March 31, 2009

Corn acres on par with last year

Nebraska corn producers intend to plant some 8.8 million acres of corn in 2009, the same number of acres as last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report that came out this morning.

Depending on weather as planting begins - and then during the growing season - the potential is certainly there for a very big crop based on the total number of acres planted.

USDA's acre update in June (and weather!) will keep markets guessing as to where we'll end up.

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release that the report indicates Nebraska will remain a consistent supplier of corn.

"The supply side for corn looks extremely healthy, as planting intentions would be the third-largest on record," Hutchens said. "Farmers have seen some input costs fall, which will help their bottom line, and once planting starts, the large investment farmers make in planting the crop will provide a stimulus package to rural communities."

Nationally, USDA said corn producers intend to plant 85.0 million acres, down 1 percent from last year’s 86.0 million. Although acres are down from last year and two years ago, prospective plantings this year are still the third largest since 1949, and planting intentions in the top 10 corn states have increased slightly over last year.

USDA also released a report on corn stocks - the amount of corn in storage across the country.

It said the U.S. had 8.8 billion bushels on hand as of March 1, an increase of 1 percent from last year. In Nebraska, there were 808.3 million bushels on hand, an increase of 5.4 percent from 766.8 million a year ago. There is a lot of corn still in bins across the country.

Photo: Holdrege FFA (Nebraska Corn Board 2008 Crop Progress Collection)

March 27, 2009

Nebraska Corn Board's FFA photo contest winners

Each year, the Nebraska Corn Board partners with local FFA chapters, with FFA students in those chapters sending in field reports and photographs from their region from planting through harvest.

The Nebraska Corn Board then uses the photos and information in Crop Progress Updates it produces throughout the growing season.

Once harvest is complete, all of the photos are are combined and judged.

Since the Corn Board is gearing up for another year of Crop Progress Reports and some great photos from FFA students, we thought we'd share the top photos from 2008-09.

The first photo (above) is from the Imperial FFA - it took first place in the action shot category.

The second photo (left) is from the Holdredge FFA - it won the close-up category.

The third photo (below) is from the Imperial FFA - it won in the expanded view category.

Other FFA chapters that participated included Heartland FFA, Norris FFA, Sutton FFA and Loup City FFA.

You can see a much larger image by clicking on any of the photos.

Keep an eye out for photos this growing season - we'll try to feature a few here on the blog.

Podcast: Corn production is more sustainable than ever

In this Podcast, John Shiers of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association talks about the significant improvements in corn production over the years - in terms of sustainability. For example, the Kearney farmer notes that:
  • In 2008 it took 40 percent less land and 50 percent less energy to produce a bushel of corn than it did in 1987.
  • Irrigation water applied per acre declined by about 50,000 gallons through the most recent survey year - and when you consider that yields have moved up about 40 percent during the last 20 years, that means we’re getting a whole lot more bushels of corn with a lot less water.
  • Soil loss per acre is down a significant 43 percent over the last 20 years.

March 26, 2009

Dr. Borlaug turns 95

Dr. Norman Borlaug turned 95 yesterday - and you can wish him a happy birthday.

Dr. Borlaug, of course, is credited for launching the Green Revolution. For a full history on this living legend, check out his bio at the World Food Prize site.

Dr. Borlaug has won the Nobel Peace Prize and been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Only four other folks have achieved such accolades: Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King. Pretty good group, huh?

He has also received the Padma Vibhushan - India's highest civilian honor to non-citizens. Oh yeah...he started the World Food Prize, too.

Credited with saving millions and perhaps billions of lives, more than any other person ever, Dr. Borlaug is a firm believer in science and technology, and how science can feed the world.

Here is a video of Dr. Borlaug talking about science and technology.

In the video below - a clip from a Penn & Teller episode on food production - Borlaug has an important line - You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.

For the full 10-minute feature from Penn & Teller on food and hunger (from their series on Showtime), where they blast the anti-technology folks at Greenpeace and highlight Dr. Borlaug and technology, click here.
(FYI - It ends with an outburst from Penn that would cause it to get a PG-13 rating.)

Here is another quote:

Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past.

March 25, 2009

Doctor of Plant Health - coming this fall

The University of Nebraska is launching a new professional program for plant practitioners - where a student can become a Doctor of Plant Health.

Classes begin this August.

This isn't simply a few extra courses you take during your time at UNL. It is a four year program that comes after your Bachelor's or Master's degrees. So yes, it is safe to say graduates will be experts!

The program, headed by Dr. Gary Hein, aims to develop students that can:
  • Meet the growing worldwide need for professionals who can address plant health and plant management concerns across multiple disciplines.
  • Lead in integrating plant science to detect, diagnose and manage plant health issues.
  • Help feed the world, keep its food supply safe, increase sustainability.
  • Use your knowledge of plant sciences to affect growth of healthy plants in various systems.
For more on this great program, be sure to check out the website - and take the time to watch a video of Dr. Hein talking about the program and why Nebraska is a good place for such a program.

For example, Nebraska has an extensive diversity of crops, soil types and environmental conditions. Rainfall varies considerably from west to east, and elevation ranges from 250 m to more than 1600 m above sea level, which leads to differences in humidity, maximum and minimum temperatures, and seasonal heat unit accumulation.

Fellowships to help cover tuition are available.

Who would better care for Fluffy - Vick or PETA?

That question was pondered today in a post today on a New York Times sports blog.

In the writer's opinion, he would take his chances with Michael Vick. Why? Because PETA puts down more than 90 percent of the pets it cares for each year.

Interestingly enough, the NYT post came the same day new numbers were put out about PETA's ability to adopt pets versus put them down. According to this, in 2008 the organization "killed 2,124 pets and placed only seven in adoptive homes."

That set a new record low for PETA....

PETA has a $32 million annual budget. But instead of investing in the lives of the thousands of flesh and blood creatures in its care, the group spends millions on media campaigns telling Americans that eating meat, drinking milk, fishing, hunting, wearing leather shoes, and benefiting from medical research performed on lab rats are all "unethical."

Yet PETA is somehow taken seriously.

March 24, 2009

Podcast: Some facts on HFCS

In this Podcast, Joel High of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association provides a few updated facts on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). He also expresses some appreciation for a pizza company that agreed to revise some of its advertising due to misleading statements on HFCS.

High is a corn producer from Bertrand.

March 23, 2009

Support of HSUS drives Idol fans away from Underwood

Country music star Carrie Underwood has again riled up some of her fans for publicly supporting the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a group that devotes much time and even more money to putting livestock producers out of business.

The latest comes from Underwood's recording of the Motley Crüe song "Home Sweet Home" for American Idol - and that she is donating the proceeds from the sale of that song to HSUS.

That announcement got the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance fired up and the word spread quickly. The Alliance encouraged people to comment on Underwood's website and protest to Fox Broadcasting, which airs American Idol.

In fact, Underwood has so far received more than 140 comments on her official website - and most are negative. Some comments have also been deleted.

Many note HSUS and its true mission - while helping to expose the organization for what it is.

Here is part of one comment:

HSUS has duped their donors. This animal rights group is simply out to pad their pockets and in the process take down farmers and pet owners. I grew up on my family farm, spent a great childhood participating in 4-H, own a dog, work in ag and my husband and I enjoy hunting and fishing. I wouldn't change those experiences and opportunities for the world. I'm thankful we have a choice in our lives and I'm even more thankful that my family is able to produce food - milk, meat, grains, etc. to feed our nation. They've chosen a noble profession and we have a moral and biblical right to feed people and in the process own and care for livestock, pets, and other animals. Farmers are wonderful people.

I urge you to seek out more information on this organization and discover the truth about this animal rights group. You are only human and we all make mistakes in judgement from time to time. I hope you realize this mistake, drop your support of this organization and find a legitimate organization to support that actually exists - local or state humane society, injured animal group, etc. There are several honest, helpful groups that could use your support.

Remember when Underwood performed at the FFA Convention? Hundreds of students walked out because of her ties to HSUS.

Like the comments above, people just want the truth to get out - that HSUS is not your neighborhood humane society that takes care of stray pets. HSUS is a radical animal rights organization. (Yes, animal rights, which should not be confused with animal welfare.)

For more truths on HSUS, check out this YouTube video - a tribute to 147 dogs the organization asked to be destroyed. Or this Sports Illustrated story about Michael Vick's dogs - yes, HSUS asked that they be destroyed as well, at the same time it was asking for money to support them. (Check out this blog post.)

Also check out's report. And this blog report.

For more truths about HSUS and it's partner the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), click here to visit, which explains how PETA puts down more than 90 percent of the animals in its care.

At what point will HSUS and its partners be called out for what they really are?

These organizations are more interested in money and telling others what they can or cannot do when it comes to pets and food animals then they do about the animals themselves. Although several pet-focused items have been listed above, think Prop 2 in California (and using that as a platform for a 'vegan state'), hog operations in Florida and Arizona and more.

Check out this Brownfield interview with Cindy Cooke, legislative director for the United Kennel Club, the world’s largest all-breed registry for working dogs. Cooke wants all livestock groups to stand up to HSUS and related groups.

"We need to grow strong enough that every time they (HSUS) open their mouth, we can roar back at them with a thousand voices, saying that they’re lying and that we’re not going to adopt their radical views," Cooke said.

As an alternative to HSUS, check out this article from the Daily Express (U.K.). In the article, rock legend Roger Daltrey gets it right.

March 21, 2009

It's 'National Corndog Day'

Thanks to Corn Commentary for letting us know that today is National Corndog Day.

(The day even has a song - visit Corn Commentary to have a listen.)

Here is a bit of information from a news release announcing this year's "NCD":

Officially-registered NCD parties have doubled each year for the past five years. Corndogs have also gained in popularity. Foster Farms, the nation's best selling Corn Dog producer, made enough corndogs in the past year that if you were to line up the sticks, you'd cover 59,331 miles - enough to circle Earth almost two and a half times!

The guys enjoying corn dogs in photo are Don Hutchens, Nebraska Corn Board executive director, and Bob Dickey, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and current president of the National Corn Growers Association.

The photo was taken at the recent Commodity Classic - where Dickey was honored as president of NCGA. For a few more photos on the event - which was a '50s theme (to help explain Hutchen's hair and the bowling shirts) - click here.

March 19, 2009

Corn Board: Increasing blend rate makes sense

The Nebraska Corn Board said today that increasing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline is a logical next step to achieve the biofuels consumption increases prescribed by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. EISA includes the Renewable Fuels Standard, which is set to increase the amount of ethanol used each year through 2022.

About two weeks ago, a number of ethanol advocacy groups asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to to allow ethanol blended with gasoline to increase up to 15 percent (e15).

Several groups and individuals have come out in support of the request.

"In order to reach 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022 as established by the Energy Independence and Security Act, we need to move beyond e10 because it will take less than 15 billion gallons of ethanol to reach the e10 blend limit in all gas sold in the United States," said Randy Klein, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn Board. "Moving to e15, or perhaps a stair step approach to e12 or e13, is one way to begin heading down that path."

Klein also noted that America's corn farmers exceeded market demand for corn over the last year, creating a surplus, so there is no question about the corn supply available to meet demands from the ethanol sector and others.

"Corn farmers demonstrated they can meet the demands placed upon them for feed, food, fuel and fiber, and at the same time help Nebraska take advantage of the corn to ethanol to distillers grains to livestock value-added chain that is so good for this state’s economy," he said.

March 18, 2009

Nebraska pork producers receive environmental awards

The National Pork Board recently honored two Nebraska pork producers by presenting them with Environmental Steward Awards. The Pork Board said the award winners "exemplify excellence in environmental care and conservation in pork production."

The Nebraska producers who were honored include:
  • O'Neel Farms of Friend, represented by Terry and Diane O'Neel and family, and
  • Enterprise Nurseries of Madrid, represented by John Csukker and Jill Goedeken.
A producer from Minnesota and another from Missouri were also presented with the award. Click here for the news release form the Pork Board.

For a better story, though, follow this link to the Brownfield report by Tom Steever. (It includes a good interview with Terry O'Neel.)

Steever notes that the O'Neel's live right next to their 500 sows.

"We still have picnics there, we still have family gatherings there," Terry O'Neel told Brownfield after accepting the award. "We actually have come to our farms and give tours, so we have some great odor control programs going, so it helps increase our quality of life."

John Csukker of Enterprise Nurseries has two units with room for 15,000 young pigs, but he said they’re also a good neighbor - "You just don’t know it’s there," he said.

Environmental steward award winners receive a plaque in recognition for their strong environmental ethics. Their stories were featured in National Hog Farmer magazine, which co-sponsors the awards program, in the Pork Checkoff Report and in an educational video produced and distributed by the National Pork Board.

National Hog Farmer profiles of the operations are available here for the O'Neels and here for Enterprise Nurseries.

March 17, 2009

Senators chime in on indirect land use

A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. Senators have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to propose regulations assuming that greater U.S. biofuels use would increase carbon dioxide emissions through "indirect land use changes."

The senators argued the data and methods for calculating indirect land use changes are not adequately developed.

EPA has not yet published a proposed rule on the subject – but one has been expected for some time now.

Here are a few lines from the news release:

"It defies common sense that EPA would publish a proposed rulemaking with harmful conclusions for biofuels based on incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions," Sen. Chuck Grassley said. "EPA’s actions, if based on erroneous indirect land use assumptions, could hinder biofuels development and actually extend America’s reliance on dirtier fossil fuels. Agricultural practices and land use decisions in other countries are not driven by U.S. biofuels policy, and should not be used to undermine our domestic biofuels industry."

Their letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recommends that EPA refrain from including calculations of the effects of indirect land use changes in their rulemaking at this time.

The concern comes from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that calls for reduced carbon emissions from advanced biofuels under the RFS.

The law requires biofuels like ethanol to meet certain lifecycle greenhouse gas emission caps in order to qualify for the RFS. It specifies that those lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are to include the effects of indirect land use changes.

The challenge is there are so many unknowns about land use changes – with many calling some conclusions on the subject nothing more than unproven theories.

For the senator’s full letter, click here.

Ethanol myths won't go away

There have been two very negative editorials published in papers in the last few days. First in the Boston Globe ("King Corn cows Washington") and then in the Wall Street Journal ("Everyone hates ethanol").

Both are short sighted and continue to repeat ethanol myths that have been debunked time and again.

DTN made a few good points in reference to the article in the Globe, and the National Corn Growers have also sent a letter to the paper.

Growth Energy refuted the Wall Street Journal article on a fact by fact basis. To check that out, click here. NCGA also sent a letter.

Here is one of Growth Energy's responses to a line on CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

Using E15 instead of unleaded gasoline will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 million tons, equivalent to removing 10.5 million cars from our roads. The latest research published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology found that ethanol plants reduce GHG emissions by up to 59 percent compared to gasoline.

Portions also referred to land use changes - but that's been covered. (Update: Covered here, too.)

March 16, 2009

Chicken's biggest problem was too much chicken

Tom Hensley, president of Fieldale Farms, a large Georgia-based chicken company, displayed some math earlier this year that was reported in a column in Feedstuffs early last month.

Hensley compared chicken company returns from June 2004 - "the best of times" for chicken producers - with November 2008, aka "the worst of times". Not exactly a fair comparison, but whatever. (Who wouldn't want to compare a tough year to the best of the best of times could just go on forever.)

Every one of the top 25 chicken companies in the country made money in 2004. (How could they loose money? Breast meat was selling for $2.50/lb and chicken production was inline with demand. The global economy was booming.)

In November 2008, only one company made money, and only two made money for the year. Why? Well, high corn prices 'due to ethanol', is the standard (and bogus) line. Hensley did acknowledge 'excess production', too, but take a look at the details below and try to figure out how anyone could blame corn ethanol for the bulk of the chicken industry's woes in 2008.

Breast meat in June 2004: $2.50/lb.
Breast meat in Nov. 2008: $1.00/lb.
...a decline of $1.50/lb.
(breast meat in Feb. 2009 was $1.07/lb.,
26 percent below Feb. 2008)

Breast meat in storage June 2004: 20 million pounds
Breast meat in storage Nov. 2008: 35 million pounds
...over production and reduced demand

Feed/ingredient cost June 2004: 20 cents/lb.
Feed/ingredient cost Nov. 2008: 25 cents/lb. increase 5 cents, or 25 percent

Average live weight cost of production June 2004: 30 cents/lb.
Average live weight cost of production Nov. 2008: 39.9 cents/lb.
...increase of 9.9 cents, or 33 percent
(birds were raised to heavier weights in 2008,
and there were a lot more birds on feed)

The least profitable company was loosing 21.38 cents/lb. in November last year. Even if feed costs were the same as four years ago, this company would have been loosing money.

Yes, feed costs were up last year for chicken companies. No surprise there. Yet as vocal as Big Chicken and others were about corn prices and ethanol, one was led to believe that was the biggest problem the sector faced.

Turns out, the biggest problem for Big Chicken was simply too many big chickens.

The industry simply over expanded after having several banner years in a row and did not respond to the economic slowdown quickly enough. It's a classic example of "blame shifting" - publicly blaming one thing to draw attention away from the real problem.

(For the record, Hensley forecasted a return to profitability for the chicken industry this year - likely in the 3-5 cents/lb. range.)

Retailers playing hardball on prices

Food manufacturers continue to face the music when it comes to their prices.

The headline on this post comes from another good article on this subject. (See this article and this one.)

Seems food manufacturers can't catch a break from grocery stores and other retailers who can do the math for themselves and know prices aren't what they should be.

Here's a portion:

"We don’t have to carry three brands," Costco Wholesale Corp.'s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told investors earlier this month. "We can choose between brands that are going to be more aggressive, that help us help our members."

Costco has been lowering its prices, Galanti said, and is prepared to sacrifice profit margins and cut national brands that won’t negotiate on pricing - if that’s what it takes to drive sales.

"We are not the only ones out there pressuring manufacturers," he said.

Steven Burd, president of grocery chain Safeway Inc., recently told investors that it has gotten some vendors to roll back their prices. Like many retailers, it is finding its new strength in its in-house brands, including Safeway Select, O organics and Primo Taglio deli products.

Of course, food manufacturers may bark back that they have lowered some prices, but the grocery chains are pocketing the difference. That, indeed, may be the case.

Food companies, however, set the table when they started blaming corn and biofuels for their price increases. Now that such costs have fallen by half, they may need to pull up a chair and dig into a bit of humble pie.

March 12, 2009

Indirect land use and ethanol: An unproven theory

The talk over land use has heated up since California's Air Resources Board (ARB) published proposed rules on its "Low Carbon Fuel Standard" last week.

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is one step in the state's plans to reduce its carbon output. Although that may sound nice if carbon output is a concern for you, ARB's methodology is a bit perplexing and actually favors gasoline over much of the corn-based ethanol available in the state. In fact, most ethanol would not meat the state's goals to reduce carbon emissions, which it measures in grams of carbon per magajoule of of energy the energy source delivers.

In all actuality, corn ethanol fairs much better than gasoline - but where ARB pulls the rug is when it assigns a "land use change" factor to ethanol. This factor is based on assumptions that don't always make sense. If we use an acre of corn in the U.S. to produce ethanol (and feed - researchers tend to forget about distillers grains), does that mean an acre of rain forest will be burned and plowed somewhere else?

The answer is 'no' - real-world experience tells us that. (Check out this post at the MidwestCornGrowers blog.)

But an unproven theory is better than real world experience or common sense?

For example, if U.S. exports remain the same or increase, is it fair to say acres being plowed up somewhere else is the fault of U.S. corn-based ethanol? That's what one study noted - a study that concluded we could get to 15 billion gallons of ethanol without any land use changes at all.

Growth Energy has a very good paper on the subject - to get to that paper, follow this link to a news release it issued.

It cites two problems with ARB's theories:
  • First, the facts show that using corn for ethanol has not led to sharp decreases in grain exports and is unlikely to in the future. According to USDA projections, exports for corn and soybeans are likely to remain steady or grow slightly through 2015.
  • Second, the theory claims that producing ethanol from corn drives deforestation in the Amazon. However, data from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research shows that even while U.S. ethanol production has dramatically increased, deforestation in the Amazon has significantly decreased.
Here's a post on DTN - note that it says ARB is trying to pass this off as science when it is really just a theory.

And in a report from Brownfield, an Iowa State researcher said the argument on land use change is misplaced.

Dr. Robert Brown, the director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University says the theory of “indirect land use” is simply conjecture and should not be used to set fuel emissions policy...that it is an unproven theory.

As an example of the confusion over indirect land use, Brown noted that 500 million acres of rain forest have disappeared in the past decade. In that same time period, 20 million acres of agricultural lands were devoted to biofuels production.

"There’s 480 million acres of rainforest that have disappeared for reasons other than biofuels production, in the worst case scenario," Brown said.

Click the link above for more - including a good interview with Brown.

And don't forget that farmers are doing more with less every year.

Or that more than 100 scientists chimed in noting California's proposal may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions and worsen the state's dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

For some common sense from the Renewable Fuels Association, click here, or click here for a report on the Huffington Post.

Plus - what about all the new jungles cropping up around the world? What? You haven't heard about that? Neither had I - until this post.

Groups adopt policies supporting animal agriculture

Resolutions that addressed issues important to animal agriculture were introduced by Nebraska commodity groups at their recent annual policy meetings held during the Commodity Classic.

For the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association, that meant introducing resolutions that were adopted at the annual Corn Congress. At Corn Congress, grassroots initiatives are presented by and voted on by delegates from all corn producing states.

It helps set the direction for the National Corn Growers Association for the next year.

In a news release, the Nebraska corn groups said they introduced a resolution on trade policy that supported the opening of international beef markets utilizing bone-in beef product from cattle less than 30 months of age as part of a stair-step effort to eventual full OIE approval. USDA keeps pushing for full OIE approval, but Michael Kelsey of Nebraska Cattlemen said the stair-step approach makes sense because it would cover 95-97 percent of the product that would be exported anyway.

Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, said the move would help beef exports - as exports add more than $100 in value to each head of cattle.

The second corn grower resolution dealt with quality assurance programs that livestock and poultry producers have developed and participate in, such as the Pork Quality Assurance and Beef Quality Assurance programs. This resolution supports these programs and also emphasized that animal well-being guidelines should be based on sound data, expert analysis and economic feasibility.

"Quality assurance programs are a great way to help let consumers know that their milk, meat and eggs come from farms that use good animal husbandry practices," said Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

Similar resolutions were presented by the Nebraska Soybean Association at the American Soybean Association’s policy meeting held at Commodity Classic.

Debbie Borg, president of the Nebraska Soybean Association, noted that livestock producers are important customers, and it is essential that soybean growers across the country understand some of the issues livestock producers face.

"It is important for us to work with all of agriculture to educate consumers about modern animal agriculture, and how science-based quality assurance and animal husbandry programs help produce high-quality, safe, affordable and nutritious products," she said.

March 11, 2009

Grocers, food companies aren't seeing eye-to-eye

Brownfield notes that grocers and food companies aren't seeing eye-to-eye on food prices.

It bases its report off an article in the Los Angeles Times. The article notes that several name-brand food companies are feeling the heat from the nation's big grocery chains. Grocers are accusing manufacturers of raising prices too fast and too far, considering the significant price declines for fuel, corn, wheat and other important commodities.

According to the report, Kraft raised the wholesale price of a box of its staple macaroni and cheese an average of nine percent in the last year - despite a 38-68 percent drops in cheese and wheat prices. Another grocer reported the wholesale price for a box of Kellogg's Corn Pops rose about 17 percent since June last year - despite a more than 50 percent plunge in corn prices from their peak that month.

Here's a related post: Are grocery stores gearing up for a fight?

Podcast: Old data doesn't work when it comes to ethanol

In this Podcast, Curtis Rohrich of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association talks about some great research from the University of Nebraska that was published recently in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research included a life-cycle analysis of corn and ethanol production. In other words, it looked at everything it takes to grow corn and produce ethanol. From fertilizer to fuel and everything in between.

For more on this report, click here.

March 10, 2009

Officials supportive of higher ethanol blends

Since several organizations and ethanol companies asked the Environmental Protection Agency to approve the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for motor vehicles, several folks have come out in support of the measure.

(This is in addition to Greg Ibach, Nebraska Director of Agriculture, and top agriculture officials from nine other Midwestern here for that.)

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said getting to 12 to 13 percent should be relatively simple - by just understanding that it's not all that much different than E10..."and under the rules and regulations EPA could do that." Vilsack also noted that going to 15-20 percent in the next couple of years may be possible.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is also on board.

As is Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

The day before the petition was filed with EPA, the National 25x'25 Steering Committee sent a letter to President Obama asking that EPA issue a ruling that would allow an increase to E13.

It makes sense that at some point we would need to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline. After all, how can we get to 15 billion gallons, 20 billion gallons and more of ethanol use as required by the Renewable Fuels Standard without increasing how much we are blending? This year is as good of a time as any to begin this process.

Yet moving to E12 or E13 - or even E15 - will only take us so far.

Automakers are promising more flex fuel vehicles in the future (GM says "half" by 2012), but will they arrive in time? Shouldn't we be building a big fleet now? Harkin suggests that all vehicles should be flex fuel, and he may be right.

March 8, 2009

Regulating rural dust a dirty proposition

A recent court decision gives the Environmental Protection Agency the green light to regulate emissions of course particulate matter (PM) - dust - in rural areas.

Rural "dust" could include dust from a livestock operation, crops, gravel roads and more. Anyone who has ever lived in a rural area knows that dust gets kicked up from wind, school buses on a gravel road, cattle, combines and anything else that moves when it is dry.

The National Pork Producers Council was disappointed with the decision, as were a number of other ag groups who had sought an exemption for farmers.

NPPC noted that EPA had identified problems with coarse PM in urban areas (mostly from engines) but that it had failed to show any health effects associated with rural dust.

The concern is that the burden of proof now falls on farmers - that farmers will have to prove their operations are not harming the public or environment. That potentially opens up farmers to expensive lawsuits for dust that kicks up with every gust of wind.

"EPA issued the revised air-quality regulations despite acknowledging that it lacks any science to support imposing them on livestock production operations, and that apparently was okay with the court," said NPPC environment committee chairman Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minnesota.

For more on this from NPPC's viewpoint, click here.

Here is a good article from the Des Moines Register that was repeated in papers across the country.

March 6, 2009

Ibach, other officials support higher ethanol blends

Greg Ibach, Nebraska Director of Agriculture, and top agriculture officials from nine other Midwestern states sent a letter to President Barack Obama today, encouraging the President to support the move to higher ethanol blends in gasoline. (See this post.)

To view a copy of the letter, click here.

Here are a few lines from the letter (emphasis added):

For more than 30 years, ethanol has had a positive impact on our economy. Clean, affordable, domestically produced ethanol has enhanced America’s economy through job growth, increased domestic production and a larger tax base. In 2007 alone, the ethanol industry created more than 200,000 American jobs that cannot be exported or outsourced, while contributing $47.6 billion to our GDP and generating $4.6 billion in tax revenues.

Ethanol has environmental benefits as well. In addition to being completely biodegradable, ethanol has been shown to dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 13 trillion tons of greenhouse gases were avoided in 2007 due to the use of biofuels. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently announced that ethanol produced from corn can reduce GHG emissions by as much as 62 percent relative to gasoline. As we expand cellulosic ethanol production in the coming years, even greater GHG reductions will be realized.

Groups push for higher ethanol blends

Several ethanol groups and 51 ethanol plants filed a waiver request with the Environmental Protection Agency today. The groups are petitioning EPA to approve the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for motor vehicles.

Some of those that signed onto the waiver include the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition and several cellulosic ethanol companies

Growth Energy noted that by increasing the blend of ethanol in gasoline just five percent, it would boost the economy by creating American jobs, increase our energy independence, enhance our car performance and green our environment.

For details on job creation, check out this report (.pdf) from Growth Energy.

Growth Energy has launched a special E15 section of its website.
Here is Growth Energy's news release.
Here’s the announcement from ACE.
To listen to General Wesley Clark at today's announcement at the National Press Club, click here.

The National Corn Growers Association has also released a statement on moving beyond the 10 percent blend wall. You can find that statement here.

Here are bullet points from Growth Energy outlining reasons why the waiver request was filed:
  • The science overwhelmingly supports the use of E15. In fact, the science supporting a shift to E15 is even stronger than the science supporting our initial shift to E10 back in the 1970s. Learn more about supporting science.
  • We recognize the need for green-collar job creation, increased energy independence, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions immediately. The Obama Administration agrees that job creation is a top priority, and with E15, we can create 136,000 new jobs according to recent studies. Learn more about jobs that could be created in your state.
  • Reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy is critical. Based on 2007 U.S. gasoline consumption, increasing the blend level from E10 to E15 will avoid the importation of another 7 billion gallons of gasoline.
  • E15 is better for the environment because ethanol offers a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional gasoline. The latest research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows that ethanol produced from corn can reduce GHG emissions by as much as 59 percent relative to gasoline.
  • Commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol will be produced in the next two years, and high-tech efficiency improvements continue for the corn-to-ethanol process. But that advanced technology will never materialize if the ethanol industry is not allowed access to the fuel market.

March 5, 2009

Nebraska business looking at corn stover ethanol

This, according to a report from Brownfield, which you can find here.

The Report said the new Nebraska-based business is contracting with farmers for their corn stover. Plans are to use the residue as the raw product for a cellulosic ethanol plant in central Nebraska, which could begin production in 2012.

Farmer Paul Kenney of Amherst is the president of Energy Grains Biomass. He says they will need 83,000 acres of stover for the first year of production by the proposed 20-million gallon plant.

For the full report, including an audio interview with Kenney, be sure to follow the link above.

Study finds no link between distillers grains, E. coli

According to, a new published study by Kansas State University has found no link between feeding distillers grains and the fecal prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella in finishing cattle.

Follow the link above for TheCattleSite report, or for the full abstract, click here.

The study also looked at Salmonella prevalence and found that it, too, was not influenced by distillers grains, the feed product produced by ethanol plants.

Here is a related post:

Researchers don't see much concern over distillers grains

Podcast: Stretching the truth on Flight 1549

In this Podcast, Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, discusses several unbelievable statements by Dennis Avery, a so-called environmental economist.

Avery suggested corn growers and biofuels are to blame for the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River in New York.

No, really. He did.

March 3, 2009

Soy grower: It's time to expose HSUS

Brownfield has a good story and interview that reports Debbie Borg, president of the Nebraska Soybean Association, as saying it is time to fight fire with fire in dealing with the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups.

Borg has been asked by the American Soybean Association to coordinate the group's efforts to battle the animal rights movement, Brownfield reports - with Borg saying it is time to expose HSUS for what it really is.

"Their goal, and all their documents tell us, that they are out to eliminate animal agriculture," said Borg. "That means that they want us to be a vegan society - no leather shoes, no leather boots and, obviously, no steaks on the table."

Borg believes a high percentage of those who contribute to HSUS have no idea their dollars are being used to attack animal agriculture.

For the full report and audio, click here.

March 2, 2009

Scientists concerned with California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard

The New Fuels Alliance (NFA) issued a news release today to make public a letter that warns California's efforts to reduce carbon emissions from gasoline may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions and worsen the state's dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

The said biofuels are being wrongly penalized by the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which requires oil companies to reduce the carbon sold in their fuels 10 percent by 2020.

Under the proposal, all fuels are assigned a "carbon score" to reward the least carbon intensive fuels. Only biofuels are being singled out for so-called "indirect effects" thereby giving petroleum products a better carbon score and a competitive advantage. For drivers in California, it means they will be buying more dirty petroleum products and less of the cleaner renewable fuels, the release said.

"This proposal encourages oil companies to sell dirty fossil fuels like Canadian tar sands instead of renewable fuels including advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol," said Brooke Coleman, head of the New Fuels Alliance. "Ironically, CARB's proposal to reduce carbon will just result in more carbon in our environment."

In a letter sent to California Governor Schwarzenegger, a group of 111 scientists warned that: "this proposal creates an asymmetry or bias in a regulation designed to create a level playing field. It violates the fundamental presumption that all fuels in a performance-based standard should be judged the same way ...Enforcing different compliance metrics against different fuels is the equivalent of picking winners and losers, which is in direct conflict with the ambition of the LCFS."

Click here to see the letter (.pdf) signed by 111 scientists from research labs such as the National Academy of Sciences, UC-Berkeley, Sandia National Labs, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MIT.

The Alliance, along with a group of companies, sent a letter with its concerns to CARB last fall. Check it out at the group's website.

Corn Farmers Coalition aims to educate policy-makers

The Corn Farmers Coalition announced its formation and ad and media campaign today. The Nebraska Corn Board is a member of the coalition.

Copied below is a news release from the group, as well as one of the print ads it has developed. Just click on the ad for a larger, more readable image.

For an interview with the group's spokesman (Mark Lambert of Illinois Corn) with Brownfield's Cyndi Young, click here. Lambert explains the whys and hows - and provides a lot of good info.

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After last year's ethanol controversy, a new group launches
When corn prices spiked last year, big food manufacturers and oil companies claimed there wasn’t enough corn to feed everyone and make ethanol.

Now we know that was not true. There was always plenty of corn to make ethanol, not to mention corn to export and to feed ourselves and the cattle, chickens and pigs we raise on corn. And the federal Agriculture Department says there will be plenty of corn to meet demand for the foreseeable future.

So corn farmers from 10 states and the industry’s trade group — the National Corn Growers Association — formed the Corn Farmers Coalition to educate policymakers in Washington.

The coalition today launches a web site (, an advertising campaign and a statistical abstract on America’s biggest crop.

"Washington needs to know that corn farmers are using some of the most advanced technologies on the planet to do more with less -- to grow more corn using fewer resources every year," said Mark Lambert, director of the coalition. "American corn farmers, the majority of them small business people, are among the most productive in the world."

The coalition will meet with reporters, think tanks and members of Congress to talk about what’s ahead: how U.S. farmers, using the latest technologies, will continue to grow enough corn in an environmentally friendly way to meet all our needs; the prospects for making the farm bill more responsive to the market; and the future of renewable fuels, a vital issue for our economy and national security and a key issue for the new administration.

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The website has a lot of good information and links on it - be sure to check out the Farmer Innovation section.

A few reports from USDA's Outlook Forum

While the Commodity Classic was going on last week, so was the annual USDA Outlook Forum in Washington, D.C.

You can find .pdf files and video webcasts of a number of presentations at the Forum's website, which you can find here. The Forum typically is filled to the brim with interesting presentations and reports - but with so much of the ag media in Texas at the Classic, there may be fewer reports from D.C. this year.

Here are a couple of reports from the meeting...

Early plantings estimates...from an article on

Looking ahead to the upcoming growing season, USDA projected that U.S. corn plantings would be 86 million acres (same as last year), while soybean acres would jump to a record 77 million.

Plantings to major crops will decline in 2009, with USDA chief economist Joe Glauber noting the tally is projected at 247.6 million acres for the eight major field crops (corn, sorghum, barley, oats, wheat, rice, upland cotton and soybeans).

For corn, Glauber highlighted the struggles facing ethanol production. However, Glauber said about 2 billion gallons has been idled and as much as 15% of ethanol production capacity will be idled in the 2009-10 marketing year. USDA's forecast for corn prices in the 2009-10 marketing year is $3.60, down 30 cents from the midpoint of the 2008-09 marketing year.

On soybeans, production is expected to increase with record plantings and yields will return to trend. Soybean crush is forecast at 1.675 billion reflecting increased soybean exports due to constrained supplies from South America.

Follow the link above for more details.

Technology and global food security
Syngenta CEO Mike Mack gave a presentation on how technology can improve global food security.

"In the face of persistent and growing global challenges, such as rising population, exacerbated by changing diets, limited farmland availability and more erratic climatic conditions, the need to ensure food security and environmental safety is essential. A full modern toolbox including biotechnology, crop protection and seed care is vital to provide solutions," Mack said in this news release.

Here's a good quote: "We have just begun realizing the promise of agricultural technology. As amazing as the products we have already produced are, we are only at the early stages of the learning curve."

March 1, 2009

NCGA celebrates Nebraskan as its president

Several hundred folks attending the Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas, came to a reception honoring Bob Dickey, this year's president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Dickey is a corn grower from Laurel, Nebraska, and is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board.

Since Dickey is from Nebraska, the Nebraska Corn Board hosted and organized the party following a '50s theme.

As shown in the group photo below (click on photos for a bigger image), board members and staff got into the theme.

Bob Dickey and his wife Mary are shown above - also decked out in appropriate attire (and headwear for Bob!).

NCGA's chief executive officer Rick "Rickie" Tolman (right) is shown at the malt shop. He got into the spirit of the party by wearing the now classic red and black bowling shirt and accompanying headwear.

Tasty malts, a great DJ and a special tribute video were highlights of the evening.