November 30, 2009

Kelsey Pope joins staff of Nebraska Corn Board

Kelsey Pope has joined the staff of the Nebraska Corn Board as Ag Promotion Coordinator.

In this role, Pope will work on behalf of Nebraska corn producers to expand marketing opportunities, partner with livestock industry groups to develop joint strategies and assist in coordinating animal agriculture welfare programs through education, information and research.

She will also coordinate corn promotion activities at the State Fair, Husker Harvest Days and other events across the state. Additionally, Pope will utilize social media and other communication tools to promote positive messages about agriculture.

Pope recently received her master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University, where she also received her bachelor’s degree in Ag Economics. She is a Limon, Colo., native, having grown up on a cow-calf operation.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to have Kelsey on staff,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “The livestock sector is critical to Nebraska and is the best way to add value to corn and distillers grains, which is produced by corn ethanol plants. In this position, Kelsey will work on several livestock initiatives and other outreach efforts, helping to maintain and grow an important sector of our economy. By developing new avenues of communication, she will also help us to reach out to farmers in more ways, encourage communication between farmers and help explain farming and agriculture to those who are interested in food production.”

Nebraska Ag Classic (#NEAC09) set to get underway

The fifth annual Nebraska Ag Classic is gets underway tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Dec. 1) and runs through December 3. This year's event is at the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln and, as always, features some outstanding speakers who will cover a number of critical topics for agriculture. (Here's the agenda.)

For those who can't make it but want a sense of the activities or highlights from speakers, just follow the Nebraska Ag Classic tweets on Twitter by tracking the hashtag #NEAC09. (Just click on that link to see the search results.)

Opening the conference is Dr. Wes Jamison. 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.

Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., will also be on hand. (She's @mpaynknoper on Twitter and is one of five national finalists for "Twitter User of the Year".)

During the annual awards banquet Dec. 2, she'll present her “Celebrating Agriculture” keynote.
Payn-Knoper returns Thursday, Dec. 3, to talk about social networks in a presentation “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Other speakers include:
  • Chandler Mazour, Using a Holistic Cropping Systems Approach on Your Farm
  • Steve Meinzen, IT4 Emissions Standards
  • Darren Frye, Controlling What You Can Control
  • Sara Wyant, “Washington Insider Update”
  • Nebraska Senator Tom Carlson

Use Garmin or TomTom? Download e85 points of interests (POIs)

The Renewable Fuels Association today released downloads available to Garmin and TomTom GPS devices that allow you to import all e85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gas) stations in the country to the device.

That means wherever you are in the country, your GPS unit can map out a route and guide you to the nearest e85 station to fill up your flex fuel vehicle.

To download the "points of interests" (POIs), go to

“The most frustrating thing for many FFV owners is not knowing where they can fill up with higher level ethanol blends, like E85,” said RFA director of market development Robert White. “With this new feature, drivers going to the grocery store or to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving will know the exact location of the nearest E85 pump.”

White said RFA is working to bring this data to other navigation systems and will update station location data quarterly.

November 25, 2009

Climate change: Global warming with the lid off

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article that has spurred a huge number of comments and further muddied the climate change debate.

Global Warming With the Lid Off
provides a peek into the hidden/secret/deleted emails between scientists.

The WSJ report notes that the emails show that at least some scientists worked to present a "unified" view on the theory of man-made climate, advised each other on how to "smooth over data so as not to compromise the favored hypothesis," to discuss ways to keep opposing views out of leading journals and gave tips on how to "hide the decline" of temperature in certain inconvenient data.

Here's the intro to the article, but click on the link above for more:

'The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. . . . We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

So apparently wrote Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and one of the world's leading climate scientists, in a 2005 email to "Mike." Judging by the email thread, this refers to Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. We found this nugget among the more than 3,000 emails and documents released last week after CRU's servers were hacked and messages among some of the world's most influential climatologists were published on the Internet.

November 23, 2009

Nebraska corn harvest 65 percent complete

Farmers in Nebraska made good progress in getting the corn in again this past week - with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its weekly crop progress report today, noting that 65 percent of the crop was harvested for the week ending Nov. 22.

That's up from 48 percent harvested last week. A year ago farmers were 80 percent complete, while the five-year average is 92 percent complete.

Certainly some farmers have wrapped up, but others will be busy juggling the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend with spending some quality time in the combine.

For more Nebraska details, click on the Crop Progress update above.

Nationally, 68 percent of the crop is in the bin. That's up solidly from last week's 54 percent but behind last year's 87 percent and the five-year average of 94 percent.

As some farmers wrap up harvest, electric fences go up and cattle are turned out to graze on cornstalk stubble, as shown in this week's photo - taken on a foggy morning. This photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Blue Hill FFA chapter.

November 20, 2009

Mike Rowe on agriculture; plus his early days on TV

Mike Rowe, who hosts “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, has spoken several times about farming and farm life - and how sometimes farmers do indeed know the best way to do what they do. (See this video on lamb castration, farming and hard work.)

It's also interesting to note that many of his "Dirty Jobs" segments involve farming in one way or another.

Recently, Rowe sat down with AgriTalk's Mike Adams for an interview.

Rowe talks about a "war on work", his website MikeRoweWorks and specifically about agriculture and animal agriculture.

For the full radio interview, click here.

“Anybody from a city, in my opinion, who spends a day, a week, maybe even just a few hours on a working farm is going to be quickly disabused of a lot of what they believe” Rowe told Adams.

Rowe said he is not looking for trouble with OSHA, PETA or “any other angry acronym.”

“But I’m amazed and really curious to know how they’ve become so influential over the last 40 or 50 years,” he said. “I can’t imagine a political organization dedicated to the elimination of U.S. animal agriculture, as the Humane Society [of the United States] appears to be today.”

Before going on, let me just say that I really like Rowe.  And we've all got to start somewhere.

If you dig a bit at MikeRoweWorks you'll find the Warehouse. It is here where Rowe, in his classic style, discusses his early days on TV - where he worked for QVC in the overnight hours - "sleepwalking through the graveyard shift, and doing my best to amuse myself at a time when the sound of my own voice was the only thing keeping me awake."

He later learned that people at The Onion would videotape his shift on QVC "on purpose and then - inexplicably - watch it at work for the purposes of fostering 'the proper level of subversion and irreverence'. How crazy is that? At a time when I was offending the gentle sensibilities of insomniacs and doll collectors everywhere, I was simultaneously providing inspiration to aspiring writers and starving artists."

Rowe links to a few YouTube videos that you may find entertaining, provided you appreciate his sense of humor. Be sure to check out the dirt shirt and art glass links, too. (And, yes, QVC eventually let him go.)

Also, fyi, Rowe in on Twitter - click here.

Podcasts: Corn checkoff testimony, appreciation

We have two podcasts this week.

The first is by Lynn Chrisp, a farmer from Kenesaw and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Chrisp provides a few details on testimony provided by NeCGA president Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner, to the state legislature's Appropriations Committee on the corn checkoff/budget issue (find the complete history here).

The second podcast features Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. Tiemann gives a bit of background on the checkoff and also says thank you to the Appropriations Committee, state senators and other individuals and ag organizations who supported keeping checkoff funds for their intended use.

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

November 19, 2009

Corn genome sequence - 'wiring diagram' - being released

While we've known for sometime that a map of the corn genome had been completed, details from the Maize Genome Sequencing Project will officially appear in tomorrow's edition of the journal Science - which features a cover story on the subject.

This new report highlights the high-quality sequence of genes in maize (corn) and provides a detailed physical map of the maize genome. This map identifies the order in which genes are located along each of maize's 10 chromosomes and the physical distances between those genes.

The National Corn Growers Association noted that public and private scientists will be able to take this knowledge and develop real world applications and innovative technological advances that will improve plants and expand their uses to meet growing needs for food, feed and fuel.

NCGA spearheaded the effort on legislation that authorized major plant genome research back in 1997.

Have a look at the sequence (click for a larger image):

According to the National Science Foundation, additional information provided by the new maize genome sequence includes the locations on chromosomes of interesting, repeated sections of DNA (called centromeres) that are responsible for the faithful inheritance of those chromosomes by daughter cells during cell division.

This new genome sequence represents a major watershed in genetics because it promises to dvance basic research of maize and other grains and help scientists and breeders improve maize crops, which are economically important and serve as globally important sources of food, fuel and fiber.

Resulting improved strains of maize may, for example, produce larger yields, show resistance to disease, offer efficiencies in nitrogen use that would enable farmers to reduce applications of costly, polluting fertilizers and tolerate changes in rainfall or temperature accompanying climate change.

“We used to compare a genome to a user manual, now we speak of it more like a wiring diagram. To gain the best value from this research, we need additional biological knowledge with which to pair it," said Pat Schnable, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University.

A dozen companion papers on maize biology will be released in tandem with sequencing results.

For an interesting look at some of the details, read this post at Science News or this at the Washington Post.

You can also go to and browse the genome for yourself.

Chief Ethanol Fuels turns 25

Nebraska's first modern ethanol plant - Chief Ethanol Fuels near Hastings - is celebrating 25 years in operation with an open house next Monday, Nov. 23.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson will provide keynote remarks at 1:00 p.m. Bob Eihusen, president of Chief Industries, Chief Ethanol's parent company, and Duane Kristensen, general manager of Chief Ethanol Fuels.

Tours of the plant will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nebraska grew from this initial plant to become the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country today. The state currently has 23 ethanol plants with a combined production capacity of nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol. These ethanol plants also directly employ some 1,000 Nebraskan's and represent more than $1.4 billion in capital investment in rural parts of the state.

As for Chief Ethanol Fuels, the Nebraska Ethanol Board put together a short history of the company:

Originally constructed by American Diversified Corporation, the plant was purchased by Chief Industries of Grand Island, Neb., in November 1990. It was the first commercial scale fuel ethanol production plant in the state and, since it started production in 1984, has continued to produce high-octane, clean-burning ethanol 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- shipping it across the state and across the nation.

Since 1984, production capacity has increased from 10 million gallons per year to approximately 70 million gallons per year today, thanks to several expansions that began in 1993 and continuous improvements today. Corn consumption at the plant has grown from 4 million bushels per year to more than 25 million bushels annually. The plant purchases corn from area elevators and farmers within a 60-mile radius.

Chief Ethanol Fuels also produces distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production that is fed to cattle. Chief Ethanol markets its wet distillers grains to area feedlots. The plant also dries some of the product for shipment as far as the West Coast.

Here's a breakdown of some of the company's numbers:
  • 25,000,000+ bushels of corn ground each year
  • 70,000,000 gallons of ethanol produced each year
  • 650,000 tons of distillers grains produced each year
  • 60 full-time equivalent employees
  • 25,000 trucks of corn processed per year
  • 23,000 trucks of distillers grains shipped out each year
Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said that the Chief Ethanol Fuels plant was Nebraska’s initial stake in the ground in terms of declaring ethanol as a major economic development initiative for the state.

"Nebraska has a unique combination of corn, cattle and ethanol," Sneller said. "Agriculture is the economic engine that drives Nebraska, and ethanol is adding value in very powerful ways that reverberate throughout our state. It is important that we continue to support and develop this industry for the good of Nebraska and for the good of our nation."

Sneller added that the outlook for the sustainability of the ethanol industry is good.

"Corn producers continue to grow more corn on less land and with less water—and ethanol producers continue to squeeze more ethanol out of a bushel of corn with less energy and less water," he said. "Efficiency will improve profitability and will continue to position ethanol as a key component in America’s energy and economic future."

November 16, 2009

Nebraska corn 48 percent harvested

In its weekly crop progress report issued today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 48 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was in the bin - that’s an 18-point increase from last week.

Harvest is still behind last year and the average. A year ago, Nebraska farmers were 66 percent complete, while the five-year average is 86 percent harvested.

Progress, however, is progress, and many farmers are only a dry week away from wrapping up harvesting their record crop. Crop quality and plant health remain high overall and yield reports from the field are outstanding.

USDA's yield estimate from last week - 178 bushels per acre in Nebraska - certainly seems doable despite the tough weather over the last six to eight weeks. That would put Nebraska's crop at 1.58 billion bushels. Both yield and crop production would set records.

This week's photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Heartland FFA chapter. The photo shows a few corn stalks broken off at the top, but farmers are not overly concerned about that. Stalks just needs to stand strong to  hold up the ear - and that seems to be happening.

November 12, 2009

Erwin recognized with Elevator Appreciation Award

The Nebraska Corn Board recognized Rich Erwin with its annual Elevator Appreciation Award. Erwin is the owner and operator of Laurel Feed and Grain of Laurel, NE.

“Rich Erwin is an active Nebraska elevator manager who exhibits an excellent understanding of the value of the Nebraska corn checkoff and willingly assists in promoting this value with his customers,” said Bob Dickey, the Nebraska Corn Board member who nominated Erwin.

In addition to responsibilities as an elevator manager, Erwin is also active in the community and has served as the past chairman of the Laurel-Concord school board and currently serves as the president of the Cedar-Knox Public Power District.

The Elevator Appreciation Award is presented annually to a grain elevator manager or personnel who are supportive of the mission of the Nebraska corn checkoff and help communicate the value of checkoff investments.

November 11, 2009

Decision unanimous to protect checkoff funds

The Nebraska legislature's Appropriations Committee today agreed to recommend that the Legislature not authorize a transfer of money from several state checkoff boards to help balance the state's budget.

Checkoffs that were on the list to have money transferred from their accounts to the general fund included corn, grain sorghum, poultry and egg, potato development, winery and grape, wheat and dry bean.

According to this update from the Journal Star, the checkoffs were looking at a combined transfer of $1.2 million.

The Omaha World Herald reported that appropriations committee members voted without dissent to leave the commodity checkoff funds untouched. The committee also voted to spare brand inspection funds.

Nebraska Farm Bureau president Keith Olsen said his group welcomes reports of the appropriations committee decision to leave the commodity checkoff programs untouched.

"The checkoff programs were initiated by farmers as a self-help investment tool to fund research, education and promotion of their commodities," he said, noting that checkoffs are an investment farmers make in the future of agriculture.

"To have transferred the dollars to assist with the state's budget problems would have undermined the integrity of the programs," he said.

Podcast: Farmers remain a trusted source of information

In this Podcast, Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about a survey that found broad public respect and trust for family farmers and broad support for corn as food, feed and fuel.

The survey was conducted by the National Corn Growers Association.

Sousek notes that 95 percent of those polled found farmers to be trusted sources of information when it comes to agriculture, corn products and ethanol, while ethanol itself was supported as a good fuel alternative by 65 percent of those polled.

Ninety-five percent support the use of corn as food for people, while 93 percent support its use as livestock feed. Sixty-seven percent support the use of corn as a sweetener, while more uses of corn, like for fiber and packaging, were supported by 73 percent of those polled.

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

Checkoff thoughts from Nebraska Cattlemen

Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen, did a radio report late last week talking about checkoffs - and how those funds were setup by farmers to promote their products.

He noted that he believes it is inappropriate to use farmer checkoff funds in the state's general fund. He also addresses the Nebraska Brand Committee, and the importance of it to cattle producers.

To have a listen, click here.

Irrigation, livestock water use lowest since 1970s

Every five years the U.S. Geological Survey does an assessment of water use in the United States. It recently came out with its analysis of water use in 2005 (the latest figures).

In its analysis, it said that the United States used 410 billion gallons of water per day in 2005, which is down from 413 billion gallons per day in 2000. This number is the total amount of water withdrawn in the U.S. for all purposes -- residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial and power plant cooling.

You can find the USGS report here.

The report noted that water use for livestock production and irrigation were less in 2005 than 2000.

Water for irrigation was down 8 percent over that period and, at 128 billion gallons per day, was approximately equal to the amount of irrigation water used in 1970.

Water used for livestock, meanwhile, was the smallest since 1975 at 2.1 billion gallons per day. Water for livestock makes up less than 1 percent of of all freshwater withdrawals in the country.

Considering how much more grains, fruits, veggies, meat, milk and eggs are produced today, those figures are pretty amazing.

For comparison, water use for power generation stood at 201 billion gallons per day, while water for public supply was 44.2 billion gallons per day.

Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, blogged on the subject and provided some interesting perspectives of total water use per capita. After all, there are a 81 million more people in the United States today - yet total water use is lower.

An analysis by the Pacific Institute noted that:
  • Total water use in the U.S. in 2005 is lower than it was in 1975.
  • Per capita water use in the U.S. in 2005 is lower than it has been since the mid-1950s
  • U.S. water use, per person, peaked in 1975 at 1,944 gallons per person per day and has now dropped to 1,383 gallons per day.
Gleick called the new numbers are "the latest evidence for a remarkable change in U.S. water use toward more efficient use."

“The population of the U.S. has grown by more than 81 million people since 1975, but total water use has declined. As a result, our per-person water use is almost 30% lower than it was 30 years ago,” Gleick said.

“If each American still used 1,940 gallons per day, population growth would have caused the U.S. to use an additional 165 billion gallons per day. That’s equal to more than 12 new Colorado Rivers -- or enough water for everyone in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Michigan," he said.

November 10, 2009

Testimony presented on corn checkoff

Corn farmers testified in front of the Nebraska legislature's appropriations committee yesterday to explain why they believe it is wrong to transfer money from checkoff programs into the state's general general fund.

Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chair of the Nebraska Corn Board, the farmer-run organization that oversees the corn checkoff, noted that he had "never seen anything that has galvanized our industry more than when it was proposed to transfer checkoff dollars from seven checkoff programs to the general fund."

He said the issue became very personal to all of agriculture because checkoff funds were never intended to be part of the general fund. "Farmers feel they already contribute through property, sales and income taxes," he said.

He also noted that:

These are not “passive dollars or programs”. What we do with corn checkoff dollars not only helps develop markets for corn, but they help beef, pork, poultry, ethanol, biodegradable plastics and dozens of other programs. They are not just advertising programs. They help our agriculture industry to be more successful and profitable so we can contribute to the general fund in other ways. As a farmer-operated organization we spend a great deal of personal time to insure the dollars we invest are benefiting Nebraska producers.

Giltner farmer Brandon Hunnicutt, who is president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, explained a bit of history of the corn checkoff.

He noted that in 1978 corn farmers from across Nebraska came together to work with the State Legislature to pass the Corn Resources Act. This Act created the corn checkoff by allowing farmers to invest in themselves with every bushel they sell.

The farmer members of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association played a key role in getting the checkoff established.

Hunnicutt said the checkoff was designed to be 100 percent self funded, so farmers would manage their investment and choose the research projects, marketing development programs and promotion efforts that made the most sense for farmers.

Along the way, these investments have paid dividends for farmers and the state as a whole.

He explained that the corn checkoff funds research that helps cattle producers take advantage of the feed products produced by ethanol plants and that it helps develop and create innovative products like renewable bioplastics that are made in Nebraska. The checkoff also helps get Nebraska pork and beef into Japan, China and the other global markets, which adds value to every animal in the state that’s raised on Nebraska corn and related feed products.

"All of this maintains and creates new markets for the corn produced by some 26,000 Nebraska farmers, all of whom contribute to the corn checkoff," Hunnicutt said.

November 9, 2009

Podcast: Ag myths abound the popular press and bad TV shows

In this Podcast, Greg Whitmore, a farmer from Shelby and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses some of the crazy things farmers have heard over the last few weeks -- from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and taxes to prime time television shows like CSI:Miami that demonstrate an ignorance of agriculture.

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

Nebraska corn 30 percent harvested

Good news came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture today when its weekly crop progress report confirmed that progress was indeed made on getting Nebraska's corn crop in the bin.

USDA reported that 30 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was harvested as of Nov. 8 - a solid 12 point jump from last week's 18 percent complete. A dry week made a huge difference, as farmers got moving quickly. A year ago at this time 55 percent of the crop was in the bin, while the five-year average is 77 percent.

Nationally, 37 percent of the crop is harvested, also a 12 point jump from last week's 25 percent. A year ago farmers were at 69 percent complete, while the five-year average is 82 percent.

Good progress on the corn is an indication that soybean is about wrapped up. Indeed, USDA said 90 percent of Nebraska's beans were harvested, and 75 percent are out nationally. The Nebraska figure is only 7 points behind the average, while the national figure is 17 points behind.

This week's photo shows combine headlines at night - was a common seen in Nebraska this past week. Farmers  were working hard around the clock to get caught up on harvest. The photo came to the Nebraska Corn Board from the Imperial FFA Chapter.

November 8, 2009

Checkoff, budget plan continues to draw attention

A proposal to use checkoff funds to help fill a small gap of the big hole in the Nebraska state budget continues to draw the attention. Media continue to report on the subject, and many farmers, it seems, have been contacting their state legislators and representatives to voice their opinion on the matter.

An article in today's Omaha World Herald, Heineman told to keep hands off, covers a lot of ground. It discusses the whole checkoff/budget debate from several points of view, but it also wanders into an area that seems to question some of the activities of the checkoff boards, including reaching out to folks who live in cities.

Such outreach efforts, though, are becoming more important. Critical even. People don't always know where their food comes from and why farmers do what they do. If farmers don't work hard to explain this, groups who are anti-agriculture or who have assorted agendas will run amok.

The article (and video) from NTV, Governor's Budget Plan Under Fire From Farmers, features Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul. Scheer, who is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, which oversees the state's corn checkoff, said farmers object to moving their checkoff dollars. Scheer said it's a self-imposed fee designed to benefit the state's top industry.

"I think it's an ugly precedent to set," he said.

There's also a good article by Don McCabe in the Nebraska Farmer, Farmers Upset Over Plan to Take Checkoff Funds. In the article, Nebraska Corn Board chairman Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward, said the budget plan would cause the board to start next year with deficit and the year following with an even larger deficit.

Finally, KRVN interviewed the governor on Friday about the budget and other matters. You can listen to that here. KRVN also aired a special report on the budget issue form state Senator Tom Carlson here.

Those who are interested in the corn checkoff are set to appear before the appropriations committee in Lincoln tomorrow. I'll report some of what they had to say in this blog.

November 5, 2009

Corn checkoff in the news

Repurposing checkoff funds as a way to help the state of Nebraska close its budget has been in the news across Nebraska this week -- and I’ve compiled a list of a few of those articles below.

In general, ag groups point out that checkoff funds are paid by farmers for the specific purpose of research, market development, promotion and education for their industry.

The corn checkoff, for example, helps develop markets for corn and provides important support for the ethanol and livestock industries (key markets for corn and corn coproducts).

Alan Tieman, a farmer from Seward, is current chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board (the checkoff corn organization in the state). He is featured in several pieces -- and points out how farmers (like all of us) pay sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

The checkoff, though, is an investment created, funded and managed by farmers for farmers. (For more on what the checkoff is, check out this post.)

In a report by Brownfield’s Ken Anderson, NE governor, ag groups at odds over checkoff funds, Tiemann is quoted:

We all believe that our checkoff dollars are farmer-invested funds -- they’re not general tax dollars. These are funds that we use for market development, research, promotion -- defending Nebraska agriculture.

The Brownfield piece includes audio interviews with Tiemann, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Jay Rempe and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.

The Grand Island Independent article, Dubas moves to keep ag checkoff funds out of state budget talks, includes information on state Senator Annette Dubas’s effort to keep the Legislature from using checkoff funds to cover the state's budget shortage.

In the article by Mark Coddington, Dubas acknowledged that the state is in dire financial straits and said that "everything has to be out there." Still, she said, checkoff funds are a fundamentally different kind of funds than the rest of the state's coffers.

The Lincoln Journal Star also had a front page article: Commodity board advocates up in arms.

The article includes a good quote from Farm Bureau President Keith Olsen:

We recognize there is a financial crisis. We have no question about that. But this issue is a matter of principle. And, in our opinion, it's wrong to take farmers' money that was checked off for a certain use and to try to put that into a completely different use.

Tiemann was also quoted: "If the governor wants to take checkoff money and put it into the general fund, then they become tax funds. It becomes a new tax on farmers.

KOLN/KGIN, like several TV stations across the state, included information its newscast last night in the piece Governor's Proposed Budget Calls For A Shared Sacrifice From State Agencies. It talks about the situation and notes that taking checkoff funds would cause a ripple effect, as cooperating agencies like the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Grain Council and the University of Nebraska depend on corn checkoff funds.

USMEF promotes beef and pork around the world, which supports Nebraska livestock producers. The Grains Council promotes U.S. corn and corn coproducts in the global marketplace and the University of Nebraska does a lot of corn and livestock-related research.

What is the corn checkoff?

Over the last couple of days, several folks have asked “what is the corn checkoff?” To help answer that question, I’ve put this together as an attempt to explain. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question or clarification.

Many corn producing states have implemented a corn checkoff program, including Nebraska. The bottom line mission of corn checkoffs is to increase the profitability of corn farmers. How? Through corn farmers investing their own money into research, market development, promotion and education for the corn industry. It’s kind of like a research and development program for the long-term benefit of corn farmers.

Nebraska’s corn checkoff was created in 1978 when Corn Resources Act was passed by the Nebraska Legislature. Importantly, the effort to start the checkoff was led by Nebraska corn farmers themselves, most notably members of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association who chose to invest in their future.

In addition to being farmer-funded, the checkoff is also overseen by farmers -- through the nine farmer-directors that make up the Nebraska Corn Board.

That means the corn checkoff was initiated by farmers, and is 100 percent funded and managed by farmers.

Like other checkoffs in Nebraska and across the country, Nebraska’s corn checkoff was created by corn farmers specifically to benefit corn farmers. Its top priorities are the livestock and ethanol sectors -- as those two sectors provide a number of synergies that benefit corn farmers and the state as a whole through economic development.

The corn checkoff rate in Nebraska is one-fourth of a cent per bushel, a level it has been at since 1988. When the checkoff began, the rate was one-tenth of a cent per bushel.

While Nebraska is the third-largest corn producing state in the country, its checkoff rate is currently the lowest in the country.

November 4, 2009

Chevy VP: For biofuels, it’s all of the above

While not online, the Oct. 29 issue of Rolling Stone magazine includes an interview with Brent Dewar, vice president of Chevrolet Global.

As pointed out on the Domestic Fuel blog, Dewer was asked about biofuels - and he had some positive things to say:

Biofuels have a large role to play in part because they displace the demand of petroleum-based products and can be very cost-effective. It’s not electric versus biofuels versus gasoline versus diesel versus hydrogen. It’s all of the above. We have to find the energy, environmental and economic solution on a global basis.

For more, be sure to check out the Domestic Fuel blog.

Distillers grains production, use expanding

Reuters has published a good article on distillers grains -- the feed product produced by corn ethanol plants.

The article explains that as ethanol production expands into the next year, the supply of distillers grains will increase as well. In fact, estimates in the article are that distillers grains production will increase during the 2009-10 crop year to 28 million to 30 million tonnes, up from about 24 million to 25 million tonnes in the 2008-09 crop year.

It then goes on to explain that distillers grains, which is an outstanding feed ingredient, can help livestock producers save money on feed costs.

(Check out this related post on how distillers grains can bolster cattle producers' bottom lines.)

The Reuters piece, written by Michael Hirtzer, includes quotes from Darrel Good, extension economist at the University of Illinois; Darrell Mark, extension livestock marketing specialist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Dan Keefe, manager of international operations for distillers grains at the U.S. Grains Council. Hirtzer was in Nebraska earlier this year for a crop tour.

The article notes that distillers grains costs some 22 percent less than corn -- on a per ton basis. However, distillers grains actually has a higher feeding value than straight corn in many feed rations, so that value - the savings potential - is actually greater than that.

Mark noted that some hog producers have increased the amount of distiller's grain in feed formulations to as much as 20 percent, up from about 10 percent. Cattle producers can use double that (or more), depending on their access to the product.

Meanwhile, while domestic demand for distillers grains is expected to grow, exports are expected to increase from 5 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes this crop year, Keefe said.

For more details, be sure to check out the article.

The Nebraska Corn Board also has a series of handbooks on feeding and storing distillers grains.

November 3, 2009

Podcast: First modern ethanol plant turning 25; ag groups need to work together

In this Podcast, Jon Holzfaster, a cattle and corn farmer from Paxton, talks about the growth of the ethanol industry over the last year. (Yes...growth! Production each month this year has surpassed last year.)

He also talks about the importance of different ag groups -- from corn to livestock --  to work together.

Holzfaster is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board.

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

November 2, 2009

Crop progress?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture came out with its latest crop progress report today -- although progress is certainly open for debate, especially if you live in western Nebraska and got socked with a another foot of snow last week.

USDA said 18 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was harvested as of Nov. 1 -- only a 3 point bump from last week's 15 percent. A year ago at this time, farmers were one-third done. The five year average is 62 percent harvested.

While moving from 15 to 18 percent harvested is progress, it is not the 15-20 point jump we would see during a good week. In looking back to last year, we were 18 percent completed by Oct. 19, but then reeled off a solid couple of weeks late in October and early in November.

Perhaps we'll see a good run this week should the dry forecast stay in place.

Nationally, USDA said 25 percent of the crop was in the bin -- only a 5 point improvement from last week. Last year, the 53 percent of the crop was harvested already, and the five-year average is 71 percent complete.

A week from today, USDA will release its next crop production report. It will be interesting to see how October's weather plays into the numbers. Crop conditions remain generally above last year and yield reports from the field have been quite high.

For a couple of harvest videos (shot in the yield via mobile phones), check out the links below courtesy of a couple of Nebraska farmers using Twitter and TwitVid.

The first is from Mark McHargue (@hogs_r_us on Twitter). He posted this video of twin-row corn being harvested. He was seeing yields of 270-280 bushels per acre in the part of the field where he was recording.

The second is from Ryan Weeks (@HuskerFarm), who posted this video. It shows some irrigated land yielding about 250 bu. per acre and the field as a whole around 190. Weeks said he recorded the video on his Blackberry Tour.