November 30, 2008

Presentation covers topics of interst to corn growers

Nebraska Corn Board member Curt Friesen gave a presentation to the York County Corn Growers annual banquet recently - and it was written up in the York News-Times.

He addressed everything from ethanol to livestock to food prices to Prop 2.

Check out the article here.

High fructose corn syrup gets 'bad rap'

In this article, dietitian Brooke Douglas reports that high fructose corn syrup is simply a sweetener with a bad rap.

Here are a few lines:

Actually, most people don't realize that HFCS is composed of the same sugars found in table sugar and honey -- fructose and glucose -- in virtually the exact same ratios.

What HFCS does not do for us is make us fat! If consumption of HFCS has increased, then so have all other food categories. Obesity is becoming a more global problem each day, yet high-fructose corn syrup is used very little -- or not at all -- in many countries where obesity rates are rising.

For more information on HFCS - click here and here. That second link takes you to a post on the efforts by the Corn Refiners Association - who are working hard to spread the facts about HFCS.

November 24, 2008

Corn harvest in home stretch

A week of mostly dry weather allowed Nebraska corn producers to move from 67 percent of acres harvested a week ago to 82 percent complete as of yesterday (November 23), the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today.

Although that is a sizable and important increase, corn producers are still behind a year ago, when 99 percent of the crop was in the bin, and the five-year average of 96 percent completed. Nevertheless, piles of corn are a common site at many grain elevators, who are working feverishly to dry corn and move it into all available indoor storage - but expect to see corn piles long after harvest is complete. That's another sign of a good crop.

Nationally, 89 percent of the crop is in the bin, compared to 97 percent on average.

For details, check out USDA's report by clicking here.

For more information on Nebraska's crop, click on the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update by going here.

November 21, 2008

OPEC afraid of losing its credibility amid lower prices

Chakib Khelil, president of the oil cartel OPEC and the Algerian oil minister, is afraid of OPEC "losing our credibility" if the cartel decides to cut oil production (again), but then finds out that members ignored the last agreement to cut production.

What Khelil may fail to realize is neither he nor OPEC were credible to begin with.

Khelil, if you recall, is the individual who said that "the intrusion of bioethanol on the market" is responsible for 40 percent of the increase in oil prices back when oil prices were sky high. (Click here.) Yes, he's that guy.

OPEC said in September it was going to cut production - because oil was getting too close to $100 per barell. Nervous that September's cuts didn't work (or didn't actually happen), OPEC was in panic by October, when it held an emergency meeting to cut production again. Oil was $70 then.

Guess what? Oil is now around $50.

Below is a good line from an AP article, which you can check out here. It's the same article that quotes Khelil being nervous about the cartel's credibility. No joke.

If the cartel's earlier complaints about low prices elicited few tears in much of the world, the latest drop is even less likely to merit a sniffle.

November 20, 2008

Videos take peak inside hog, dairy barns

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) has launched a new website - and with it comes some great new audio and video segments.

The videos take a peak inside Prairieland Dairy near Firth and a hog facility near Osceola. Both are owned and operated by farm families and both opened their doors to consumers in the past year.

Three dairy videos include interview segments with "city folk" who came to see how a modern dairy operates and to teach their kids where their food comes from. Lots of good stuff here, including how modern dairy farms benefit multiple families who live and and are involved in the local community. One video also talks about the dairy's environmental initiatives and recycling plan.

Two hog videos cover a bit of hog production and family life - and the opportunity that animal agriculture brings to farm families and the economic benefits for rural communities. The operator of this farm is the fifth generation here in Nebraska, and his family lives in the same house his parents lived in when they first got married.

When you check out the videos by clicking here, also note the audio files on the left side of the page. There are a lot of good interviews there.

The image above is of Kevin Peterson, the owner/operator of the hog facility featured in the videos.

November 19, 2008

Schafer: Anti-ethanol crowd has 'no credibility'

The Corn Commentary blog today has a post that features Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, who spoke at and spent a few minutes with the media after the Cellulosic Ethanol Summit today.

According to the blog, Schafer said the group that held a press conference yesterday calling for an end to ethanol subsidies "stood up there with no credibility whatsoever," when they claimed that it will take 18-24 months for the lower commodity prices to bring food prices back down.

"I just think that they are totally off base," Schafer said. "They are trying to justify the increased cost and increased profits that they’re making at the expense of another industry and that’s just not appropriate."

For the rest of the info - and an audio interview with Schafer - click here.

How much oil does ethanol replace?

Dr. Bruce Dale, a distinguished professor at Michigan State University, had an interesting post on the Huffington Post yesterday. Check it out here.

In his post, Dale notes that from a national security perspective, the most relevant question involving ethanol is, "How much oil does ethanol replace?"

Here is his answer:

The answer might surprise you. Very little oil - mostly diesel fuel for planting, tilling and harvesting crops - is required to produce ethanol. A recent publication in the journal Science shows that only about 0.04 MJ (mega joule, a measure of energy content) of petroleum is required to produce one MJ of ethanol. That is a 25:1 advantage in favor of ethanol production. Because ethanol has less energy per gallon than gasoline, we get more than 30 gallons of ethanol for every gallon of oil we "invest" to make the ethanol, versus eight-tenths of a gallon of gasoline per gallon of oil. When ethanol is used as E85 fuel in a flex-fuel vehicle, we are effectively getting around 800 miles per gallon of oil consumed.

Thus, overall domestic fuel supplies are stretched far into the future when we take our own oil and use it to produce ethanol from our domestic agricultural and forest materials. Ethanol from corn and the much larger amounts of grassoline that are on the way are the only near-term petroleum alternatives we have that significantly enhance national security by replacing lots and lots of oil.

November 18, 2008

Anti-ethanol group falls flat

The Grocery Gang is having a rough time of it. Even their own leading-question survey doesn't much support its misguided argument that corn-based ethanol should to go away, which it believes would miraculously lower food prices. (Note to self: Corn prices have dropped by more than half; yet food prices are still high. So what gives?)

In fact, in its latest news release, the group said corn ethanol was responsible for only 0.55 percent of the expected 5.5 percent increase in food prices this year.

Okay okay…they actually said corn ethanol was responsible for 10 percent of food price inflation - but they're hoping people can't do the math and discover that 10 percent of the expected 5.5 percent food inflation for 2008 (USDA/ERS) equals only 0.55. They want people to hear "10 percent", not the truth.

So if your box of Ding Dongs went up a dime, they argue, corn ethanol is responsible for a penny of that increase. That's their argument! That's it! A good question is: What's responsible for the other 90 percent of the increase – the other 9 cents I'm paying for my Ding Dongs? (This and/or this?)

Back to the survey - After baiting participants with that misleading information, the Grocery Gang still couldn't get a majority of folks to back away from renewable ethanol. Maybe people saw the holes in their argument. Like this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole.

The Gang talks a lot about eliminating "subsidies" (unless those subsidies ensure them a perpetually cheap source of grain). And of course they don't talk about the 90 years of subsidies taxpayers have given the oil industry. (Totaling more than $160 billion, according to this anti-subsidy for anything group. Remember that $700 billion bailout that passed in October? It renewed some oil company subsidies. That is how pervasive it is.)

The Gang and Big Food must prefer oil, which is strange since there were environmental groups at the podium - environmental groups that also mislead and twist facts.

What is really mind boggling is that these environmental activists don't want corn ethanol because they don't want corn period. What would that do to modern animal agriculture?

Ethanol generates $50 billion in tax revenues

Since 1978, the ethanol industry has generated more than $50 billion in tax revenues - $33.4 billion for the federal government and nearly $17 billion for state and local governments, according to an analyst with LECG LLC. (Figures are in 2008 dollars.)

A Nebraska Corn Board news release noted that LECG's John Urbanchuk reported that ethanol reduced America's tab for imported oil by $97.5 billion since 1978 and reduced farm program payments by more than $3 billion annually since 2006. By his math, that that brings the total return on investment for each dollar expended in the form of a federal tax incentive for ethanol use to nearly 5 to 1.

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said the numbers "aren't surprising" and that an analysis of the impact of ethanol production in Nebraska shows similar returns.

In 2006, Nebraska had 12 operating ethanol plants that generated more than $18 million in tax revenues, added more than $1.3 billion in economic output to the state and contributed nearly $100 million in household income, which translates to $40 million in retail spending. Ethanol production in the state has doubled since then.

Hutchens also addressed critics that continue arguing corn should be cheaper - noting that corn prices have fallen by more than half from their highs this summer and may actually be below the cost of production for some corn growers.

Here's his quote: Arguing that we should reduce ethanol production and increase our dependence on foreign oil just so some food companies can have even bigger profits doesn't make sense. One would think these companies would push for alternatives to oil, helping to keep their own energy costs low, because we've all seen what can happen when there's no competition in the energy sector. These groups simply continue to distort the facts and, honestly, their attempts to dump renewable fuels for more oil didn't make sense six months ago and doesn’t make sense now, either.

November 17, 2008

Nebraska corn: 67 percent harvested

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 67 percent of Nebraska's crop was in the bin as of Oct. 16. A week ago we were looking at 58 percent complete - so progress was made, but rain slowed that progress quite a bit. Click here for the full report.

A year ago, Nebraska farmers had harvested 97 percent of their crop, and the five-year average is 96 percent complete. So there is still work to be done, and hopefully a dry week this week will allow harvest to speed ahead.

Nationally, 78 percent of the crop is harvested - compared to 71 percent last week and 97 percent a year ago. The five-year average is 94 percent.

USDA said 95 percent of the country's soybeans are in the bin, so a majority farmers that plant both crops will be focused solely on corn harvest until 100 percent of the crop is in.

November 14, 2008

Animal activism: What it means to livestock producers

Having met Steve Kopperud at assorted meetings, be assured that he is never shy about sharing his thoughts on issues important to agriculture. One of his main areas of interest over the last few years has been activist assaults on animal agriculture. He tells it like it is - straight up - and doesn't mince words. This is a critically important issue to all agriculture.

Kopperud is senior vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Policy Directions Inc. He also coordinates the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition and is the immediate past president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, an organization dedicated to telling the American public the reality of modern livestock production.

In a recent Q/A with Cattlenetwork, Kopperud focuses his attention on animal activist groups.

Here's a few lines from the must-read Q/A:

California's Proposition 2 is a classic example. Proponents of that measure had no facts to support their demand that sow gestation stalls, veal stalls or egg layer cages were inhumane on their face because the overwhelming public testimony of vets and animal scientists showed just the opposite to be true. Instead, supporters ran TV ads that included video of downed animals and other emotional images of animal neglect and abuse, fully aware Proposition 2 would do nothing to solve these alleged problems. Why? Because emotion rules the day when it comes to human interaction with animals, no matter what the species or the animal’s ultimate fate. When you’ve got the attention of a politically overwhelmed constituency, you use images and emotion, not rhetoric. What thinking, feeling person condones any form of animal 'abuse?'

Find the full Q/A here. It's worth the few minutes it will take to read.

Here's a link to a video with Kopperud giving a presentation at a cattle meeting. He explains "What Animal Activist Success Means to the Beef Producers." Be warned - he tells a strong story. It's 34 minutes long.

November 13, 2008

Editorials address false claims on corn, ethanol

Here are two editorials published in different papers defending ethanol and corn. They make some good points and help set the record straight.

The first, in the Des Moines Register, is by Robert Brown of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University. He addresses some false points involving land use that were made in another commentary in the paper. This land use issue is of growing importance and worth paying attention to, especially since there is a lot of ways to exploit bad science to the detriment of corn producers. Check it out here.

The second was published in the Windsor Beacon (Colorado). In his commentary, Dan Sanders Jr., general manager of Front Range Energy jumps on the Grocery Gang and high food prices, again making some good points. Check it out here.

Podcast: Ethanol production getting much more efficient

In this Podcast, Randy Uhrmacher, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers, talks about how much more efficient ethanol production has gotten in the last five years.

The improvements are pretty dramatic!

November 12, 2008

Nebraska getting more livestock friendly

A report on Brownfield cites Roger Berry, field director for the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), as saying that the climate for livestock production in Nebraska is getting friendlier. Especially compared to some other states.

That's great news, because the livestock and poultry industries drive Nebraska's economy, and we all benefit when those industries are successful and farmers have an opportunity to expand their own livestock operation - or add a new one.

"We have more and more counties who are now taking a look at their zoning regulations and saying you know maybe we gone a little bit too far on our separation distances on what we have or the minimum number that you can have before you have the conditional use permit," Berry told Brownfield.

For the full article, click here.

FYI - Nebraska has 11 Livestock Friendly designated counties now.

Video: The truth about food prices

This video was posted on Growth Energy's website, and on YouTube. This is the group that was announced this week.

November 11, 2008

Group questions Grocery Gang, promotes biofuels

At the National Press Club today, a group of ethanol producers and supporters announced the launch of Growth Energy, a group of ethanol supporters "committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America's economy through cleaner, greener energy."

At the launch, the group fired across the bow of the Grocery Gang, asking why food prices continue to rise while corn prices have been cut in half. The Gang spent most of this year blaming ethanol for higher corn prices and, in turn, higher food prices.

Growth Energy also released a new policy brief and previewed "The Truth about Big Food" advertising campaign "to fight back against untruthful attacks by the food industry on ethanol." For copies of the brief and ad, plus a whole lot more, be sure to check out Growth Energy's website,

(The Grocery Gang has been smacked a couple other times recently. Check out this and this.)

Here are a couple paragraphs from the Growth Energy news release:

"Big Food and their Washington lobbyists have been trying to blame the rising cost of food on American ethanol producers and the cost of corn. Well, now that the price of corn has dropped more than 50 percent since the summer, we ask the Big Food industry to explain to the American people why food prices are still so high," said Jeff Broin, CEO of POET. "The lies the Big Food lobby has been spreading about clean, green biofuels have finally been exposed as an intellectually dishonest smear campaign. It's wrong and we're coming together to ask Big Food to give struggling Americans a break."


"We believe ethanol is America's best renewable fuel, reliable and affordable right now," said Wayne Hoovestol, CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. "American ethanol is high-tech, homegrown and on the verge of innovative breakthroughs that will make it even cleaner and greener for the long-term."

If you'd like to listen to the news conference, it's at the bottom of this post on the Domestic Fuel blog.

November 10, 2008

58 percent of Nebraska corn is in the bin

Nebraska's corn harvest jumped to 58 percent complete as of Nov. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That's a big increase from last week's 35 percent complete, although harvest is still well behind the five-year average of 85 percent completed by now.

Some snow in western Nebraska did hamper harvest there, and rain moving across much of the state today will once again slow progress. Yields continue to be strong, however, with USDA estimating that Nebraska yields will be 161 bushels per acre this year.

For more information, be sure to check out the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

Nationally, 71 percent of the crop is in the bin, compared to 88 percent on average.

Corn crop remains at 12.0 billion bushels

The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its crop production numbers today - estimating the 2008-09 corn crop at 12.0 billion bushels, down a smidgen from last month's report, as yield prospects were reduced by 0.1 bushels per acre to 153.8. The figure is also marginally below analysts' estimates.

Although reduced marginally, that yield figure is still the second largest on record, and the crop itself also remains the second largest.

In Nebraska, USDA estimated the crop at 1.38 billion bushels with an average yield of 161 bushels per acre, essentially unchanged from last month. (Last year's crop was 1.47 billion bushels with a yield of 160.)

In its supply and demand report, USDA reduced export expectations 50 million bushels to 1.9 billion, left corn for ethanol use unchanged at 4.0 billion and corn for feed use unchanged at 5.3 billion. That leaves ending stocks at a healthy 1.12 billion, up a bit from last month.

USDA then cut a quarter off each end of the expected average farm price - reducing it to $4.00-4.80. When combined with last month's 80-cent cut, that means average prices have dropped $1.05 since September. With a 12.0 billion bushel crop, that equates to a $12.6 billion loss in value.

The image above is from a Nebraska corn grower and the Nebraska Corn Board.

November 9, 2008

Podcast: Playing on emotions to eliminate meat

In this Podcast, Greg Whitmore, a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about various groups that push their animal rights agenda as "animal welfare" - although most of these groups have goal to eliminate meat, milk and egg consumption altogether.

For a related post, click here.

November 7, 2008

Going back in time won't feed the world

It is not surprising that Prop 2 won in California - when you have millions of dollars and emotional half-truths on your side, how can you lose?

Many believe that Prop 2, when it comes into force in 2015, will essentially close California's egg industry, as it requires unrealistic animal care practices that, in some cases, could actually be worse for the animals in question. More than 30 of California's major newspapers, the state's governor and numerous business leaders opposed the measure, believing it will force egg production to Mexico and other states and cost Californians billions (in lost income and higher food prices). And, in the end, do nothing to improve the care and management of food animals.

Prop 2 was driven not by a grassroots effort but by folks with deep pockets who don't want us to eat milk, meat and eggs, and believe animals should be treated as equals to people.

Californians for Safe Food opposed Prop 2 and said the coalition supporting the measure "led an emotionally manipulative, dishonest and often deceptive campaign." Yet that's exactly what we expect from the Human Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary and the like.

Farmers care greatly for their animals and raise them in the most sound manner possible. Are there bad actors out there? Certainly (just like in all businesses) - and they will be found out and driven out.

We need to remember, though, that farm animals are are raised for food. Farmers with operations of all sizes and types know best how to care for their animals to provide a safe and abundant food supply, and no one farm style is the best. Some large farms are better managed and operated than small ones - and the reverse is true, too. The key is good management. With that, all livestock and poultry can be raised and cared for properly.

For more, check out this blog post, written by Michele Payn-Knoper. Also check out her other posts, especially this one. Also check out our previous post.

The success in California for the anti-meat folks only means their efforts will be accelerated in other states - as they hold up California as an example they believe the rest of us should follow. Don't be fooled by the warm and fuzzy (and false) stories. There's more behind it than meets the eye.

Farmers feed the nation - and the world - and can continue to do so in the most modern, scientifically sound manner possible. It's not the 1700s in the city - it shouldn't be on the farm, either. In fact, it can't be if we want to feed the current and growing population.

November 6, 2008

Demand for ethanol outpacing production

Thanks to the Renewable Fuels Association for pointing out this week that ethanol demand continues to outpace production.

The latest Energy Information Administration figures show that 647,000 barrels of ethanol were produced per day in August, up from 614,000 in July. Meanwhile, RFA calculated that demand in August was 661,000 barrels per day, which equates to about 10 billion gallons per year.

RFA said there was also a big increase in ethanol imports for August, which it attributed to importers looking to capitalize on the final days of a loophole in trade regulations. This "duty drawback" provision allowed for the import of ethanol and the export of another fuel, like jet fuel, to recapture the $0.54 tariff placed on foreign ethanol imports.

In either case, the growth in ethanol production in August came as corn prices continued their rapid (and unprecedented) decline, with prices now being about half of what they were in late June.

RFA also noted that: Such a dynamic further erodes the argument of livestock, poultry and food processing companies that have argued ethanol is responsible for the dramatic increase in food prices. It also calls into question the reports from groups such as the World Bank, the United Nations and others that US ethanol production is responsible for high corn prices.

On a separate note, it is important to point out that the bankruptcy filing of VeraSun does not equate to a failed ethanol policy or that all ethanol producers are in trouble. Like anyone who got sideways in the market and over extended, VeraSun is paying the price. However, several other ethanol producers are in quite good financial position - and, as RFA pointed out - continue to see strong demand for ethanol.

Yet even today there are headlines saying the new Administration plans to follow the current Administration's "failed policy" on ethanol. One reason cited is VeraSun ... but that all ethanol producers are "collapsing". Of course these kinds of articles are full of other poor information (like blaming food riots in Egypt on the United State's biofuels policy). And a whole lot more.

So yes, the battle wages on in spreading the truth. Help set the record straight! Encourage reporters of the story above (their email addresses are at the bottom of the article) to research the truth. Use facts, be courteous and ask good questions.

November 5, 2008

Senators push for higher ethanol blends

Sen. Ben Nelson (D, Neb.) is part of a bipartisan group of senators urging the U.S. Department of Energy to continue research that will open the door to allowing higher blends of ethanol at the gas pump, according to this article by Robert Pore in the Grand Island Independent.

The senators understand that, as corn-based ethanol production grows over the next few years, and cellulosic ethanol kicks in around 2015, standard E10 - or a 10 percent ethanol blend - won't cut it. E85, an 85 percent ethanol blend is an option, but only for flex-fuel vehicles - and E85 isn't yet widely available outside ethanol-producing states.

The senators are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to increase blends available for non-flex-fuel vehicles to either E15 or E20.

"Moving beyond 10 percent ethanol blends is essential to achieving this nation's goal of reducing our reliance on foreign oil and of fostering the growth of a robust, domestic renewable fuels industry," according to the senators' letter.

For more details from the article, click on the link above.

For info in mid level ethanol blends, and info blender pumps, click here to visit

November 4, 2008

'Political controversy no fun for farmers'

The headline of this post comes from a headline of a commentary published in a recent Iowa Farmer Today. It is written by Blake Hurst, who grows no-till corn and soybeans in a family operation in Missouri.

In the commentary, which you can read here, Hurst takes on Michael Pollan, who recently penned an advice letter to the next President in New York Times Magazine.

Here's a sample from Hurst:

Best known for his book "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," Pollan is a leading thinker about food. He’s famous, and influential, and gloriously wrong. The recent run-up in food prices should have caused a problem for agriculture’s critics because they’ve long argued cheap food is responsible for obesity and putting Third World farmers out of business.

The only answer is to return to Eden, when farmers used their backs instead of tractors and lived in loving harmony with Mother Nature. Now that food is no longer "cheap," at least according to the national media, you would assume the problem and the solution would have to change. But, nope, we’re still responsible for obesity and we still are ruining the lives of farmers across the seas, and Eden still beckons.

Be sure to check out the commentary - it's a good read.

November 3, 2008

Dry weather moves corn harvest ahead

Nebraska's corn crop jumped from 21 percent harvested as of Oct. 26 to 35 percent harvested as of Nov. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported today. Nationally, harvest went from 39 to 55 percent completed.

Rapid progress came as dry, warm weather dominated the week, allowing soil and the crop to dry down and farmers to put in long days in the field.

Harvest is behind a year ago and the five-year average - but that is to be expected in a year where everything has been behind. (The five-year average is 74 percent of corn harvested by now for Nebraska, and 79 percent nationally.)

Anecdotal reports from the field still indicate that corn yields are "above expectations," so it should be interesting to see what USDA says next Monday when it updates it's crop production and supply/demand reports.

On the radio: Discussing corn and food prices

Brownfield's Ken Anderson had a conversation with the Nebraska Corn Board's Randy Klein today - discussing the dramatic price decline in commodity prices like corn and the lack of corresponding drop in food prices.

Klein noted that corn and other commodity prices never had much to do with the rise in food prices originally, like the Corn Board and others reported time and again, so it is not surprising that food prices haven't dropped, either.

A big factor in food higher prices was higher energy costs - and those have also come down some. That puts food companies, for the most part, in a pretty good spot.

Klein closed by noting grocery manufacturers are doing "pretty well" - and taking advantage of the opportunity. (For more on that, click here.) He also expects that the Grocery Gang is not yet done with its attacks on ethanol.

To listen to the interview, click here.

November 1, 2008

Podcast: Avoiding more of the same

In this Podcast, Paxton corn grower Jon Holzfaster notes that without renewable energy, we'd be left with more of the same - more imported oil. Holzfaster is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, reminds us that ethanol was created, in part, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

This notion is backed by Energy Information Administration figures released this week. In 2005, this country imported 60.3 percent of it's oil needs, but this began to fall in 2006 when the RFS kicked in and is at 56.4 percent today. Renewable biofuels like ethanol have helped make this happen.