July 30, 2013
Each summer, corn grower leaders and staff from state and national corn associations gather in Washington D.C. for a series of action team and committee meetings, visits with their respective state’s Congressional delegation and the semi-annual National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Congress.
The Nebraska Corn Board sponsored eight individuals that have been involved in the Nebraska FFA, 4-H or LEAD program to join these corn grower leaders to attend Corn Congress. This opportunity was invaluable to introduce the leadership group to policy development through the National Corn Growers Association, understand current issues (Farm Bill, immigration, RFS, etc), hear from leaders within various Federal Agencies, engage with policy leaders through Hill visits, and network with industry leaders to allow for growth in leadership development and agricultural policy knowledge.
Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board who accompanied the leadership group said it was encouraging to witness their enthusiasm and participation.
“They were not shy in asking our Nebraska delegation questions on the Farm Bill, Renewable Fuels Standard, Immigration and Trade,” said Hutchens. “They were also joined by three of the national interns sponsored by the Corn Board. The Corn Board is sponsoring internships with the D.C. office of NCGA, and the St. Louis office. Also an intern at the USGC office. They had the opportunity to hear Sec. Vilsack of USDA, briefed on trade issues by Darci Vetter the Acting Under Sec. of Farm and Foreign Ag Service (a native Nebraskan), and Jim Bair of the North American Millers Association.”
Natasha Hongsermeier, a delegate on the leadership tour described the trip as a wonderful experience. “I am truly a more knowledgeable and a more informed ag youth because of all of the experiences offer by our trip to Washington, D.C.”
Another delegate on the tour, Morgan Zumpfe, said, “This experience was awesome for me because it combined three of my favorite things: meeting new people, trying new things, and promoting agriculture. You can research the Farm Bill and polity as much as you want, but it isn’t quite real until you get to see it happen in real life.”
July 29, 2013
Food prices rose just 1.8% in 2012, the second-lowest annual rate in the last 20 years, according to recently released consumer price index (CPI) data, Geoff Cooper, VP of Research and Analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association shared recently.
The new data demonstrates the absurdity of the alarmist rhetoric coming from Big Food about the impact of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on consumer food prices. Indeed, annual food inflation has averaged 2.8% since the RFS was first enacted in 2005, compared to a 25-year average (1988-2012) of 2.92%.
Other interesting facts from the December CPI:
- Food inflation in 2012 was barely higher than general inflation, which totaled 1.7% for the year.
- Prices for “food at home” (i.e., groceries) in 2012 were just 1.3% higher than in 2011.
- Prices for “food away from home” (i.e., restaurants) were 2.5% higher, indicating that restaurants marked food prices up at nearly twice the rate as grocers.
- Prices for cereals and bakery products were just 0.8% higher.
- Meats, poultry, fish and egg prices were just 1.5% higher in 2012, less than the overall food inflation rate and the general inflation rate.
- Pork prices were actually lower in 2012 than in 2011.
- Spending on meats, poultry, fish and eggs comprised about 2% of overall expenses for the average American family.
- Prices for dairy and related products increased just 0.5% last year.
Use these facts the next time Big Food and Big Oil sound their bogus alarm bells about “skyrocketing” food prices and the effects of the RFS on food prices.
July 26, 2013
Crop progress is getting really interesting right now. If you don’t already follow the updates I encourage you to. We are receiving some wonderful pictures of corn tasseling and silking. Check out our Flickr page to see all the photos that are being submitted each week. We also post updates to Pinterest.
I decided to start posting a question every week on our Facebook and Twitter feeds that asks about corn facts or corn products. These questions will hopefully increase the activity on our social media pages. I have spent two full days now researching questions and then scheduling them to be posted on our social media outlets so if you see those posts you should take a second and answer them!
The final thing I have been working hard on is improving the Corn Board’s educational material for corn products. Starting in August there will be a blog each month about a different product that is made using corn! Some of the products that will be featured are fairly unusual. Also, soon to come will be updates and changes to our corn production section on the Nebraska Corn Board website. The goal of these projects is to increase consumer awareness of how important corn is to their everyday lives.
As you can tell, my big projects for the year are just getting started. Between these projects, State Fair, and the baby mania that is about to strike the office I’m sure I will keep busy!
July 24, 2013
July 23, 2013
Greetings! If it’s July, then it must be time for Corn Congress! This past week marked the annual ‘Corn Congress’ event in Washington, D.C., which is a national gathering of corn grower-leaders from across the country. Representatives from 28 states were in attendance. The Nebraska contingent consisted of Corn Board Members, Corn Board Staff, and Nebraska Lead Participants. I greatly enjoyed meeting those members of the Board who I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. Casey Campbell, the Nebraska Corn Board Intern at the National Corn Growers Association office in St. Louis had the opportunity to join us in D.C. as well; it was wonderful sharing stories and experiences with her.
During the beginning part of the week, the NCGA Committees held smaller breakout sessions. I participated in the Production and Stewardship Action Team (PSAT) meetings. The PSAT meetings focused on issues of sustainability. One of the most interesting sessions featured Rob Kaplan, Senior Manager of Sustainability at Walmart. Walmart is quite interested in pursuing sustainability initiatives throughout their supply chain, which obviously includes American corn producers. I believe it will be important for corn producers to engage themselves in conversations concerning sustainability initiatives, to ensure that they will indeed promote continuous growth while also observing producers interests.
One of the most important events of the week was the Corn Board elections. The Corn Board provides leadership for the National Corn Growers Association. Jon Holzfaster, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and a corn grower from Paxton, successfully sought reelection.
Secretary Tom Vilsack of the United States Department of Agriculture also made an appearance, in order to receive the President’s Award from NCGA President Pam Johnson. Mr. Vilsack implored the growers in attendance to send a strong message to their representatives in Congress, that they deserve a viable Farm Bill and other needed legislative programs.
Later in the week, I accompanied the Nebraska Corn Board to meetings with the Nebraska Congressional delegation, which were quite interesting. I also assisted the NCGA staff in setting meetings between Midwestern growers and Congressional members who hail from outside the Corn Belt. Nebraska Corn Board Member Dennis Gengenbach was one of the participants in this outreach effort, and had high praise for the meetings. I believe this was an important part of a larger outreach effort that agricultural producers have undertaken, to educate policymakers and consumers about corn production and recent notable successes and advancements.
As Washington heats up in the later summer months, it has certainly been nice to escape onto the water a little bit! In my fleeting free time, I have had the chance to venture out to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to go tubing on the Shenandoah River. I also had the chance to accompany a few NCGA staff and growers on a kayaking tour of the monuments, on the Potomac River.
July 22, 2013
|This corn is fully tasseled.|
Topsoil moisture supplies declined and rated 26 percent very short, 44 percent short, 30 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies declined this week as well rating 35 percent very short, 40 percent short, 25 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.
All corn conditions rated 4 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 50 percent good, and only 16 percent excellent. For irrigated corn only conditions rated 82 percent good or excellent, compared to the 75 percent average. For dryland corn conditions rated 45 percent good or excellent, compared to 68 percent average. The poorest dryland conditions were reported in South Central counties.
Corn silking was reported 50 percent complete which is well behind last years 85 percent average.
To view all crop progress photos submitted this week visit our Flickr and Pinterest pages.
|An up close view of corn tassels.|
*The Business Leaders "Virtual Roundtable" discussion was gathered for the Spring 2013 CornsTalk publication. The responses of these business associates were consolidated for the publication, but you can find the full responses through this blog series.
Dr. Ronnie Green, Vice President, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska
Harlan Vice Chancellor, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
How does Nebraska’s strength in agriculture – and corn, livestock and ethanol specifically – influence your business/organization? How does the fact that you are located in Nebraska provide a competitive advantage or growth opportunities for you?
Few other states ‘have it all’ when it comes to agriculture. The eastern part of our state at an elevation of 1,000 feet is great for growing corn, soybeans, sorghum, and alfalfa. The Great Plains provide ideal growing conditions for wheat and Western Nebraska’s elevation of 5,000 feet is perfect for dry edible beans, potatoes, and sugar beets. Nebraska is truly a natural living laboratory with more than 45 million acres of farmland, the world’s largest aquifer, and over six million cattle.
In the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources we are all about people, and the food, water and natural resources, and renewable energy that sustain them. Being located in Nebraska, the global epicenter of food production, allows us the unique opportunity to play a leading role in feeding the world’s people sustainably.
What should Nebraska do to leverage its strength in agriculture to enhance economic vitality across the state – and position the state for long-term success in meeting global demand for food, feed and fuel?
Providing enough food to feed 9+ billion people in 2050 is a daunting task. One of the key elements in serving a growing population is combining the momentum of all individuals who are passionate about seeing our agriculture industry and natural resource areas innovate and improve daily. We need to be aggressive in our development of new and improved technologies and management practices to continue to increase in our efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of agricultural production and combine those efforts with enhancements in the food supply chain to improve human health and quality of life. Lastly, we need to be innovative in how our balance of conversion of natural resources into food and fuel can be complementary to long-term environmental stewardship – with soil and water quantity and quality at the head of that list.
What do you think Nebraska consumers – especially those in urban areas – need to better understand about Nebraska agriculture and your organization’s relationship to agriculture?
There has never been a greater need for what we do to better feed, clothe, and sustain a healthy and growing world of people and our land and natural resource systems. The technologies we have available today, and the enhanced management and conservation practices commonly employed, make a significant difference. We must continue to elevate our investments in agricultural research, education, and extension to continue to make these innovations come to life.
There is no place at the moment where it is more exciting to be a part of the Land Grant university mission than Nebraska. Our research expenditures are up over 20%, private giving is at an all-time high, our 4-H program continues to lead the nation with one in three youth participating in 4-H, Nebraska FFA is thriving and currently boasts a national officer, and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources reached an all-time high in enrollment with over 3,000 students, the 8th consecutive year of growth. Plus, we recently announced 36 new faculty positions within IANR. We are truly on our way to being the top agricultural and natural resources program in the world.
How important is it that Nebraska corn farmers continue to invest in the future of their industry through their check-off?
Check-off dollars are vitally important for the continued investment in research and development of grain production and utilization. Improvements in research benefit both the producer and the consumer of grain products. Increased funding for research will always be a good return on investment. This is such a wise investment for corn growers, that it would be great to see continued growth in the check-off program funding levels to address the needs ahead.
What concerns you most about the future of agriculture in Nebraska? And what will it take to address those concerns?
Attracting and retaining the best and brightest individuals in agriculture is of greatest concern. The competition for talent is fierce and we must find ways to make it possible, and attractive, for future generations to be involved in all aspects of agriculture.
Water use efficiency is another area where we must continue to advance. The University of Nebraska, through the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, is bringing focus and momentum to leading global efforts in learning how to maximize the use of every drop of water in growing more food for an increasing world population with less available water.
Securing a healthy policy environment for profitable and sustainable animal agriculture is also of utmost importance. Today’s livestock farms and ranches in Nebraska possess the capacity to convert a wide range of grasslands and feed sources in the delivery of nutrient-rich food for human consumption. We must find new ways to increase the effectiveness of that delivery. Never before has the importance of animal agriculture been greater, or the challenge been greater in need to innovate the industry under a very different economic scenario.
Any other comments or perspectives regarding Nebraska agriculture that you wish to share?
In a nutshell – “ag is the new sexy and the University of Nebraska knows it”.
July 19, 2013
"Coming together in Washington right now provides us not only with an opportunity to work together in developing forward-facing, insightful policies for NCGA but also a chance to speak directly with our representation in the House and Senate at a critical moment," NCGA President Pam Johnson said. "We are engaging in important conversations that will help guide the association at the same time we advocate for corn farmers on the Hill. Whether we are debating farm policy, ethanol issues or many others, we have a unique chance to take our message and push for action in real time. "
NCGA's action teams and committees, small groups of growers charged with defining and implementing programs under their jurisdiction, work in a variety of subject areas to further the mission of NCGA in creating and increasing opportunities for corn growers. The major areas of focus include: ethanol; public policy; production and stewardship; trade policy and biotechnology; research and business development; and grower services.
"It's great to be able to get in and spend time with the lawmakers and their staff as having a physical presence, really putting a face and story with a name, truly impacts how they see policy playing out back home," Johnson said. "They always want and need to hear from the farmers personally and directly."
Corn Congress met on Wednesday and Thursday with reports from the chairs of the action teams and committees and farewell remarks from outgoing board members.
Find pictures from Corn Congress on NCGA's Flickr.
July 18, 2013
- Understand imports and exports of ethanol and distillers grains
- Understand transportation logistics of rail and barge facilities
- Broaden consumer education and outreach of ethanol
|Participants on the trip from Nebraska, Iowa,
Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Texas
July 17, 2013
I know that the sport of bobsled isn’t on the minds of many people other than the athletes and coaches that are looking forward to competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics. It is the middle of July and, in the United States, baseball is primarily the popular sport right now. In fact, the baseball all-star game is being played this week in New York. Despite playing college football, baseball is my favorite sport to follow. And I don’t think there could be two sports more different than bobsled and baseball.
I’m a guy that likes math, numbers, and statistics. And in baseball, everything is recorded and there are stats on every action. Slugging percentage, quality starts, defensive indifference, blown saves, and left-on-base are just a few statistics that may sound ridiculous, but they have significant meaning to a baseball manager. From these statistics, I like the mental games within the game of baseball. Baseball managers and players make decisions based on percentages and odds rather than hunches and guesses. In addition to strength, speed, and power, it is clearly a thinking game. There is no time limit or clock and no excuse to be out of position or unprepared at any time or pitch. Despite what Skip says in the movie Bull Durham, baseball is more than just “throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball.” The American Pastime is a game of mental strategy and execution.
In many ways, bobsled is the exact opposite. There is zero time to think in a bobsled. Sleds rocket down the ice on the edge of out-of-control at speeds over 90 mph. A sled and four men tipping the scale at nearly 1400 pounds carries enough momentum that it may take almost a quarter mile of braking to stop. Drivers must develop millisecond instinct that tells them where to steer the sled instead of planning, thinking, and executing a planned course for the sled’s path. A coach can do nothing to help the team once the sled has left the starting block. There is no time to make adjustments and change strategies in mid-flight down the track.
Maybe being a fan of both sports feeds my desire for balance and completeness. Opposites attract, but what opposites are you attracted to?
July 16, 2013
I have learned that interning at the National Corn Growers Association means traveling to many different places, meeting lots of new people from all parts of the industry and always staying busy. Lucky for me, that’s exactly the way I like it.
Earlier in the week I was able to travel up to Bloomington, IL for CTIC’s Conservation in Action Tour. We spent the day learning about soil health, nutrient management, and drainage water management. Because of my past experience working in a soils lab and helping finish a water quality project here at NCGA, not only did I understand what was going on at all the presentations throughout the day, but I really enjoyed it. I also relished in the fact that I was able to meet someone who used to live in Omaha. Despite the fact that she now claims Iowa as home, it’s always fun to go somewhere new and still find fellow Nebraskans.
This Sunday I will be leaving for Washington D.C. for Corn Congress and NCGA’s Action Team Meetings. I will be taking notes for our Ethanol Committee, attending Corn Congress and accompanying Nebraska’s delegates and staff on Hill visits. While I have visited DC before, I can barely remember it, so I am really looking forward to any opportunities I may have to explore the city.
I have been focusing especially on our social media presence here at NCGA. Keeping up with our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as my own internship blog is practically a full time job in and of itself. I think it’s definitely been paying off though. Our followers are continuously increasing as well as our reach. I am very proud to say that of all the people who interact with our Facebook page, Lincoln, NE has maintained the spot as the number one city that we reach since I started working here.
All in all, I absolutely love NCGA and the state of Missouri, but still, no place beats Nebraska.
The event is scheduled for Thursday, July 25th at the Wild Horse Golf Club in Jobman's hometown of Gothenburg. Proceeds benefit the Nebraska Corn Growers Foundation. Major sponsors this year include Valmont Industries and Plains Equipment Group. The night before NeCGA be holding an event at the Monsanto Water Utilization Center near Gothenburg. If you've never seen what's happening at this world-class facility or would like to know more about it, you are invited you to attend. There is some groundbreaking technology and research happening here that will have a dramatic effect on our use of water to grow crops in the future.
If you want to play in the Corn Grower Open, you need to register and pay in advance. You can save $10 per player and $50 per team if you register and pay before July 15th. Your fee includes 18 holes of golf, cart, lunch and the chance at a number of prizes from our sponsors. To register or to find out more, contact the Nebraska Corn Growers office at 402-438-6459.
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July 9, 2013
|This corn field near Sumner is almost completely canopied.|
Statewide, producers had 6.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 14 percent very short, 39 short, 46 adequate, and 1 surplus, well above previous year. Statewide, subsoil moisture supplies rated 25 percent very short, 35 short, 40 adequate, and 0 surplus.
|We laid out pipe this past week for irrigation, but also|
received 0.3 inches of rain Sunday evening.
All crop progress photos can be viewed at Pinterest or Flickr.
In mid-June, the National Corn Growers Association hosted a planning meeting in Bettendorf, Iowa, with a special emphasis on engaging younger farmers in their association.
I had the good fortune to attend, along with three other young Nebraskans including Mat Habrock, field services director for the Nebraska Corn Growers Association; Lance Atwater of Hastings, a recent UNL grad and NeCGA member; and Amanda Vodvarka from Dodge, a student in the Corn and Soy Mentoring Program.
Listen for more!
July 8, 2013
By Michael Chao, USMEF intern
I can’t believe it has been almost two months here at USMEF, and I have learned so much about exports in a way that I could never have imagined. Since my last blog, I have completed my animal health fact sheet focusing on explaining how animal diseases affect trading, a beef dry-aging guide for foreign importers and another fact sheet on how USDA quality grade affects palatability.
Let’s talk about the animal disease fact sheet first. From a meat scientist prospective, I worry about food safety, but mostly at the human level, such as food poisoning from E. Coli 0157. I never think about how animal diseases can affect exports. However, in the meat trading world, it is a completely different story. Governments, including the U.S. government, usually place strict import requirements on meat because of their worries regarding animal disease transmission from meat. For example, many countries have trade barriers on fresh U.S. pork because of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Even if PRRS is not transmissible to humans, these countries are afraid of PRRS transmission to their herds through feeding of raw swill that could contain contaminated pork. Therefore, eliminating many key animal diseases such as brucellosis, PRRS and scrapie can really help to boost the export business.
I have also completed a beef dry-aging guide for international importers. It is basically a "dry-aging for dummies" booklet that teaches importers how to dry age U.S. beef in their countries. It will eventually be translated into many different languages and distributed to importers through USMEF international offices.
My most recent work is the fact sheet promoting USDA Quality Grades. This fact sheet focuses on showing consumers that marbling and physiological maturity have direct effects on tenderness, flavor and juiciness, and as USDA Quality Grades advance, the consumer eating experiences improve.
I am currently working on organizing each state’s status on the new Animal Disease Traceability rule. We, as a country, are often attacked by other major beef exporting countries for lacking traceability. It is absolutely essential for the U.S. cattle industry to implement full traceability if we want to compete at the global level. There are so many more topics for me to work on in the near future, and I will update you all again in a month. I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July!
Hello from my family at Rocky Mountain National Park!
July 5, 2013
A group of Nebraskans is packing its bags for Japan as part of a mission coordinated by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The group departs on Sunday, July 7 and will return Saturday, July 13. The Nebraska Corn Board is sponsoring the Nebraskans on the mission.
The focus for this mission is an opportunity for U.S. beef and corn producers to assist in U.S. beef promotions and trade activities in the one of the busiest meat purchasing seasons.
Participants will have meetings with the U.S. Embassy, retail and importer discussions, interaction with over 500 meat buyers at a meat symposium, and a U.S. beef activity in the Sendai region of Japan. Main talking points will include the continued safety of U.S. beef that is LT 30 months and younger, as well as promotion of the quality of U.S. corn fed beef.
Nebraskans on the mission will include:
- Mark Jagels of Davenport, a corn farmer and beef producer. Mark is on the Nebraska Corn Board and is the chair-elect of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
- Tim Scheer, corn producer from St. Paul. Tim is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.
- Dale Spencer, a beef producer from Brewster, and president of the Nebraska Cattlemen
- Kyle Cantrell, corn and beef producer from Anselmo
- Doug Parde, corn and beef producer from Sterling
- Dave Buchholz, president of David & Associates in Hastings, who is handling communications and media services during the mission
The mission of USMEF is to increase the value and profitability of the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries by enhancing demand for their products in export markets through a dynamic partnership of all stakeholders. Simply put, USMEF is "Putting U.S. Meat on the World's Table."
Please follow daily updates from the team through the Midwest Corn Growers Study Tour blog! You can sign up for automatic updates during the mission by visiting this page (http://midwestcorngrowers.blogspot.com) and entering your email address in the upper right of the home page.
July 4, 2013
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been unfairly and erroneously singled out as the sole contributor to the rise in obesity and diabetes in the United States. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that HFCS is uniquely responsible for either condition.
There are a number of factors involved in this health crisis—and no single food ingredient is responsible. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that obesity and diabetes rates have climbed steadily since the year 2000—even as per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup has declined steadily for 12 years.
So clearly, HCFS is not the problem. The problem is bigger than any one food ingredient. It's really about lifestyle and choice.
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July 3, 2013
July 2, 2013
|Happy 4th of July from the Nebraska Corn Board|
Knee high by the Fourth of July was the traditional way of knowing if your corn is on track to successful yields. Thanks to biotechnology though this isn't the most accurate saying anymore. Biotechnology in corn seeds has improved plants efficiency and we are seeing record yields. This means that in an average year most biotech corn fields will be taller than your knee by the Fourth of July. It has been hard to see these improvements the past two years with the drought and then unseasonable weather this year that all but halted planting in most regions but hopefully we will be back to normal here soon.
Another improvement due to technology is irrigation needs. As much as we don't want to lay irrigation pipe or turn on those pivots here in Nebraska we have needed to take those steps again this year. Luckily for farmers biotechnology seeds are more drought resistant and get more benefit from every drop of water than ever before. In addition to the seed technology we have also developed irrigation technology that makes it easier to manage how much water you are applying to your field. Farmers now have the option of putting a chip in their fields that tells them how wet the soil is. This is making it possible for modern farmers to better conserve water which helps both the environment and the farmer's checkbook. Other technological advancements have made it possible for farmers to receive a text message on their phone telling them if something has gone wrong with their pivot. All this reduces the amount of time needed each day for checking your fields to make sure the pivot is still running properly. Finally one of the best advancements in my mind is the ability of pivots to shut off at a certain point by themselves. This has been made possible thanks to GPS. Being a teenager growing up on a row crop operation it was my job to run from pivot to pivot checking their position and reporting their statuses back to my father. Thanks to our new GPS pivots I am now able to take a nap instead, or in most cases I am free to do a different chore.
|Photo from a field near Holdrege, NE|