June 30, 2009

More corn acres equals record soybeans?

In taking a look at the numbers from today's acreage report, a few things come to mind.

For example, DTN's Chris Clayton makes a good point at the bottom of this post on indirect land use:

How is it supposed to go again, according to the believers of indirect land use change? Land-use shifts in the U.S. due to ethanol production, causes more corn, lower soybeans, causes more soybean acres to Brazil, leading to deforestation in that country. Well, we've seen that soybean acreage in Brazil has actually stagnated in recent years.

Now comes today's crop report. This year's corn planting is projected at 87.04 million acres, the second-largest corn acreage since 1946, DTN's Pat Hill reports. But USDA also projects soybean acreage at 77.48 million acres, the largest soybean crop in history.

That's right - the second-largest corn planting since the 1940s is occurring at the same time we're seeing the largest soybean plantings in U.S. history. Hmmm. Maybe a group of scientists is right.

Of course the big jump in corn acres - about 3 million more than what analysts were expecting - drove corn prices down the limit today. New crop soybeans were also down as the trade tried to figure out what to make of the numbers.

Farmers today
In today's report, USDA had a good couple of lines that demonstrate how quickly and efficiently that American farmers can get a crop in the ground:

On May 10 corn planting was 48% complete, down 23 points from [the five-year] average. In late May, however, drier conditions allowed farmers to make rapid progress. Farmers reported that 97% of the intended corn acreage had been planted at the time of the survey interview, compared with the 10-year average of 98%.

Biotech acres
USDA also included a breakdown of the biotech varieties planted in its report.

For corn, Bt varieties make up 17 percent of the acres (same as last year), herbicide resistance varieties make up 22 percent (down 1 point) and stacked varieties make up 46 percent (up 6 points). That means 85 percent of all corn planted this year is biotech in some form – up from 80 percent last year.

On the soybean side, 91 percent of all acres are herbicide resistant – off 1 point from last year.

And, just for the record, 88 percent of all cotton is biotech, too, up 2 points from last year.

Nebraska farmers equal '07, plant most corn since 1930s

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that farmers in Nebraska planted 9.4 million acres of corn this year. That equals the amount planted in 2007 and is the most planted in the state since the 1930s.

The figure is 600 thousand acres more than what USDA estimated in March. That's a whole lot more corn!

It's also 600 thousand acres (6.4 percent) more than what Nebraska farmers planted last year - 8.8 million acres.

In a news release, Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said many Nebraska farmers saw good spring weather that allowed them to get planters rolling early. “At the same time, corn futures moved up a bit and encouraged farmers to plant a few extra acres since Mother Nature was cooperating," he said.

Hutchens compared this year's crop to 1932 - when 10.7 million acres were planted in the state.

How much corn do you think Nebraska farmers produced on these 10.7 million acres in 1932?

The answer: 250 million bushels.

Today, with 9.7 million acres, Nebraska farmers are looking at producing 1.5 billion bushels - a 500 percent increase.

“Nebraska farmers today are putting new technologies to work in ‘sustaining innovations’ that allow us to grow more corn on fewer acres," Hutchens said.

Nationally, USDA said 87.0 million acres of corn were planted this year, up 1 percent from last year and 2 million acres more than what USDA reported in its March planting intentions report. This is the second-largest planted acreage since 1946, behind 2007. It's also 3 million more acres than average trade estimate.

With good growing conditions the rest of this summer, farmers across the country may produce a very large crop, in the 12 billion to 13 billion bushel range, and one of the largest on record, said Kelly Brunkhorst, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board.

Grain stocks
In a separate report, USDA said U.S. corn stocks as of June 1 totaled 4.27 billion bushels, up 6 percent a year ago. On-farm storage totaled 2.21 billion bushels, up 12 percent from a year ago, while off-farm stocks, at 2.06 billion bushels, are up slightly.

Corn stocks in Nebraska totaled 486 million bushels, up 23 percent from last year’s 395.2 million. USDA said 250 million bushels were being stored on Nebraska farms, an increase of 38.9 percent from last year’s 180 million, while 236 million were stored off farm, an increase of 9.7 percent from last year’s 215.2 off farm.

June 29, 2009

Nebraska corn in great condition, on schedule

In today's crop progress report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 82 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is in good to excellent condition. That's 2 points behind last week but well ahead of last year and still a very, very good number.

USDA said 13 percent of the crop is fair and 5 percent is poor to very poor.

Although none of the corn was silking yet, the five-year average is only 1 percent silking by this point. Look for that number to change in the next week, as corn in many parts of the state has shot up quickly in response to some heat and moisture.

Nationally, 72 percent of the crop is good to excellent - which is an increase of 2 points from last week. That leaves 21 percent in fair condition and 7 percent poor to very poor. Last year only 61 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent at this point.

This week's photo was provided to the Nebraska Corn Board by the Chase County FFA Chapter. This photo is a week old, so the corn canopy would be closed by now and the corn quite a bit taller.

June 26, 2009

Podcast: Farmers have a great story to tell on productivity, sustainability

In this Podcast, Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, talks about how corn growers can be proud of their productivity and sustainability.

He talks about the Keystone Field To Market Coalition and some of the results that have been found when looking at farming and sustainability. He said farmers today are producing more with fewer inputs - from fertilizer to water. "That's a great story ... that we need to tell," he said.

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

June 25, 2009

Dairy opening its doors this Saturday

Some folks say farmers and food companies want to keep where our food comes from a secret. Not sure where they get those ideas, as YouTube has lots of videos made by farmers and about farming, and many farmers are happy to show people their place provided they know who the person is and have proper notice, which is a common courtesy, really.

There are also a lot of farmer-written blogs out there full of good information. There's Facebook pages, Twitter and more. Lots of places to connect and interact with farmers.

Plus the Discovery Channel is full of 'how's it made' type shows involving all sorts of foods. No great secrets there.

Perhaps the people saying everything is a "secret" or "hidden" have some ulterior motives - like trying to scare people into believing our food system isn't safe or that farmers and food companies are out to get us all.

Well, meet the good folks at Prairieland Dairy. They are having an open house this Saturday (June 27) - their sixth annual open house to be exact. If you want to know where milk and dairy products like cheese comes from, this is a great place to start. Click for details and directions.

Prairieland, like other dairies in Nebraska and across the country that have open houses, gives anyone who comes to the open house a tour of the barns, milking facilities, feed areas and more. Plus they answer questions people may have and talk about how hard they work to produce safe and wholesome milk (which you'll get to taste!).

It is an incredible experience that was documented in part with a series of videos produced by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska last year. All those videos (and more) are on YouTube - www.YouTube.com/NebraskaAgriculture. I've embedded two of the four videos below.

(Here's a Brownfield blog post on Prairieland.)

This A-FAN video offers an introduction to Prairieland Dairy:

This A-FAN video capture's people's reactions at last year's open house:

Nebraska farmers on the ground in Japan, Korea

Three farmers from Nebraska - two representing the corn farmers and one representing the beef sector - are in Japan and South Korea this week helping to put a face on U.S. agriculture and Nebraska and U.S. corn-fed beef.

Also on the trade mission are three farmers from Iowa.

As noted by the Nebraska Corn Board in this release, the mission was organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), which the Nebraska Corn Board supports as a way to promote high-quality U.S. and Nebraska beef abroad.

Beef exports add more than $130 to the value of each head of cattle. That makes exports vital to beef producers. And corn growers, who see a lot of corn and corn co-products (like distillers grains from ethanol plants) being fed to cattle.

“It is important for corn growers to support beef producers as they develop and expand markets. We’re on this mission to do that and to put a face on agriculture for important customers in Japan and South Korea,” said Mark Jagels, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Davenport.

Jagels is joined on the mission by Nebraskans Alan Tiemann, a Nebraska Corn Board member and farmer from Seward, and David Hamilton, a Nebraska Beef Council member and farmer from Thedford.

“As corn producers, we realize that the livestock industry is our number one customer and that we need to be supportive of beef exports,” Tiemann said. “That’s something we have really set our minds to in Nebraska - understanding our largest customers’ needs and working together to move our industries forward.”

Currently, beef shipped to Japan must come from cattle aged 20 months or younger. Jagels said if that age limit could be raised to follow the 30-month rule that is more standardized, it would help U.S. beef producers reach its full market potential in the country.

“When we visited with the importers, grocers and meat buyers here in Japan, they were all in support of a higher age limit,” Tiemann said. “They could definitely utilize more U.S. beef if we are able to get that, so we’re hopeful that our governments will move this issue forward soon and then we’ll really be able to open up this export market.”

The photo, provided by USMEF, shows Jagels (right) addressing the Japanese media. Greg Hanes (left) is Japan director for USMEF.

Corn producers encouraged to learn more about ACRE

There is a lot to consider when making a decision on whether to enroll land into the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) risk management program.

ACRE is intended to address losses that are not covered by insurance or disaster assistance programs by providing a state-level revenue guarantee, based on the five-year state average yield and the two-year national average price. When both state- and farm-level triggers are met, a payment is made.

Farmers who sign up for ACRE would forgo counter-cyclical payments, receive a 20 percent reduction in direct payments and a 30 percent reduction in loan rates. In addition, growers would be bound to ACRE through the 2012 crop year.

However, DTN's Marcia Zarley Taylor noted in her blog this week that: One of ACRE's advantages is that it locks in a relatively high guarantee based on the past two years' national-average prices and can only adjust down 10 percent per year after that. It also protects growers on actual planted acres, not historical base acres, so it more accurately reflects your risks and input costs.

Sign-up for ACRE is underway now - and wraps up August 14.

Since ACRE is new and its value can vary from farm to farm, the Nebraska Corn Board is encouraging corn producers get the facts.

“The ACRE program was adopted by Congress in the 2008 farm bill and represents fundamental reform in U.S. farm policy,” Dave Nielsen, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board’s Government Affairs Committee, said in a news release. “We’re working with the state Farm Service Agency, University Extension and the National Corn Growers Association to make sure growers understand the new program.”

Nielsen, a farmer from the Lincoln area, said it is important for producers to gather as much information as possible before making a final decision on the new risk management tool.

One such way is by attending an hour-long webinar being held by the National Corn Growers Association and DTN on July 1.

Producers can access the free webinar on a computer by going to the NCGA website – www.ncga.com - and clicking on the ACRE icon. Producers can register in advance and then logon by 8 a.m. July 1 to attend.

During the webinar, Ohio State University economist Carl Zulauf will recap the decisions a producer needs to examine when considering the ACRE program. The Farm Service Agency’s top ACRE experts, Brad Karmen and Brent Orr, will also help with the webinar.

June 24, 2009

Jefferson County designated 'Livestock Friendly'

Jefferson County became the thirteenth Nebraska county to be designated as "Livestock Friendly" this week when Gov. Dave Heineman made an official presentation.

For a good report on the designation and events of the day, click here to visit the Beatrice Daily Sun.

“This is a great day to be out on a farm in Nebraska,” Heineman said at the event. “I’m excited to be here because we remember that agriculture is the number one industry in this state.”

In addition to Jefferson County, Adams, Box Butte, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Hitchcock, Keith, Lincoln, Morrill, Sheridan, Wayne and Webster counties have all been designated as Livestock Friendly. Click here for information from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture on the program.

To apply for a livestock friendly designation, a county must hold a public hearing, secure a declaration acknowledging the importance of livestock to the well-being of the county, submit a narrative that describes how the county meets the intent of the Livestock Friendly County program and provide copies of the documents and regulations associated with site-selection criteria for livestock operations in a given county, if applicable.

Deal on climate change bill better for farmers, ethanol

The climate change bill - sometimes called 'cap and trade' - will move forward with a vote on Friday after House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D, Minnesota) and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D, California) reached a deal yesterday.

The agreement does two things:
  • It allows USDA to have oversight for agriculture carbon offset programs instead of the EPA. That's an important difference, especially since USDA and its research arms have a good understanding of farming today - and offices in rural communities across the country. Peterson noted: “The climate change bill will include a strong agriculture offset program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to participate fully in a market-based carbon offset program.”
  • It addresses international indirect land use changes - with Waxman agreeing to ask EPA to commission a study on indirect land use and associated costs. Importantly, any method of counting those costs (should there be any) must be agreed to by both EPA and USDA. This is good news. Said Peterson: “This agreement also addresses concerns about international indirect land use provisions that unfairly restricted U.S. biofuels producers and exempts agriculture and forestry from the definition of a capped sector.”
Although the deal seems to put off any land use change guesstimates as part of the existing Renewable Fuels Standard, it does not alter California's plan to do so. California's Air Resources Board, however, has told its staff to form an expert panel on the land use issue, and ethanol groups are hoping to work with the panel to better the science and make their case. Perhaps this agreement in DC will help.

For some stories on the Peterson/Waxman deal: New York Times and Washington Post.

June 23, 2009

Corn groups launch ‘Sustaining Innovation’ campaign

Building off the Corn Farmers Coalition campaign in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association have launched a campaign in Nebraska to promote some of the positive aspects of farming today.

Here are some of the bullet points:
  • American farmers grow five times more corn than they did in the 1930s—on 20% less land!
  • Corn farmers cut erosion 44% in two decades thanks to new tillage methods.
  • American farmers slashed the fertilizer needed to grow a bushel of corn by 36% in just three decades.
  • Family farmers grow 90% of America’s corn crop.
"Farmers have always and will continue to adapt and improve how they farm. We felt it was important to let the people of Nebraska know," said Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, in a news release announcing the campaign.

Find the news release here.

Holzfaster said the campaign comes in response to some negative messages about corn production and, in part, corn-based ethanol, that have surfaced over the last year. “It got to a point that we felt some facts about farming today needed to be told,” he said.

The campaign is known as “Sustaining Innovation” because farmers are incredibly innovative and have continuously improved their productivity since humans first placed a seed in the soil. “We strive to do a better job in every row, on every acre, on every farm, every season,” Holzfaster said.

Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers and a farmer from Giltner, said, “By increasing our productivity and producing more with less land, less fertilizer and less chemicals, farmers are feeding more people and are more sustainable today than at any point in history.”

The campaign began this month and will run through the rest of the year. It includes radio and print advertising in select media outlets plus other activities - as well as some decked out delivery trucks that will be making the rounds in Lincoln through the end of the year.

To listen to the radio spots, view the ads (image above is an example) or check out the trucks (right), click here to visit a special web page developed for the campaign.

June 22, 2009

Nebraska corn: 84 percent good to excellent

The Nebraska corn crop remains in outstanding condition - with the crop shooting upwards over the past week with some good heat and moisture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 84 percent of Nebraska's crop is in good to excellent condition. That's 16 points ahead of last year's 68 percent good to excellent - and demonstrates the good spring and start for this year's crop.

It won't be long and detasseling crews will be working hard on all the seed corn acres across the state.

As for the rest of the state's crop, 13 percent was rated fair and 3 percent poor to very poor.

Acres that were hailed - which includes quite a few from storms over the last two weeks - would be in these lower categories. For more information - and weather details - be sure to check out the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

Nationally, 67 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition, 27 percent is fair and 6 percent is poor to very poor. A year ago, only 57 percent of the crop was considered good to excellent, 33 percent was fair and 10 percent was poor to very poor. Last year's crop condition improved heading into fall, however, and we saw a pretty good crop.

For USDA's full report, click here.

This week's photo was provided to the Nebraska Corn Board by the Blue Hill FFA Chapter. It shows the corn canopy closing, which happened quickly over the last week with the good growing conditions.

June 20, 2009

Big (record!) crowd expected for Iowa Corn Indy 250

More than 40,000 people are expected at the Iowa Corn Indy 250 race tomorrow (Sunday) at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. That's a new record, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Iowa Corn Indy race - fueled entirely by corn ethanol - is also one of the biggest television draws for the Indy car series. You can find it on ABC tomorrow at noon Central.

Besides corn ethanol and farmers - who will win? Points leader Ryan Briscoe? Scott Dixon? Dario Franchitti or Helio Castroneves? Or maybe Danica Patrick or Dan Wheldon?

For more information and news coverage, click here for the Register or here for ESPN.

Podcast: Biotechnology helps farmers be more sustainable

In this Podcast, Brian Nedrow, a farmer from Geneva and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about how crop biotechnology plays a role in sustainability.

He notes that some people automatically say that anything from biotechnology is not sustainable.

He notes: Such a blanket statement seems a bit short sighted, especially since biotech crops provide a number of tremendous environmental benefits.

June 19, 2009

Catching up: Biotech sweet potatoes, meaty Mondays, land use

Here's a wrap-up of a few things for the week. Be sure to follow links for full details.

Biotech sweet potatoes
Dr. Florence Wambugu, CEO of Africa Harvest, will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath in the U.K. next month. She is a pretty amazing person who wrote a book in 2001 that sits on my desk today: Modifying Africa: How biotechnology can benefit the poor and hungry, a case study from Kenya.

She's receiving an honorary degree for all her work in making genetically modified sweet potatoes a success in Kenya - and the effect it had on agricultural biotechnology in Kenya and the African continent as a whole.

Today, some people cite the biotech sweet potato as a failure. Wambugu begs to differ - and you can read some thoughts on ths subject in a story on WhyBiotech.com.

Here are a few lines:

Perhaps the final nail in the frequent depiction of the GM sweet potato as a “failure” came when Kenya passed the Biosafety Bill early this year. Further afield, Africa is making giant moves to adopt biotechnology as a tool to raise agricultural productivity, farm incomes and cause economic development and social transformation. The debate in Africa is shifting from the safety of biotech to what crops and traits will be useful for the countries.

Meaty Mondays
Paul McCartney and some of his pals have started a campaign - "Meat Free Mondays" - because they believe it will reduce carbon emissions and save the world from climate change and other assorted ills. Here is the website. It's not the first time a group has pushed the idea of going meat free on Mondays. Here's another, brought to us by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Anyway, DTN's John Harrington had a great analysis of the idea and a few thoughts of his own. Importantly, he sets the record straight on carbon emissions and livestock production.

Here's a paragraph (find the full article here):

By equating deforestation and cattle raising in terms of greenhouse gasses, the U.N. study mistakes the true motivation of the former while exaggerating the environmental evil of the latter. Well-meaning Paul McCartney and his star-studded ilk display a sorry lack of critical insight in this regard, fecklessly championing a silly solution to an admittedly serious problem.

FYI: @cornfedfarmer on Twitter asked if we should start "Free Meat Mondays" and see if it was more popular. I'm thinking we know the answer to that.

Indirect land use and ethanol
Iowa State University economist Dr. Robert Wisner has compiled a very good analysis of what the state of California's Air Resources Board is attempting to do in relation to biofuels and greenhouse gas (GHG) legislation. He also discusses what the federal Environmental Protection Agency is doing.

He notes that the GHG legislation and biofuels legislation are two different mandates that may very well be on a collision course. Who will win?

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Wisner's conclusions:

California’s policies that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are of vital interest to the U.S. biofuels industries. There is a strong chance that California’s proposed regulations for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from motor fuels will be applied nation-wide. The current version of California regulations as well as GHG reduction mandates from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and emerging regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are on a collision course with the ethanol blending mandates. The current direction of GHG emissions reductions policy will make it difficult to attain the sharply increased biofuels use levels that are mandated by 2007 energy legislation. ....

Indirect land use impact is an important component of the California estimated emissions disadvantage from corn-starch ethanol. Scientists and economists are not in universal agreement on ways of measuring this impact. Much more research is needed before universally acceptable indirect land use impact assessments are available. With the rapid rate at which GHG emissions policy is moving forward, there is an urgent need for more research on indirect land use impacts.

June 17, 2009

Grocery Gang's efforts don't change the facts

A couple of weeks ago - at the same time an ethanol/renewable fuels hearing on Capitol Hill was going on - the Grocery Manufacturers Association and its surrogates attempted to get their names in the news by releasing a couple of "studies" about food costs, corn and ethanol.

"Studies" is in quotes because to call them an actual study is a stretch. A big stretch.

Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, put it this way: It was an attempt by GMA to keep its "comedy of errors on the media stage" with "a pair of non-peer-reviewed works of fiction that they dare to call studies. Both are done by members of what should be called the Cheap Corn Coalition."

You can find Tolman's "Our View" column here.

With GMA continuing to spend significant amounts of money trying to blame corn and ethanol on food prices (a diversion, perhaps, from its members good fortunes and profits?), Tolman wonders...

At this rate, it’s not hard to project corn and ethanol’s detractors will soon spend more on propaganda to bash the nation’s most important crop than consumers are paying in increased costs at their local market. Not a very constructive investment, unless their ultimate goals is to trounce corn prices back to the stone age and drive family farmers out of business.

The truth is, GMA and its assorted partners have been proven wrong time and again, and as the American Coalition for Ethanol put it, food processor margins have more to do with retail food prices than ethanol, corn, market speculation or even rising oil prices.

The Grocery Gang's argument has been full of holes since it threw the first volley in a very poorly organized press event a little more than a year ago.

For a couple of holes in the Gang's arguement, check out this post. (But there are more holes...Like this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole or this hole.)

June 16, 2009

Farmer tweets featured on TV

Nebraska farmer Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer on Twitter) was featured late last week on KOLN/KGIN television - they sent a reporter out to talk with him about his use of Twitter.

You can view the news report here.

NOTE - there are actually two videos - one that aired during the news and another that contains a more extensive interview with Hunnicutt. In the 'extra', he talks about animal welfare/animal rights, the expansion of farmers into social media and more. Be sure to check it out.

Also, fyi, another Nebraska corn farmer has joined the ranks of Twitter. You can find Randy Uhrmacher of Juniata at @Ruhrmacher.

For previous posts on Nebraska farmers on Twitter, click here or here.

In May, Hunnicutt was featured on KHAS TV for his tweets. Check out that report here.

Today, Hunnicutt was tweeting from the grand opening of Monsanto's Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg. (Click here for local newspaper story with more details of the center.)

June 12, 2009

Podcast: National Corn Growers' Corn Board in Nebraska this week

In this Podcast, Elgin Bergt, a farmer from Schuyler and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the National Corn Growers Assciation's Corn Board meeting that was in Nebraska this week.

Nebraska hosted the National Corn Board because its current president is a farmer from Nebraska - Bob Dickey of Laurel.

June 11, 2009

Dairy industry provides big contribution to rural economies

Nebraska’s dairy industry produced about 1 billion pounds of milk last year, and in the process it helped drive the economy in many rural communities through employment, taxes, purchasing feed and equipment and more, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release today.

“The state’s dairy receipts totaled about $200 million last year, but when you figure in the impact that reverberates through the economy based on those dollars, the true economic impact is in the neighborhood of $500 million,” said Randy Klein of the Nebraska Corn Board.

Klein noted that for each 75 cows a dairy has, it directly employs one person. That means a 300-head dairy would employ about four people. A 1,200 cow dairy would employ about 16 people.

“Really, employment goes well beyond the dairy farm because a dairy needs feed, veterinary care, equipment, trucking, milk processing and more. Dairies are incredible at boosting rural economies,” Klein said.

An average cow consumes about $1000 in feed each year, which means Nebraska’s 58,000 dairy cattle consume about $58 million in feed.

The Nebraska Corn Board also plugged the great videos produced by the Alliance for the Future of Agricutlure in Nebraska (A-FAN), particularly the dairy videos. You can check those out at A-FAN’s YouTube channel - www.YouTube.com/NebraskaAgriculture.

June 10, 2009

Ag's economic impact - through the eyes of a senator from the city

Nebraska's economy is heavily dependent upon agriculture, which means there is an important interaction between rural and urban communities.

If agriculture is economically healthy, the state will be economically healthy, too, which is good for everyone.

The people in the video below, produced by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), ties all of this together perfectly.

In it you'll see Brenda Council, a Nebraska state senator from district 11 (inner city Omaha), and Willow Holoubek, executive director of Butler County Development.

June 9, 2009

Corn curriculum live on Nebraska Corn Board's website

An educational curriculum with lessons based upon the life cycle of corn is available for teachers -- and others -- on the Nebraska Corn Board's website.

The curriculum provides educators different examples for teaching core subjects and has been rated by the Nebraska Department of Education’s academic standards for mathematics, reading/writing, science and social studies/history.

The curriculum and teachers keys are organized by unit in individual .pdf files. The nine units utilize examples from the corn industry to teach mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, music and art.

Each unit contains a brief story, background for teachers and hands-on lesson plans that are adaptable to all ages. Stories are based on a Minnesota farm family

At the same time, students learn about everything from corn's role in American history to genetics, the environment, satellites, geography, nutrition and a whole lot more.

Here are a few lines from the introduction, talking about what the family's children see every day as they walk down their lane to the school bus:

They see the planning and preparation, the planting, the cultivation, and the harvest. They know that one must come before the other, that there's an order to life.

They understand connections. Corn from their fields is used to feed animals and people around the world. Their corn is also a source of energy; a source that can be renewed and recycled. They know humility. Their crop depends on rain and sunshine. They have no power over storms. They know hope. Every year they watch small kernels become strong plants.

Click here to access the curriculum.

June 8, 2009

Nebraska corn crop off to good start

Eighty-four percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was rated good to excellent as of June 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly crop progress report today. That leaves 15 percent of the crop in fair condition and only 1 percent as poor. No Nebraska corn was in the very poor category.

The numbers back the quick planting pace and ideal early spring weather most Nebraska farmers saw this spring.

Yes, they are a bit below last week's 89 percent good to excellent and 11 percent fair - but those early season numbers could only go down from such lofty heights. A year ago, only 65 percent of the crop was good to excellent - but that crop improved to 75 percent good to excellent by fall.

So overall, we're in pretty good shape, although some localized hail and heavy rain did occur over the last week.

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

Podcast: It’s important for corn growers to follow greenhouse gas legislation

In this Podcast, Lynn Chrisp, a farmer from Kenesaw, talks about greenhouse gas legislation - known as "cap and trade" - being discussed in Washington, D.C.

He acknowledges that not all farmers buy into the climate change debate or believe that the government should be involved in regulating greenhouse gases.

However, he astutely points out that such proposed rules, regardless of how one may feel about them, certainly will impact how farmers do their business – from raising crops to raising livestock to feeding and fueling the world.

Chrisp is with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

June 5, 2009

Pork and Beans recipe contest is back!

Following last year's tremendous response - with more than 150 recipes pouring into the 2008 New Pork & Beans Recipe Challenge - the Nebraska Pork Producers Association and Nebraska Dry Bean Commission have launched pork and beans recipe contest.

They've also increased the number of prizes so more tasty creations can be recognized.

“We discovered – and enjoyed – everything from pizza to soup to Southwestern salads a year ago. There were so many top-notch recipes that we felt another recipe challenge would give everyone a chance to share their favorite updated and improved pork and beans recipes and have an opportunity to win $1,000 and other prizes,” Jane Reeson of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association said in a news release.

Lynn Reuter of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission said the combination of pork and beans has been around for generations because the two go together so well. “Pork and beans provide a high protein, high fiber and low fat base for all sorts of wonderful flavors and nutritious meals,” she said. “We’re looking forward to this year’s entries and can’t wait to see what pork and bean creations people cook up.”

To enter, recipes must use either boneless pork loin or tenderloin and any dry edible bean, canned or dry-packaged. Entries are due by July 15.

Click here for the details.

Did you know? ...Nebraska is the country’s top producer of great northern beans and a leading producer of pinto, light red kidney, black and navy beans.

Photo: Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Black Beans and Pineapple & Cucumber Salsa. Want the recipe? Click here.

June 4, 2009

Biofuels good for your health

Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) have developed a “Life Cycle Impact Assessment” to measure the benefits on human health that might result by switching from gasoline to biofuels.

Early results from the study show that a biofuel like ethanol replacing just 10 percent of current gasoline pollutant emissions would have a substantial positive impact on human health, especially in urban areas.

EBI is a collaboration of UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Illinois and BP.

“Just think, if we had done a life cycle impact assessment on the human health effects of gasoline years ago we might not be in the situation we’re facing today,” said one of the lead researchers, Thomas McKone, an expert on health risk assessments who holds a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division and the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

For information on the report, click here.

The Renewable Fuels Association also has some great info on this report plus a lot more.

Soil carbon stays put in switch from pasture to no-till corn

Farmers who planted no-till corn where pasture or grasses once grew can still sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a report from scientists with the Agricultural Research Service. Find more information on the study here.

This Nebraska-based study was conducted by Ron Follett, a senior supervisory scientist at the ARS Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit in Fort Collins, Colorado. It included six years of monitoring soil organic carbon levels in a field that was converted from bromegrass to no-till corn.

The researchers collected soil samples at three depths to analyze the total amount of soil carbon at each depth and determine whether the carbon was previously sequestered by bromegrass or newly sequestered by the corn.

The results were recently published in Agronomy Journal and showed that: the total amount of carbon didn’t change.

The rates of loss of soil organic carbon previously sequestered in the top two depths by the bromegrass were offset by similar rates of increase in newly sequestered carbon from the corn. There was little or no change at the third depth.

In other words, converting grass/pasture land to no-till corn production had no impact on GHG emissions from the soil and helps refute the indirect land use theory.

Photo: From Debbie Borg's blog post - no-till corn planted on a field that has been no-till for 20 years.

June 1, 2009

USDA: 89 percent of Nebraska corn in good to excellent condition

In its crop progress report today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 89 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is in 'good' to 'excellent' condition. The other 11 percent is 'fair'.

None - not a single percent - are in the 'poor' or 'very poor' categories.

There's some good looking corn growing in fields across the state!

Nationally, 70 percent of the crop is good to excellent, 26 percent fair and the remaining 4 percent is either poor or very poor.

As for planting progress, Nebraska is done - 100 percent. Nationally, 93 percent of the crop is planted, 1 point behind last year and 4 points behind the five-year average.

Illinois, which had been very behind, has caught up some more, with 82 percent of the crop planted. Indiana is 78 percent planted. Both are still behind - normally farmers in those states would be wrapping up by now.

For the full USDA report, click here.

The photo above was submitted to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Heartland FFA chaper.