July 29, 2015

Exploring the Ag Industry: From St. Louis to Washington DC and Back Again!


By Emily Scholting, National Corn Growers Association Intern. 

Hello again! I can’t believe it’s been about a month since my last internship blog. Time is flying by here in St. Louis. I’ve kept busy learning about the corn industry, meeting new people, acting like a tourist, and having a lot of fun!

So much has happened since I got here that I barely know where to begin. I’ve been working mostly on the same set of projects, but I’ve also gotten to participate in a number of other experiences within and outside the NCGA office. My major project for the summer has really started to take shape, as I have compiled quite a bit of information on agricultural coexistence and I am working with NCGA’s Director of Biotechnology and Economic Analysis to turn these facts into a usable resource. I have learned not only about the current and former debates concerning coexistence, but also about some of the practices growers can use to ensure successful coexistence on their farms. This is especially important for a state like Nebraska, where so many value-added crops are produced in the same area. I have also continued my research with plant phenotyping technology, particularly that which can be used in agricultural fields for remote sensing applications. I have been working with NCGA’s Director of Research and New Uses to put together a list of several technologies and devices that have been developed which could potentially advance the study of plant phenotyping for agriculture.

Outside of the NCGA office, I have had the opportunity to attend meetings with several participants from all over the agriculture industry. Last month, I accompanied some of the NCGA staff to a meeting with Turkish seed association representatives about the American seed and agriculture industries. I spent last week in Washington, D.C. at NCGA’s national Corn Congress with the rest of the staff. I had the chance to attend several meetings with industry leaders, staff, association leadership, and corn grower delegates from all over the United States. Presentations from several notable individuals, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, offered valuable insight into some of the major issues facing agriculture today, as did the responses from growers to those presentations. While we were in D.C., a rally was held on Capitol Hill to protest proposed cuts to the RFS by the Environmental Protection Agency. These cuts in the Renewable Fuel Standard would represent great losses in demand for corn ethanol, and corn farmers showed up in force to raise their concerns. It was definitely an amazing experience to see so many farmers, leaders, and industry representatives standing up for their cause in our nation’s capital. I also spent some time catching up with members of the Nebraska Corn Board and NE Corn Growers Association, accompanying them to meet with Senator Deb Fischer on Capitol Hill. Though it was a busy week, I did get to explore a bit of the city with some of the NCGA staff, including a walk past the White House and a few evenings spent on the town.
 Because I can’t resist spending some of my downtime in St. Louis acting like a tourist, I have spent several weekends exploring all the amazing things this city has to offer. Through the kindness of my amazing host family and members of the NCGA staff, I have seen several parts of the St. Louis area that were previously foreign to me. The city of St. Louis is divided into several suburbs and neighborhoods that are each as unique as the people who live there. In my time here, I have played pinball in Maplewood, walked through the Loop, played darts at Blueberry Hill, and sampled some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had on the Hill. I’ve also gotten to see Forest Park, the Chinese Lantern Festival held at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the St. Louis Zoo, the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch, Ballpark Village, and Busch Stadium. I recently went on a tour of the famed Anheuser-Busch brewery in the city, and got to see some of the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales. There is still so much I’d love to do in my remaining time here. St. Louis is definitely a city with something going on all the time!

Finally, I can’t say enough about how gracious and awesome everyone in St. Louis has been so far. I am so thankful to have found such a great group of people in this city, from my host family to the NCGA staff to everyone else I’ve met along the way. They have been kind enough to allow me to learn from them and work with them, as well as show me around unfamiliar places. I couldn’t ask for a better group to share my summer with this year. I’m so looking forward to what the rest of the summer has in store. Until next time!

July 28, 2015

Scattered Rain Facilitates Crop Development

Photo Courtesy of Heartland FFA Chapter
For the week ending July 26, 2015, Nebraska experienced near normal temperatures throughout the State, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Portions of the southeast received up to four inches of rain, while the rest of the State generally saw totals amounting to one inch or less. The combination of warm conditions with scattered rain facilitated crop development in most areas, although locations with minimal rainfall reported dry land stress.

There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 24 short, 66 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 21 short, 71 adequate, and 3 surplus. Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 20 fair, 57 good, and 17 excellent. Corn silking was at 83 percent, near 82 for both last year and the five-year average. Dough was at 11 percent, behind 21 last year and 16 average.

Photo Courtesy of David City 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.

July 24, 2015

Making rain to grow corn

July in Nebraska is typically irrigation season. Now for many farmers this summer, irrigation has looked a little different because of the plentiful rains. But there are still reasons to irrigate the crop.

Timing is everything in "making rain" for corn to grow. And UNL has done a lot of research on water-use efficiency with irrigation.

Learn a little bit from Nebraska corn farmer, Kyle Cantrell, about how irrigation works in this :30 second YouTube video


Here are some Nebraska irrigation facts from UNL's Ag Econ Department:

  • Irrigation is a vital component of Nebraska’s productive agricultural economy. 
  • Irrigation begins with the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers. It covers about 174,000 square miles. 
  • Nebraska is the fourth largest user of groundwater in the nation behind California, Texas, and Arkansas.
  • Of approximately 55 million acres under irrigation nationally, about 15% are located in Nebraska.
  • About three out of eight cropland acres in Nebraska are under irrigation.
  • Nebraska is the #1 irrigated corn state!

July 23, 2015

Nebraska Corn Urges Farmers to Submit Comments on EPA Ethanol-Reduction Proposal

The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association are issuing an urgent call to action to Nebraska farmers to once again get vocal about recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would reduce the nation's commitment to renewable fuels.

Nebraska Corn strongly encourages Nebraska farmers to submit comments to the EPA expressing their displeasure with the proposed renewable fuels reduction. 

A portal has been established on the Nebraska Corn Board website and the Nebraska CornGrowers Association website, under the icon “Don’t Mess with the RFS.”  This icon links directly to a comment submission form and suggested verbiage on the National Corn Growers Association’s website.

The comment period will close on Monday, July 27, 2015.   

In a statement, Nebraska Corn leaders expressed great disappointment and concern regarding the recent proposal from the EPA to slash the required amount of conventional biofuels in the nation's fuel supply for 2015 and 2016. EPA proposes to adjust the conventional biofuel requirement that is mandated in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed by Congress, downward by nearly 2.6 billion gallons.

"Agriculture was once again placed in an unstable position by EPA when they released their long overdue RFS proposal," said Tim Scheer, farmer from St. Paul, Nebraska and Chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. "It is absolutely imperative that farmers get engaged in the comment period if we have any prayer of getting EPA to increase the proposed figures to the original congressional statue of 15 billion gallons for 2015 and 2016. All the work and investment that Nebraska corn farmers have put into building the ethanol industry is at risk. We've already seen corn prices drift downward to the cost of production."

Nebraska Corn Growers Association President, Larry Mussack of Decatur, Nebraska added, "This proposal plays right into the hands of the oil industry, which has been pulling out all the stops to prevent loss of market share to renewable fuels such as ethanol. American farmers and consumers were promised the opportunity to utilize an American-made, cleaner, renewable alternative to oil. This proposal not only ignores that agreement, but diminishes the cost-saving options that American Ethanol provides in the marketplace for consumers.” 

July 22, 2015

Agriculture Around the World


By Greg Sullivan, USGC International Intern, Panama City, Panama.

Well, I have been in Panama for roughly two months now and I can say with absolute certainty that my experience thus far has yet to disappoint me. It has been a rush to say the least and that was only bolstered by a recent trip to Colombia for the Regional Buyers Conference.

The conference, sponsored and organized by the USGC, was a flagship program for the Panama office as our staff continues to create and drive demand for American coarse grains and co-products. This particular event focused primarily on Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) for which nearly 40% of the global market for DDGS was represented by the attendees. Speakers addressed topics related to the production and value of U.S. corn ethanol, corn gluten feed and meal, and DDGS as well as the logistical and supply chain advantages employed by U.S. companies in sourcing and delivering these products to consumers around the world. While the speech topics provided interesting insight into the current and future projects of the markets for the respective products, the real value of the conference for the participants was derived from the networking opportunities. One such opportunity, pictured above, was a participant reception that was held on the final night of the conference. While the future economic impacts of this conference will not be known for some time, having more than 110 participants on hand and interacting with one another is an excellent sign and strongly supports an optimistic outlook.

Outside of the employment role, Panamanian life has been pleasant. I have been fortunate enough to visit some of the more scenic areas of the country, one of which has been pictured below. This picture was taken off the northern coast of Panama on a remote island in the San Blas island chain. Getting to and from the island can be a bit tricky due to it only recently becoming a destination location. There is a 40 km stretch of semi-paved road through a mountainous jungle that is notorious for causing foreigners to suffer from motion sickness. Once you reach the port and after having paid your visiting tariffs and fees to the indigenous tribe that owns the islands, you have to take a 30-minute skiff ride to the island. And if that isn’t enough to whet your adventure whistle, you also have to deal with vehicle and passport inspections due to the proximity of the islands to Colombia and the potential for drug trafficking in the area. Patience and a strong stomach would suit you well, but in the end it is well worth the effort.

July 21, 2015


American Ethanol is giving away 1 pair of tickets to see Lee Bryce at FrogFest 2015 every weekday until Friday, August 7th!  All you have to do is tweet "why you love American Ethanol" using the hashtag #ILoveAmericanEthanol for a chance to win!

See the photo below or visit @AE_Nebraska to learn more about this contest!

Corn Silking Ahead at 63%

Photo Courtesy of Heartland FFA Chapter
For the week ending July 19, 2015, temperatures averaged two to three degrees above normal across much of the State, with widespread precipitation reported, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rainfall totals of two inches or more were recorded in portions of central and northeast Nebraska, with lesser amounts elsewhere. The hot, humid conditions continued to boost crop development, but stressed livestock. Wheat harvest was near completion in southern counties, and was active in the Panhandle.

There were 5.9 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 23 short, 66 adequate, and 6 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 19 short, 72 adequate, and 4 surplus. Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 21 fair, 57 good, and 16 excellent. Corn silking was at 63 percent, ahead of 58 last year and the five-year average of 57. Pasture and range conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 5 poor, 21 fair, 60 good, and 12 excellent. Stock water supplies rated 2 percent very short, 8 short, 88 adequate, and 2 surplus.

Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
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.

July 17, 2015

Social Soil: Facebook

*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.*

Facebook is probably the most popular when it comes to social media. It allows for easy interaction among friends, colleagues, businesses, brands, companies, organizations, and more. For agriculture, Facebook gives us a voice and a platform to many people (and consumers) who we otherwise wouldn't be able to reach. Here are a few fun Facebook user stats from the most updated Digital Marketing Report.

  • 1.44 billion monthly active users 
  • 72% of online adults visit Facebook at least once a month 
  • 936 million people are daily active Facebook users 
  • 21 minutes is the average time each user spends on Facebook per day
That's a lot of people and a lot of time spent on Facebook! All the more reason that farmers and ag industry organizations alike need to be engaged on the Facebook platform sharing educational information, pictures, video, memes, and more.

There are different ways to interact or be involved on Facebook. You can have a personal page that describes who you are and you can post whatever you want. There are "fan" pages or company/business/brand pages that allow you to create a page that corresponds with your business - say a family farm page. There are also groups - they can be private or pubic - that you can start or join. Groups encourage more interaction where discussions are started and more information is shared.  

Here are a few great examples of how people in agriculture are doing a great job on Facebook agvocating. 

Most websites have a corresponding Facebook page that they can route info to from their website and reach different demographics. Agriculture.com (among many) is one of those who does a good job at posting pictures and directing Facebook users back to their website.

Family farm pages are perfect for sharing what you do on the farm and allowing people outside of your "friends" to see what you do on your farm. Two great Nebraska examples are Schwarz Family Farms and Weeks Family Farms.

Schwarz Family Farms raises organic crops and produce in Gosper County. Their family has been farming for over 100 years and they have a great story to tell.

Weeks Family Farms is in South Central Nebraska raising popcorn, white corn, yellow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, prairie hay and their kids.

A public group on Facebook that is popular with women in farming and ranching is the "Women in Agriculture" group. This group is public meaning anyone can request to join (private groups only allow you to join with an invitation). The goal of the Women in Ag group page is to help connect and uphold farm women in all dimensions of their farm and family life. Here, you'll find useful information for all of your jobs on the farm, from managing the business to raising kids, plus a place to talk with other farm women.

Lastly is a no-brainer: be sure to follow the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association Facebook Pages! 

So your challenge for this next week: if you're not already on Facebook, consider getting an account and sharing what you do as a farmer. It may seem mundane to you, but you'll be surprised how many people will really find it interesting and possibly change their misconceptions about agriculture.

If you are on Facebook, how can you engage with your consumer? Try posting a short video clip from your phone (we're talking simple!) when you're out checking the irrigation pivots, getting machinery ready for harvest, or feeding your cattle. Explain what you're doing - it's simple, educational, and people get to see you (a farmer) on a farm working hard to raise food!

Read other Social Soil posts here!

July 15, 2015

Continuing the Conversations of Nebraska Corn

For the past few weeks, I have kept very busy in and out of the Nebraska Corn Board Office. I am really enjoying the projects I have been working on, and the events I have been able to attend. On a weekly basis, I have been posting crop progress updates Tuesday's, and on Friday's I post a #FunFactFriday info-graphic that I have designed for the week. I have found that the info-graphics are a great hit and they are a wonderful way to share the message of the Nebraska Corn Board through social media.

As my internship continues to fly by, I am constantly learning more about the corn industry and becoming a better communicator through the process. Not only have I been busy in the office, but I have been out of the office on many occasions as well. Below are some photos of events I have attended along with projects I have been working on...

On June 28, I was able to attend the I-80 Ethanol Night at the Races in Ashland, NE with Sam, the Corn Growers Intern and Victoria, a Corn and Soy Mentor. This was such a great experience being able to promote ethanol at this fun event.
On July 8, I traveled to Omaha, NE for a Storm Chasers baseball game, and the theme for the night was "Ag Night." I met up with Morgan, from the Corn Growers Association and Emily, a Corn and Soy Mentor. I had many great conversations with consumers about the corn industry, and received many great questions regarding ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard. It was rewarding being able to share my knowledge of the corn industry with those who aren't around agriculture on a day-to-day basis.
On July 9, I attended the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute Career Fair on UNL's East Campus. I spoke with high school students from all over the state about opportunities with the Nebraska Corn Board such as internships and scholarships. Since I was in these student's shoes just one year ago, I was able to have such great conversations with them.

July 14, 2015

Hot Conditions Boost Crop Development

For the week ending July 12, 2015, temperatures were cool during much of the week before turning hot over the weekend, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Significant rainfall was limited to southern border counties, as well as parts of north central Nebraska and portions of the lower Panhandle.  The seasonably hot conditions boosted crop development. The heat and high humidity stressed livestock. Wheat harvest progressed in southern counties.
Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork.  Topsoil moisture supplies rated 4 percent very short, 19 short, 71 adequate, and 6 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 4 percent very short, 18 short, 73 adequate, and 5 surplus. Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 21 fair, 58 good, and 15 excellent. Corn silking was at 22 percent, behind 29 last year and the five-year average of 30.
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.