September 30, 2009

Ethanol proves to be a positive for oil company

"Ethanol is growing, and it will definitely be part of the mix going forward." -- Gene Edwards, Valero Energy Corp. executive vice president for corporate development and strategic planning, in the Grand Island Independent.

While it is no secret that buying bankrupt Verasun has been good for the oil refining giant Valero, it is nice to see the company acknowledge such in print. The Independent's article, in fact, includes several good quotes and information from Valero about the ethanol industry.

At an event in Albion, Neb., Valero spokesman Bill Day told reporter Mark Coddington (@markcoddington on Twitter): "Right now, ethanol's been one of the bright spots in the system. We've been pleased with its profitability."

The ethanol plant in Albion is one of seven that Valero bought at an auction in April from VeraSun. It's safe to say the $477 million the company paid for all seven plants and a site to be developed later was a bargain -- about one-third of the cost to build new. Yet the bargain price allowed Valero to get the plants up to capacity quickly, which means buying a corn and selling ethanol and distillers grains -- and providing a lot of jobs.

As the article explains, ethanol helps diversify Valero's revenues, helping to balance out its business.

September 29, 2009

Nebraska Ag Classic includes topics on social media, dealing with animal rights groups

The fifth annual Nebraska Ag Classic is scheduled for December 1-3, 2009 -- and is being held this year at the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln.

This year's conference has some outstanding speakers lined up who will cover a number of critical topics for agriculture. (Here's the agenda.)

Opening the conference is Dr. Wes Jamison, associate professor of communication at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. Jamison's topic will be the ever-growing challenge of dealing with animal activists/anti-agriculture groups. (We've blogged about him before.)

Jamison is very good; you don't want to miss it. Speaking on how some animal activist groups are using religious messages to promote anti-animal agriculture ideals and opinions, Jamison will provide factual accounts of how these tactics have been used and their success rates. He will also discuss what the agriculture community can do to bond together and help combat these negative messages being sent out about animal agriculture.

Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., will also be on hand. (She's @mpaynknoper on Twitter, where she also leads the popular #agchat discussions.)

During the annual awards banquet Dec. 2, she'll present her “Celebrating Agriculture” keynote, and leave you inspired and impassioned about the agriculture industry in general and especially about agriculture in Nebraska. Payn-Knoper will share the 6.5 reasons you should celebrate agriculture; why you are needed to face today’s crisis in the agriculture industry and how to successfully influence consumer, political and media groups.

Payn-Knoper will return Dec. 3 to talk about social networks in a presentation “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Yes, she'll be talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, YouTube and more. Do these things really matter to agriculture? (Yes!) This session will help you learn more about how these online social networks can work for agriculture or against it. More importantly, she'll help you learn how to make these online communities work in agriculture’s favor.

September 28, 2009

Corn harvest begins in Nebraska

About one-third of Nebraska’s anticipated record corn crop is mature, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report.

Although the current estimate of 33 percent mature is 7 points behind last year and well behind the five-year average of 66 percent mature, some early corn is already coming out of fields. (USDA estimated that 3 percent of Nebraska's crop is in the bin, which is 6 points behind the five-year average.)

Soybean harvest, however, is taking center stage in many areas across the state.

Virtually the entire Nebraska crop has reached the dented stage, and Nebraska corn in good to excellent condition has remained steady at 79 percent. That's four points above last year and nine points above two years ago.

For details on Nebraska's crop, be sure to check out the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update.

Nationally, 37 percent of the crop is mature, off from 49 percent last year and the five-year average of 72 percent. As expected, harvest is also behind - only 6 percent, compared to 18 percent for the average.

Crop conditions, however, remain record high: 68 percent of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, off one point from last week but 7 points above last year.

This week's photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Blue Hill FFA Chapter.

September 25, 2009

GMA and AMI: Astroturffed fools

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and American Meat Institute – and their merry band of partners collectively known as the Grocery Gang -- are back. Yet this time in their newspaper ads and radio interviews they look even more foolish then before.


Because when they started the incredibly false (astroturf) food/fuel debate 18 months ago they at least had rising corn prices to point to in support up their argument. Now, though, corn prices less than half they were at the highs last year. In fact, cash corn is below $3 in many places. Yet ethanol production is way up. Hmmm.

Apparently the drop in corn prices hasn’t made it’s way to AMI spokesman Dave Ray, who was quoted in Brownfield complaining that ethanol has led to “double or triple” price increases in corn. If he’s buying corn today at $6 or $9, I know a few farmers who are selling.

Ray also foolishly tries to put a wedge between livestock producers and corn farmers -- as if one is better or more important than the other. The truth is, both are vital and both need each other to succeed. In fact, cattle producers and ranchers and corn farmers agree on a lot more issues than they may disagree on -- with a basic premise is both need to be profitable over the long haul.

The Grocery Gang also completely ignores another important product produced by ethanol plants -- that being distillers grains. While you often hear that one-third of a bushel of corn that goes through an ethanol plant comes back as distillers grains, it’s value is actually much more than that.

Distillers grains helps cattle producers and others in the livestock sector to reduce costs and improve performance. (Check out this post on some calculations showing profit opportunities thanks to distillers grains.)

But worst of all, the Grocery Gang’s shooting off at the mouth by falsely claiming corn ethanol is bad for the environment my put themselves in the spot light answering questions about their own environmental performance.

Specifically, of course, is the Gang’s charge that increasing the ethanol blend rate will “destroy millions of acres of forests.” While not naming Brazil, that is exactly what they are talking about – that corn ethanol will lead to the rain forest being stripped.

Yet, by far, the biggest contributor to deforestation is illegal harvesting of wood and cattle production. Yes – beef – the very product AMI and the Gang promote.

The Gang also makes an argument on greenhouse gas emissions. But perhaps some looking in the mirror would be good here. The last thing anyone needs is for livestock production to get hit over the head with tough greenhouse gas rules. Yet if they argue that corn and ethanol have a significant impact on greenhouse gases all the people they are trying to rile up will look at them, too.

In fact, many of the anti-corn ethanol folks are also anti-big meat. Connecting dots really isn’t all that difficult. Why stir the pot with myths and lies?

September 24, 2009

Podcast: Farmers need to let EPA know their thoughts on RFS-2 proposal

In this Podcast, Larry Mussack, a farmer from Decatur and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, encourages farmers and other ethanol supporters to submit comments to the EPA about the enhanced Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS-2).

He lists some of the issues with RFS-2 and why it matters to farmers.

To submit your own comments, click here. Comments are due tomorrow.

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

September 23, 2009

Legislation takes aim at land use change theory

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, along with Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, have introduced legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from using indirect land use change estimates as it implements the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS-2).

As noted in the news release from Nelaon, EPA's proposed regulations would penalize U.S. biofuel producers for greenhouse gas emissions that the EPA claims result from changes in land use in other countries allegedly caused by the increased production of biofuels in the United States.

The proposed amendment to the Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations bill would prohibit the EPA, for one year, from spending funds to include international indirect land use change emissions in the implementation of RFS-2.

The Senators also noted that, at this time, the data and analytic methodologies for credibly calculating international indirect land use change emissions do not exist.

"Because of this, including these international emissions in the EPA’s rule would put an unjust burden on the biofuels industry," they said.

“Biofuels are an important part of the diverse energy mix that will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” said Nelson. “This amendment will stop the EPA from using inaccurate or incomplete calculations that could compromise our ability to expand production of biofuels. More complete studies need to be conducted before land use calculations can be effective.”

Several ag groups support the proposal.

According to a blog byDTN's Chris Clayton, Sens. Nelson and Grassley have also joined South Dakota's John Thune and Tim Johnson to require the EPA to raise the ethanol blend level from e10 to e15.

Fossil fuels - $72 billion in subsidies

A recent article from DTN pointed to report from the Environmental Law Institute that found that between 2002 and 2008, federal subsidies to fossil fuels were much higher than any subsidies given to biofuels or other renewable energy sources.

This, despite an international focus on the merits of cutting back the use of fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, which you can download here (.pdf), reported that subsidies for fossil fuels totaled about $72 billion between 2002 and 2008. Subsidies for renewable energy totaled just $29 billion - with corn-based ethanol getting about half of that amount. (This makes sense, since the corn ethanol industry expanded so rapidly during this time to become -- and remain -- the most widely used renewable transportation fuel in history.)

Here's a good quote from the study:

Most of the largest subsidies to fossil fuels were written into the U.S. tax code as permanent provisions. By comparison, many subsidies for renewables are time-limited initiatives implemented through energy bills, with expiration dates that limit their usefulness to the renewables industry.

Much of the subsidies for fossil fuels comes in the form of several special tax breaks.

During the study period, the report said that subsidies for fossil fuels generally increased (except last year...when companies like Exxon were making $90,000 a minute) while funding for renewables generally increased, but dropped in 2006-07 and then increased again last year.

(Sorry I can't link to the DTN story...but I can email it to you if needed. Just post a comment.)

The study was mentioned in several news reports today that focused on President Barack Obama calling on a global end to government subsidies that encourage the use of fossil fuels. Obama is hosing the G-20 economic summit opening tomorrow and he's supposed to propose a gradual elimination of such subsidies.

As reported by CBS online:

"Later this week, I will work with my colleagues at the G-20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge," Obama said Tuesday at the United Nations global warming summit.

Corn, agriculture can bring people together

Fifty years ago, in the middle of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev came to Iowa to learn about corn and agriculture. The visit to Iowa came after Iowa farmer and corn breeder Roswell Garst had visited the Soviet Union -- at Khrushchev's invitation -- four years earlier.

Khrushchev was a big believer in corn. He wanted to learn from the Americans -- and then be better at it.

Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita's son, was along on the trip to Iowa 50 years ago. He's now a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

At a recent event marking Nikita's visit to Iowa, Sergei told Iowa Farmer Today that he believes the conversations between his father and Garst may have been more beneficial than any talks involving diplomats.

“I really believe their relationship helped to ease some of the tensions at the time because this really was a very unusual relationship for the Cold War,” Sergei said. “People saw how my father and Mr. Garst could become friends despite the differences.”

The Iowa Farmer Today, which is celebrating 25 years in business, did an article recently on the Khrushchev visit to Iowa. It's worth a read and you can find it here.

For more information on Nikita Khrushchev, check out this Wikipedia post. It notes that Khrushchev's dreams of corn and and agriculture dominance in the former Soviet Union did not become a reality.

Yet for a brief time, agriculture was a bridge between between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And reminded me about all the work in agriculture that is going on in the background in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.

September 21, 2009

Harvest getting underway in Nebraska; comments sought on RFS-2

The Nebraska corn crop continues to push toward maturity -- and you can find a few corn and soybean fields already harvested across the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop progress report issued today, 15 percent of Nebraska's corn crop mature. This is up 4 points from last week but still behind last year's 19 percent mature and well behind the five-year average of 4 percent.

Nationally, 21 percent of the crop is mature -- compared to 30 percent last year at this time and the 55 percent average.

As for overall crop condition, 79 percent of Nebraska's crop remains in good to excellent condition. On a national scale, 68 percent of the crop is rated good to excellent. 

With harvest beginning to gain momentum across Nebraska, and the anticipation of a record corn crop, the Nebraska Corn Board is urging producers to continue focusing on what is happening in our nation’s capital.

When the Nebraska Corn Board requested farmers to send in their comments on a request for e15, more than 5,000 did so, knowing they could produce a crop that can provide enough corn to feed, fuel and provide fiber for our state, nation and world. (And do so on less land!)

The Nebraska Corn Board is again requesting that farmers let their voices be heard. This time in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency's RFS-2 draft regulations. Just go to the Nebraska Corn Board’s website, click on the Action Alert icon and submit comments. It only takes a couple of minutes.

You can find more information about this effort here.

Comments are due this Friday (Sept. 25), so don’t wait! Act now.

This week's photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Imperial FFA Chapter.

Video: Presentations at Renewable Fuels Month proclamation

Videos from last week's Renewable Fuels Awareness Month proclamation by Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman are now on YouTube.

They include comments made by each of the individuals who spoke at the proclamation event at Husker Harvest Days. The Governor's video includes his answer to a question about the ethanol industry.

All good stuff!

You can check out the videos at our YouTube channel, NebraskaCornKernels, or below.

The first video features Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. Tiemann is a farmer from Seward.

The second video features Gregg Fujan, chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board. Fujan is a farmer from Weston.

The final video features Governor Heineman, including his answer to a reporter's question about ethanol.

September 18, 2009

Motorists, farmers urged to be safety-minded during harvest

While rural life often includes idyllic and peaceful country roads, traffic on these roads picks up during harvest, which increases the chances for accidents to occur between farm equipment and vehicles.

“Motorists and those driving farm equipment and grain trucks need to be cautious and alert while driving through the countryside,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, in a news release today. “Farm equipment is larger than it may appear, and generally moves slow on the roadway. It may only take a couple of seconds to close that distance if you’re traveling at highway speeds.”

To emphasize safety on the roadway, Sept. 20-26 is National Farm Safety & Health Week with a theme of “Rural Roadway Safety: Alert, Aware and Alive.”

According to the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, there are on average more than 1,100 crashes between farm equipment and motor vehicles annually in the center's nine-state region of Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. More than 250 of these crashes involve nonfatal injuries and 22 result in fatalities.

Besides motorists and farmers being on the lookout for each other, Hutchens reminded farmers to be safe during this busy season.

“Farmers also need to remain patient and take their time -- and make time to rest,” Hutchens said. “Harvest can certainly be intense, but we want people to be safe when they are operating or are around equipment that has the potential to be quite dangerous.”

Also read read this good blog post over at The Grain Board. It is a personal reminder on farm safety written by the U.S. Grains Council's Mike Deering.

Podcast: Sustaining Innovation featured at HHD

In this Podcast, Joel Grams, a farmer from Minden and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, covers what NeCGA had planned for Husker Harvest Days this week. Highlighted was the Sustaining Innovation messages and an opportunity for new NeCGA members to win some good Nebraska pork.

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

September 17, 2009

Farmers urged to speak out on EPA's RFS-2 proposal

The Nebraska Corn Board is encouraging farmers to contact the Environmental Protection Agency with comments on the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard regulations -- commonly known as RFS-2 -- because the proposal could have a significant impact on corn-based ethanol.

The comment period ends Friday, Sept. 25.

Farmers and others who are interested can submit comments by going to the Nebraska Corn Board's website and clicking on the Action Alert icon. Or by clicking here to go the the National Corn Growers Association Action Alert page.

“While components of the RFS-2 proposal have merit, other portions incorporate unscientific assumptions and ignore yield advances and crop production forecasts made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Kelly Brunkhorst in a news release. “Bottom line, the RFS-2 proposal has some serious flaws that need to be reworked.”

Brunkhorst explained that the proposal might place a significant burden on corn growers who deliver corn to ethanol plants because they would have to prove their crops were grown on land that was in production prior to 2007.

The RFS-2 also penalizes corn ethanol for assumed indirect land use changes.

“EPA is trying to say that producing corn ethanol here increases greenhouse gas emissions in other countries, like Brazil, because those countries will till up new land to increase their output,” Brunkhorst said.

“Yet I look out at the record corn crop in Nebraska that is being produced on fewer acres, and these assumptions make no sense. There are too many variables involved in deciding what to plant – for farmers in this country and around the world. Plus, for every bushel of corn we use for ethanol we produce nearly 18 pounds of distillers grains, a great animal feed that can replace corn, soybean meal and urea in rations,” he said.

September 16, 2009

September proclaimed Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska

At Husker Harvest Days today, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (center in the photo) signed a declaration proclaiming September as Renewable Fuels Awareness Month in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board hosted the event at HHD to recognize the contributions of Nebraska farmers and agribusinesses to the nation’s biofuel industry.

“The renewable fuels sector has been a tremendous asset in furthering economic development, particularly in our rural communities,” Heineman said. “This industry has added strength to our agriculture industry, created job and education opportunities for our residents, and brought new investment to our rural areas. Nebraska’s role as a major producer of biofuels is also helping American drivers reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

In a Q/A afterward, Heineman was asked about the corn ethanol industry and some of the bumps in the road that sector has seen in the past year.

"Corn based ethanol is going to be the future of ethanol for a long period of time," Heineman answered. He added that we need to remember the $4 gasoline of last year and the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

In a news release, The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board noted that the proclamation is a reminder of the importance Nebraska plays in the renewable fuels sector, both as a production center and broad adopter of renewable fuels.

“Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country, which means we’re helping fuel the country with a renewable, clean burning fuel. At the same time, those ethanol facilities are producing a high-quality feed for our livestock industry, further adding to the benefits of corn ethanol production," said Seward farmer Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board (left in the photo).

Tiemann added that ethanol production across the country is at an all time high and headed toward 10.5 billion gallons by year-end.

Weston farmer Gregg Fujan, chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board (right in the photo), noted that as farmers head out to harvest bumper crops this year, many will be fueling their equipment with soy biodiesel and vehicles with ethanol – so it makes sense for corn and soybean farmers to work together for Renewable Fuels Awareness Month.

“The soybean checkoff has invested more than $60 million into the research, development and promotion of soy biodiesel fuel over the past 12 years. This commitment has created one of the fastest growing alternative fuels in the country today and has created opportunities for a new industry right here in Nebraska,” Fujan said. “Because biodiesel is only made from the oil portion of the bean, soy biodiesel production and use continues the reliable and consistent supply of soybean meal that livestock producers depend on.”

A good crowd turned out to hear Governor Heineman talk about the importance of ethanol and soy biodiesel to Nebraska. (Click photo for a larger image.)

September 14, 2009

Nebraska corn crop behind average but ahead of last year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 9 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop is mature -- up 3 points from last week. While 14 points behind the five-year average, corn at this stage is actually 1 point ahead of last year’s crop at this time.

USDA said 85 percent of Nebraska's crop is dented, which 2 points ahead of last year and only 4 points behind the five-year average.

Nebraska corn in good to excellent condition reached 79 percent, with 14 percent of the crop being rated fair and only 7 percent poor to very poor. This is comparable with last year's crop condition at this time.

For more on Nebraska's crop, be sure to check out the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

Nationally, 12 percent of the crop is mature -- compared to 17 percent last year and the five-year average of 37 percent.

USDA said 66 percent of the country's corn crop is dented, compared to 76 percent last year and 86 percent for the five-year average.

Certainly this year's corn crop is behind overall, but some heat over the next week will help -- and some farmers are hoping for a late frost.

For USDA's full report, click here.

This week's photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Heartland FFA Chapter.

September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug made the world a better place

Dr. Norman Borlaug, who turned 95 in March, died Saturday. (See this post for a bit more about Dr. Borlaug, including two good videos.)

There is much that could be said about this man, but perhaps this sums it up well:

"Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. "His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world."

He was known as the father of the "
green revolution," which transformed agriculture through high-yield crop varieties and other innovations, helping to more than double world food production between 1960 and 1990. Many experts credit the green revolution with averting global famine during the second half of the 20th century and saving perhaps 1 billion lives.

"He has probably done more and is known by fewer people than anybody that has done that much," said Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of
Texas A&M University's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a close friend who persuaded Borlaug teach at the school. "He made the world a better place — a much better place."

The Borlaug Institute has posted a memorial page here, and you can leave your memories of Dr. Borlaug here (click on "comments" to read or post).

For a good history on Dr. Borlaug, read this piece from the Atlantic. While written more than a decade ago, it is a very comprehensive piece. Wikipedia also has a good history here.

A good obituary from the Dallas Morning News can be found here.

September 11, 2009

Nebraska farmers looking at record production, yields

As farmers are gearing up for harvest, a record crop is waiting for them in corn fields across Nebraska.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated today that Nebraska corn farmers will bring in 1.55 billion bushels of corn this year and average 169.0 bushels per acre. Both numbers would be records – with production surpassing the 1.47 billion produced in 2007 and yields surpassing a record of 166 set in 2004.

“There should be no question that farmers are not only good at what they do, but that they are doing it better each and every year,” Don Hutchens, executive director the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release. “Farmers in Nebraska and across the country are producing more bushels from the same acre of land than ever before, and in the process they are using fewer resources and doing it in an environmentally responsible way.”

(Some audio cuts of Hutchens are available by following the link above.)

The Corn Board noted that:
  • In four out of the last six years, Nebraska farmers have produced 160 bushels per acre or more. Prior to that, yields had never reached 160 bushels.
  • In five out of the last six years, Nebraska farmers have produced more than 1.2 billion bushels of corn. Prior to that, farmers only reached that level once.
Hutchens pointed out that at 13 billion bushels of production on a national level, corn production this year will nearly equal record production set in 2007 -- but do so on 6 million fewer acres. (More evidence of farmers doing more with less.)

USDA also estimated record national yields of 161.9 bushels per acre.

On the supply/demand side, USDA increased estimated use of feed by 50 million bushels, and exports by 100 million bushels. Ethanol use was left unchanged, resulting in an ending stocks figure of 1.64 billion bushels.

Average anticipated prices for 2009-10 were also lowered to $3.05-3.65. Compare that to $4.20 for 2007-08 and $4.08 for 2008-09.

September 8, 2009

Nebraska corn 6 percent mature

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 6 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was mature as of September 6. That's 1 point ahead of last year at this time but 6 points behind the five-year average.

USDA reported that 69 percent of the state's crop is dented -- even with a year ago but 11 points behind the average.

Corn in the dough stage reached 96 percent, which is 2 points ahead of last year and only 1 point behind the average. USDA said 77 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was in good to excellent condition, a figure that is on par with last year.

Corn is beginning to dry down in several parts of the state. Depending on weather, some early corn will be coming out in a couple of weeks.

Nationally, USDA said 8 percent of the crop is mature - off 2 points from last year but 15 points behind the five-year average. Only half the nation's corn crop is dented - 9 points behind last year and 25 points behind the five-year average. Meanwhile, 86 percent of the crop is in the dough stage, compared to 90 percent last year and 94 percent for the average.

USDA said 69 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition.

Needless to say, an early frost would not be a good thing for a good chunk of the nation's corn crop.

For the full USDA report, click here.

This week's photo comes to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Blue Hill FFA Chapter. It shows corn beginning to turn - a sure sign that harvest nears.

Podcast: Farmers must step up, add voice to land use change issue

In this Podcast, Steve Ebke, a farmer from Daykin and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses some of the important points made at the recent National Corn Growers Association conference on land use and carbon impacts of corn-based ethanol.

Ebke asks: Who would have thought just a couple of years ago that such a conference would be needed - let alone packed with attendees?

Yet that is the reality of the situation today.

Have a listen to learn more.

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

Wet distillers grains may bolster cattle producers' bottom line

In a recent cattle market update, Dr. Darrell R. Mark of the University of Nebraska noted that wet distillers grains may add significantly to the bottom line of cattle producers. (Distillers grains are produced by corn-based ethanol plants.)

While acknowledging that every operation is different, Mark, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, said steer calves weighing 550 pounds placed on feed, and finishing in mid-April, could see a profit of $40 per head with with a conventional corn-only ration. For a wet distillers grains ration (with cheaper feedstuff prices and improved performance projections), profit jumps to $112/head.

Mark used average feeding performance in the estimate, and used feed prices and feeder cattle prices found in a table in the report. (Access the full report here [.pdf])

While heavier weight placements don’t pencil out as well, wet distillers grains makes an importance difference.

Mark noted that a 750 pound yearling steer going on feed now and finishing in late January has a projected loss of $5/head for a conventional corn-only diet, but switching to a ration containing 40 percent wet distillers grains (dry matter basis) results in a $47/head profit.

He concluded:

While these costs and performance expectations will differ for all feeders, it does suggest that many feeders can be profitable and lock in a positive margin for current placements, an opportunity badly needed after 2+ years of mostly negative closeouts.

September 4, 2009

Japanese media team impressed with corn, farming practices

A team of journalists from Japan were in Nebraska this week, hosted by the Nebraska Corn Board as part of a U.S. Grains Council trade mission, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release today. Japan is a major buyer of U.S. corn, beef and other agriculture products.

For some members on the team, this trip to the United States was the first time they had ever seen corn growing in fields.

“The size and scope of agriculture in the Midwest is impressive if you’ve never seen it, while the technology and management practices used by farmers today demonstrates our commitment to the land,” said Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Seward.

The team visited Tiemann’s farm as part of the tour. (The picture above shows Tiemann, in a blue shirt, with two members of the team examining a combine. Click for a larger image.)

The team included reporters from three major Japanese newspapers, one major newswire and two industry newspapers. Two representatives from a consumer’s union group were also along.

“Team members were impressed by the high quality of Nebraska corn and the farmers’ use of agronomics and biotechnology to produce an abundant crop more efficiently,” said Tommy Hamamoto, the U.S. Grains Council’s director in Japan, who accompanied the group. “Journalists on the tour have a better understanding as to how U.S. corn is produced and used, which will help them better explain the U.S. grain system in fact-based news articles back home.”

The stop in Nebraska was part of a longer mission organized by the Grains Council to provide a forum for team members to learn about the benefits of biotechnology, the U.S. infrastructure for grain distribution and the lifestyle of U.S. farm families. Additional stops were made in Missouri and Washington, D.C.

While in Nebraska, the group visited Darr Feedlot in Cozad, Tiemann’s farm in Seward, the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenberg, Advanced BioEnergy in Fairmont, Bunge Milling in Crete and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

The picture to the left (click for a larger image) shows some team members examining a ration containing corn and distillers grains at Darr Feedlot.

The feed, held by Darr Feedlot's John Schroeder, will be fed to cattle that will be processed and shipped to Japan.

Transcript from Twitter Q/A between @n_web, @cornfedfarmer

An interview via Twitter took place last week between Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer) and Nick Weber. (Weber is NW_Monsanto_Co below...but his Twitter handle is now @n_web).

Hunnicutt farms in the Gilter area, and is current president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Weber is with Monsanto, but does these On The Farm interviews on his own - as he notes below - to learn and help spread the word about agriculture. (He conducted one yesterday with Jeff Fowle - @JeffFowle - a cattle rancher from California.)

The entire conversation follows, from the early announcement of the interview to wrap-up at the end. Thanks to Weber for compiling the conversation, forwarding it along and allowing us to post it.

Several questions came up - from crop conditions to water use to technology to an estimate on yields. A few others jumped into the conversation as well. There's a lot of good Q and A! And since it was live, anyone who was interested could watch and learn.

NW_Monsanto_Co: Talking ag with @cornfedfarmer tomorrow at 10 am for #onthefarm. Brandon is a corn, bean and popcorn farmer in Nebraska.

NW_Monsanto_Co: For #onthefarm tomorrow at 10 w/ @cornfedfarmer, we'll discuss the 09 growing season, ag in NE, innovations in ag, and water use.

NW_Monsanto_Co: I'll have @cornfedfarmer as the guest for #onthefarm today at 10. Hope you can follow along and enjoy it!

NW_Monsanto_Co: BTW, #onthefarm is 10 am CDT today. We'll go for about an hour with Brandon, a corn, bean and popcorn farmer from Nebraska.

akleinschmidt: RT @NW_Monsanto_Co I'll have @cornfedfarmer as the guest for #onthefarm today at 10 a.m. CDT.

Fastline: Check this out.. good stuff RT @akleinschmidt RT @NW_Monsanto_Co I'll have @cornfedfarmer as the guest for #onthefarm today at 10 a.m. CDT.

NW_Monsanto_Co: We'll get #onthefarm going in about 15-20 min. with @cornfedfarmer. I suggest Tweetchat for those who want to follow. Hope you enjoy!

KateOnline: #onthefarm will start in about 15-20 min. with @cornfedfarmer and @NW_Monsanto_Co

NW_Monsanto_Co: I got the idea of a live Twitter interview from @jaybaer. My goal is to learn more about ag in Q&A format. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: I work in Monsanto's Public Affairs in St. Louis, but this is my own deal. Just hoping to spread the word about ag. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Once we get a tweet from @cornfedfarmer that he's here, we'll get going! #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: I farm in So Central NE. Raise corn, SB, and popcorn and love technology #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Currently in St Louis with NCGA dealing with Land Use Change #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: There he is. Thanks Brandon for the intro. Q1: How's the season been going for you so far? Surprises? Challenges? #onthefarm

NWKSGMD4: Wayne Bossert online from Colby, Kansas. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q1-It has been a pretty good year. We have had roughly 16" less rain then last year #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: q1-our biggest challenge has been dealing with some of the new technology we are using #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q1-No real surprises so far, outside of very cool weather #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q2: Wow, 16" less. What do you usually receive? #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q2-During the growing season 12-14" In 2 years we have average rainfall, only 1 year was very high the other low #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q2-It makes irrigating a challenge but it is why we use some of the tools we do to help monitor water use #onthefarm

NWKSGMD4: Brandon, what's the newest technology you've put in? #onthefarm

Tykerman1: This is wild, watching an online interview using twitter. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q2-We just received 1.95" the other night. Our 1st 1"+rain in 1 sitting in ~4 months #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q3: I guess you irrigate some. Can you share how much you supplement? Are there any misconceptions about irrigation to clear up? #onthefarm

monsantoco: @NW_MonsantoCo and @cornfedfarmer chatting right now about H2O #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Newest technology is using row shut offs on the planter and using implement guidance on the same planter. worked well #onthefarm

MikeHowie: Pretty cool. & you can followup l8tr by clicking tag @Tykerman1 This is wild, watching an online interview using twitter. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: If you have a question for Brandon, DM me and I'll try to get to it. I already have one from @NWKSGMD4. Thanks! #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q3-our goal is to irrigate as little as possible. This year we have added other 5-6". A little higher then past years #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q3-We have cut back by using water sensing technology of different types from measuring soil moisture to evapotranspiration #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q3-Irrigating does get a bum rap b/c it looks as though we are using a lot of water because of the sheer size of fields but #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: in our case we are typically putting on 1" per week probably a lot less then most yards and golf courses for example #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q4: from @akleinschmidt: Can you tell us a bit more about your irrigation monitoring system? Take a couple tweets for that one! #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q3-Plus we have a number of electric wells that can have power shutoff during the day by the power company so they can keep their #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: loads under control and we get a cheaper rate. We also are utilizing 1 engine that burns 98% ethanol. Better for the enviro #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q4-we are utilizing WaterMark sensors which I have to go out and read with a monitor. I have to remember where I put them... #onthefarm

agchick: ok, i just found you. help me understand this chat please? #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: last year I put some in SB and didn't find them until we harvested. We also are using an AquaSpy this year. The water marks #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: are measuring at 1,2,and 3 feet in different holes. AquaSpy is taking measurements at 5 different depths in the same hole and #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: For those following, one or two more water Qs and then we'll move on to other stuff. This is very educational for me so far. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: sending out info via cellphone every 15 minutes and call pull it up on the computer. We are also using an ET gage which I input #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: data to on the web via UNL extension once a week. Always looking for better ways to utilize our natural resources #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q5: Wow, that's awesome stuff. Can you point to water savings or $$$ savings because of this investment? Imagine it's long-term? #onthefarm

SpectrumTech: @cornfedfarmer Have you used any of our products? #onthefarm

FarmerHaley: @cornfedfarmer driving through soutwest IA right now, dont look like they need any irrigation for awhile after last night! #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q5-Water mark sensors are relatively cheap. AquaSpy is long term. We know every circle we save irrigating is a savings of ~$750 #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q5-Every time we don't run we better utilize our ground water. In NE we understand we could have #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q6: Earlier you mentioned troubles w/ tech on the farm. Can you elaborate? Is the irrigation monitoring system part of that? #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: water regulations limiting our yearly use. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q6-irrigation monitoring has been glitch-free this year. Other issues range from operator error to lack of documentation to #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: having to learn brand new technology on the fly. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q7: How are the crops looking this year? Any favorite varieties? Any expectations on yields yet? #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q7-Overall, very good. Had some hail and wind that stripped up the leaves. Variety wise on SB I like the looks of both RR2Y & #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Yseries. Corn I don't know yet. Yield expectations on corn full farm average of 210-220 bu/ac. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: On SB expecting full farm average of 75-80 bu/ac.Popcorn that wasn't hailed 5500 lbs/ac #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: 75-80 bu! I think a few in other parts of the US would gladly take half of that! When did U first hit 75 bu? Genetics helps, yes? #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Two more questions for Brandon and then we'll let him get back to his Land Use conf. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: About 4 years ago was when we hit 75+ on half a pivot. Genetics + plant populations + fungicide + seed treatments. We are #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: planting mid group 3 SB which is somewhat long for our area but want to take advantage of as much of the growing season as we can #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q8: Can you talk about some of the innovations in ag over the past 5-10 yrs. How have they made life easier (or harder)? #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q8- I have been farming for 11 yrs. The innovations are amazing. From yield mapping to tractors driving via GPS and being able #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: to turn by themselves on the end of a pass while raising/lowering implements and turning on/off equipment. There is more precise #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: planting and spraying. Our combine can drive itself. Multi-stacked genes in our plants we grow. I could go on and on. #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q8-It has made some areas easier b/c it is less stressful on the body. It has increased the need to learn and know what is going #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: on with your equipment and neighbors fields. Overall, it has been great for ag with bigger and better things to come. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Maybe that's an NeCGA blog post one day! Two more . . . #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Q9: What's the state of ag in Nebraska? Nebraska isn't changing mascots from the Huskers anytime soon, right? :) #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q9-I don't think we are going back to the Bugeaters:) The state of ag in NE is good. We have the golden triangle which is #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q9-corn, cattle and ethanol. We are in great position to take advantage of those industries. We have seed companies like #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Monsanto building new production facilities. We have Monsanto's Water Utilization Learning Center for research. We have a great #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: university doing research. We have challenges with pending legislation dealing with taking a checkoff on corn that is being #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: used for ethanol and hijacking it to use for water. But in the scheme of things that is a minor issue. I believe the long term #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: outlook for ag in NE is great. Plus the county I live in was named the best place to raise a family by Progressive Farmer mag:) #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: Last one: Q10: Who wins the Big 12 this year? Are you ready for the Thurs. nite UN-MU game? 70k drunk Missourians await . . . #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Q10-NU wins the north. OU wins the south. And I will be the one to go out on the line and say NU wins it. That NU-MU game #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: should never, ever be held on a Thurs. nite anywhere. Asking for problems. But I would love to be there. #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: I agree, having college games on any day but Saturday are practically un-American. It's good to see Husker fans back braggin! #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: We went a bit over, but I think it was worth it. Thanks, Brandon, for your time and insight. Hope everyone enjoyed it! #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: I agree on the Thursday thing. Plus I would rather be positive then negative #onthefarm

cornfedfarmer: Thank you Nick. I enjoy talking about ag and the future. Sometime I will talk about the ILU conf #onthefarm

NW_Monsanto_Co: I had a great time today with @cornfedfarmer on #onthefarm. Hope people got something out of it. Let me know how I can improve it!

NW_Monsanto_Co: @Tykerman1 I'll check back with a Nebraska farmer later this yr for #onthefarm. Maybe you! As for praising Huskers . . . (1/2)

NW_Monsanto_Co: For the afternoon crew: Had a great time w/ @cornfedfarmer on #onthefarm. Hope U got something out of it. Let me know how I can improve it!

CLFoundation1: #ff cont: liked #onthefarm btwn @nw_monsanto_co @cornfedfarmer this wk and been showin colleagues the agtweep list so mst have @farmerhaley!