December 31, 2009

Podcast: Farmers can reach out and tell their story

In this podcast, Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator of the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about some of the work she will do in her new position with the Corn Board.

Importantly, she also talks about how farmers today can tell their story -- and why farmers need to reach out to those who may not know what farming and food production is all about.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

December 30, 2009

Holiday Bowl gives corn farmers opportunity to tell their story

Over the last two years, the Nebraska Corn Board has implemented programs to let consumers know that corn ethanol did not create higher food costs last year and that farmers and ranchers today are a prime example of “Sustaining Innovation.”

“This year’s Sustaining Innovation message has been clear: Farmers are growing more corn on fewer acres with fewer inputs, and they can deliver enough corn for feed, food and fuel,” Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release. “This is a message we’ve shared in multiple ways and will continue to share, including via the radio during the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl.”

As a component of its campaigns, the board contracted with the Husker Sports Network to tell farmers’ stories during University of Nebraska football and baseball games.

Other agriculture groups and agribusinesses have used this avenue, and after the Nebraska Corn Board looked at the demographics and ran the numbers, Tiemann said the campaign scored good points – with farmers who were in the fields listening to games and with consumers who have been visiting the board's website.

“Part of the board’s mission is promotion and education, and this year, especially, required some serious education. Movies like Food Inc. and King Corn, along with some articles in magazines like TIME painted farmers and ranchers as industrialized, corporate, non-family run operations who show no compassion for the land or animals. That image could not be further from the truth,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board.

December 29, 2009

Can regulations be based on an estimate?

The Nebraska Corn Board's Kelly Brunkhorst (@kbrunkhorst) recently spent some time reviewing the California Air Resources Board (ARB) low carbon fuel standard. (For background, click here and here.)

The timing was perfect because a lawsuit was recently filed against California's ARB for the standard. The suit was filed in the Federal District Court of Fresno by the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, charging that the measure violates both the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

You can read more about the suit over at Corn Commentary.

In either case, Brunkhorst's thoughts are below - and he raises an important point.

Can regulations be based on an 'Estimate'?

Wikipedia defines “estimated” to mean a calculated approximation of a result which is usable even if input data may be incomplete or uncertain. But my question is…can an estimated figure be used to write state or Federal regulations when the science is incomplete and/or uncertain? For that matter can “approximation” be used as a basis for regulations.

Currently the state of California is in the final stages of adopting a Low Carbon Fuel Standard that provides a plan in which to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2020. This is an admirable task and goal, but the avenue in which they are proceeding, sure seems to be filled with holes and unanswered questions.

In order to come up with a carbon intensity figure, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is utilizing the modified GREET model. This model was initially developed by the staff at Argonne National Lab, but was modified by staff at CARB to better fit the California environment.

But in addition to the GREET model, CARB says that significant indirect effects such as land use change (LUC) must be included in the final carbon intensity score. To do this, CARB is utilizing the GTAP model to “estimate” this figure. Yes, “estimate” and this figure is being used in the regulation. Look on page 5 of the corn ethanol pathway, version 2.1 that can be found at CARB’s website (.pdf). To quote the paper exactly it states, “The GTAP model has been used to estimate Land Use Change impact for corn ethanol and is estimated to be 30 g CO2e/MJ.”

The whole land use change science is so uncertain, over 100 scientists have written a letter (.pdf) to CARB on this basis. In fact the very models that are being used to “estimate” land use change were not initially developed for this use.

So I guess to answer the question, you have to say yes, but it is very unfortunate that estimates can be used to base regulations on. Whatever happened to sound science and facts?

Podcast: A review of NeCGA's recent annual meeting

In this week's podcast, Jim Hultman, a farmer from of Sutton and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, provides a review of NeCGA's recent annual meeting, including announcing re-elected officers and directors, and that Sen. Mike Johanns was awarded the Golden Ear Award.

Hultman also provides some details on one of the seven resolutions debated and voted on by members.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

December 26, 2009

Tolman to speak at Fremont Corn Expo

The Fremont Corn Expo is set for Wednesday, January 6, at Christensen Field in Freemont.

The expo is set to provide farmers and agribusiness professionals ideas and strategies to remain competitive in the corn industry.

One of this year's featured speakers is Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. Tolman will discuss the Future of Farming -- Promise and Opportunity.

Other topics include:
  • Irrigation and Energy Optimization Cost-share Opportunities – Dave Varner and Aaron Nygren, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension,
  • Corn Plant Populations, Twin Rows and Yield Potential – Roger Elmore, Iowa State University,
  • Farming in Today's Macro Economy – Brian Briggeman, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and
  • Corn Trait Mixing, Matching and Stacking – Joe Keaschall, Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

Registration for the free event begins at 8 a.m. with a complimentary breakfast and a chance to view exhibits. The expo runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A complimentary lunch will be served to expo participants.

A special nitrogen applicator and irrigation management certification training will be conducted for Lower Platte North Natural Resources District producers immediately following the expo at 3 p.m.

For more information contact Dave Varner, at (402) 472-2775 or

The Fremont Corn Expo is sponsored by UNL Extension, Colfax-Dodge County Corn Growers, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Corn Board, Fremont Area Chamber Agricultural Business Council, Dodge County Farm Bureau and area agribusinesses.

December 23, 2009

Bogus Times, Grist articles on HFCS add to echo chamber

The Times Online (a paper in the U.K.) last week ran an article that claimed there was new research that "proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks can damage human metabolism and is fueling the obesity crisis."

It then went on to cite this UC Davis study (which was released online in April) and claimed that was proof that fructose and, therefore, HFCS, was out to get us all (even though "fructose" ≠ "HFCS").

However, the reporter () got the story wrong - ALL WRONG - and that's according to one of the researchers who conducted the study. (More to come on that in a minute.)

While a single newspaper reporter getting it wrong is one thing, the Internet allowed the story to bloom.

Tom Laskawy, a blogger on Grist (which claims it uses a "Clarity-o-Meter to draw out the real meaning behind green stories") essentially regurgitated the "facts," linking to the Times story as proof (and not bothering to look up the original research). That allowed the anti-HFCS crowd to pick up on it and say: "See this proves we're right." And then repeat it from blog to blog to Twitter and Facebook. 

This is the echo chamber taking over -- with everyone citing everyone else and pointing to the original article that got the facts wrong.

Now about those "facts."

It turns out one of the authors of the original research saw the Times article and Grist blog post and decided enough was enough.

Here is what Dr. Kimber Stanhope had to say:

The information about the UC Davis study came from a Sunday Times article in which almost every sentence in the article contained at least one inaccurate statement. I have copied the sentences that came from this article in quotations below and follow each sentence with the correct information.

You can read her full destruction of the article here.

Among other things, Stanhope points out that the study examined fructose and glucose -- and made it clear that fructose and HFCS are not the same thing. Her response is quite good and worth a read if you happened to see the original Times or Grist garbage article. (I only wish she would have pointed out that HFCS, sugar and honey are essentially the same when it comes to fructose and glucose.)

Anyway, Stanhope's destruction of the original article prompted Laskawy to make a few corrections to his post but, of course, he still had to attempt to argue that the "science" is certainly against HFCS and toss out the expected misinformation and more of his form of "facts." After all, he doesn't want to loose his anti-corn, anti-HFCS, anti-corporate cred.

He also bashed the Times - saying that he'll never cite them again. Hmmm. Perhaps nobody should cite his posts, either.

If you're wondering about Grist, here's a good comment provided by one of the people who commented on the HFCS post:

Grist is full of "experts" posting articles about reports, studies and concepts they know little about. Its really not so much a fact based web site but a site full of speculations fueled by an anti corporate, environmentally correct political set of ideas.

Let's just leave it at that.

Oh, and one more thing to watch. Stanhope noted that she and other researchers are conducting a study comparing the effects of consuming HFCS and fructose at 0, 10, 17.5 and 25 percent of energy requirement in young (18-40 years), normal or overweight (BMI 18-35 kg/m2) adults.

While that may be interesting research, I'm not sure why you'd compare HFCS to straight fructose...they aren't even remotely the same, as Stanhope pointed out. Why not compare HFCS to plain old sugar? Or honey?

In either case, whenever that research is done, don't rely on Grist to get the story right. Grist, a self proclaimed "Beacon in the Smog," just dirties the facts.

December 22, 2009

You can’t have Christmas without corn!

Do you eat corn for Christmas dinner? Or give it away all wrapped up in pretty wrapping paper? Many may say, “no”, when in actuality, there is a very high chance you will consume corn in one fashion or another during the holiday season.

First, your main dish – maybe a ham or beef roast or lamb. Those hogs, steers and market lambs almost certainly were fed corn and/or distillers grains (a coproduct of ethanol production) and displayed in the grocery store in containers made from corn bioplastics.

Personally, my family eats fish (lutefisk to be exact -- from Sweden). Lutefisk is probably not fed corn as it is from the ocean, but many varieties of farm-raised fish are fed corn or ethanol coproducts, and according to panelists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), they concluded that fish filets coming from fish fed byproducts of ethanol production, were great-tasting and a common holiday food.

Next, you may see fresh, frozen or canned corn as the star in many Christmas side dishes. A delicious corn pudding or cheesy corn-and-grits casserole for a Southern-style side, or corn scalloped in a rich creamy sauce could complement your Christmas meal. These are all common ways you may consume corn, but just wait…there is more.
Many of the packaging products used to process or store the food items for your meal are corn plastic called PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from corn starch and is 100% renewable and compostable. Cups, utensils, bowls, plates, deli containers, milk, water and juice bottles, candy wrappers and more all utilize corn PLA. This list goes on and on and new uses are being developed every day.

If you do your shopping at Walmart, you’re more than likely going to find PLA as well. Wal-Mart plans to use 114 million PLA containers a year, which company executives estimate will save 800,000 barrels of oil annually.

What about other corn products? High fructose corn syrup is found in your soda pop and many other products as a sweetener, cornstarch is found in pudding and ready-to-eat foods, dextrose improves the color and texture of breads and is found in peanut butter and sorbitol, which is used in the toothpaste you’ll need after eating your big meal and holiday snacks! Maltodextrin, another corn product, is found in instant tea, coffee and oatmeal.

After you’ve enjoyed your scrumptious Christmas meal, everyone knows what’s next…PRESENTS! Many gifts are made from corn PLA, instead of plastic made from oil, and even wrapped in paper made from PLA. iTunes or REI gift cards, Cargo Cosmetics packaging, batteries for the remote control cars, crayons, medicines, disposable diapers and baby wipes and adhesives all have corn as an ingredient in one way or another. That Samsung Reclaim cell phone you got for your significant other, is, in fact, a 'green' phone made from corn PLA bioplastics.

Corn-based clothing is also catching on, and can be found in upholstery, bedding, pillows, and high-end fashion fabrics. Even your carpet that is getting covered up by all of the opened presents and shredded wrapping paper could be made from corn-based polymers which are stain resistant and incredibly durable.

You Nebraskans want to know the best part?! Most of these PLA products have their roots right here in the state with Nebraska corn. NatureWorks, located in Blair, and owned by Cargill Dow, has created an environmentally friendly material that reaches the consumer in food packaging, cold drinking cups, duvets, pillows, blankets and even clothing. These products are environmentally friendly and are 100% renewable. The Blair plant uses more than 40,000 bushels of corn every day in the production of PLA (see here).

The Nebraska Corn Board produced a brochure a couple of years ago that highlights all of these and the many other uses of corn. To have a look, click here to download the .pdf file. Or click here to read about more PLA uses in Nebraska.

This holiday season check your labels and purchase products containing corn. This is the environmentally friendly choice, as well as helping out the Nebraska economy.

Have a very, Merry Christmas from the Nebraska Corn Board and staff!

December 21, 2009

Video, slides from opportunities for retaining ownership webinar now online

A full video and presentation slides of the Retained Ownership Decisions: Advantages of Feeding in Nebraska webinar are now available online, the Nebraska Corn Board said today.

The webinar will be available online through January 31, 2010.

The webinar, conducted last week, featured Dr. Darrell Mark, an extension livestock marketing specialist with the University of Nebraska, and Dr. Galen Erickson, a feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska.

During the webinar, Erickson and Mark provided a wide range of information for cow-calf operators on what to consider when evaluating economic decisions, including selling, backgrounding and feeding out. They also covered options involving commercial feedyards -- and important items to consider when selecting a feedyard, including financing to cost of gain to market accessibility.

“Drs. Mark and Erickson provided great details on cost breakdowns for different options of finishing cattle, including where opportunities exist today and the costs involved and partnering opportunities with commercial feedyards,” said Kelsey Pope, ag program coordinator for the Nebraska Corn Board. “The researchers also covered feed costs and marketing opportunities in Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Department of Agriculture sponsored the webinar.

Pope also noted that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has a listing of more than 185 feedlots representing more than 1.5 million cattle on feed on its website – – in the Ag Promotion Division Section.

“The webinar and feedlot directory are great places to begin investigating opportunities to finish cattle in Nebraska,” Pope said. “Market conditions indicate that retaining ownership may make sense for cow-calf producers, and it may be beneficial to feed those cattle in Nebraska due to several advantages the state has, from quality feedlots to market access to a lower cost of gain.”

December 17, 2009

Podcast: Why social media is important for farmers

This week's podcast features Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., who spoke at the recent Nebraska Ag Classic. She explains why social media is important for farmers and those in agriculture.

You can find Payn-Knoper on Twitter and Facebook.

While in Nebraska, she asked Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner and president of NeCGA (@cornfedfarmer), and Cheryl Stubendieck of the Nebraska Farm Bureau (@NEFarmBureau) about social media. And she videoed them! You can check out the video of Hunnicutt here and Stubendieck here.

Payn-Knoper is introduced by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association's Mat Habrock.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

Nebraska Corn Board honors Wehrbein, Bosselman, Andersen

At the Nebraska Ag Classic, the Nebraska Corn Board presented its Ag Achievement Award to former Senator Roger Wehrbein and its Ethanol Appreciation Award to Fred Bosselman Jr. The board also recently recognized Robert Andersen, president of the Nebraska Cooperative Council, with its Elevator Industry Appreciation Award.

For the past 18 years, the Nebraska Corn Board has recognized a Nebraska agricultural leader who demonstrates vision, commitment and a deep understanding of the value of agriculture and the corn checkoff to the state with its Ag Achievement Award.

Wehrbein, this year's Ag Achievement Award recipient, operates a diversified grain and livestock operation in the Plattsmouth area and was first elected to the Unicameral in 1986, serving the second district for 20 years.

“Senator Wehrbein served on numerous committees during his tenure in the Unicameral and is involved in many associations and organizations. His efforts on behalf of farmers and leadership in agriculture is why the Nebraska Corn Board recognized him with its Ag Achievement Award,” said Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

For the past four years, the Nebraska Corn Board has recognized an individual who has shown vision and support for the ethanol industry while being a partner with the corn industry with its Ethanol Appreciation Award. This year’s recipient is Fred Bosselman Jr., president of Grand Island-based Bosselman Energy Inc.

Tiemann said for many years Bosselman has supported corn ethanol and farmers across Nebraska, marketing e10 for decades and recently establishing Nebraska’s first ethanol blender pump.

“In the Nebraska Corn Board’s Powering Nebraska’s Economy With Corn campaign, Bosselman noted that, ‘Yes I am an oil guy, but I am also an ethanol guy.’,” Tiemann said. “He recognizes that ethanol and renewable energy are important to Nebraska and the energy business.”

At the Nebraska Cooperative Council annual meeting, the Nebraska Corn Board recognized Robert Andersen with its Elevator Industry Appreciation Award. This award is presented annually to an individual in the grain elevator industry who is supportive of the mission of the Nebraska corn checkoff.

Anderson, of Lincoln, has been president of the Nebraska Cooperative Council since 1974. He is a member of the board of directors for several agricultural organizations across the state, including the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council and the Nebraska 4-H Foundation Board. He also serves on the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, which is based in Washington, D.C.

”We have always appreciated the support and relationship that we have had with Robert Andersen and the Nebraska Cooperative Council,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Kelly Brunkhorst. “It was especially appreciated over the last year with support for the Nebraska corn checkoff program during the regular legislative session and the special session.”

NeCGA honors Johanns, elects officers

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) awarded Senator Mike Johanns the 2009 Golden Ear Award during the Nebraska Ag Classic. The Golden Ear Award is presented annually to recognize and thank individuals for their contribution to agriculture, the corn industry and the NeCGA.

Senator Johanns, who grew up on a farm, has been involved in public service for 25 years, beginning at the local level and rising to mayor, governor, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and now representing Nebraskans in the U.S. Senate.

The NeCGA board of directors also re-elected its officers for 2010 during its annual meeting held ahead of the conference:
  • Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner was re-elected president. He represents the Hamilton County Corn Growers Association.
  • Carl Sousek of Prague was re-elected vice president. He represents the Saunders County Corn Growers Association.
  • Joel Grams of Minden was re-elected secretary. He represents the Kearney-Franklin Corn Growers Association.
  • Elgin Bergt of Schuyler was re-elected treasurer. He represents the Colfax-Dodge Corn Growers Association.
Curtis Rohrich of Wood River and Dennis Scamehorn of York were also elected at-large directors at the meeting.

December 14, 2009

Social media & agriculture...are you wired?

At the Nebraska Ag Classic in Lincoln, we had the privilege of listening to Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp., with her presentation, “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Michele (or for you Tweeps, @mpaynknoper, as I always remember her) is a professional speaker and advocate for agriculture, as well as a social media guru, which you probably read about in a previous post about Ag Classic.

As she said in her presentation, 15 years ago everyone thought the Internet was just a fad. According to the Internet World Statistics web site, there are currently 6,767,805,208 Internet users worldwide. This is a number that has grown 380.3 percent since 2000. I'd say they were wrong about the Internet being a fad, and I don’t see social media being just a fad either with more than 350 million people just using Facebook.

So back to Michele: First, she setup a special hashtag for Ag Classic #NEAC09, and Twitter users all over the place were tweeting information shared from the conference using this to "tag" information.

In her presentation, she shared some great points about social media (SM) in agriculture.
  1. SM = Influence; Leadership = Influence; Leadership + SM = Mass Influence 
  2. 4 out of 5 Americans are active on social media. Have any of you watched a YouTube video? Have you read a news article online. Have you marketed grain online? This is all a part of social media… See, you all are doing it, now just take one step more and be on Twitter and Facebook! 
  3. Opinions are formed daily in communities; ~99 percent of those without any connections to agriculture. It’s our chance as agriculturists to be proactive!
  4. ~1/2 of large acreage farmers spend 5+ hours per week online; 23 percent spend 10+ hours online.
Some of you still skeptical about social media? Think of it as an investment in agriculture. Millions of consumers of your products are on Twitter and it is the perfect venue to share what you do as a producer of our nation's food product!

Take Ray Prock of California’s Ray-Lin Dairy (@RayLinDairy) for example.

When the dairy crisis in the U.S. began impacting his farm, it was only natural for Prock to share his experiences with the public via Twitter. In June 2009, Prock was one of three farmers who led a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag “#moo” to gain public awareness for American dairy farm families suffering through low milk prices. Over the course of eight hours, “#moo” became the fourth-most-popular term in the system, with 3,000 different people saying “#moo” more than 6,000 times! They were successful in reaching about 10,000 people. (Hubbart)

There is a lot of value in using social media to reach the public. Prock simply wants to "get the message of agriculture out there." This is the challenge for all farmers and ranchers nationwide: to get the story and truth of agriculture into the ears of consumers. HSUS, PETA, environmentalists, food critics, etc., are all trying to destroy our industry. Let's be on the offense instead of the defense, and use social media as a new, and effective avenue in today's communication world.

Michele's message drove home the same concept: "Humanize your story."

Consumers need to see a face of the farm from which their food comes from. When farmers can put their stories out for consumers, more knowledge, facts and information can be gained, and we can hope to reach a goal of no more misinformation and myths in agriculture.

If you want to “check out” Twitter without actually setting up a profile, go to: and see what people are saying about food and agriculture

For those SM'ers online, be sure to check us out on Twitter at @NECornBoard and Facebook!

Additional author for Nebraska Corn Kernels

Kelsey Pope, the latest addition to the Nebraska Corn Board staff, will author occasional posts on Nebraska Corn Kernels.

In case you were wondering, the author of each blog entry is marked at the bottom of the post.

For more information about Kelsey, click here.

Welcome aboard, Kelsey!

December 13, 2009

Podcast: NCGA president provides update on activities

In this week's podcast, Darrin Ihnen, president of the National Corn Growers Association, provides an update on NCGA's activities and a few of the important things that happened over the last year.

Ihnen recorded this podcast before speaking during the Nebraska Corn Growers Association annual meeting at the recent Nebraska Ag Classic.

Ihnen is a farmer from Hurley, South Dakota.

December 10, 2009

Legislative Ag Forum: We need to be able to tell our story

The 21st annual Hamilton County Legislative Ag Form was held Monday in Aurora. It is put on by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton County Corn Growers.

Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer), president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, drafted a summery from the session - and provided the photo:

Despite the cold weather and snow, turnout was exceptional.

With the help of Senator Dubas from Fullerton representing the 34th District and vice-chair of the Ag committee, there was a great lineup of speakers:
  • Senator Adams from York representing the 24th District is the chair of the Education committee. 
  • Senator Langemeier from Schuyler representing the 23rd District is chair of the Natural Resources committee.
  • Senator Utter from Hastings representing the 33rd District sits on the Revenue committee. 
  • Jack Moors and Mick Mines were there as the lobbyists for NeCGA.
  • Curt Friesen representing the Hamilton County Corn Growers.
With such a wide variety of senators the topics were wide spread from corn checkoff to the water resource cash fund to education to the taxes and the budget. It is always interesting to get the Senators' opinions on what has happened this past year and what to look forward to in the upcoming 2010 short session.

Senator Dubas mentioned she will be working with the different commodity checkoff groups to see how to best protect the checkoffs in the future. At the same time, Senator Langemeier will be looking at a way to improve upon and reintroduce LB 9 that was deemed outside the scope of the special session.

From the corn side there is much work ahead to make sure we are protecting the integrity of the checkoff for what is was intended for: research, education and market development.

Probably the main idea that came forth is that there is still work to be done on the budget. The special session was just stage one. There is much work to be done, because the projections of the state shortfall did get better after the special session but there will still be cuts that need to be done. We have basically trimmed off all the fat, the next stage will be cutting into muscle.

From the purely ag/rural side, we have much work to do. With the census in 2010, it is projected that the rural part of the state will lose two senators and urban will gain two.

With half of the state's population residing in roughly the eastern 50 miles of the state, it is going to be more important than ever to work with our urban counterparts. We need to be able to tell our story and relate it in terms that they understand.

Positive breakevens on retaining ownership offers opportunities

An opportunity to lock in an extra $20-40 a head on calves being weaned this fall offers cow-calf producers an opportunity not seen in the last two or three years, according to Dr. Darrell Mark, an extension livestock marketing specialist with the University of Nebraska.

Mark said it may make sense for producers to retain ownership of those calves and finish them in Nebraska.

“Feed costs in Nebraska are lower than most places thanks to the ready supply of feed grains and ethanol coproducts like distillers grains, plus there are good financing alternatives available in Nebraska feed yards,” Mark said in a news release. “The close proximity to packing plants also results in a savings on transportation costs for most producers.”

Mark is partnering with Dr. Galen Erickson, a feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska, to conduct a webinar on Wednesday, December 16.

The webinar, Retained Ownership Decisions: Advantages of Feeding in Nebraska, will be held at 11:30 a.m. MST (12:30 p.m. CST) and should last a little over an hour.

During the webinar, Erickson and Mark will discuss:
  • Evaluating your economic decisions, covering everything from selling, backgrounding to feeding out, and options at a commercial feedyard.
  • What to consider when selecting a commercial feedyard – from financing to cost of gain to market accessibility.
  • What you should know about feeding distillers grains, including nutrition, performance and cost of gain.

For more information on the webinar, click here or to register in advance, click here.

While pre-registration is not required, it will make it easier to join the webinar and allow a reminder e-mail to be sent.

Sponsors include the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, who is coordinating and administering the webinar.

December 8, 2009

Millions of dollars of Nebraska corn still in the field

With 12 percent of the crop still in the field -- and a winter storm barreling down on the state -- the Nebraska Corn Board noted today that, while 12 percent may not seem like much, it's about 180 million bushels, or about $630 million worth of corn.

“If it is your crop still in the field it will create some sleepless nights and financial concern,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, in a news release.

Nebraska Corn Board chairman Alan Tiemann noted that the old adage in agriculture “never count your chickens until they’re hatched” also goes for corn farmers – “never count your bushels until they’re in the bin.”

Nebraska is predicted to harvest the state’s largest corn crop in history this year, with a total production of 1.58 billion bushels on a record yield of 178 bushels per acre -- yet getting that crop in the bin is proving to be a challenge.

In audio cuts that accompany the release, Hutchens said he expects that all the corn will make it out of the field - but how long that will take depends on the storm and Mother Nature. He said standability has been good so far, with some corn in the state being hammered with snow now for the third time.

EPA makes it official, declares greenhouse gasses a threat to health, environment

The Environmental Protection Agency held a news conference yesterday to declare greenhouse gasses a threat to the public health and environment.

Here's the headline from a news release:

Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment / Science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity

While we've known for sometime that this was in the works -- following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows EPA to go after greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act -- the announcement makes it official.

And the timing gives the Administration something to hold up at climate talks in Denmark this week. (Doesn't that seem to make it a bit politically motivated instead being based on "science"?)

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said EPA would prefer climate legislation from Congress as a way to move forward with ways reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. She also said the focus would not impact small businesses and only target those who emit 25,000 or more tons of greenhouse gases each year.

While that is a nice thought, a concern here is the courts. A single lawsuit against EPA and a livestock operation, fertilizer company or other ag venture charging that they are emitters and should fall under the regulation and the whole greenhouse gas regulatory structure would be left in a judge's hands. And then it would take legislation just to get back to the intent of EPA's actions.

(Alternatively, future EPA administrators may lower the threshold.)

For reaction from the National Corn Growers Association, click here; American Farm Bureau Federation comments are here.

December 7, 2009

12% of Nebraska corn still in the field

Nebraska farmers have harvested 88 percent of the state's crop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That is good news, for sure, although it does raise concerns about winter weather blowing its way into the state this week.

As Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board noted in a Twitter post today:

OK it's worse than I thought. We have 12% of NE Corn in the field yet or $630 m. value, with a storm rolling in. Pray for standability.

Looking at USDA's report doesn't offer much by comparison's sake, either. While harvest advanced 10 points from last week, by last year at this point USDA had already stopped tracking Nebraska's crop progress because the crop was already in the bin.

The same is true on a national level. This week nationwide, USDA said 88 percent of the crop was harvested - up from 79 percent last week. A year ago, though, harvest was already done. Ditto for the five-year average.

Technology, knowledge improving water management

While most corn grown across the country is watered only by Mother Nature in the form of rainfall, farmers who use water to irrigate crops are finding ways to more efficiently use their water resources.

For example, by using modern tools and a water sensor network hosted by the University of Nebraska, Davenport farmer Mark Jagels’ knew his corn used only 14 hundredths of an inch of water during a cool week this past July -- only 2 hundredths per day and well below a normal July’s water use of 35 hundredths a day.

Knowing that his corn was using so little water, Jagles cut back on the number of times he irrigated the crop, saving water and the energy needed to pump it.

“The tools we have available today measure how much water is in the soil and how much water the crop is using,” said Jagels, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “This reduces our water use, which is important because water is a natural resource that we want to protect for future generations.”

About 85 percent of the corn grown across the country is watered only by Mother Nature, while the remaining 15 percent is both rain fed and irrigated.

Between 1990 and 2008, Nebraska's irrigated corn acres increased about 3 percent, while dryland acres increased about 48 percent. What is interesting is that during that same period, Nebraska corn production jumped from from 934 million bushels to 1.4 billion bushels!

A NASS survey comparing water use from 2003-2008 showed there was 27 percent less total water applied in 2008 than 2003. (Yet ethanol production during this time frame expanded significantly.)

"Corn producers continue to grow more corn on less land and with less water -- and ethanol producers continue to squeeze more ethanol out of a bushel of corn with less energy and less water," said Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, at the recent ceremony recognizing Chief Ethanol Fuels, Inc.'s 25th Anniversary,

At the rate new technology is developing, and with more research on water efficiency, it is safe to say that Nebraska's corn crop and ethanol production will require less water to produce higher yields in the future.

December 1, 2009

Harvest numbers improve, but still well behind

KHAS-TV aired a report Sunday night - Wet weather slows down harvest - that was spot on. It features an interview with Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer) of Giltner, current president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

You can read the article and watch the video here.

The report noted that yields have been outstanding this year. Unfortunately for some farmers, the yield bump is being offset somewhat by increased costs to dry the crop for storage. Cool, wet weather didn't let the crop dry down in the field, which means propane and natural gas bills will be up.

The wet crop also slowed down harvest because grain elevators can only dry so much grain at a time.

As of Sunday, 78 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was harvested, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said yesterday. That's a 13 point jump from the week before but still well behind last year's 90 percent and the five-year average of 96 percent complete.

Nationally, 79 percent of the crop is in the bin - up from last week's 68 percent but behind last year's 94 percent and the five-year average of 97 percent.

Because of the late harvest, USDA noted that it will continue crop progress reports an additional week. That mean's next week's report (Dec. 7) will be the final one for the season.

EPA puts off higher ethanol blend decision until mid-2010

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter (.pdf) to Growth Energy - the group the initially asked EPA to allow the use of ethanol blends of up to 15 percent - saying that it will be mid-2010 before it issues a final decision on the request.

While EPA is waiting for additional testing data, it did note that results of two tests indicate engines in newer cars (2001 and newer) likely can handle ethanol blends higher than the current 10-percent limit (e10). However, the agency said it continues to evaluate the question of "component durability" when e15 is used over thousands of miles - and that an ongoing Department of Energy study will provide "critical data" on this issue.

This DOE study is expected to be wrapped up by August 2010, although most vehicles in the study will be wrapped up by May, putting data in EPA's hands in June.

"Should the test results remain supportive and provide the necessary basis, we would be in a position to approve e15 for 2001 and newer vehicles in the mid-year timeframe," EPA said.

EPA also said it has started the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised. It is forming a working group to tackle this matter.

Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, said the announcement is "a strong signal" that EPA allow a move to e15.

“The importance of increasing the blend is now universally understood. Moving to e15 provides much-needed market opportunity for the domestic ethanol industry by adding seven billion new gallons of market potential," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

He added that EPA should be commended for its intent to begin the labeling and public education process sooner rather than later.

The Renewable Fuels Association, however, was more critical.

Bob Dinneen, its CEO, said the delay "threatens to paralyze the continued evolution of America’s ethanol industry" and "chill investment in advanced biofuel technologies at a critical time in their development and commercialization."

He also suggested that EPA should approve intermediate ethanol blends, such as e12, and expressed concerns that EPA is focused on vehicles model year 2001 and newer. "The data to date has shown no ill-effects of increased ethanol use in any vehicle, regardless of model year," he said.

November 30, 2009

Kelsey Pope joins staff of Nebraska Corn Board

Kelsey Pope has joined the staff of the Nebraska Corn Board as Ag Promotion Coordinator.

In this role, Pope will work on behalf of Nebraska corn producers to expand marketing opportunities, partner with livestock industry groups to develop joint strategies and assist in coordinating animal agriculture welfare programs through education, information and research.

She will also coordinate corn promotion activities at the State Fair, Husker Harvest Days and other events across the state. Additionally, Pope will utilize social media and other communication tools to promote positive messages about agriculture.

Pope recently received her master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University, where she also received her bachelor’s degree in Ag Economics. She is a Limon, Colo., native, having grown up on a cow-calf operation.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to have Kelsey on staff,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “The livestock sector is critical to Nebraska and is the best way to add value to corn and distillers grains, which is produced by corn ethanol plants. In this position, Kelsey will work on several livestock initiatives and other outreach efforts, helping to maintain and grow an important sector of our economy. By developing new avenues of communication, she will also help us to reach out to farmers in more ways, encourage communication between farmers and help explain farming and agriculture to those who are interested in food production.”

Nebraska Ag Classic (#NEAC09) set to get underway

The fifth annual Nebraska Ag Classic is gets underway tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Dec. 1) and runs through December 3. This year's event is at the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln and, as always, features some outstanding speakers who will cover a number of critical topics for agriculture. (Here's the agenda.)

For those who can't make it but want a sense of the activities or highlights from speakers, just follow the Nebraska Ag Classic tweets on Twitter by tracking the hashtag #NEAC09. (Just click on that link to see the search results.)

Opening the conference is Dr. Wes Jamison. Jamison's topic will be the ever-growing challenge of dealing with animal activists/anti-agriculture groups. (We've blogged about him before.)

Jamison is very good; you don't want to miss it.

Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., will also be on hand. (She's @mpaynknoper on Twitter and is one of five national finalists for "Twitter User of the Year".)

During the annual awards banquet Dec. 2, she'll present her “Celebrating Agriculture” keynote.
Payn-Knoper returns Thursday, Dec. 3, to talk about social networks in a presentation “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Other speakers include:
  • Chandler Mazour, Using a Holistic Cropping Systems Approach on Your Farm
  • Steve Meinzen, IT4 Emissions Standards
  • Darren Frye, Controlling What You Can Control
  • Sara Wyant, “Washington Insider Update”
  • Nebraska Senator Tom Carlson

Use Garmin or TomTom? Download e85 points of interests (POIs)

The Renewable Fuels Association today released downloads available to Garmin and TomTom GPS devices that allow you to import all e85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gas) stations in the country to the device.

That means wherever you are in the country, your GPS unit can map out a route and guide you to the nearest e85 station to fill up your flex fuel vehicle.

To download the "points of interests" (POIs), go to

“The most frustrating thing for many FFV owners is not knowing where they can fill up with higher level ethanol blends, like E85,” said RFA director of market development Robert White. “With this new feature, drivers going to the grocery store or to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving will know the exact location of the nearest E85 pump.”

White said RFA is working to bring this data to other navigation systems and will update station location data quarterly.

November 25, 2009

Climate change: Global warming with the lid off

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article that has spurred a huge number of comments and further muddied the climate change debate.

Global Warming With the Lid Off
provides a peek into the hidden/secret/deleted emails between scientists.

The WSJ report notes that the emails show that at least some scientists worked to present a "unified" view on the theory of man-made climate, advised each other on how to "smooth over data so as not to compromise the favored hypothesis," to discuss ways to keep opposing views out of leading journals and gave tips on how to "hide the decline" of temperature in certain inconvenient data.

Here's the intro to the article, but click on the link above for more:

'The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. . . . We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

So apparently wrote Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and one of the world's leading climate scientists, in a 2005 email to "Mike." Judging by the email thread, this refers to Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. We found this nugget among the more than 3,000 emails and documents released last week after CRU's servers were hacked and messages among some of the world's most influential climatologists were published on the Internet.

November 23, 2009

Nebraska corn harvest 65 percent complete

Farmers in Nebraska made good progress in getting the corn in again this past week - with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its weekly crop progress report today, noting that 65 percent of the crop was harvested for the week ending Nov. 22.

That's up from 48 percent harvested last week. A year ago farmers were 80 percent complete, while the five-year average is 92 percent complete.

Certainly some farmers have wrapped up, but others will be busy juggling the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend with spending some quality time in the combine.

For more Nebraska details, click on the Crop Progress update above.

Nationally, 68 percent of the crop is in the bin. That's up solidly from last week's 54 percent but behind last year's 87 percent and the five-year average of 94 percent.

As some farmers wrap up harvest, electric fences go up and cattle are turned out to graze on cornstalk stubble, as shown in this week's photo - taken on a foggy morning. This photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Blue Hill FFA chapter.

November 20, 2009

Mike Rowe on agriculture; plus his early days on TV

Mike Rowe, who hosts “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, has spoken several times about farming and farm life - and how sometimes farmers do indeed know the best way to do what they do. (See this video on lamb castration, farming and hard work.)

It's also interesting to note that many of his "Dirty Jobs" segments involve farming in one way or another.

Recently, Rowe sat down with AgriTalk's Mike Adams for an interview.

Rowe talks about a "war on work", his website MikeRoweWorks and specifically about agriculture and animal agriculture.

For the full radio interview, click here.

“Anybody from a city, in my opinion, who spends a day, a week, maybe even just a few hours on a working farm is going to be quickly disabused of a lot of what they believe” Rowe told Adams.

Rowe said he is not looking for trouble with OSHA, PETA or “any other angry acronym.”

“But I’m amazed and really curious to know how they’ve become so influential over the last 40 or 50 years,” he said. “I can’t imagine a political organization dedicated to the elimination of U.S. animal agriculture, as the Humane Society [of the United States] appears to be today.”

Before going on, let me just say that I really like Rowe.  And we've all got to start somewhere.

If you dig a bit at MikeRoweWorks you'll find the Warehouse. It is here where Rowe, in his classic style, discusses his early days on TV - where he worked for QVC in the overnight hours - "sleepwalking through the graveyard shift, and doing my best to amuse myself at a time when the sound of my own voice was the only thing keeping me awake."

He later learned that people at The Onion would videotape his shift on QVC "on purpose and then - inexplicably - watch it at work for the purposes of fostering 'the proper level of subversion and irreverence'. How crazy is that? At a time when I was offending the gentle sensibilities of insomniacs and doll collectors everywhere, I was simultaneously providing inspiration to aspiring writers and starving artists."

Rowe links to a few YouTube videos that you may find entertaining, provided you appreciate his sense of humor. Be sure to check out the dirt shirt and art glass links, too. (And, yes, QVC eventually let him go.)

Also, fyi, Rowe in on Twitter - click here.

Podcasts: Corn checkoff testimony, appreciation

We have two podcasts this week.

The first is by Lynn Chrisp, a farmer from Kenesaw and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Chrisp provides a few details on testimony provided by NeCGA president Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner, to the state legislature's Appropriations Committee on the corn checkoff/budget issue (find the complete history here).

The second podcast features Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. Tiemann gives a bit of background on the checkoff and also says thank you to the Appropriations Committee, state senators and other individuals and ag organizations who supported keeping checkoff funds for their intended use.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

November 19, 2009

Corn genome sequence - 'wiring diagram' - being released

While we've known for sometime that a map of the corn genome had been completed, details from the Maize Genome Sequencing Project will officially appear in tomorrow's edition of the journal Science - which features a cover story on the subject.

This new report highlights the high-quality sequence of genes in maize (corn) and provides a detailed physical map of the maize genome. This map identifies the order in which genes are located along each of maize's 10 chromosomes and the physical distances between those genes.

The National Corn Growers Association noted that public and private scientists will be able to take this knowledge and develop real world applications and innovative technological advances that will improve plants and expand their uses to meet growing needs for food, feed and fuel.

NCGA spearheaded the effort on legislation that authorized major plant genome research back in 1997.

Have a look at the sequence (click for a larger image):

According to the National Science Foundation, additional information provided by the new maize genome sequence includes the locations on chromosomes of interesting, repeated sections of DNA (called centromeres) that are responsible for the faithful inheritance of those chromosomes by daughter cells during cell division.

This new genome sequence represents a major watershed in genetics because it promises to dvance basic research of maize and other grains and help scientists and breeders improve maize crops, which are economically important and serve as globally important sources of food, fuel and fiber.

Resulting improved strains of maize may, for example, produce larger yields, show resistance to disease, offer efficiencies in nitrogen use that would enable farmers to reduce applications of costly, polluting fertilizers and tolerate changes in rainfall or temperature accompanying climate change.

“We used to compare a genome to a user manual, now we speak of it more like a wiring diagram. To gain the best value from this research, we need additional biological knowledge with which to pair it," said Pat Schnable, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University.

A dozen companion papers on maize biology will be released in tandem with sequencing results.

For an interesting look at some of the details, read this post at Science News or this at the Washington Post.

You can also go to and browse the genome for yourself.

Chief Ethanol Fuels turns 25

Nebraska's first modern ethanol plant - Chief Ethanol Fuels near Hastings - is celebrating 25 years in operation with an open house next Monday, Nov. 23.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson will provide keynote remarks at 1:00 p.m. Bob Eihusen, president of Chief Industries, Chief Ethanol's parent company, and Duane Kristensen, general manager of Chief Ethanol Fuels.

Tours of the plant will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nebraska grew from this initial plant to become the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country today. The state currently has 23 ethanol plants with a combined production capacity of nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol. These ethanol plants also directly employ some 1,000 Nebraskan's and represent more than $1.4 billion in capital investment in rural parts of the state.

As for Chief Ethanol Fuels, the Nebraska Ethanol Board put together a short history of the company:

Originally constructed by American Diversified Corporation, the plant was purchased by Chief Industries of Grand Island, Neb., in November 1990. It was the first commercial scale fuel ethanol production plant in the state and, since it started production in 1984, has continued to produce high-octane, clean-burning ethanol 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- shipping it across the state and across the nation.

Since 1984, production capacity has increased from 10 million gallons per year to approximately 70 million gallons per year today, thanks to several expansions that began in 1993 and continuous improvements today. Corn consumption at the plant has grown from 4 million bushels per year to more than 25 million bushels annually. The plant purchases corn from area elevators and farmers within a 60-mile radius.

Chief Ethanol Fuels also produces distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production that is fed to cattle. Chief Ethanol markets its wet distillers grains to area feedlots. The plant also dries some of the product for shipment as far as the West Coast.

Here's a breakdown of some of the company's numbers:
  • 25,000,000+ bushels of corn ground each year
  • 70,000,000 gallons of ethanol produced each year
  • 650,000 tons of distillers grains produced each year
  • 60 full-time equivalent employees
  • 25,000 trucks of corn processed per year
  • 23,000 trucks of distillers grains shipped out each year
Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said that the Chief Ethanol Fuels plant was Nebraska’s initial stake in the ground in terms of declaring ethanol as a major economic development initiative for the state.

"Nebraska has a unique combination of corn, cattle and ethanol," Sneller said. "Agriculture is the economic engine that drives Nebraska, and ethanol is adding value in very powerful ways that reverberate throughout our state. It is important that we continue to support and develop this industry for the good of Nebraska and for the good of our nation."

Sneller added that the outlook for the sustainability of the ethanol industry is good.

"Corn producers continue to grow more corn on less land and with less water—and ethanol producers continue to squeeze more ethanol out of a bushel of corn with less energy and less water," he said. "Efficiency will improve profitability and will continue to position ethanol as a key component in America’s energy and economic future."

November 16, 2009

Nebraska corn 48 percent harvested

In its weekly crop progress report issued today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 48 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was in the bin - that’s an 18-point increase from last week.

Harvest is still behind last year and the average. A year ago, Nebraska farmers were 66 percent complete, while the five-year average is 86 percent harvested.

Progress, however, is progress, and many farmers are only a dry week away from wrapping up harvesting their record crop. Crop quality and plant health remain high overall and yield reports from the field are outstanding.

USDA's yield estimate from last week - 178 bushels per acre in Nebraska - certainly seems doable despite the tough weather over the last six to eight weeks. That would put Nebraska's crop at 1.58 billion bushels. Both yield and crop production would set records.

This week's photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Heartland FFA chapter. The photo shows a few corn stalks broken off at the top, but farmers are not overly concerned about that. Stalks just needs to stand strong to  hold up the ear - and that seems to be happening.

November 12, 2009

Erwin recognized with Elevator Appreciation Award

The Nebraska Corn Board recognized Rich Erwin with its annual Elevator Appreciation Award. Erwin is the owner and operator of Laurel Feed and Grain of Laurel, NE.

“Rich Erwin is an active Nebraska elevator manager who exhibits an excellent understanding of the value of the Nebraska corn checkoff and willingly assists in promoting this value with his customers,” said Bob Dickey, the Nebraska Corn Board member who nominated Erwin.

In addition to responsibilities as an elevator manager, Erwin is also active in the community and has served as the past chairman of the Laurel-Concord school board and currently serves as the president of the Cedar-Knox Public Power District.

The Elevator Appreciation Award is presented annually to a grain elevator manager or personnel who are supportive of the mission of the Nebraska corn checkoff and help communicate the value of checkoff investments.

November 11, 2009

Decision unanimous to protect checkoff funds

The Nebraska legislature's Appropriations Committee today agreed to recommend that the Legislature not authorize a transfer of money from several state checkoff boards to help balance the state's budget.

Checkoffs that were on the list to have money transferred from their accounts to the general fund included corn, grain sorghum, poultry and egg, potato development, winery and grape, wheat and dry bean.

According to this update from the Journal Star, the checkoffs were looking at a combined transfer of $1.2 million.

The Omaha World Herald reported that appropriations committee members voted without dissent to leave the commodity checkoff funds untouched. The committee also voted to spare brand inspection funds.

Nebraska Farm Bureau president Keith Olsen said his group welcomes reports of the appropriations committee decision to leave the commodity checkoff programs untouched.

"The checkoff programs were initiated by farmers as a self-help investment tool to fund research, education and promotion of their commodities," he said, noting that checkoffs are an investment farmers make in the future of agriculture.

"To have transferred the dollars to assist with the state's budget problems would have undermined the integrity of the programs," he said.

Podcast: Farmers remain a trusted source of information

In this Podcast, Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about a survey that found broad public respect and trust for family farmers and broad support for corn as food, feed and fuel.

The survey was conducted by the National Corn Growers Association.

Sousek notes that 95 percent of those polled found farmers to be trusted sources of information when it comes to agriculture, corn products and ethanol, while ethanol itself was supported as a good fuel alternative by 65 percent of those polled.

Ninety-five percent support the use of corn as food for people, while 93 percent support its use as livestock feed. Sixty-seven percent support the use of corn as a sweetener, while more uses of corn, like for fiber and packaging, were supported by 73 percent of those polled.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

Checkoff thoughts from Nebraska Cattlemen

Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen, did a radio report late last week talking about checkoffs - and how those funds were setup by farmers to promote their products.

He noted that he believes it is inappropriate to use farmer checkoff funds in the state's general fund. He also addresses the Nebraska Brand Committee, and the importance of it to cattle producers.

To have a listen, click here.

Irrigation, livestock water use lowest since 1970s

Every five years the U.S. Geological Survey does an assessment of water use in the United States. It recently came out with its analysis of water use in 2005 (the latest figures).

In its analysis, it said that the United States used 410 billion gallons of water per day in 2005, which is down from 413 billion gallons per day in 2000. This number is the total amount of water withdrawn in the U.S. for all purposes -- residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial and power plant cooling.

You can find the USGS report here.

The report noted that water use for livestock production and irrigation were less in 2005 than 2000.

Water for irrigation was down 8 percent over that period and, at 128 billion gallons per day, was approximately equal to the amount of irrigation water used in 1970.

Water used for livestock, meanwhile, was the smallest since 1975 at 2.1 billion gallons per day. Water for livestock makes up less than 1 percent of of all freshwater withdrawals in the country.

Considering how much more grains, fruits, veggies, meat, milk and eggs are produced today, those figures are pretty amazing.

For comparison, water use for power generation stood at 201 billion gallons per day, while water for public supply was 44.2 billion gallons per day.

Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, blogged on the subject and provided some interesting perspectives of total water use per capita. After all, there are a 81 million more people in the United States today - yet total water use is lower.

An analysis by the Pacific Institute noted that:
  • Total water use in the U.S. in 2005 is lower than it was in 1975.
  • Per capita water use in the U.S. in 2005 is lower than it has been since the mid-1950s
  • U.S. water use, per person, peaked in 1975 at 1,944 gallons per person per day and has now dropped to 1,383 gallons per day.
Gleick called the new numbers are "the latest evidence for a remarkable change in U.S. water use toward more efficient use."

“The population of the U.S. has grown by more than 81 million people since 1975, but total water use has declined. As a result, our per-person water use is almost 30% lower than it was 30 years ago,” Gleick said.

“If each American still used 1,940 gallons per day, population growth would have caused the U.S. to use an additional 165 billion gallons per day. That’s equal to more than 12 new Colorado Rivers -- or enough water for everyone in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Michigan," he said.

November 10, 2009

Testimony presented on corn checkoff

Corn farmers testified in front of the Nebraska legislature's appropriations committee yesterday to explain why they believe it is wrong to transfer money from checkoff programs into the state's general general fund.

Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chair of the Nebraska Corn Board, the farmer-run organization that oversees the corn checkoff, noted that he had "never seen anything that has galvanized our industry more than when it was proposed to transfer checkoff dollars from seven checkoff programs to the general fund."

He said the issue became very personal to all of agriculture because checkoff funds were never intended to be part of the general fund. "Farmers feel they already contribute through property, sales and income taxes," he said.

He also noted that:

These are not “passive dollars or programs”. What we do with corn checkoff dollars not only helps develop markets for corn, but they help beef, pork, poultry, ethanol, biodegradable plastics and dozens of other programs. They are not just advertising programs. They help our agriculture industry to be more successful and profitable so we can contribute to the general fund in other ways. As a farmer-operated organization we spend a great deal of personal time to insure the dollars we invest are benefiting Nebraska producers.

Giltner farmer Brandon Hunnicutt, who is president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, explained a bit of history of the corn checkoff.

He noted that in 1978 corn farmers from across Nebraska came together to work with the State Legislature to pass the Corn Resources Act. This Act created the corn checkoff by allowing farmers to invest in themselves with every bushel they sell.

The farmer members of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association played a key role in getting the checkoff established.

Hunnicutt said the checkoff was designed to be 100 percent self funded, so farmers would manage their investment and choose the research projects, marketing development programs and promotion efforts that made the most sense for farmers.

Along the way, these investments have paid dividends for farmers and the state as a whole.

He explained that the corn checkoff funds research that helps cattle producers take advantage of the feed products produced by ethanol plants and that it helps develop and create innovative products like renewable bioplastics that are made in Nebraska. The checkoff also helps get Nebraska pork and beef into Japan, China and the other global markets, which adds value to every animal in the state that’s raised on Nebraska corn and related feed products.

"All of this maintains and creates new markets for the corn produced by some 26,000 Nebraska farmers, all of whom contribute to the corn checkoff," Hunnicutt said.

November 9, 2009

Podcast: Ag myths abound the popular press and bad TV shows

In this Podcast, Greg Whitmore, a farmer from Shelby and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses some of the crazy things farmers have heard over the last few weeks -- from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and taxes to prime time television shows like CSI:Miami that demonstrate an ignorance of agriculture.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

Nebraska corn 30 percent harvested

Good news came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture today when its weekly crop progress report confirmed that progress was indeed made on getting Nebraska's corn crop in the bin.

USDA reported that 30 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was harvested as of Nov. 8 - a solid 12 point jump from last week's 18 percent complete. A dry week made a huge difference, as farmers got moving quickly. A year ago at this time 55 percent of the crop was in the bin, while the five-year average is 77 percent.

Nationally, 37 percent of the crop is harvested, also a 12 point jump from last week's 25 percent. A year ago farmers were at 69 percent complete, while the five-year average is 82 percent.

Good progress on the corn is an indication that soybean is about wrapped up. Indeed, USDA said 90 percent of Nebraska's beans were harvested, and 75 percent are out nationally. The Nebraska figure is only 7 points behind the average, while the national figure is 17 points behind.

This week's photo shows combine headlines at night - was a common seen in Nebraska this past week. Farmers  were working hard around the clock to get caught up on harvest. The photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Imperial FFA Chapter.

November 8, 2009

Checkoff, budget plan continues to draw attention

A proposal to use checkoff funds to help fill a small gap of the big hole in the Nebraska state budget continues to draw the attention. Media continue to report on the subject, and many farmers, it seems, have been contacting their state legislators and representatives to voice their opinion on the matter.

An article in today's Omaha World Herald, Heineman told to keep hands off, covers a lot of ground. It discusses the whole checkoff/budget debate from several points of view, but it also wanders into an area that seems to question some of the activities of the checkoff boards, including reaching out to folks who live in cities.

Such outreach efforts, though, are becoming more important. Critical even. People don't always know where their food comes from and why farmers do what they do. If farmers don't work hard to explain this, groups who are anti-agriculture or who have assorted agendas will run amok.

The article (and video) from NTV, Governor's Budget Plan Under Fire From Farmers, features Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul. Scheer, who is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, which oversees the state's corn checkoff, said farmers object to moving their checkoff dollars. Scheer said it's a self-imposed fee designed to benefit the state's top industry.

"I think it's an ugly precedent to set," he said.

There's also a good article by Don McCabe in the Nebraska Farmer, Farmers Upset Over Plan to Take Checkoff Funds. In the article, Nebraska Corn Board chairman Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward, said the budget plan would cause the board to start next year with deficit and the year following with an even larger deficit.

Finally, KRVN interviewed the governor on Friday about the budget and other matters. You can listen to that here. KRVN also aired a special report on the budget issue form state Senator Tom Carlson here.

Those who are interested in the corn checkoff are set to appear before the appropriations committee in Lincoln tomorrow. I'll report some of what they had to say in this blog.

November 5, 2009

Corn checkoff in the news

Repurposing checkoff funds as a way to help the state of Nebraska close its budget has been in the news across Nebraska this week -- and I’ve compiled a list of a few of those articles below.

In general, ag groups point out that checkoff funds are paid by farmers for the specific purpose of research, market development, promotion and education for their industry.

The corn checkoff, for example, helps develop markets for corn and provides important support for the ethanol and livestock industries (key markets for corn and corn coproducts).

Alan Tieman, a farmer from Seward, is current chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board (the checkoff corn organization in the state). He is featured in several pieces -- and points out how farmers (like all of us) pay sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

The checkoff, though, is an investment created, funded and managed by farmers for farmers. (For more on what the checkoff is, check out this post.)

In a report by Brownfield’s Ken Anderson, NE governor, ag groups at odds over checkoff funds, Tiemann is quoted:

We all believe that our checkoff dollars are farmer-invested funds -- they’re not general tax dollars. These are funds that we use for market development, research, promotion -- defending Nebraska agriculture.

The Brownfield piece includes audio interviews with Tiemann, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Jay Rempe and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.

The Grand Island Independent article, Dubas moves to keep ag checkoff funds out of state budget talks, includes information on state Senator Annette Dubas’s effort to keep the Legislature from using checkoff funds to cover the state's budget shortage.

In the article by Mark Coddington, Dubas acknowledged that the state is in dire financial straits and said that "everything has to be out there." Still, she said, checkoff funds are a fundamentally different kind of funds than the rest of the state's coffers.

The Lincoln Journal Star also had a front page article: Commodity board advocates up in arms.

The article includes a good quote from Farm Bureau President Keith Olsen:

We recognize there is a financial crisis. We have no question about that. But this issue is a matter of principle. And, in our opinion, it's wrong to take farmers' money that was checked off for a certain use and to try to put that into a completely different use.

Tiemann was also quoted: "If the governor wants to take checkoff money and put it into the general fund, then they become tax funds. It becomes a new tax on farmers.

KOLN/KGIN, like several TV stations across the state, included information its newscast last night in the piece Governor's Proposed Budget Calls For A Shared Sacrifice From State Agencies. It talks about the situation and notes that taking checkoff funds would cause a ripple effect, as cooperating agencies like the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Grain Council and the University of Nebraska depend on corn checkoff funds.

USMEF promotes beef and pork around the world, which supports Nebraska livestock producers. The Grains Council promotes U.S. corn and corn coproducts in the global marketplace and the University of Nebraska does a lot of corn and livestock-related research.

What is the corn checkoff?

Over the last couple of days, several folks have asked “what is the corn checkoff?” To help answer that question, I’ve put this together as an attempt to explain. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question or clarification.

Many corn producing states have implemented a corn checkoff program, including Nebraska. The bottom line mission of corn checkoffs is to increase the profitability of corn farmers. How? Through corn farmers investing their own money into research, market development, promotion and education for the corn industry. It’s kind of like a research and development program for the long-term benefit of corn farmers.

Nebraska’s corn checkoff was created in 1978 when Corn Resources Act was passed by the Nebraska Legislature. Importantly, the effort to start the checkoff was led by Nebraska corn farmers themselves, most notably members of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association who chose to invest in their future.

In addition to being farmer-funded, the checkoff is also overseen by farmers -- through the nine farmer-directors that make up the Nebraska Corn Board.

That means the corn checkoff was initiated by farmers, and is 100 percent funded and managed by farmers.

Like other checkoffs in Nebraska and across the country, Nebraska’s corn checkoff was created by corn farmers specifically to benefit corn farmers. Its top priorities are the livestock and ethanol sectors -- as those two sectors provide a number of synergies that benefit corn farmers and the state as a whole through economic development.

The corn checkoff rate in Nebraska is one-fourth of a cent per bushel, a level it has been at since 1988. When the checkoff began, the rate was one-tenth of a cent per bushel.

While Nebraska is the third-largest corn producing state in the country, its checkoff rate is currently the lowest in the country.