 Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Farmers

It’s already November? Yes, we’re all thinking it. Soon it will be December, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

In thinking about the year’s end, it’s important (and time to start!) planning for taxes. Farmers have several weeks remaining where you they still take action that will impact their 2015 tax returns. Although some producers may find their incomes lower in 2015 than in recent years, they may still seek ways to reduce income for the year or to defer it to future, potentially lower-income years. Several possible strategies are worth reviewing.

Set Date to Determine Income & Expenses

The most important step in year-end tax planning is to establish a date to determine income and expenses for the year. Larry Gearhardt, OSU Extension Asst. Professor, Taxation, suggests that around December 1 of this year, the farmer should determine, as close as possible, what his/her income and expenses are for the year. This leaves ample time for the farmer to take action to reduce income taxes, if possible. As soon as the ball drops on New Years Eve, the farmer has lost his opportunity to take action to reduce his taxes in 2015.


The most basic year-end tax planning is timing income and expenses, if possible, so that the income and expenses occur in the year that is most beneficial to the farmer. If 2015 is a high income year, the farmer should delay the receipt of revenue until 2016 and pay for 2016 expenses this year. This becomes especially important under the current circumstances where it appears as if 2016 income will be lower than previous years.

Charitable Gifts

A win-win strategy for reducing tax liability is to increase charitable giving.

Grain Gifts. Because of potentially significant tax savings, cash-basis farmers should consider gifting grain directly rather than selling the grain and then gifting the proceeds to charity. To qualify for the savings, certain technical steps must be followed. Otherwise, the IRS will deem the transfer to be a sale by the farmer, with a subsequent gift to the charity. Make sure that the commodity remains unsold inventory in the hands of the farmer. Title to the commodity must be transferred to the charity before the grain is sold. For example, the corn would be delivered to the elevator with a storage receipt made out to the charity. The charity receives a letter from the farmer stating the corn belongs to the charity and that the charity may sell the corn as it sees fit. The grain elevator should only issue a check to the charity once the charity has given a specific instruction to sell.

Other Charitable Gifts. For those taxpayers who itemize, charitable deductions can result in great tax savings. Donors should ensure, however, that they receive a “contemporaneous written acknowledgement” from the charity before claiming the deduction for any single contribution of $250 or more. The acknowledgement must state that no goods or services were provided by the organization in exchange for the contribution. Without such an acknowledgement, the IRS will disallow the deduction if the taxpayer is audited. It is a taxpayer’s responsibility to obtain the acknowledgment before the tax return is filed. A cancelled check or other evidence of payment is not sufficient.

Prepaying Expenses

Farmers might also consider prepaying 2016 expenses (in an amount up to 50% of all deductible farm expenses) in 2014, thereby making the expenses deductible against 2014 income. To qualify for the prepayment deduction—which applies to inputs such as feed, seed, fertilizer, and similar farm supplies—the farmer must make an actual purchase rather than just a deposit. The product purchased must be used or consumed in the next 12 months. The farmer must also have a business purpose (such as fixing a maximum price or ensuring supply) for the prepayment other than merely tax avoidance. Finally, deducting the prepayment must not result in a material distortion of the farmer’s income.

Section 179 Deduction and Bonus Depreciation

An important tax provision that has not been enhanced (per Congress’s discussions) for 2015 is the Section 179 limit remains at $25,000, where it was previously $500,000 in 2013 (before decreasing in ’14). This provision allows farmers to deduct $25,000 of the tax basis of certain business property or equipment during the year in which was property was placed into service. This information is particularly important if a large purchase has been made or is on the horizon.

With all of your tax decision, please consult with your tax professional to review any potential savings and to ensure that the proper steps are followed.

Information from here and here.  

October 29, 2015

Soils are the Foundation for Vegetation


2015 International Year of Soils

Healthy soils are crucial for ensuring the continued growth of natural and managed vegetation, providing feed, fiber, fuel, medicinal products and other ecosystem services such as climate regulation and oxygen production. Soils and vegetation have a reciprocal relationship. Fertile soil encourages plant growth by providing plants with nutrients, acting as a water holding tank, and serving as the substrate to which plants anchor their roots. In return, vegetation, tree cover and forests prevent soil degradation and desertification by stabilizing the soil, maintaining water and nutrient cycling, and reducing water and wind erosion. As global economic growth and demographic shifts increase the demand for vegetation, animal feed and vegetation by products such as wood, soils are put under tremendous pressure and their risk of degradation increases greatly. Managing vegetation sustainably--whether in forests, pastures or grasslands--will boost its benefits, including timber, fodder and food, in a way that meets society's needs while conserving and maintaining the soil for the benefit of present and future generations. The sustainable use of goods and services from vegetation and the development of agroforestry systems and crop-livestock systems also have the potential to contribute to poverty reduction, making the rural poor less vulnerable to the impacts of land degradation and desertification.

Soils and Crops

The symbiotic relationship between soils and vegetation is most apparent in the agricultural sector: food security and nutrition rely on healthy soils. The nutrient content of a plant's tissues is directly related to the nutrient content of the soils and its ability to exchange nutrients and water with the plant's roots. Similarly, plant growth is influenced to soil physical properties such as texture, structure and permeability. However, the practices of intensive agriculture, monoculture and deep tillage put soil health at risk by depleting the soil of nutrients, causing soil pollution, altering soil structure and water retention capacity, fostering soil erosion and decreasing soil biodiversity, which is the basis of soil biological activities. Soil degradation in agricultural systems is directly related to the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, the removal of the crop residues from the soil surface and the use of heavy machinery. Additionally, nutrient depletion is related to the absence of the fallow period in intensive agricultural systems and to the practice of monoculture, which deplete soil nutrients due to static nutrient demand. Therefore, crop rotation is critical to preserving and eventually improving soil health. Crops protect soil against soil erosion agents, improve soil structure by rooting, and enrich soil nutrients by providing organic matter and establishing symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria. Sustainable soil management is thus critically important to addressing the growing food demand caused by population growth.

Key Facts
  • 75-90 percent of people in developing countries depend on natural products as their only or main source of medicine.
  • The use of solid biofuels--including wood--is predicted to grow by 300 percent between 2007 and 2030.
  • About 20 percent of the world's pastures and rangelands, with more than 70 percent of the rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent.
  • Forests provide livelihoods for more than a billion people and are vital for conservation of biodiversity, energy supply, and soil and water protection.