August 31, 2009

Crop Update: Nebraska corn 53 percent dented

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 1 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was mature. That, and the cool temperatures over the last week, are not-so-subtle reminders that fall and harvest are drawing near.

USDA also reported that 53 percent of the state's corn is dented. That is 7 points behind last year and 13 points behind the five-year average. Corn in the dough stage reached 89 percent, which is only 2 points behind last year and 5 points behind the average. Nebraska corn in good to excellent condition remained high at 76 percent. For details, be sure to visit the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

Nationally, 69 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition - last year at this time 61 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent.

USDA also said 5 percent of the country's corn was mature. That was only 1 point behind last year but 8 points behind the five-year average. It said 32 percent of the crop was dented - compared to 42 percent last year and 60 percent for the average, while 75 percent of the crop reached dough stage - compared to 81 percent last year and 88 percent on average.

For the full report, click here.

This week's photos come to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Chase County FFA Chapter. The top picture shows that ears have been filling out nicely, while the one to the left shows that denting is well underway.

State Fair gives farmers a chance to highlight sustaining innovation

The Nebraska State Fair kicked off over the weekend - and in Ag Hall you can find a Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers display that highlights information surrounding the Sustaining Innovation campaign that began earlier this year.

The photo above shows just a part of the display. (Click here for a Nebraska Corn Boar news release on the State Fair.)

As part of the display, The Cob Squad provided a visual for the fact that farmers are producing five times more corn today than they did in the 1930s - but on 20 percent less land.

In this picture, the jars represent United States corn production in the 1930s - notice the full jar of dirt and only a small amount of corn.

This picture represents 2008. Note that the jar of corn is packed full, while the amount of dirt in the second jar is about 20 percent less.

Tiemann elected chairman of Nebraska Corn Board

Alan Tiemann of Seward (pictured) has been elected to serve as chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board for the 2009-2010 term, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release.

Tiemann, who raises corn and soybeans, will also serve on the Nebraska Corn Board's Research and Executive committees. He is also completing the second year of a two-year term on the board of directors of the U.S. Grains Council.

The Nebraska Corn Board also noted that:

Dennis Gengenbach of Smithfield was re-elected as vice-chairman of the Corn Board. Gengenbach produces corn and soybeans and operates a cow-calf business. In addition to being vice-chairman, Gengenbach will serve on the board's Research and Executive committees. Gengenbach is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in animal science. He also has a Ph.D. in reproductive physiology from Cornell University.

Tim Scheer of St. Paul was elected to serve as secretary/treasurer. Scheer will also serve on the board's Government Affairs and Executive committees. Scheer raises corn and soybeans and has recently added a cattle backgrounding enterprise to his cow/calf operation. Scheer is a LEAD XXIV graduate, and he graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska Lincoln with a degree in agribusiness.

Gengenbach, along with Jon Holzfaster from Paxton, and David Merrell of St. Edward were re-appointed by the governor to serve on the Nebraska Corn Board for three-year terms from 2009 to 2012.

Holzfaster, who became past chairman of the board, raises corn, wheat and soybeans and operates a backgrounding feed yard on the family farm based in Perkins County. Holzfaster is a LEAD XIII graduate and majored in ag economics at the University of Nebraska. Holzfaster will serve on the board's Government Affairs and Executive committees. He is currently vice-chair of the National Corn Grower Association’s Ethanol Committee.

Merrell raises corn, soybeans and has a diversified livestock operation. Merrell is a LEAD XXIV graduate and majored in mechanized agriculture at the University of Nebraska. Merrell will serve on the board's Market Development Committee.

Updtate from the Hamiltion County plot tour

The Hamilton County plot tour was held late last week -- with farmers and other interested parties getting an opportunity to compare, side-by-side, crops planted with seed from a number of different seed companies.

Seed company representatives also had an opportunity to talk to the group.

Scott Snell, who is with the local Natural Resource District office, provided a history of the NRD, as well as an update on the issues that are currently affecting the NRD. About 61 percent of the 1.8 million acres in the NRD are irrigated - yet thanks to responsible irrigation farmers are not faced with any moratoriums.

Annette Dubas, a farmer and state senator from district 34, also gave an update from the Unicameral. She explained interim studies that will be taking place, and provided insight into what to expect from the upcoming session. She expects the main topic to be the budget -- and noted that bills with funding needs will face an uphill battle.

(Thanks to Mat Habrock of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association for the photos and details.)

August 30, 2009

Cozad holds farmer appreciation event

The Cozad Chamber of Commerce and several local businesses sponsored the 30th annual Farmer & Businessman Appreciation BBQ event last week in Cozad. All farmers in the community were invited to come out and enjoy a free meal and listen to a few speakers. As you can see from the photo below, the event was very well attended.

Adam Boryca, president of the Dawson County Corn Growers, put together a booth to show the support of the corn industry and corn growers for local farmers. The growers had a lot of information to provide (including details about Sustaining Innovation) -- and had some giveaways. The highlight was a drawing for a $100 gas card sponsored by the Dawson County Corn Growers.

(Thanks to Mat Habrock of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association for the photos and details.)

August 27, 2009

Hutchens to Time: You have done a fine injustice to the ag community

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, emailed Time magazine his thoughts on the publication's recent article - "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food" (it was originally titled "America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It").

You can read more about the article in the post Time (magazine) is not on your side, or see a note Greg and Maru Whitmore write by clicking here.

Hutchen's entire email is copied below.

If you would like to tell Time what you think, just email

Dear Editor:

You have done a fine injustice to the agricultural community with “America’s Food Crisis & How to Fix It” (Aug, 31).

First, it’s apparent that neither the author Bryan Walsh or Doug Gurian Sherman, Union of Concerned Scientists, have spent much time on one of those “industrial farms” or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). If they had they would know that farmers aren’t eroding the soil (43% less erosion today than 20 years ago), or that CAFO’s in the words of Walsh are “hell for animals, kept in primitive conditions, packed into prison” but instead are housed in air conditioned buildings with automatic waters and feeders, given medical attention when needed, and are viewed as part of the farmers livelihood so care and good health is critical.

You would know that these “industrial farms” are really family farms (individuals or families own 82% of the corn farms) where they live on the farm, go to the local church and school, and eat the products they grow and raise.

You have allowed the author to demonize our industry, where consumer choice to either eat organic or conventional is based on life style, income or personal preference. I can assure you that if your solution is all agriculture should be organic then world population will drop dramatically due to the starvation and malnutrition rates skyrocketing. Conventional agriculture and today’s farmer does feed 129 others.

U.S. ag is the envy of the world, the cheapest, most abundant fed with the safest food supply anywhere. Obesity, while terrible, is also a function of our lifestyle and eating habits. It might be good to get off our butts and exercise and practice preventive health care, and control how much and what we put into our mouth. And, Mr. Walsh condemned the fact chickens are grown in cages where they cannot spread their wings; unfortunately, if you travel today by air, many a passenger has been confined to a aircraft sitting on a run way where humans cannot spread their wings or even use a restroom. Let’s get real about the realities of good journalism, I contend we have a Crisis of Good Honest Journalism versus a Food Crisis.

Don Hutchens
Executive Director
Nebraska Corn Board
Box 95107
301 Centennial Mall South, 4th Floor
Lincoln, NE 68509-5107

NeCGA hosting fan appreciation night for Nebraska Truck & Tractor Pullers

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association announced that it is hosting a fan appreciation night for the Nebraska Truck & Tractor Pullers. The event is Friday, Sept. 4, at the Junction Motor Speedway.

As part of the event, the Nebraska Corn Growers will hand out prizes to fans as they arrive and award additional prizes to fans in attendance throughout the pull.

“The Nebraska Truck & Tractor Pullers is a great organization that we’ve supported all year. It’s backed by tremendous fans and we’re happy to be helping the Pullers show their appreciation at the Sept. 4 event,” said Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers and a farmer from Giltner. “We’re expecting a lot of good action, and we hope a lot of fans come out and join in the fun.”

The pit gate opens at 4 p.m., the front gate at 6:30 p.m. and pulling action begins at 7:30 p.m.

There will be five classes of pullers running, including Limited Pro Tractors, 2WD Pickups, Super Stock Tractors, 4WD Pickups and Pro Tractors. Two sleds will be in operation, and a kids tractor pull will be held at 7:30.

“Corn growers will be there handing out prizes and promoting corn, ethanol and all the important things agriculture means to Nebraska,” Hunnicutt said. “Agriculture, from corn to livestock, is the backbone of the state, and that’s something we’re proud of and like to share.”

Junction Motor Speedway is located in McCool Junction – about 3.5 miles south of the York exit off I-80 (exit 353) on Hyw. 81.

Nebraska farmers respond to Time article

Nebraska farmers Greg and Maru Whitmore sent a note this week to Time magazine editor Richard Stengel. The Whitmore's decided enough was enough when they read the Time article "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food" (it was originally titled "America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It").

You can read more about the article in the post Time (magazine) is not on your side.

The response from Greg and Maru Whitmore, in its entirety, is below.

If you would like to tell Time what you think just email

Mr. Richard Stengel
Time Magazine Editor

Mr. Stengel:

Our family has been farming for more than three generations in Shelby, NE. Just as any other industry, the technology used in our production process is continuously updated. Our company's motto is Innovation, Leadership, Stewardship. Everyday we are in contact with nature, we know how delicate the balance of the ecosystems that aid on our production system are. It is in our best interest to respect Mother Nature the way she requires us to. This is why one of our most important missions in our farming is to be responsible with the Stewardship of the land we feel privileged to work on.

In our farming practices, we use something called Precision Agriculture the writer of your article does not seem familiar with. This systems consists of GPS locator systems along with computers in our tractors and other equipment that will apply a "prescription" of any given substance necessary in our soils (based on grid sampled soil tests) so that we can continue to reestablish the equilibrium of the ecosystem in a specific field.

The no-till practices, the continued research our grower organizations conduct, support serious scientists in different Universities to protect our fields and transition to the least to farming practices that least alter ecosystems. The manure mentioned in your article is really an organic fertilizer that we have the privilege to apply to our fields with the systems I have mentioned. To us, it is the potential richness our soils can be provided with as opposed to how "city people" see it as "waste" and smell.

In our farms we do not only grow food we also grow the ink you use to print your magazine, diapers, biodegradable plastic ware and utensils, fabrics like bio cool-max, soy silk, raw materials for salad dressings, candy, and any other product you purchase in a supermarket.

As you can see from the few considerations I have expressed, there are many aspects of farming that are very advanced, require knowledge, and I have not even begun to mention the financial investment required to run a farming business like ours, or those of our neighbors nor have I mentioned any of the advanced farm marketing knowledge needed to be successful in an extremely volatile market.

With less people in the world willing to be farmers the operations need to be bigger in order to be efficient and successful. Less than 1% of the U.S. population are producing the food the U.S and the world need. Years ago many more households grew their own food. The driving force of the production in an economies of scale system is the consumer because we always want cheaper food.

Sincerely yours, growing everything the world needs to survive.

Greg and Maru Whitmore
Shelby, NE.

August 25, 2009

Podcast: Work NCGA does in DC is critical for farmers

In this Podcast, Bob Dickey, a farmer from Laurel and a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about the importance of having good people on the ground in Washington, D.C.

While serving as president of the National Corn Growers Association over the past year, Dickey said he had the opportunity to see first hand all the effort NCGA staff put in on behalf of farmers -- both in D.C. and St. Louis.

Here are a few lines:

Just think of all the things that have come up in the last few months. Climate change, food safety, the ethanol waiver request, the renewable fuels standard, navigable waters, transportation upgrades and more.

Without good people on the ground in D.C. coordinating with staff in Saint Louis and corn organization and checkoff groups across the country, where would we be on any of those issues?

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

August 24, 2009

30 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is dented

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 30 percent of the corn crop is dented, which, while up from 13 percent last week, is 9 points behind last year (39 percent) and 18 points behind the five-year average (48 percent).

It also noted that 76 percent percent of Nebraska's Corn crop is in the dough stage. That's behind last year's 82 percent and the five-year average of 88 percent.

Nebraska's crop, overall, however, remains in outstanding condition - with 78 percent of the crop in good to excellent condition. That's 3 points ahead of last year.

Nationally, 57 percent of the crop is in the dough stage, compared to 66 percent last year and the five-year average of 79 percent. Dented corn reached 18 percent, which is behind last year's 25 percent and the five year average of 43 percent.

As for crop condition, USDA said 70 percent of the nation's corn crop is in good to excellent condition, compared to 64 percent last year. It said 21 percent of the crop is fair and only 9 percent is poor to very poor. Last year, 24 percent was fair and 12 percent was poor to very poor.

For the full report, click here.

Also, FYI, the Pro Farmer crop tour estimated that the 2009-10 corn croup would come in at 12.8 billion bushels with an average yield of 160.1 bushels per acre. (USDA, in it's recent estimate, had the crop at 12.76 billion and yields at 159.5.)

This week's photo comes to the Nebraska Corn Board from the BlueHill FFA Chapter.

August 22, 2009

'Oil will hit $150 again'

That's the headline from an article in Petroleum News. You can find the full article here.

The article features some thoughts from Roger Herrera, a "longtime oil industry observer."

Herrera said it was high oil prices that drove the global economy into recession last year - and that the direction of crude prices will play a major role in determining what happens with the economy.

From the article:

“It’s clear to me that $150-a-barrel oil was the trigger for the recession,” said Herrera, who has spent more than 40 years observing oil prices, ...

“The prices put extreme stress on the economy — on the airlines, trucking companies, even consumer’s pockets,” Herrera said in the Aug. 10 interview. “And if you look at the economic pattern in the past, you’ll see that when the price of oil goes up, recession follows.”

Back in May, an oil industry analyst said $200 oil was on the horizon.

Both seem like pretty darn good arguments for a continued focus on and investment in renewable fuels like ethanol.

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

Land use change? Science is lacking

An analysis of the Searchinger et al. paper on indirect land use has found the "science" used by the paper's author fell far short of acceptable standards.

For information on the analysis, see this news release. The researchers aren't the only ones that question the validity of the whole land use discussion, models and theories. (More here.)

In this case, John Mathews and Dr. Hao Tan, researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, performed the analysis of Searchinger et al.

The analysis revealed the framework used was inappropriate in that it started with assumptions as to diversion of grain to ethanol production in the U.S. but then extrapolated these to parts of the world, such as sugarcane growing in Brazil.

Mathews and Tan's analysis concluded that Searchinger et al. failed sound scientific standards on many fronts and that government agencies relying on Searchinger et al. findings for evaluating biofuels would be better served by utilizing other controls.

From the release:

"Indirect land use change effects are too diffuse and subject to too many arbitrary assumptions to be useful for rule-making," stated Professor Mathews. "The use of direct and controllable measures such as building statements of origin or biofuels into the contracts that regulate the sale of such commodities would secure better results."

The two found six main problems with the Searchinger work (see the news release for details).

As noted in the news release:

"These six shortcomings, together with the fact that the paper is not replicable, since the models and parameters used are not accessible, places a question mark over the refereeing procedures used for this paper by the journal Science," added John Mathews. "A paper that seeks to place a procedure in the worst possible light, and refrains from allowing others to check its results, is perhaps better described as ideology than as science."

As Mark Lambert over at Corn Commentary said, the analysis shows that the Searchinger piece is "nothing more than ideology draped in a lab coat to disguise it as science."

Well put.

And, of course, Searchinger was one of the reviewers on EPA's indirect land use change model. (See here.)

August 21, 2009

Ethanol may improve energy conversion - more miles per BTU

Ethanol blends provide better energy conversion in engines -- so higher blends of ethanol actually allow a car to travel farther on less energy, according to early results from a mid-level ethanol blend study in flex fuel vehicles funded by the Nebraska Corn Board.

In other words, the study says, you get more miles per BTU.

The Nebraska Corn Board said a final report on the study will be available soon.

Conducted with a number of flex fuel vehicles pulled from the Nebraska Transportation Services Bureau, early results seem to indicate that an e85 fuel blend provides the best energy conversion (the lowest amount of energy used per mile). In fact, energy conversion increased as the fuel went from e10 to e20 to e30 to e85.

On a cost per mile estimate, e85 may also top out -- but that all depends on fuel prices on any given day.

While some calculate that since e85 has 26 percent less energy (BTUs) per gallon it should be priced 26 percent less than regular gas. This study may show that thinking to be a bit off base because e85 is more efficient on an energy basis.

On a straight miles per gallon rating, the drop off between e10, e20 and e30 was not all that significant. As expected, though, a somewhat larger drop off in miles per gallon came with e85. Yet the mid-level blends and e85 may prove to be the most cost-effective option.

The study also looked at horsepower and torque -- but that can be covered in a future post once the full report is available.

One of the cars running through the fuel test, which simulated highway and city driving conditions.

August 20, 2009

Time (magazine) is not on your side

In its article America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It, Time magazine further proves how far removed it is from the reality of -- or any simple understanding of -- contemporary food production and farm life. (NOTE: Time changed the headline of this article - it now reads: "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food". See here for screenshots.)

Like other similar pieces, the article's author paints with broad brush strokes dipped in a bucket of fear mongering in an attempt to justify a full canvas of opinions. (Opinions that some pass on as facts.)

According to the author, corn production is one significant problem. Large livestock farms are are another. (All in all, it reminds me of Google journalism - do a Google search and write an article.)

While the article is filled with tiresome (yet currently fashionable rants among assorted food fear mongers and food elitists), I found this line interesting and odd:

With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories.

Are farmers really producing different calories than they did 30 years ago? And forcing us to eat them? Huh?

Anyway, the "how to fix it" part of the article begins with this:

If a factory farm is hell for an animal, then Bill Niman's seaside ranch in Bolinas, Calif., an hour north of San Francisco, must be heaven.

If Niman can make a living feeding cattle the way he does, more power to him. But to say that's how it should be done everywhere is out of touch with the reality of billions of people who can't afford $7 a pound ground beef or a $45 beef roast.

Chipotle (see this post) is held up as an example of the 'right way', organic is held up as the only sustainable method of farming and people who buy 'regular' food are told they must not be too smart:

Niman takes care with each of his cattle, just as an organic farmer takes care of his produce and smart shoppers take care with what they put in their shopping cart and on the family dinner table.

Other than a couple of quotes from someone at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the reporter apparently made no attempt to learn what farmers think. Instead, he talked to the usual suspects, including someone with Pew about antibiotics (more on Pew here).

Another couple of lines:

But animals aren't widgets with legs. They're living creatures, and there are consequences to packing them in prison-like conditions. For instance: Where does all that manure go?

Pound for pound, a pig produces approximately four times the amount of waste a human does, and what factory farms do with that mess gets comparatively little oversight. Most hog waste is disposed of in open-air lagoons, which can overflow in heavy rain and contaminate nearby streams and rivers.

What?! Does the reporter actually believe manure is stored perpetually and never used as fertilizer to grow crops that feed the animals? And I'm not so sure a farmer who had to file a manure management plan would agree that there is "little oversight".

I'll stop here...but if you have the stomach to read the article and would like to tell Time what you think, email: or call Time at (212) 522-1212.

Survey examines social media use by farmers

A good post from the AgWired blog provides a few details on farmers' use of the internet and smart phones based on a survey conducted by Nicholson Kovac. (Information on the full report is available here, while a news release on the report is here.)

A few of the details from the news release:
  • 62 percent of large acreage, U.S. corn and soybean growers have sent or received text messages during the past year
  • 48 percent of those texting send five or more text messages a day
  • 63 percent of respondents indicated they have taken pictures with their mobile phones
  • 47 percent spend five or more hours per week online, and 23 percent spend 10 or more hours online
  • Besides utilizing e-mail, accessing weather and market reports are the highest ranked in terms of Internet use for their business/farm
  • In addition, 85 percent of respondents indicated that they visit web sites related to their farm operation, and 76 percent check manufacturers' web sites
In a podcast on AgWired (link above), you can hear Chuck Zimmerman interview Nicholson Kovac's Sheree Johnson about their findings.

"While there appears to be some confusion and lack of familiarity about social networking, blogging, etc., when social networking brands (ie., such as Facebook or Twitter) were mentioned, many respondents confirmed they are actively using these sites," Johnson in the news release. "The early adopters and growers who are influencers in their communities are already engaged in exploring new media platforms."

August 19, 2009

Podcast: EPA’s peer review on land use change flawed

In this Podcast, Randy Uhrmacher, a farmer from Juniata and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses the Environmental Protection Agency's peer review on its indirect land use change theory.

He said the review was biased - in part - by the people picked to do the review, further casting a shadow on the entire process.

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

August 18, 2009

AVMA report disputes Pew's take on animal antibiotics

Concerns with the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production came up long before the group released its report and recommendations on antibiotics last April.

More recently, the Commission, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, took on an advertising campaign in D.C. in its push to eliminate the use of antibiotics in animals via the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). (See this photo from @TopProducerMag for a quick example, or visit the link below for more).

The Commission operates the SaveAntibiotics website, which contains information on PAMTA that it supports and is pushing via the ad campaign and an e-mail campaign to members of Congress.

The American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA), however, has provided a scientific report to Congress as a response to Pew. AVMA disputes many of Pew's findings and recommendations - in an easy-to-follow, practically statement-by-statement form.

The full AVMA response is here (.pdf)

Below are two paragraphs (emphasis added) from AVMA's executive summary:

Both in substance and in approach, therefore, the Pew report contains significant flaws and major dalliances from both science and reality. These missteps lead to dangerous and under-informed recommendations about the nature of our food system – and shocking recommendations for interventions that are scarcely commensurate with risk. The report is, in many ways, a prolonged narrative designed to romanticize the small, independent farmer, while vilifying larger operations, based simply upon their size.

The suggestions presented in the following analysis of the Pew Commission's report offer thoughtful insight into what we, as veterinarians, assert are critical research and programmatic needs as next steps in promoting the optimal health and welfare of our nation's animals and people. As always, we believe it is imperative to base our decisions on evidence and research that is grounded in the basic principles of scientific inquiry. By disregarding these elementary guidelines of thought, the Pew Commission's report is based on what is possible, rather than what is probable. The following analysis cautions against the propagation of these untruths, which could easily scare the American public and, ultimately, compromise the safety of our nation's food supply.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA's CEO, has also recorded a video response, which you can find here. And an audio podcast, which is here.

He explains some of the problems with the Pew report and recommendations, including that Pew showed bias by not incorporating findings and suggestions from some participants.

He also, rightly, asks Congress to reject PAMTA.

A full article on the subject also appears in the JAVMA, which you can find here.

This article contains a lot of good information, including the response by DeHaven to Pew's advertising campaign.

Dr. David R. Smith, a professor and the extension dairy and beef veterinarian for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in the article that it is important for AVMA to provide veterinarians' perspective on the Pew's conclusions.

Smith is one of the AVMA volunteer leaders who read the Pew report, evaluated the commission's recommendations and crafted the AVMA's response.

From the JAVMA article (emphasis added):

Smith said the Pew report lacks insight into animal health issues, why antimicrobials are used in food-producing animals, and the regulation of those antimicrobials. He hopes the AVMA report provides people with a critical look at the Pew Commission's recommendations and "whether acting on those recommendations would make the world a better place."

"Largely, our conclusions were that the Pew report was a superficial look at animal agriculture, and the recommendations lacked deep understanding of the issues involved," Dr. Smith said.

August 14, 2009

Video: Mike Rowe on lamb castration, farming and hard work

If you like Dirty Jobs, you'll appreciate this speech by Dirty Jobs' host Mike Rowe.

He gave it last December to a group of techies in Silicon Valley. It covers the well-known lamb castration episode, but also a number of farm-related subjects, in classic straight-forward Mike Rowe style. It's about 20 minutes, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

If you've every watched the show, you know he frequents farms, and believes in celebrating hard work. "Work is not the enemy," he says. (He's also started this cool website.)

Here's the video (you can also find it on here):

August 13, 2009

Video: The Cob Squad making the news

The Cob Squad - the interns at the Nebraska Corn Board - have produced a three-part series as a newscast - C.O.R.N. News. A fourth video is an infomercial that talks about all the products you can get from corn.

Video one with - with Mat 'Cornstalk' as host - discusses sustainability in agriculture and includes an 'on air' interview with Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers (@cornfedfarmer on Twitter).

The second video features weather forecaster Paige 'Tassel' discussing some of the "hot air" from the West Coast, "Fog" out in D.C. and that all the "hot air" sweeping across the country isn't good for anyone.

Video three features Austin 'Bushel' investigating efficient water use - explaining that most corn grown in the United States is 100 percent rain fed. He also talks about the amount of water it takes to produce ethanol.

The last video is an infomercial that enthusiastically covers all the products made from corn.

You can find The Cob Squad's YouTube channel here. Or check out the videos below.





August 12, 2009

Subsurface drip irrigation clinic set for next week

Nebraska farmers and others interested in subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) should head to South Central Research Farm in Clay Center next Tuesday (Aug. 18).

That's where the University of Nebraska's South Central Agricultural Laboratory is holding a "Nuts and Bolts" clinic on the subject.

The clinic runs from 10 am to 2 pm. Lunch is provided. (Call 402.762.3356 to pre-register.)

Dr. Suat Irmak is the featured speaker - and will cover considerations for adopting SDI, provide an opportunity to view the research farm's SDI systems and lead a panel discussion of farmer and researcher SDI experiences.

Over the last several years, Nebraska farmers have learned a a lot about water management and use -- and a lot of credit goes to what happens at the research farm and the efforts of those who work there. This is a great opportunity to learn more.

For more information, click here (.pdf file) or call the phone number above.

Oh...and for information on saving money by checking the performance of your irrigation pumps, click here. For details on ag water management, click here.

Nebraska farmers may produce record corn crop

Nebraska farmers have the potential to harvest a record 1.52 billion bushel corn crop this year, topping the previous record of 1.47 billion set in 2007, the Nebraska Corn Board said today in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop production report released this morning.

Average anticipated yields in the state, as reported by USDA, are 166 bushels per acre, which would tie a Nebraska record set in 2004.

“Farmers got off to an early good start and have, for the most part, seen good weather throughout much of the growing season. As we move into harvest, hopefully the early estimates laid out by USDA will hold true,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Kelly Brunkhorst.

Brunkhorst said trends to higher yields and larger crops are a testament to farmers’ efforts to produce more corn per acre and to do so with as few inputs as possible.

“It’s why we say farmers are sustaining innovation through responsible stewardship, better genetics and improved management practices,” he said. “Farmers today are growing more corn, potentially record crops, with less fertilizer, chemicals and water. That’s good for them and the environment.”

He explained that the technology used by farmers today allows them to better control the inputs they do need, which, in turn, allows them to use fewer overall inputs per bushel. “Farmers are smart innovators and every year they get more efficient,” Brunkhorst said.

Nationally, farmers are expected to produce a 12.76 billion bushel crop, the second-largest on record, with an average yield of 159.5 bushels per acre, which is near the record set in 2004.

Based on the higher production and lower prices, USDA increased its anticipated use of corn for feed, ethanol and exports. Despite those increases, USDA also increased ending stocks – the amount of corn left over at the end of the year – to 1.62 billion bushels. You can find those details here.

August 11, 2009

Ethanol blender pump campaign kicks off

The Nebraska Corn Board is one of several corn and ethanol organizations across the country that partnered to launch a national ethanol blender pump campaign today, according to a news release.

The goal is to have 5,000 ethanol blender pumps installed nationwide over the next three years, which will expand fuel choices for motorists and give gas station owners more product flexibility.

“This campaign will help increase the use of clean burning, renewable ethanol by giving the drivers of flexible fuel vehicles more places to fill up with more ethanol,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Randy Klein. “It will make the 85 percent ethanol blend, e85, easier for station owners to sell, and allow them to offer ethanol blends beyond the current 10 percent, or e10, standard, should they choose to do so.”

The “Blend Your Own Ethanol” campaign – or BYOethanol (pronounced “bio”) – will offer a single source of ethanol information and technical expertise for petroleum marketers looking to upgrade equipment or begin offering more choices to their customers. By serving as a central clearinghouse for renewable fuels infrastructure incentives, the “BYOethanol” campaign will bring blender pumps to key areas of the country, and from there they will spread as neighboring gas stations see the benefit and want to remain competitive.

The campaign is a partnership between the leading corn-producing states, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Association, and was announced today at the American Coalition for Ethanol annual conference and trade show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The “BYOethanol” campaign will function as an expanded market development program of the ACE and RFA and will serve as a one-stop source for all the technical, regulatory, safety and environmental information petroleum marketers need about retailing ethanol blends. It will feature extensive work at petroleum marketer events and a web presence designed specifically for station owners to easily get the information they want.

The nearly 200 blender pump locations in the U.S. today can be seen on this map.

Or, for e85 and blender pump locations in Nebraska, click here for a Nebraska Corn Board map.

August 10, 2009

EPA throws dust into the fog, further muddying land use theory

It wasn't that long ago that the Environmental Protection Agency official in charge of regulating air emissions within the United States was questioned about her lack of farm and agriculture knowledge. It all came up in a hearing about the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Margo Oge admitted, at least, that she had never been on a farm (see that here). And I'm sure (hoping) she knew the answer but just could wrap her head around it when asked about ethanol and biodiesel production (see that here).

As Corn Commentary points out, though, many people in the room may not have realized that she was wrong. And that's scary. Here's a line from the second link above:

Regardless of whether the international indirect land use change methodology as proposed by EPA is adopted, everyone in the agriculture and biofuels industry should be concerned about the bureaucrats who could potentially regulate them out of business some day. We should be very afraid.

And now EPA went off and hired some folks to do a peer review of its indirect land use change guesstimates for the RFS.

While EPA said it maintained an arm's length from picking the peer reviewers, it did write the requirements of who should be picked and suggested a few names. So the bottom line is, the review was completed by several folks who are anti-ethanol, while excluding anyone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - the one agency that (mostly) gets farming and agriculture and has actually studied the subject in question. In the real world. As in outside an office.

Brownfield did a good report on this - including comments from a number of groups frustrated with the process.

EPA's review should have helped clear the air. Instead, it threw dust into the fog, further muddying the process. And that's too bad.

Reviewers found that EPA's process "Was scientifically justifiable, especially given existing data and technology constraints." But that's the whole problem...the data and technology constraints are severely lacking, yet EPA is proposing regulations based upon them.

A quick visit to EPA's RFS webpage today had me again asking questions.

As shown in the picture below (click it for a bigger image), the webpage includes a photo of sweet corn, a corn field and an ethanol plant. While I'm sure sweet corn is available at a grocery store inside the Beltway, it doesn't have anything to do with ethanol production or the RFS.

A big deal? Not necessarily, but it's another piece of puzzle that makes up EPA. And adds to the reasons why EPA is questioned in the countryside.

Podcast: Now is good time to follow up with members of Congress

In this Podcast, Steve Wiese, a farmer from Wilber and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, encourages farmers to meet with their Congressional representatives this month - while they are back home from work in D.C.

He outlines some things that may be worth talking about -- including the climate change bill.

He also plugs the upcoming land use change meeting being held by NCGA in St. Louis (click here for more information).

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

August 6, 2009

Your corn is calling

Okay - there really are technologies today that allow cornfields to make a call, or at least alert farmers to assorted conditions of the field, but this is different.

It's a mobile phone made, in part, from corn.

The Samsung Reclaim is a 'green' phone for Sprint that is made from bioplastics - with 40 percent of the phone's outer casing coming from corn-based bioplastic.

Since bioplastic -- PLA -- is made in Blair, Nebraska, the chances are pretty good that those phones have Nebraska corn in them.

For more details, see this good post at the Corn Commentary.

Also see this post and this post on corn-based plastics.

Hunnicutt talks truths, encourages people to stand up for ag

Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer on Twitter), a farmer from Giltner and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, spoke at the Hastings Kiwanis club today. This is one of several presentations Hunnicutt has made over the last few weeks - talking about farming today and some of the issues farmers fac.

Hunnicutt spoke about the Humane Society of the United States and its attacks on the livestock industry and desire for veganism, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and its attacks on farmers over food prices, and assorted environmental groups who aren't fans of corn-based ethanol. He also threw in climate change legislation and more form D.C.

Despite the battles on so many fronts, Hunnicutt said it is a great time -- and an exciting time -- to be a farmer. The technology employed today, including automation through precision ag, is helping farmers to be more efficient and better stewards of the land, air and water, he said, all while producing a whole lot more corn. (That ties in nicely to this.) And that the positive trends of producing more with less will continue into the future.

He also noted that farmers are using Facebook and Twitter to tell their story to anyone who will listen - but that speaking to groups is important, too, especially as people in cities become further separated from farming and the origin of food.

Facebook, Twitter and speaking to groups helps spread the truth about farmers and farming, he said, and encourages people to stand up for agriculture when they hear some of the misinformation that is out there.

August 5, 2009

Lots of support to increase ethanol blend rate

The Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release today that more 5,000 farmers and other ethanol backers all across Nebraska responded to a call for grassroots support of a proposal that would allow fuel blenders to increase the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent to up to 15 percent.

That proposal is in front of the Environmental Protection Agency right now. A decision is expected sometime in December.

The Nebraska Corn Board said nearly 5,000 individuals returned yellow postcards in support of the measure, while hundreds more submitted comments online before the July 20 deadline.

“The response to this call to action was just incredible,” said Randy Klein, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn Board. “It demonstrates the broad support of and commitment to ethanol in Nebraska. We have a lot at stake in Nebraska, as the second largest ethanol producing state in the country. We want to make sure those plants continue to produce at full capacity.”

Several Nebraska ethanol plants that had shutdown or were sold to new owners are now back online and operating at capacity, Klein said, while construction continues on a large plant at Columbus that should come online later this year.

Overall, the ethanol industry has produced more ethanol each month this year than it did a year ago (see these industry statistics from RFA).

While that may surprise some, considering most of the press these days is negative on ethanol, it demonstrates that the industry is pressing forward and is on track to meet the 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol necessary to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard target.

That's a 1.5 billion gallon increase from last year.

Klein also noted that in Nebraska, the state’s 23 operating ethanol plants have created nearly 1,000 jobs and generate $2.9 billion in total economic output and $51 million in tax revenues each year.

August 4, 2009

The indirect impact of our dependence on oil

Some regulatory agencies -- like the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- attempt to penalize biofuels for so-called "indirect impacts" like international indirect land use change.

In a recent letter, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) pointed out that EPA and CARB officials suggest biofuels are the only type of fuel that cause any noticeable indirect, market-mediated impacts.

"This is a laughable assertion," RFA said.

After all, by only singling out biofuels, EPA and CARB have overlooked all of the secondary impacts of our continued dependence on oil.

Instead of arguing point by point, RFA produced a photo that you can see by following the link above.

I've included two similar photos here as a reminder of some of those indirect impacts of our dependence on oil.

From RFA's "Say What?" Files:

CARB's Proposed Regulation to Implement the low carbon fuel standard: No other significant indirect effects [other than land use change] that result in large GHG emissions have been identified that would substantially affect the [low carbon fuel standard] framework for reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels.

The photos in this post tell a different story and are in the public domain - see here and here. They were taken in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Podcast: Farmers need to engage on climate change bill

In this Podcast, Larry Mussack, a farmer from Decatur and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the importance of grassroots efforts - from the ethanol waiver request to the climate change bill.

He makes some important points on the climate change bill - and reminds us that farmers must be at the table as the legislation is discussed.

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

August 3, 2009

Nebraska corn crop rolling ahead

In this week’s crop progress report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 90 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was silking as of August 2.

That is 1 point ahead of last year’s crop and 4 points behind the five-year average. Corn in the dough stage reached 20 percent, which is 2 points ahead of last year but 11 points – about four days – behind average.

Although a bit behind, the crop remains in outstanding condition, with 79 percent rated good to excellent, 4 points ahead of last year. Only 7 percent of the crop is rated poor.

For more information and details - and to see crop progress in photos - be sure to visit the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

Nationally, 76 percent of the crop is silking. That's 3 points behind last year and 13 points behind the five-year average. USDA said 14 percent of the nation's crop is in the dough stage, 1 point behind last year and 15 points behind the average. On the overall crop condition front, 68 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition. That's 2 points behind last week but 2 points ahead of last year.

This week's photo comes to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Heartland FFA Chapter. It shows corn getting closer to maturity.

August 1, 2009

Nebraska corn crop could set record

The headline of this post is the headline of a report on KETV in Omaha.

The report features farmer Alan Tiemann of Seward. Tiemann is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board.

To read the report or watch the video, click here.

It covers everything from the crop to ethanol to livestock, and is well done.

Will Nebraska's corn crop set a record? It could happen - the acres are there. Time will tell on yields.

Over a Barrel: Why we must focus on ethanol

The ABC News program 20/20 highlighted our addiction to oil last week in a report called "Over a Barrel, the Truth about Oil".

The episode features Charlie Gibson interviewing a number of sources on the subject - and points out many of the problems we face today because we've allowed ourselves to be put "over a barrel."

For the full episode, click here. It's about 42 minutes long.

For smaller video chunks, click here and look for the July 24 episodes.

The report is a great reminder why we need to keep our focus on renewable fuels like ethanol. We can't afford to get sidetracked for another decade or two. It also reminded me about this post.