May 29, 2009

Video: Ag important to state's economy, economic development

Here is the latest video from the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN). It adds to growing library of videos that highlight the importance of agriculture to Nebraska - and the country as a whole, really.

The videos also help dispel some myths about livestock production.

This video features a county planner, state senator and dairy farm founder.

They talk about the importance of agriculture to Nebraska's economy - from the eastern part of the state westward - and what a great place rural communities are to raise a family.

For more, visit A-FAN's channel on YouTub, NebraskaAgriculture, or check out its website.

News mix: Sustainability; never been on a farm; Presidential cheeseburgers

An assortment of interesting news for a Friday. All are worth a read.

The definition of sustainability is tied to the future of food production
Sustainability efforts are often conflated with terms like natural, clean label or organic.
As the focus on developing sustainable production, manufacturing and distribution practices gains momentum, it is important to note that the goal is preserving natural resources rather than serving specific market niches. This is an important distinction because sustainability efforts are often conflated with terms like natural, clean label or organic. These latter trends have more to do with the perception of quality rather than resource preservation. Click for more.

From Biofuels Digest:
EPA’s top gun on indirect land use change confesses she has never visited a US farm
“I’m inviting her to mine,” says Sen. Grassley
The fact that she [Margo Oge, director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality] has never set foot on an American farm probably never mattered before. ... But when the Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act in December 2007 and required the EPA to measure both the direct and indirect impacts of biofuels, the task fell to Ms. Oge and her team to propose a model for how Indirect Land Use Change is to be accounted for.

That’s when the farm thing became a problem. Because in this case, the EPA is not regulating smokestacks, or industrial odors, or cars, or urban waste - things that any city dweller is all too familiar with. Nor is the EPA regulating lobbyists, or even farmers, or other things or people that can roll on in to Washington complete with charts, and talking points, and campaign contributions. Click here for more.

(FYI - Oge pointed out she has been to Brazil, but I'm not sure how that adds to the working knowledge of U.S. agriculture.)

From the Associated Press:
Obama stops at Five Guys for cheeseburger
For a health food nut, President Barack Obama sure likes his burgers.

President Barack Obama made a surprise lunchtime stop at Five Guys, a fast-food restaurant in Washington.

The president ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers, and mustard as well as several other cheeseburgers to go. He also ordered a cheeseburger for Brian Williams, news anchor for NBC. The network was filming a day-in-the-life program at the White House. Click here for more.

This follows a recent trip by the First Lady to the same burger joint. So, despite all the hubub about the First Family's garden and political spinning by those who like to bash and discredit modern food production, it is good to see the Obama's like a good burger. Perhaps it was good Nebraska beef?

May 27, 2009

Blog: Farmers must update to new technology

A farmer blog - written by Debbie Borg of Allen - tackles a variety of good subjects, from farming to family.

She resides on Borg Farms, which just celebrated its 125th anniversary. They raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat, all while feeding cattle – but their most important crop is the next (and 6th) generation: Hannah, Heidi and Hunter.

Her latest post makes a few good points - how farming and agriculture need to advance, to adapt and to become more efficient to feed a growing world:

Agriculture's efficiency just seems to keep getting better and many of the activists groups want us to go back to the 'old ways'. Why is it, after only a few days our computer needs to be updated, but farmers aren't suppose to update to new technology. Read here that “To produce one billion kilograms of milk in 2007, we need 20 percent less cows, 25 percent less feed, 10 percent less land. In 2007, we produced 40 percent less methane and 56 percent less nitrous oxide compared to 1944. The reason for that is improved efficiency, and these are huge gains.

She also had a few comments about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and how farmers make a real commitment to animals:

The Ad Council is teaming up with HSUS to launch a three-year, $80-120 million effort to change the way Americans view shelter pets and boost adoption rates of homeless cats and dogs across the country. Maybe why this campaign is being developed is that too many people have forgotten that pets are an animal that must be cared for daily. Unlike farmers and ranchers who have chosen a field of work that requires a commitment 24/7. Not everyone is designed to be a farmer or rancher--it takes special character and commitment.

You can find her blog here.

Debbie is also on Twitter - she's @iamafarmer2, and was one of the Nebraska farmers featured in a news release for using Twitter - see this post.

Also check out the KHAS-TV report on farmers using Twitter. You can find the story and video here. It features @cornfedfarmer and @zjhunn.

May 26, 2009

Nebraska corn emerged and growing

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that Nebraska corn farmers had 98 percent of the crop planted as of May 24. That is an increase from 93 percent planted a week ago, 94 percent last year and the five-year average of 97 percent.

Much of that corn has already emerged – with USDA noting that 77 percent of state’s corn had emerged, which is 3 points ahead of the five-year average. Anecdotal reports from farmers across Nebraska indicate that the state’s corn crop is off to a very good start.

Nationally, 82 percent of the crop is planted, compared to last week's 62 percent, last year's 86 percent and the five-year average of 93 percent. That's a pretty good jump in a week - with farmers in Illinois, Indiana and other eastern Corn Belt states finally having a chance to get in the field and get some work done. They could use a few more days.

Of the 82 percent that's planted, 52 percent has emerged. That's up from 30 percent last week and the five-year average of 71 percent.

For USDA's full report, click here. Or, for more Nebraska-focused details, be sure to visit the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update.

This week's photo was provided to the Nebraska Corn Board by the Blue Hill FFA Chapter.

Podcast: A note on e15 comment extension; May is Beef Month

In this Podcast, Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward, talks about the e15 waiver comment period extension and the importance of ethanol supporters to follow through and submit comments to EPA. He also touches on May being Beef Month and Egg Month.

Tiemann is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board.

Corn, cattle produces in D.C.

A team of eight cattle and corn producers and representatives were in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss issues of importance with government officials, Nebraska’s congressional representatives and national trade association staffs.

This was the third year of the Nebraska Corn Board-sponsored joint effort in Washington. The trip helps corn and cattle producers have a voice and offer input on issues that impact both corn and cattle producers in Nebraska.

“We stressed our opposition to legislation that has been introduced that would create unworkable and unrealistic rules in the Clean Water Act,” said David Nielsen, a corn producer from Lincoln and a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “One proposal, in particular, would apply strict rules to small farm ponds or areas on a farm that flood or hold water when it rains.”

The groups also stressed their support of a Clean Air Act amendment what would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring livestock operations to get certain permits. “The intent of Congress with Clean Air Act rules was not to increase the cost and unfairly tax farmers for simply raising livestock,” said Nielsen, who is chair of the Nebraska Corn Board’s government affairs committee.

Todd Schroeder, current president of Nebraska Cattlemen, said the groups also addressed the current discussion on various “cap and trade” and other greenhouse gas proposals.

“We reminded members of Congress, their aides and government officials that agriculture is on the solution side of any climate change legislation,” said Schroeder, a cattle producer from Wisner.

Click here for a Nebraska Corn Board news release that contains more details.

May 21, 2009

Biotech crops increase farmer sustainability

Biotech crops help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of pesticides – in addition to increasing yields for many farmers while reducing production risk, according to a study released this week.

In other words, biotech crops help farmers produce more with less – and that’s good on the sustainability front.

The study was completed by PG Economics – and you can find a summary and link to the full report here.

Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report, had this to say:

Since 1996, biotech crop adoption has contributed to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreased pesticide spraying and significantly boosted farmers’ incomes. ... The technology has also made important contributions to increasing the yields of many farmers, reducing production risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crops.

The combination of economic and environmental benefit delivery is therefore making a valuable contribution to improving the sustainability of global agriculture, with these benefits and improvements being greatest in developing countries.

If farmers who used biotech were not able to, in 2007 it would have taken an additional 14.6 million acres of soybeans, 7.4 million acres of corn, 6.2 million acres of cotton and 0.7 million acres of canola just to produce the same sized crop. (This total area requirement is equivalent to about 6 percent of the arable land in the U.S. or 23 percent of the arable land in Brazil!)

That's a of land that would need to be tilled if we dropped the use of biotechnology.

On the greenhouse gas front, the report said biotech crops mean less tilling and less fuel use. In 2007, that was equivalent to removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere -- or like removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for a year.

Some other points:
  • Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2007) by 8.8 percent.
  • Herbicide tolerant biotech crops have facilitated the adoption of no/reduced tillage production systems in many regions, especially South America.
  • There have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the 12 year period.
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 46.5% ($20.5 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production.
  • Farmers in developing countries obtained the largest share of the farm income gains in 2007 (58%) and over the 12 year period obtained 50% of the total ($44.1 billion) gains.
  • Since 1996, biotech traits have added 67.8 million tonnes and 62.4 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn.

May 20, 2009

Farmers urged to keep momentum, submit ethanol waiver comments

More than 4,000 Nebraska farmers have returned yellow postcards to the Nebraska Corn Board, who then forwards them to the Environmental Protection Agency as written comments in support of the ethanol waiver request.

“We’ve been receiving hundreds of postcards in the mail daily, and we certainly appreciate everyone taking the time to submit comments in this way and online,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Randy Klein in this news release.

“Since EPA decided to extend the deadline, we would like to encourage those who did not have the opportunity to comment in such a short time period to now follow through and help us keep the momentum going,” Klein said.

To submit comments electronically, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association have setup links on their websites: or

EPA began accepting comments on the request to increase the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent ethanol (e10) to up to 15 percent ethanol April 21. The comment period was slated to end May 21, but was extended to July 20 late last week. That gives farmers and other supporters an opportunity to still have their voices heard on the waiver request.

For more information, click here - and to bust some myths about the ethanol waiver request, click here.

May 19, 2009

What's really happening with ag, ethanol in Brazil and Argentina?

The headline of this post is the subject of the Nebraska Corn Board's latest quarterly newsletter, CornsTALK.

To get a good sense of what this issue is about, here's the introduction.

South America has a significant influence on American and global agriculture -- and it’s getting even stronger. Several nations are major players in agricultural production, driving commodity markets -- and Brazil is a pioneer in the area of biofuels.

Development of agricultural land in Brazil, especially as it relates to rainforest territory, is part of the debate in the U.S. regarding policies impacting our domestic ethanol industry. The tariff on imported ethanol -- and the ability of the world’s farmers to meet demand for food and fuel -- continue to be important issues.

In January 2009, four representatives of Nebraska’s corn industry joined growers and staff from Iowa and Illinois on an Agri-Energy and Food Study Mission to Brazil and Argentina.

The group went with five key objectives in mind:
  • Gather in-country information regarding land use change in an attempt to better understand the extent and dynamics of deforestation;
  • Discover more about biofuels production, infrastructure, usage and policy;
  • Assess the production potential in the two countries in terms of addressing the food and fuel debate—as well as to gauge the competitiveness of South America;
  • Learn how these nations position agriculture as a strategic national asset;
  • Establish relationships and partnerships that may be beneficial to agriculture and the biofuels industry on both continents.
In this edition of CornsTALK, we summarize the group’s findings -- and consider how they might impact checkoff investment, national policy and the future of corn farmers in Nebraska, the nation and the world.

You can download a copy of the spring 2009 newsletter here, but for even more information on the mission, read the detailed blog.

Video: New dairy means jobs, increased tax base

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska has put out another good video that involves a dairy producer.

In this case, it highlights a major investment in a new Nebraska dairy operation that gave a big boost to the local tax base, created new spin-off businesses and many new jobs.

All in all, it was a $40 million project that grew from "a bare piece of dirt" and will have a $2 million payroll when fully operational.

Feed, hay and silage come from local farmers, further contributing to the local economy.


May 18, 2009

Flashback to 1909 for perspective on anti-ethanol news conference

DTN's Chris Clayton has a great blog post - find it here - that details an Environmental Working Group's news conference that begrudged biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol, and the desire to increase the ethanol blend rate up to 15 percent.

In his post, Clayton takes creative liberties and writes as if the news conference was held 100 years ago - and EWG is lambasting a newfangled invention: Henry Ford's Model T.

Along the way, he dispels a couple of myths - and points out the ridiculousness of EWG's logic.

Clayton must have remembered that EWG was and continues to be a member of the Grocery Gang, which attacked corn ethanol last year with a high dollar campaign inside the Beltway and in certain pockets across the country. (With a lot of myths, half truths and misinformation.)

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the top of the post:

Today, we go back to May 18, 1909, at a news conference held by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG, new to the lobbying scene, wants to highlight some concerns about a new mode of transportation and its research showing that the so-called "automobile" will not function in the modern world.

According to EWG research, it is impractical to attempt to displace the U.S. reliance on the horse with this new vehicle known as the Model T. EWG wants to demonstrate some of the fallacies of attempting to continue trying to mass produce these four-wheeled vehicles and the negative impacts they could have on the country's economic future.

And here's how Clayton wraps up the post - flash forwarding to 2009:

OK, I'm kind of in a nasty mood today, but if gasoline and the Model T went through the ringer a century ago like we put biofuels through right now, we'd all have mustangs, just not the kind with a 5-speed transmission.

It is well worth a read - just click on the link above.

Nebraska corn planting wrapping up

USDA reported today that 93 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is now planted - and 43 percent has emerged. This is as of May 17 (yesterday).

The emergence number is the same as the five-year average, but well ahead of last year's 22 percent emerged at this time.

The planting number is ahead of the five-year average of 88 percent and last year's 79 percent. (A week ago planting stood at 78 percent complete - so it was another pretty good week for farmers looking to get in the field.)

Nationally, 62 percent of the crop is planted. This is well behind the 85 percent completed in the five-year average and even well behind last year's rain-delayed 70 percent. Water is again the problem this year, with a good chunk of the eastern Corn Belt well behind normal. Illinois, for example, is only 20 percent planted (compared to 73 percent last year and the five-year average of 92 percent).

For the full USDA report, click here.

Video provides some info on Nebraska egg industry

Did you know May is egg month? (It's also beef month - So by having steak and eggs for breakfast you can celebrate two things at once. And have a really good meal.)

There are quite a few eggs produced in Nebraska - but these are not the eggs you find in cartons at the grocery store. Instead, the eggs go to "breakers" - which do exactly as their name implies: they break the eggs. But that's a good thing in this case because those eggs end up in all sorts of higher value products - from cake mixes to mayonnaise.

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) has posted a video about a Nebraska egg producer online. Check it out below.

May 14, 2009

TV interview focuses on benefits of higher ethanol blends

Juniata farmer Randy Uhrmacher, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, was on NTV today to talk about ethanol and higher ethanol blend rates.

He explains that expanding ethanol use from e10 to e15 is necessary to avoid a blend wall and continue along our path to using more renewable, domestically-produced fuels. He follows with the importance of the ethanol industry to Nebraska's economy.

Good stuff.

Click here to watch the video.

Or here to read the story.

You can submit comments to EPA in support of the ethanol waiver request here or here.

May 13, 2009

Podcast: Corn growers urged to support ethanol waiver

In this Podcast, Joel Grams, a farmer from Minden, encourages corn growers (and anyone else who is interested) to support the ethanol waiver request that has been made by a number of ethanol companies and trade associations.

The request would allow fuel blenders to increase the amount of ethanol they blend into regular gasoline from 10 percent to up to 15 percent.

Grams is a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

The easiest way to submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency is by going to the link above and clicking on the action alert.

Several myths surrounding the proposal have been addressed here.

Podcasts are also available iTunes! Just click here to subscribe.

Is $200 oil is coming? Better keep focus on biofuels

Read an interesting article on oil prices and supplies. It is just a reminder as to how far behind the barrel we are with our dependence on foreign oil. (We've doubled our dependence since the 1970s.)

It is also a good reminder as to why we should never take our eye off the end goal - of of using more renewable fuels like ethanol.

The article, which you can find here, notes that Matt Simmons, an energy analyst and author ('Twilight in the Desert'), recently told Reuters: We are three, six, maybe nine months away from a price shock. We are not talking about three to five years away -- it will be much sooner. These prices now are dangerously low. The lower prices fall, the less oil will be produced and the greater the chance of an oil spike.

The article's author does not focus on replacements for oil (and gets a fact wrong on ethanol). Instead, he reminds us all that we're loosing the battle - loosing the race with time. That demand for oil is growing and outpacing what we can produce (or find), that prices will spiral upwards and we'll all be paying the oil piper soon enough. Just like last year.

Sound like a call to action?

(Wondering how much oil ethanol replaces? Check out this post.)

May 12, 2009

Committee helps focus, speed research into distillers grains

As a way to increase the number of corn coproduct research studies it supports and to ensure that research will more quickly benefit the state’s cattle industry, the Nebraska Corn Board has created a beef cattle advisory committee.

The committee reviews the latest research results -- and then helps determine which direction the next set of research projects should take. This reduces the time in between research projects and more quickly increases the knowledge base of feeding corn coproducts like distillers grains to cattle.

In a news release, Nebraska Corn Board member Dennis Gengenbach said by operating its corn coproduct and cattle research in such a way it will double the amount of research. Gengenbach is a corn and cattle farmer from Smithfield who heads up the Corn Board’s research committee.

Dr. Galen Erickson, a beef feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska, said in the past, research results would be presented and feedback provided. University researchers would then need to develop a funding request for the next research project, which the Corn Board would consider in its next fiscal year budget.

That took a lot of time.

To keep the committee focused on how best to meet the demands of cattle producers, it contains a mix of members, including:
  • Four university researchers
  • One feedlot cattle producer
  • One cow-calf producer
  • One feedlot nutritionist
  • One forage nutritionist
  • One member of the Nebraska Beef Council
  • Two members of the Nebraska Corn Board
To support the committee and research efforts, the Nebraska Corn Board said it increased the amount of money it commits to corn coproduct and cattle research each year.

May 11, 2009

Crop Update: 78 percent of Nebraska corn is in the ground

Nebraska corn producers had 78 percent of the crop in the ground as of yesterday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop progress report that came out today.

That's up from last week's 52 percent, last year's 52 percent and the five-year average of 70 percent. It's safe to say that it's been a pretty good spring for most Nebraska corn growers!

As for emergence, USDA said 19 percent of Nebraska's crop has emerged. That's equal to the five-year average.

For more information, including temperature and moisture details, be sure to visit the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update.

The photo was provided to the Corn Board by the Chase County FFA Chapter. A great shot of the beginning of the growing season.

May 8, 2009

Podcast: Ethanol waiver request important for corn growers

In this Podcast, Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, talks about the importance of the ethanol waiver request to corn growers. The request, which is now open for public comment by the Environmental Protection Agency, aims to increase the allowable ethanol blend from 10 to 15 percent in regular gasoline.

He notes that there is enough ethanol capacity - and corn - to easily meet the demand.

For more on the waiver request issue, click here.

Mythbusting higher ethanol blends

Here is a great article from Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association.

It explains many questions (myths) associated with raising the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent to up to 15 percent. EPA is taking comments on that proposal now. (Click here for more - and to lend your support.)

To give you an idea - here are a couple of myths - but for a whole lot more, follow the link above.

Myth: “The biofuels industry is trying to mandate more ethanol.”

In fact, the application for a waiver does not require a mandate. This is an effort to allow the industry to move beyond the artificial 10 percent cap. This does not require more ethanol, it would allow more ethanol to be blended into conventional gasoline on a voluntary basis. Which in turn would help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Myth: “Higher ethanol blends can cause problems for small engines and marine engines.”

Fact: This reminds me of times past when the ethanol industry was in its infancy and was blamed by many mechanics for every ill that occurred to an automobile. For a time, one could think that all autos were going to instantly stop because of a 10 percent or less ethanol blend. Some in the boat industry and small engine industry are trying to head public opinion down that same path. Fortunately, we have a real life example to look at regarding the impact of higher blends on small and marine engines. Fueling stations in Brazil sell only gasoline blended with ethanol or 100 percent ethanol. In Brazil, the current required blending level of ethanol into conventional gasoline is 25 percent. Boats, motorcycles, lawn mowers, chain saws and the like all operate on a fuel that is blended at 25 percent ethanol or above in Brazil. There have been no massive engine or consumer safety issues, nor has it put the industry in demise.

Myth: “Higher blends of ethanol will damage U.S. autos.”

Once again Brazil is a real laboratory to dispute this myth. Pure gasoline is not sold for vehicle use in Brazil. Twelve companies from around the world manufacture flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil, including the U.S. “Big Three.” This is certainly something that could be done here in the U.S and can be done without great cost to consumers and with many benefits. Just this month the top four automakers in Brazil – GM, Ford, Fiat and Volkswagen – announced that together they will distribute 2 million free booklets explaining the benefits of ethanol for consumers who buy their flex-fuel cars in Brazil. These four automakers account for 80 percent of the auto market in Brazil.

May 7, 2009

A-FAN video highlights dairy's open house, people's reaction

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska posted a new dairy video this week. This time it is from Prairieland Dairy's annual open house - and it features several folks who were there that day and took the tour.

It helps people learn where there food comes from - that it just doesn't magically appear on the grocery store shelf.

Check it out below - and visit A-FAN's website for more.

Tweet corn? Nebraska farmers on Twitter

If a farmer uses Twitter to talk about planting the latest hybrid, would you call it “tweet corn”?

That's the intro to a news release that introduces several Nebraska farmers who are sharing their story on Twitter - the popular micro-blogging tool.

From corn and soybean farmers to livestock producers, Nebraska farmers who have flocked to Twitter provide insight on those subjects and more by “tweeting” what they are up to on any given day – and helping their “tweeps” (Twitter followers) and others around the world better understand farming, farm life and food production.

Nebraska farmers on Twitter (and links to their Twitter pages) include:
These farmers are just a few of the many from across the country that have found Twitter a great way to share their story - and interact with those who have a common interest.

Farmers sharing their stories is a very good thing. All to often people have no idea of who is behind the bountiful food we have in this country - and make assumptions about modern farms and food production simply because they don't know the real person behind the product. Farmers on Twitter (or Facebook or who have a blog) can help change that.

Encourage those you know to follow a farmer - and get to know agriculture a bit better.

For more, click here or check out Debbie Borg's blog, Our Ag Story.

And here's a previous post that explains more.

Brief biographies of Nebraska farmers on Twitter:

Debbie Borg (@iamafarmer2)
Borg Farms just celebrated its 125 anniversary. The family operation, near Allen, consists of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat and cattle feeding – but the most important crop on the farm is the 6th generation: Hannah, Heidi and Hunter. Both Debbie and her husband Terry are 4-H alumni and are helping their children to learn by doing in 4-H with bucket calves, horses and quilting. In their spare time, they enjoy camping, horse shows and riding 4-wheelers. Debbie said farming is the family business, but just as important the way of life. “We cherish the opportunity to be stewards of the land and animals and work hard at making it better for the next generation. It is very hard work, but the reward of knowing we are helping to feed a very hungry and growing world is inspiring,” she said.

Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer)
Hunnicutt lives on a farmstead that has been in his family for more than 100 years. He farms with his dad, brother and a neighbor in the Giltner area, where they raise corn, soybeans and popcorn, and have raised seed corn and wheat. They believe in using the latest in technology to raise the highest quality product they can to feed and fuel not only their area but the whole world. Brandon and his wife Lisa have five children: Kinsley, Payton, Bréley, Truett and Fallon, who is only a couple of weeks old. Brandon spends time with the family at church, gymnastics, summer ball games and Husker sporting events, and also likes to play golf and the Wii. “I farm to bring the highest quality food, feed and fuel source to the world in the most economically and ecologically safe way possible. I enjoy the challenge agriculture brings each day,” he said.

Ryan Weeks (@HuskerFarm)
Weeks Enterprises is a fifth generation family farm operated by Ryan and Kristi Weeks, near Juniata. They raise yellow corn, white corn, popcorn, soybeans, prairie hay and alfalfa. Both Ryan and Kristi are involved with many different community organizations in their hometown. Kristi is on the steering committee of the local MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers) group, along with serving with Ryan on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Ryan also serves on the board of the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning (, the Adams County Farm Bureau Board and Congressman Adrian Smith's Ag Advisory Committee.

Susan Littlefield (@firefighter89)
Susan has been a farm radio broadcaster since 1990, and is the farm director for the Farm and Ranch Market Network. Susan and her husband Mike, along with their three children, Bryan, Morgan and Paul, have a registered Columbia and Suffolk sheep operation south of Surprise. Farm life is a family affair, with everyone having their chores and livestock to take care of. "Helping with feeding, cleaning and other aspects of raising livestock shows compassion and a better understanding to where their food comes from,” she said. Susan shows sheep with her daughter and being involved in 4-H as a leader.

May 6, 2009

Corn growers urge support of ethanol waiver

The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association have teamed up to urge farmers in the state to submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency in favor of increasing the blend limit of ethanol in gasoline. See this news release.

EPA began accepting comments on the request to increase the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent ethanol (e10) to up to 15 percent ethanol April 2 - but the comment period was limited to 30 days (May 21). (Right in the middle of planting season!).

Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Paxton, said because of the short window the groups wanted to find ways to make it easy for farmers to comment.

One of those ways comes in the form of a yellow postcard-sized mailer being sent to farmers in the state. Growers can simply unfold the mailer, tear off the return postcard, complete a few lines of information and drop it in the mail. Postage is already paid.

They will start arriving in mailboxes over the next week.

Farmers and others can also visit the two groups’ websites – or – where there are links that go to an online comment form setup by the National Corn Growers Association.

Brandon Hunnicutt, president of NeCGA and a farmer from Giltner, said the online form can be completed in less than a minute, and can also be customized to each farmer’s thoughts and ideas.

The form can also be completed with a web-enabled phone right from the tractor cab.

May 5, 2009

Nebraska Corn Board welcomes EPA's action on ethanol

The Nebraska Corn Board issued a news release today noting that it appreciates the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acknowledgment that corn-based ethanol has a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions when compared to regular gasoline.

The release comes after EPA published its proposed rulemaking for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). EISA -- sometimes referred to as RFSII -- outlines the path to reaching 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. As part of EISA, future biofuels must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

EPA noted that corn-based ethanol provides a 61 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to gasoline - so that is a tremendous positive.

However, EISA also requires that EPA include land use changes in its life cycle calculations. (Just like the California ARB did, the results of which did not sit well with many corn here.)

EPA's calculations, however, note that when such land use changes are included, corn ethanol still reduces greenhouse gas emissions some 16 percent. At least with one formula and the most popular ethanol plant model. That's pretty close to the 20 percent level EPA is looking for for future ethanol production in EISA - and as corn and ethanol production efficiencies increase,

Such indirect land use changes remain fuzzy. EPA includes several "pathways" and two formulas to get various land use change answers. Depending on which one you like, you can push the results into any number of directions.

Importantly, EPA said is asking that indirect land use change calculations be peer-reviewed and that such calculations, as they currently exist, will be open to scrutiny.

Kelly Brunkhorst, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board noted:

This proposal is important on many levels because it helps clarify the environmental benefits of corn ethanol, while at the same time noting that there is room for changes. We are especially encouraged by the idea that EPA acknowledged that land use changes are in question and should be examined more closely. Using questionable science, computer models or best guesses is not good policy.

Also worth noting: Ethanol produced from all currently operating ethanol plants are grandfathered in, meaning they are not subject to the 20 percent reduction requirements of EISA.

Podcast: Blender pumps are a good way to increase the use of ethanol

In this Podcast, the Nebraska Corn Board's Randy Klein and Jon Holzfaster talk about the importance of ethanol blender pumps to growing the use of ethanol.

This was recorded at the grand opening of the first ethanol blender pump in the state.

May 4, 2009

Nebraska corn planting passes halfway point

Farmers in Nebraska made good planting progress again over the past week.

USDA reported today that farmers in the state have 52 percent of their corn acres planted - up from 27 percent last week. A year ago only 28 percent of the crop was planted - the five-year average is 42 percent.

USDA also noted that as of yesterday, 3 percent of the crop was emerged. This figure stood at 0 percent last year. The five-year average is 5 percent.

Nationally, 33 percent of the crop is planted, which is up from 22 percent last week and 24 percent last year. It is still well behind the five-year average of 50 percent.

Should we get a few dry days in the eastern Corn Belt, those numbers will change dramatically.

Illinois, for example, is only 5 percent completed. A year ago, 25 percent of the crop was in the ground already. Iowa, though, is 60 percent completed.

The image above was provided to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Chase County FFA.

California carbon rule may hurt Nebraska’s ethanol industry

An article in the Grand Island Independent highlights concerns the Nebraska Corn Board has with a recent decision by the California Air Resources Board to enact low carbon fuel standards.

The Board is concerned the rules could alter the market for corn-based ethanol.

For the full article, click here.

Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, said: Although we support initiatives that look at reducing greenhouse gases, we cannot support initiatives that include very questionable science and do not take into consideration modern-day efficiencies.

Holzfaster told the Independent that the inclusion of indirect land use change penalizes corn ethanol and offers no alternatives to petroleum. He said the lack of inclusion of current efficiencies in corn production, distillers grains livestock rations and ethanol production may ultimately become a huge barrier for the use of corn-based ethanol in the California market.

Kelly Brunkhorst, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board, noted that: The science behind this theory is uncertain. Not only have U.S. exports kept up with demand, but there is more corn in storage today than at any time in the last two years. To attribute additional growth in farmland around the world to U.S. corn ethanol seems shortsighted and ignores the fact that one-third of that corn is being returned as livestock feed.

For a previous post on the subject, click here.