June 22, 2017

CornsTalk: What Happens When Trade Agreements are Renegotiated?

U.S. agricultural exports have been larger than U.S. agricultural imports since 1960, generating a surplus in U.S. agricultural trade. This surplus helps counter the persistent deficit in non-agricultural U.S. merchandise trade. 

At the same time, leaders in Washington, D.C. have made trade a hot topic as they propose to rethink America’s current trade agreements and participation in trade talks.

Chris Novak, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, said there is some value in taking a second look at trade agreements to ensure that the U.S. is getting a fair shake. But there is a downside, especially when it comes to breaking apart multilateral agreements involving several countries and, instead, negotiating one-on-one with individual nations.

 “You’re more or less going back to Ground Zero, but now, instead of one negotiation, you have a dozen or more,” said Novak. “History has shown us that these negotiations are not something you can hammer out overnight. It can take three to five years or more—even with a bilateral deal.” 

Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council agrees. “You can’t use the words ‘fast’ and ‘trade agreements’ in a sentence at the same time,” he said. 
In the meantime, the U.S. stands the risk of losing valuable market share. “Not having trade agreements in place is going to provide an advantage for many of our competitors during a time when we’re fighting for access to every bushel of demand here at home and around the globe,” Novak added.

“If the U.S. is not part of a trade agreement, somebody else will fill that vacuum,” said Sleight. “A great example is the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) that the U.S. recently decided to exit. Obviously, China wants to fill that void with their own version of TPP and capture that rapidly growing market in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.” 

Q: If we don’t have a trade agreement in place, can we still sell ag products to other countries? 

A: Not having a trade agreement in place does not totally shut out the U.S. from doing business with a nation. But if there is no trade agreement, countries can establish quotas on the amount of product they import from any single country or impose duties and tariffs. If the U.S. has to pay a duty or tariff to ship its corn into a country—and a competitor such as Brazil, for example, does not—that puts the U.S. at a price disadvantage.

 To read more about trade in Nebraska click here to view the whole Spring 2017 CornsTalk publication.

CornsTalk: Global Market and Niche Products

Key International Cooperators Promote Nebraska Ag in Global Markets

 Through their corn checkoff, Nebraska corn farmers support the international activities of two major cooperators focused on developing export markets. Nebraska checkoff funds are leveraged with those from other states and stakeholders to obtain funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.

Niche products offer opportunity for Nebraska producers 

“A key to global growth for Nebraska ag products lies in identifying specific consumer preferences or expectations in a marketplace and matching our producers and our packers to supply that demand chain,” said Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. A great example is in Hastings, where WR Reserve, a beef processing company, has been approved by the Israeli government as a source for kosher beef for import. WR Reserve is the only Israeli-approved kosher beef facility in the U.S. and as a result, the company is planning a $4.5 million expansion that will add approximately 100 jobs to the Hastings area.

Officials celebrate the announcement of shipments of kosher beef to Israel from the WR Reserve facility in Hastings. From left: Dave Rippe, executive director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation; Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Fischel Ziegelheim, managing partner of WR Reserve; Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

To read more about trade in Nebraska click here to view the whole Spring 2017 CornsTalk publication.

CornsTalk: How Important is Mexico to Nebraska Agriculture?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that was implemented in 1993. “NAFTA has been a significant boon to Nebraska agriculture,” said Alan Tiemann, a Seward, Nebraska, farmer, Nebraska Corn Board Director and former chairman of the U.S. Grains Council. “It makes sense that we have free and open trade with our neighbors to the north and south.”

Since 1994, U.S. corn exports to NAFTA partners have increased by a factor of seven!

“The U.S. has a logistical advantage in terms of serving the Mexico market,” said Tom Sleight, President and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. “We can ship by truck, rail or water—and our proximity provides for lower transportation costs. We have a better grading system and a reliable supply of high quality corn.”
Top 5 Nebraska Exports to Mexico 

1. CORN [$287 million]
3. BEEF [$148 million]
4. SUGARS & SWEETENERS [$68 million]
5. DISTILLERS GRAINS [$43 million]

 Nebraska is especially well-positioned to serve the Mexico market. Several grain elevators and cooperatives have shuttle trains that go directly to livestock producers and food processors in Mexico.

To read more about trade in Nebraska click here to view the whole Spring 2017 CornsTalk publication.

June 21, 2017

CornsTalk: Trade Matters to Nebraska's Economy

With the productivity of U.S. agriculture growing faster than domestic demand, U.S. farmers and agricultural firms rely heavily on export markets to sustain prices and revenues. And while most of the corn produced in Nebraska stays in the state to be processed through livestock or ethanol plants, exports are still a critical factor in the economic success of Nebraska’s corn farmers.

“At the end of the day, a bushel of corn that leaves the U.S. for a foreign marketplace is a bushel of corn that adds value to the corn we grow and process right here in Nebraska,” said David Merrell, a St. Edward, Nebraska, farmer and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “About 1 in 3 bushels of U.S. corn is exported in some form. Without exports, that corn would stay here in the U.S., creating a huge surplus and depressing prices all across the country, including here in Nebraska.”

“Corn producers in Nebraska are especially well positioned to benefit from international trade,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “You have an abundant and reliable supply of corn, and you’re a top producer of red meat. More than one-fourth of your pork and about 14 percent of your beef is exported, allowing Nebraska to capitalize on the world’s growing appetite for high-quality red meat.”

This track record of abundance is a key reason behind Gov. Pete Ricketts’ increased emphasis on international trade missions. Since he took office, Gov. Ricketts has led missions to Japan, China and the European Union.

 Gov. Ricketts has placed a high priority on leveraging Nebraska’s global leadership in agriculture production and creating export opportunities for the state’s farmers and ranchers. “Our goal is to add value to every bushel of Nebraska corn we grow by transforming it into ethanol, distillers grains, biochemicals, and protein such as beef, pork, dairy and poultry,” Gov. Ricketts said. “These trade missions are focused on positioning Nebraska as a preferred provider of these products and creating sustained demand to keep our state’s top industry thriving.”

“Relationship building continues to be important, but we’ve shifted our primary focus during these missions to activities that have an immediate or near-term impact on demand and sales,” said Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. “We’re aggressively asking for the business, and it’s making a measurable impact. The China mission alone resulted in nine purchase agreements for Nebraska beef and pork exports to that nation.”

In Europe, the market share for Nebraska beef has grown from 5 percent in 2015 to 50 percent today, according to Ibach.

To read more about trade in Nebraska click here to view the whole Spring 2017 CornsTalk publication.

June 20, 2017

Nebraska Corn: Week Six

I cannot believe I have been the Nebraska Corn Board Communications intern for six weeks now! Time is flying! The last six weeks have been fun filled and full of educational opportunities.

Ethanol Night at the Races 
A major highlight of the past few weeks has been the American Ethanol Night at the Races. These events are my favorite because I not only get to talk to so many people about how great American Ethanol is, but I also get to explore Nebraska. I am from Omaha, Nebraska so heading outside of the metro area was a rare occasion for me. This internship has provided me with opportunities to visit Albion, Columbus and Beatrice. At these races, I met some of the growers in Nebraska and they are a great group of people! Everyone is so friendly and just as excited as I am to teach the public about ethanol and all that it offers. There is one race left at Greenwood I-80 on July 7th! Come visit Nebraska Corn!

Everyday I have a list of tasks that I plan to accomplish, some are daily and some are a surprise! No matter what, I know I will be kept busy. A lot of what I do includes working on social media. We are trying to increase the amount of people we reach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so if you haven’t yet, go like our pages! I have also really enjoyed being able to go out at take pictures of different cornfields in Nebraska. In my daily meetings with Kurtis, I am given a variety of jobs, this is the best because that means no day is the same. I am constantly learning new things, putting different skills to the test and striving to do better. I look back at my to-do lists from each day over the past six weeks and I am amazed by the amount and variety of work I have accomplished. I hope the next six weeks are just as busy and diverse!

Each Nebraska Corn intern is to complete a project. My project is focused on updating the CornsTalk: Kids Edition. This is a brochure with fun, education activities for youth to do and learn about corn! I have gotten to be creative and learn more about corn in the process! I have also been using Photoshop. This was a program I was not familiar with before and this project has helped me become more familiar. This is a skill that will come in handy in a number of projects, school and career. I am eager to see how the finished product looks!

I'm also working to develop a series of videos that will be posted to the Nebraska Corn YouTube page. These videos highlight each of the members of the Nebraska Corn Board. I shot my first video with Brandon Hunnicutt recently, and I am working on editing that together. I look forward to meeting each board member through this process throughout the summer!

Looking Forward 
While most internships are about halfway over, I am only one-fourth through. My internship is a yearlong! So while my summer might be flying by I am looking forward to the time I have left with the Nebraska Corn Board. Being on the corn crew has be a blast so far! Reflecting I have developed a better understanding of myself and applied what I have learned in the classroom. Looking forward, I am ready to take on new projects, meet even more amazing people and continue laughing with my coworkers. The positive environment I am surrounded by is one of the best parts of my job, tied with all of the educational opportunities I experience everyday.

Enjoy your summer! It’s flying by! 

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

June 14, 2017

Adjusting to Mexico

Waking up at 6:00 AM to the of sweeping of brooms across pavement, judging the day’s pollution based on how blurry the mountains are (today I can’t see them), hearing “blonde boy” in Spanish as often as my name – it’s clear that I’m not in Nebraska. My name is Stephen Enke and my internship has led me to Mexico City. Mexico City is a vast metropolitan jungle inhabited by over 21 million people. Traffic is a nightmare, and it’s common to commute long hours for better work opportunities. Living in Polanco, one of the wealthiest districts, it’s easy to see the stark difference in Mexican life.

While trying out a local coffee shop (Mexico has really good coffee), I met an employee named Ariel. He’s 23 years old, a university student, and contagiously optimistic. When not in class, Ariel works in Polanco, hopping from buses to subways for over two hours from his poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. He serves people with very different lives than his own (like myself), and he does so with constant enthusiasm and happiness.

For a couple of weeks now, I struggled to understand how someone in Ariel’s circumstances can be so happy. I’ve seen wealth and opportunity in Mexico City that rivals any U.S. city I’ve visited. I’ve also witnessed poverty and living conditions that are difficult to comprehend until you’ve seen them firsthand (and even still, I’d be na├»ve to believe I truly understand it).

In the wake of NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Board of Directors held their meeting in Mexico City. During their visit, I met Alan Tiemann, a former chairman of the USGC and current board member of the Nebraska Corn Board. One evening after discussing his travels to over 25 countries and his specific love for Mexico, he summed up his experiences. Mr. Tiemann said, “No matter what country I’ve been in and how different we may appear, I’ve never found anyone who hasn’t lit up when I show them a picture of my kids or grandkids, and they show me pictures of their own family.” Alan went on to provide this little kernel of knowledge “… and that’s what this life is about. We’re all here trying to provide for our family. We’re trying to give a better life to our children.”

It struck me that this may be the secret to Ariel’s constant supply of enthusiasm; he’s trying to create a better life for himself while providing for his family. Perhaps there is no greater purpose or unifying bond to humanity than the love for family and the desire provide for those around us. It describes a lone barista in the sea of over 21 million faces. It describes the farmer back home, growing seemingly endless waves of corn to provide food security for the world, but also (and maybe more importantly), for their family. And in the wise words of Mr. Tiemann, “that’s what life is about.”

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

From the Panhandle to D.C. Sprouting from my roots

For those reading at home, I am David Schuler and I am a Senior Animal Science Major at UNL. I grew up on a cow calf operation in the Scottsbluff area near Chimney Rock and also have pivot irrigated corn fields and hay ground. I found myself every day growing up entangled and enthralled with day to day operations of our ranch, which has yielded a passion of mine to learn from every situation. That mental process has now led me in to a classic row apartment 2 blocks east of the United States Capitol building. My neighbors are nice. They call them the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress.

This summer, through the support of the Nebraska Corn Board, I am interning at U.S. Grains Council in Washington, D.C. Their mission is to develop and mature commodity markets overseas through partnerships of corporate agricultural businesses, corn check-off programs, and government funding. So in short, we can thank them for their work of increasing exports and creating demand for our products we produce. I have only been in the city and in the job for a couple weeks, but I can tell this will not be my ordinary summer.

Up to this point in my life, you could find me, every summer of my existence, having a “job” on my family’s ranch. I’ve loved every bit of it. Learning day-to-day operations to strategic planning operations to managerial thinking, they have all been essential and meritable to what my future will entail. Yes, there were times I had other obligations and responsibilities, such FFA state office and agricultural conventions. But every time, I returned home to the 24/7 job of a family ranch. So you can say this experience at the U.S. Grains Council is a new as it gets, and I am SO okay with that.

If you look up the definition of “internship,” you get the results of “to gain work experience” or “to fill a qualification.” While this is true, there is so much more, especially for any agricultural internship. I am gaining relationships and finding my truest passion, while learning how to be a valuable asset on a team that performs and achieves tasks that I, myself, have greenhand experience. Which promotes growth. Seeing the other side of the agricultural industry will provide more perspectives for me moving forward. My passion for international markets was launched after my study abroad experience in South Africa last year, and this experience will help me understand foreign trade policies and regulation to an even higher extent. For instance, one of my main projects here in the office is to help set up Japan Media Teams coming to Nebraska and Missouri to take records of biotechnology and ethanol production this summer. Right now, I am setting up transportation, hotels and confirming the agenda of the trip with the help of the Nebraska Corn Board. I am happy I can use my Nebraska roots and the Midwest help consult to find the right farms and ethanol plants to visit. They will then use this material to promote United States ethanol and biotech crops in their home country. Can’t say I do that on the ranch.

Part of this internship experience will be memorable because of location (duh!) and people. In one week I have made numerous new friends from intern networking events and apartment mates (the “being on my own” feeling was gone within one hour of setting
my bags down). I have visited the National Mall, where the monuments are located, every moment I get, and my desire to learn has kicked in full force to hear and see the history the monuments have to offer. Even the transportation system has been a learning experience! But make sure if you ever come to D.C., label your personal items and don’t leave your new, one week old camera in a Taxi...Don’t worry mom, I got it back.

In summary, I am thankful to Nebraska Corn Board for allowing me this opportunity. I look forward to grow the scope of my knowledge and build on my college experience that will be purposive and genuine for rest of my adult life. So I better get to work!

Hello, Nebraska Corn Growers!

Hello, Nebraska Corn Growers!

I am Brooke Tempel, your new Nebraska Corn Growers Association intern for the next 2017-2018 year. I am going to be a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this coming fall, where I am majoring in Agricultural Education with minors in Agribusiness, Ag Economics and Horticulture. I grew up on an acreage west of Seward, NE. Growing up I was involved in 4-H and FFA. These programs sparked my interest in agricultural and persuaded me to pursue a career in agriculture. Although I never had the opportunity to grow up on a farm myself and personally experience the farm firsthand, I understand the impact that our local farmers and ranchers make in our community and world. I am excited to be able to advocate for our local producers and share their story through this internship.

In the first month of working here at the NeCGA office, I have learned a lot. My first week started off by attending an E85 American Ethanol Promo at the Kum & Go Station in Gretna. We teamed up with the Nebraska Ethanol Board and the Nebraska Corn Board. Governor Pete Ricketts also joined to help pump fuel and educate consumers on ethanol. I learned that many consumers lack an understanding of the benefits that ethanol provides to our environment and our producers, or they are skeptical of using something they are not familiar with.

In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to go to American Ethanol Nights at the Races, which is a blast! It is has been a great opportunity to get out there and promote our local producers. People either know a lot about ethanol or very little and that is when we as interns get to shine!

I have also been busy helping Morgan contact potential sponsors for the annual Corn Grower Open, July 24th in Kearney at Meadowlark Hills Golf Course. I am excited to take on this project and can’t wait to see the final product of getting everything organized and ready to go! If you are a NeCGA member you can still register your team by July 14th!

Other highlights of my internship have been getting to meet local corn growers at numerous events and supporting Domino’s Pizza for standing up for agricultural practices by saying “We will never tell a farmer how to farm. We will never tell a rancher how to raise his or her animals,” said McIntyre. “What we believe is they’re the experts. They have the most vested interest in raising their livestock. It’s not just a job, we recognize that. It’s a life and we appreciate that—and we’re not afraid to stand up and say it.” – Tim Mclntyre EVP of Communications Domino’s Pizza

It has been a fun-filled month here at NeCGA and I looked forward to the adventures ahead. I have learned considerably a lot about NeCGA and Nebraska Corn. Everyone here has been very welcoming and I could not ask for better people to work with.

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

June 12, 2017

My New Summer Home: National Corn Growers Association - St. Louis, Missouri

Hi! I'm Ranae Sieck, I grew up on a farm in southeastern Nebraska. It’s safe to say I was nervous moving to a city whose metropolitan area has one million more people than the combined population of my home state. Honestly, it took a while to get used to taking a five-lane interstate to work. I don’t
know if I will ever be used to the traffic jams and sitting completely still in places the speed limit is actually 60. But after three weeks in St. Louis, I can easily say that I am enjoying my new summer home.

I spent my first week here in the office learning about the different teams that make up the staff and
what the responsibilities of each are. This was a great opportunity to ask questions and learn what projects were happening here at NCGA. Week two was a very busy week on the public policy side of the organization because of the release of the President’s FY 2018 budget. This caused the beginning of new projects in the communications team where I work.

During my time here I have had the opportunity to write news of the day articles, design social media posts, do research for articles, create interview questions, and brainstorm ideas for my summer projects. I learned about the communications strategy of the organization, new and exciting research being done, partnerships being created with other organizations, and the effects of certain policy on the corn industry. I am very excited to continue doing these things and others as the summer continues!

This blog wouldn’t be complete without bragging a little bit about how amazing my coworkers are. They have been extremely helpful not only learning about NCGA but also giving me all sorts of great suggestions of unique foods (like Imo’s pizza with provel cheese and pork steaks) and must-see tourist attractions in the city. They are welcoming, fun, and supportive and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to work with all of them.

Outside of the office I have had a wonderful time exploring the city with new friends. I have met interns from different companies in the city who live at the same apartment complex as me. This has given me the opportunity to become friends with people from the east coast, west coast, and everywhere in between. We have gone to the zoo, explored Forest Park, and played a lot of sand volleyball. I can’t wait to see what other adventures will come during the rest of my summer with NCGA!

Ranae Sieck
National Corn Growers Association, National Office
632 Cepi Drive
Chesterfield, MO 63005
Office: 636.733.9004

My First Couple Weeks In Denver

Hi! I'm Michaela Clowser. This summer, I'm interning with the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Denver, Colorado. It has been an exciting first couple weeks in Denver so far.

On my first day, I had the opportunity to sit in on presentations given by some of the staff here at USMEF to a group from Singapore. The group was here for visits and collaboration with our office and participate in several other industry tours here in Colorado. Also, later that same afternoon, there was a group from the National Corn Growers Association from Chesterfield, Missouri. I had the privilege of meeting and talking with them. I experience what a small world we live in sometimes; one of the directors, specifically in market development was from my home town of Seward, Nebraska and both of our families’ attend the same church.

Later that week I spent time getting to know the office and the staff, everyone is very helpful and friendly. During my second week, I had the opportunity to go with most of the office to Arlington, Virginia for the summer Board of Directors meeting. It was very exciting to be a part of this event. Throughout the week there were Executive Committee meetings, general sessions with speakers, and separate committee meetings. 

It was exciting to meet the Executive Committee, international staff from USMEF, and all the members who attended. I enjoyed meeting the four committees: pork, beef, exporting, and oilseeds and feedgrains. In the Executive Committee meeting, the topics of discussion included; new members, budget and audit approvals, and what USMEF has accomplished so far in 2017. After the Executive Committee meeting, there were industry updates for pork, beef, and lamb. With my background and experiences in the beef industry, it was very interesting to hear about what the direction the industry is going. Traceability and the new potential market in China are the hot topics that were discussed. To explain further, traceability is the ability to track an animal from the time they are born to the time they are harvested. 

In the general sessions, we heard from Bruce Schmoll, USMEF Chair, Philip Seng, President and CEO of USMEF, Sen. Pat Roberts and Ziggy Duval, President of the American Farm Bureau. My personal duties that week included staffing the registration desk. This provided me a fun way to interact with all of the members. In addition, I helped set up and organize the committee meetings.

Overall, it was a great experience and I learned so much. I learned that Costco in South Korea has a new agreement to sell only U.S. produced meat, and one of those stores has the best and biggest meat case and section in the world. The representative from the USMEF office in Korea explained how popular this specific Costco store is in Korea. I also learned that U.S. pork is very popular in Japan and there is a symbol for the quality of U.S. raised pork, the symbol is Gochipo. Gochipo is a friendly pig cartoon character that became a mascot for U.S. pork in Japan. The mascot is featured in print and online media, on point-of-sale materials, on menus and outdoor advertisements. The Nebraska Corn Board was at the Board of Directors meeting and I was fortunate go out to dinner with them, it was a lot of fun and really tasty! 

Non-work related, I went to the mountains my first weekend here and went hiking on a trail by the little town of Idaho Springs, it was beautiful! Overall, I’m enjoying my internship and Denver and am excited for the rest of the summer!

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

June 5, 2017

Stages of Growth: Planting

As you drive through Nebraska, the fields that were deserted over winter now show signs of life. Some fields still need planting, many others are planted and a few are even beginning to emerge. Spring is planting season for many Nebraska corn farmers. They are hoping for the right combination of rain and sunshine to start their crops growing. Crops and farmers function based on three stages; planting, growing and harvest. This is what the growth stages are commonly called, but there is a science to the growth of corn.

Photo Credit: Payton McMillin
In order to reach maturity a corn plant needs to have a certain number of growing degree units (GDUs). These are based on weather and used to assess crop development. The accumulation of GUDs, corn development and length of time all help predict when these growth stages will occur. In general we think of spring as planting, summer as growing and fall as harvest. However, this system can help pin-point these stages.

Emergence and Stand Establishment (VE to V9)
The growth process for corn begins as soon as the seed is planted in the soil. The stages of growth have been labeled and categorized. Planting includes VE to V9.
  • VE Stage
    • After planted with the right moisture level and temperature the seed will start to grow and emerge through the soil around day four or five. If it is cool or dry this could delay the emergence by several weeks. 
  • V1 Stage
  • Photo Credit: Valeria Whitmore
    • This is when the corn plant has developed more and the first leaf has fully emerged. This typically occurs on day eight or nine after planting. This first leaf will have a more rounded tip, whereas the following leaves will have more pointed tips. 
  • V2 Stage
    • 12 to 15 days after planting a second leaf will appear and that is the marker for stage two. 
Photo Credit: Justin Mensik
  • V3 Stage
    • Stage three is a more monumental stage, the seed is no longer the main source of food. By this time the photosynthetic process has started. This stage is reached 15 to 25 days after planting. 
  • V4-V6 Stage
    • Over this time period the tassel and upper most ear are initiated and the kernel row numbers are determined. 
  • V7-V9 Stage
    • By these stages rapid growth begins to occur and eight leaves have formed. During this time, if the plant is stressed leaves may die. This is the point where the corn plant shifts from the emergent stages to the rapid growth period. 
Before we know it the emergence stage will have passed and we will be in the growing season. When you drive through Nebraska the fields that were once being planted will be filled with tall, green corn stalks. 

May 30, 2017

NAFTA Is A Landmark Economic Success Story

The Trump Administration has been vocal about its aim to renegotiate NAFTA—a move that has rightfully caused a ripple of concern among farmers and others in agriculture.

This past month we welcomed a Mexican trade delegation to Nebraska and Washington D.C. They participated in roundtable discussions with farmers, the ag industry and Congressional leaders to discuss the importance of NAFTA.

NAFTA or The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States in 1994. This agreement eliminated barriers to trade between these great nations. These reduced trade barriers have led to economic growth. NAFTA is a landmark success story for U.S. agriculture. One only has to look at the hard numbers for proof.

Over the past two decades, U.S. ag exports to Canada and Mexico tripled and quintupled, respectively, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is significant, given that every $1 in exports of grains and grain products generates an additional $3.23 in business sales across the U.S. The positive economic effects of corn exports benefit not only agriculture, but also wholesale trade, real estate, oil and natural gas production, and the banking and financial industries.

Looking at the impact NAFTA has locally, Mexico is Nebraska’s largest corn market, which provides $287 million into our state’s economy. Nebraska total ag exports to Mexico equates to $891 million and accounts for 34,000 local jobs. The Nebraska Corn Board attended this press conference and has released a statement on the modernization process of NAFTA.

While every agreement can be improved, the market access and tariff benefits U.S. grain farmers have under NAFTA are critical and must be preserved. We hope this week’s trade delegation will lead to positive discussions to maintain and improve our relationship with Mexico: a major partner in American agriculture.

Watch the press conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts.

May 26, 2017

A Bushel Of New Experiences

The Nebraska Corn Board’s (NCB) mission is to promote the value of corn by creating opportunities. I have seen nothing but opportunity in my internship so far. My days have been filled with a variety of tasks and my expectations have already been exceeded.

Hi! My name is Catherine Jones, and as the NBC’s Marketing and Communication intern, I have experienced quite a whirlwind.

The welcoming committee has been outstanding. The past interns, NCB staff and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) staff have been so encouraging and friendly throughout the whole process. Simply doing ordinary tasks with the right people can make them extraordinary tasks. This is experienced everyday of my internship. Working with these professionals has been outstanding. Let me share with you just a glimpse of my first few weeks.

I started my internship with training. By day two, I hit the ground running. The past intern traveled with me to Grand Island for the Groundwater Festival. We were there to teach the elementary students about corn and why water is so important to the industry. We taught the students about Nebraska corn. In the process, I was learning more and more about corn. I have always loved teaching, and this was a great first event to start off my internship!

On day three, I attended the Renewable Fuels Month proclamation with Gov. Pete Ricketts. This was the first event I attended, which would start the endless amount of networking opportunities I will experience over the next year. I met staff of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and learned the true importance of corn as a renewable fuel. As I continue my internship, I hope to be able to attend more events like this.

Press Conference with Gov. Ricketts discussing NAFTA 
Wow, talk about impressive. This was the first press conference I attended and it has set the bar high for ones in my future. I learned more about NAFTA and the corn industry all while participating in my first press conference. I was able to help capture footage of the press conference for the Nebraska Corn Board to use and I continued to learn about the corn industry. I grew up on a small acreage in Bellevue, Nebraska. I was extremely involved in 4-H and growing up in such an urban area, I thought I was very “ag literate.” However, after coming to UNL and meeting so many people from Western Nebraska, I learned that my 38-acre farm was a very small drop in the bucket. With this background, you can see why I am so thrilled to be learning more about a portion of the agricultural industry that is so important to Nebraska. At the press conference, I learned much more about the North American Free Trade Agreement, our partnership with Mexico and how important the two are to a sustainable future for Mexico consumers and Nebraska corn producers. Learning about what is happening in the industry and hearing from those involved has been a highlight, and I am sure it will continue to be. 

Ethanol Pump Promotion 
I was absolutely pumped for my first pump promotion! Even on a cold, rainy day I enjoyed my day at the Kum & Go in Gretna, Nebraska. I chose to be a communications major because I learned from my years in 4-H that I love face-to-face conversations about agriculture. I love visiting with people and informing them about modern agriculture. The Ethanol Pump Promotion was a day all about face-to-face communication. I spoke to many diffe
rent people about E15, E85 and ethanol in general. Seeing people get excited, or change their opinion, about this renewable fuel was so rewarding. Not only did I get to tell people about ethanol as a fuel choice, but again I also learned more about it myself.

“Other duties as assigned” 
My internship has included not only the events I discussed, but a few added extras. The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. My past few weeks have been nothing but extra, and I hope the following year looks the same. On top of these activities I have also done a variety of social media posts, E-ag letter, crop progress and more.

Out of all of these tasks, I think my favorite experience has been sitting at my desk working on something, Kurtis walking by and saying, “Hey want to go to a meeting (or event).” Of course I say “yes,” and out the door we go. This is my favorite because each time I am able to experience something new. Each time, undoubtedly, I learn.

I am a Junior Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I could not picture myself studying anything else, anywhere else. I can say the same about my internship. Learning what I have in the classroom has been great, but learning what I have in this internship is that “little extra.” Each day there is a new take away or an experience that is bettering me. I am so fortunate to have this chance, and I look forward to running with it.

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

May 23, 2017

Soil as a Carbon Sink


Carbon sinks are natural systems that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which have been identified as a factor in global warming. Carbon sinks tend to absorb—or “sequester”—a substantial volume of carbon dioxide while releasing a minimal amount.

Soil, along with oceans and forests, are the three largest carbon sinks on the planet. As a result, initiatives focused on continual improvement of soil quality are being viewed as an important strategy in addressing climate challenges.

“It’s becoming more clear that agriculture is about much more than simply growing an abundant supply of food,” said David Merrell, a St. Edward farmer and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Our initiatives to continually improve soil health are also important to the health of our planet.”

David Merrell
Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter and helps give soil its water- retention capacity, its structure, and its fertility. Through photosynthesis, a plant draws carbon out of the air to form carbon compounds. What the plant doesn’t need for growth is exuded through the roots to feed soil organisms, whereby the carbon is “fixed” or stabilized.

Healthier soils with more organic matter and improved integrity have greater carbon sequestration capability. That’s why many scientists and environmentalists see soil management as a critical strategy in reducing greenhouse gases. See what you can do to improve your soil management.

May 1, 2017

Goodbye Blog: Thanks a Bushel!

When I first walked into the Nebraska Corn Growers Association office in May of 2016, I entered with high hopes and anticipation to get started. Today, exiting my internship, I leave with a full heart and excitement to use the skills I have gained to better the agricultural industry. Although my feet are heavy to leave NeCGA as an intern, I am excited to find my part of the agricultural industry.

Throughout my internship, I have been able to gain knowledge in agriculture from a political and educational perspective. Although many of the projects I have helped be a part of will stay here at the office, this mindset will never leave me. I hope to give back to Nebraska’s corn industry by extending these findings to others, consumers and producers alike. This fall, I have an opportunity to educate high school students in agriculture at the Waverly High School agricultural education program through my student teaching experience. I am excited to take on this experience and live out my Agricultural Education Undergraduate Major in full swing. Although I am not exactly sure where my next fit in an agricultural related career will take me after my graduation in December of this year, I know that I will stay rooted in the industry and hope to become active in my soon to be local corn grower association, Hamilton County. As I will be marrying a farmer from Aurora, NE following graduation, we hope to tell the story of agriculture through our experiences as well as give back to NeCGA and the NE farmer. Thanks to NeCGA and NCGA’s hard work on influencing policy that benefits agriculture here in Nebraska and globally, we can do our best to be active in that process, helping out our state, neighbors, families, and ourselves.

Not only will the agricultural knowledge and advocacy skills come with me when I leave the office, but also my thankfulness for the NeCGA, NE farmer, and the staff I worked with. NeCGA continually goes above and beyond for the future of Nebraska’s farmers and agricultural industry; I was able to witness that first hand. The passion of the staff, board members, and members across the state was evident and contagious. The beautiful thing about it was that this passion was not fueled as benefit for self, but benefit for an industry that we all take part of. At work, I was continually reminded of why I was there. Thanks to the farmers across the state, we can eat, drive our cars, sit in our offices, and the list goes on and on and on… Without the agricultural industry, we simply could not do the things we do. Thanks to the farmers for their hard work day and night, it is possible for us to live the life we do as well as care for the Earth correctly. Finally, the staff I worked with every day have not only been impactful, but genuinely inspiring to my life as an intern and young professional. Each staff member took the time to invest in me to help me become my best I could possibly be at whatever I was doing. They have lead by example what it means to work hard for someone else, professionalism, and valuing a staff team. I hope to someday resemble them and their efforts in the work force.

Overall, I have enjoyed my internship immensely and could not be more grateful for the experience I have had. Although I am sad to say goodbye, I know that this is only a farewell as an intern. I am still going to stay involved and do my part in the agricultural industry, however/wherever that looks. Also, I am proud to announce that you will have a wonderful new intern joining NeCGA for this next year! Brooke Tempel, a fellow co-worker of mine at the Nebraska State 4-H office, is excited to become a part of NeCGA as the new 2018-2019 intern.

Thank you to everyone has been a part of my internship experience, from working on projects with me to simply saying hi, you have made it fantastic. I really mean it when I say, “thanks a bushel!”

Laura Lundeen
Communications Intern
Nebraska Corn Growers Association
1111 Lincoln Mall, Suite 308
Lincoln, NE 68508
Office: 402.438.6459

April 24, 2017

Corn planted above average at 17%

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending April 23, 2017, temperatures averaged two to four degrees above normal, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Significant rainfall was limited to a few north central counties and some eastern areas. Corn planting was underway in most areas and the first fields of soybeans were planted. There were 4.9 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 21 short, 69 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 24 short, 67 adequate, and 2 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Corn planted was 17 percent, near 15 last year, and ahead of 11 for the five-year average. Emerged was 2 percent, near 1 last year and average.

April 20, 2017

How Radishes Improve Soil Quality

How Radishes Improve Soil Quality

Greg Whitmore of Shelby is enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership, a national data-driven initiative that encourages farmers to incorporate strategies to improve soil health on their land. These strategies include growing cover crops, practicing conservation tillage and advanced nutrient management. Cover crops such as radishes, turnips, rye and other species are not only helping Whitmore improve the overall quality of soil on his land. Cover crops are also helping him keep the soil he has.

 “I got tired of seeing that soil blow away in the spring or wash away down the hill during a hard rain,” he said. “Cover crops have helped stabilize the soil and improve its overall quality. We’re already seeing significant return in terms of productivity and reduced input costs.”

 “The cover crops also suppress weed growth, so I’m saving money on herbicide and reducing impact on the environment by reducing chemical use,” Whitmore added.

Typically, Whitmore plants the cover crops immediately after harvesting his primary cash crop. The cover crops grow in the months after harvest, keeping the soil “active” long after the primary crop is taken out of the field. When the cover crops eventually die off in the winter or are killed prior to spring planting, they add organic matter to the soil as they decay.

Importantly, the cover crops also help the soil retain moisture and withstand erosion during winter winds and early spring rains. As the roots burrow into the soil, they create “channels” for better water infiltration, nutrient dispersion and soil stability.

Radishes and turnips have deep tap roots which capture nutrients that may lie beyond the reach of the primary crop such as corn or soybeans. By absorbing those nutrients, the cover crop brings those nutrients closer to the surface, where they become available once the cover crops die off.
Greg Whitmore

“I see the use of cover crops as a key sustainability strategy for my farm,” Whitmore said. “I reduce erosion, reduce weed pressure, improve the soil’s nutrient value and enhance soil moisture. It’s a systems approach to soil health that isn’t just about cover crops, but requires holistic management of fertility, water, nutrients, tillage and other practices.”

April 18, 2017

Is soil "alive"? What's the difference between soil and dirt?

Is soil "alive"?

"There are living components in soil such as microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and even mammals," said Neil Dominy, Nebraska State Soil Scientist. "The inert material-the minerals-are not alive. But everything around that inert material and within that system is living."

What's the difference between soil and dirt?

Neil Dominy
First of all, there is a difference. And according to Neil Dominy, the answer is pretty simple. "Soil is in place, dirt isn't. Soil has integrity and has structure, living organisms, and has been in place over time."

Dirt, on the other hand, is mobile. "Dirt is what's on the road, the bottom of your shoes or in the air. It's out of place," Dominy said.

A Unique Partnership Focused on Improving Soil Health

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative focused on identifying, testing and measuring management practices to improve soil health and enhance sustainable agricultural production.

Many farmers across the country are implementing innovative management practices that result in economic and environmental benefits. The Soil Health Partnership builds upon the work of these farmers to provide connections between on-farm practices and improving soil health.

The following organizations provide funding and/or technical support for the partnership:ƒ
  • Monsanto
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
  • Midwest Row Crops Collaborative
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Environmental Defense Fund

“We have assembled a diverse group of excellent partners in this program,” said Dr. Nick Goeser, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership. “They each bring a unique perspective to the program that challenges us to think about working with farmers and agronomists in new ways. Their input and engagement continues to be invaluable in our efforts to tackle difficult issues and develop effective solutions and strategies.” 

Discover more at: soilhealthpartnership.org

March 30, 2017

Soil - Where the Food Chain Begins

Nebraska farmers have known for decades that soil quality is the very foundation of sustainable crop production. We simply cannot produce the food we need on the scale we need without soil. Soil is the growing medium for much of the world’s food. Protecting, preserving and nurturing soils is critical to our ability to produce a reliable, sustainable food supply.

The food chain begins with soil

 What makes a soil "healthy?"

Nick Goeser, Executive Director of the Soil Health PartnershipSoil health is defined as the continued capacity of a soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that
sustains plants, animals and humans. According to Dr. Nick Goeser, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership, there are three major components that determine the quality or “health” of a soil:

Physical: The ability of the soil to hold water; the overall stability of the aggregate; the physical nature of the soil in terms of its texture, structure and compaction.

Biological: The presence of beneficial bacteria and fungi; organic matter such as roots and decaying vegetation; living organisms such as worms and insects.

Chemical: Levels of fertility including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients; soil pH; and the soil’s cation exchange capacity, a measure of the “electrical” environment within soil that determines its ability to retain water and nutrients.

 About 45% of a healthy soil is actually porous space made up of air or water. That’s the space where plant root systems can grow and where beneficial microbes can thrive.

“The key to soil health is to strike the right balance between all of these components,” Goeser said. “There is no one solution that works for all fields since soil types and characteristics vary greatly–even within the same field. But helping farmers better understand what impacts soil health and how they can better manage their soils is a huge step in terms of sustainability of this precious resource.”

In the photo: Standing in a soil pit near Shelby, Neb., Dr. Nick Goeser of the Soil Health Partnership speaks to a group of farmers about ways to improve soil quality.

For more information on soil and soil health, visit the Nebraska Corn Board's Winter 2017 issue of CornsTalk