December 31, 2009

Podcast: Farmers can reach out and tell their story

In this podcast, Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator of the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about some of the work she will do in her new position with the Corn Board.

Importantly, she also talks about how farmers today can tell their story -- and why farmers need to reach out to those who may not know what farming and food production is all about.

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

December 30, 2009

Holiday Bowl gives corn farmers opportunity to tell their story

Over the last two years, the Nebraska Corn Board has implemented programs to let consumers know that corn ethanol did not create higher food costs last year and that farmers and ranchers today are a prime example of “Sustaining Innovation.”

“This year’s Sustaining Innovation message has been clear: Farmers are growing more corn on fewer acres with fewer inputs, and they can deliver enough corn for feed, food and fuel,” Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release. “This is a message we’ve shared in multiple ways and will continue to share, including via the radio during the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl.”

As a component of its campaigns, the board contracted with the Husker Sports Network to tell farmers’ stories during University of Nebraska football and baseball games.

Other agriculture groups and agribusinesses have used this avenue, and after the Nebraska Corn Board looked at the demographics and ran the numbers, Tiemann said the campaign scored good points – with farmers who were in the fields listening to games and with consumers who have been visiting the board's website.

“Part of the board’s mission is promotion and education, and this year, especially, required some serious education. Movies like Food Inc. and King Corn, along with some articles in magazines like TIME painted farmers and ranchers as industrialized, corporate, non-family run operations who show no compassion for the land or animals. That image could not be further from the truth,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board.

December 29, 2009

Can regulations be based on an estimate?

The Nebraska Corn Board's Kelly Brunkhorst (@kbrunkhorst) recently spent some time reviewing the California Air Resources Board (ARB) low carbon fuel standard. (For background, click here and here.)

The timing was perfect because a lawsuit was recently filed against California's ARB for the standard. The suit was filed in the Federal District Court of Fresno by the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, charging that the measure violates both the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

You can read more about the suit over at Corn Commentary.

In either case, Brunkhorst's thoughts are below - and he raises an important point.

Can regulations be based on an 'Estimate'?

Wikipedia defines “estimated” to mean a calculated approximation of a result which is usable even if input data may be incomplete or uncertain. But my question is…can an estimated figure be used to write state or Federal regulations when the science is incomplete and/or uncertain? For that matter can “approximation” be used as a basis for regulations.

Currently the state of California is in the final stages of adopting a Low Carbon Fuel Standard that provides a plan in which to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2020. This is an admirable task and goal, but the avenue in which they are proceeding, sure seems to be filled with holes and unanswered questions.

In order to come up with a carbon intensity figure, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is utilizing the modified GREET model. This model was initially developed by the staff at Argonne National Lab, but was modified by staff at CARB to better fit the California environment.

But in addition to the GREET model, CARB says that significant indirect effects such as land use change (LUC) must be included in the final carbon intensity score. To do this, CARB is utilizing the GTAP model to “estimate” this figure. Yes, “estimate” and this figure is being used in the regulation. Look on page 5 of the corn ethanol pathway, version 2.1 that can be found at CARB’s website (.pdf). To quote the paper exactly it states, “The GTAP model has been used to estimate Land Use Change impact for corn ethanol and is estimated to be 30 g CO2e/MJ.”

The whole land use change science is so uncertain, over 100 scientists have written a letter (.pdf) to CARB on this basis. In fact the very models that are being used to “estimate” land use change were not initially developed for this use.

So I guess to answer the question, you have to say yes, but it is very unfortunate that estimates can be used to base regulations on. Whatever happened to sound science and facts?

Podcast: A review of NeCGA's recent annual meeting

In this week's podcast, Jim Hultman, a farmer from of Sutton and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, provides a review of NeCGA's recent annual meeting, including announcing re-elected officers and directors, and that Sen. Mike Johanns was awarded the Golden Ear Award.

Hultman also provides some details on one of the seven resolutions debated and voted on by members.

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

December 26, 2009

Tolman to speak at Fremont Corn Expo

The Fremont Corn Expo is set for Wednesday, January 6, at Christensen Field in Freemont.

The expo is set to provide farmers and agribusiness professionals ideas and strategies to remain competitive in the corn industry.

One of this year's featured speakers is Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. Tolman will discuss the Future of Farming -- Promise and Opportunity.

Other topics include:
  • Irrigation and Energy Optimization Cost-share Opportunities – Dave Varner and Aaron Nygren, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension,
  • Corn Plant Populations, Twin Rows and Yield Potential – Roger Elmore, Iowa State University,
  • Farming in Today's Macro Economy – Brian Briggeman, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and
  • Corn Trait Mixing, Matching and Stacking – Joe Keaschall, Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

Registration for the free event begins at 8 a.m. with a complimentary breakfast and a chance to view exhibits. The expo runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A complimentary lunch will be served to expo participants.

A special nitrogen applicator and irrigation management certification training will be conducted for Lower Platte North Natural Resources District producers immediately following the expo at 3 p.m.

For more information contact Dave Varner, at (402) 472-2775 or

The Fremont Corn Expo is sponsored by UNL Extension, Colfax-Dodge County Corn Growers, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Corn Board, Fremont Area Chamber Agricultural Business Council, Dodge County Farm Bureau and area agribusinesses.

December 23, 2009

Bogus Times, Grist articles on HFCS add to echo chamber

The Times Online (a paper in the U.K.) last week ran an article that claimed there was new research that "proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks can damage human metabolism and is fueling the obesity crisis."

It then went on to cite this UC Davis study (which was released online in April) and claimed that was proof that fructose and, therefore, HFCS, was out to get us all (even though "fructose" ≠ "HFCS").

However, the reporter () got the story wrong - ALL WRONG - and that's according to one of the researchers who conducted the study. (More to come on that in a minute.)

While a single newspaper reporter getting it wrong is one thing, the Internet allowed the story to bloom.

Tom Laskawy, a blogger on Grist (which claims it uses a "Clarity-o-Meter to draw out the real meaning behind green stories") essentially regurgitated the "facts," linking to the Times story as proof (and not bothering to look up the original research). That allowed the anti-HFCS crowd to pick up on it and say: "See this proves we're right." And then repeat it from blog to blog to Twitter and Facebook. 

This is the echo chamber taking over -- with everyone citing everyone else and pointing to the original article that got the facts wrong.

Now about those "facts."

It turns out one of the authors of the original research saw the Times article and Grist blog post and decided enough was enough.

Here is what Dr. Kimber Stanhope had to say:

The information about the UC Davis study came from a Sunday Times article in which almost every sentence in the article contained at least one inaccurate statement. I have copied the sentences that came from this article in quotations below and follow each sentence with the correct information.

You can read her full destruction of the article here.

Among other things, Stanhope points out that the study examined fructose and glucose -- and made it clear that fructose and HFCS are not the same thing. Her response is quite good and worth a read if you happened to see the original Times or Grist garbage article. (I only wish she would have pointed out that HFCS, sugar and honey are essentially the same when it comes to fructose and glucose.)

Anyway, Stanhope's destruction of the original article prompted Laskawy to make a few corrections to his post but, of course, he still had to attempt to argue that the "science" is certainly against HFCS and toss out the expected misinformation and more of his form of "facts." After all, he doesn't want to loose his anti-corn, anti-HFCS, anti-corporate cred.

He also bashed the Times - saying that he'll never cite them again. Hmmm. Perhaps nobody should cite his posts, either.

If you're wondering about Grist, here's a good comment provided by one of the people who commented on the HFCS post:

Grist is full of "experts" posting articles about reports, studies and concepts they know little about. Its really not so much a fact based web site but a site full of speculations fueled by an anti corporate, environmentally correct political set of ideas.

Let's just leave it at that.

Oh, and one more thing to watch. Stanhope noted that she and other researchers are conducting a study comparing the effects of consuming HFCS and fructose at 0, 10, 17.5 and 25 percent of energy requirement in young (18-40 years), normal or overweight (BMI 18-35 kg/m2) adults.

While that may be interesting research, I'm not sure why you'd compare HFCS to straight fructose...they aren't even remotely the same, as Stanhope pointed out. Why not compare HFCS to plain old sugar? Or honey?

In either case, whenever that research is done, don't rely on Grist to get the story right. Grist, a self proclaimed "Beacon in the Smog," just dirties the facts.

December 22, 2009

You can’t have Christmas without corn!

Do you eat corn for Christmas dinner? Or give it away all wrapped up in pretty wrapping paper? Many may say, “no”, when in actuality, there is a very high chance you will consume corn in one fashion or another during the holiday season.

First, your main dish – maybe a ham or beef roast or lamb. Those hogs, steers and market lambs almost certainly were fed corn and/or distillers grains (a coproduct of ethanol production) and displayed in the grocery store in containers made from corn bioplastics.

Personally, my family eats fish (lutefisk to be exact -- from Sweden). Lutefisk is probably not fed corn as it is from the ocean, but many varieties of farm-raised fish are fed corn or ethanol coproducts, and according to panelists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), they concluded that fish filets coming from fish fed byproducts of ethanol production, were great-tasting and a common holiday food.

Next, you may see fresh, frozen or canned corn as the star in many Christmas side dishes. A delicious corn pudding or cheesy corn-and-grits casserole for a Southern-style side, or corn scalloped in a rich creamy sauce could complement your Christmas meal. These are all common ways you may consume corn, but just wait…there is more.
Many of the packaging products used to process or store the food items for your meal are corn plastic called PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from corn starch and is 100% renewable and compostable. Cups, utensils, bowls, plates, deli containers, milk, water and juice bottles, candy wrappers and more all utilize corn PLA. This list goes on and on and new uses are being developed every day.

If you do your shopping at Walmart, you’re more than likely going to find PLA as well. Wal-Mart plans to use 114 million PLA containers a year, which company executives estimate will save 800,000 barrels of oil annually.

What about other corn products? High fructose corn syrup is found in your soda pop and many other products as a sweetener, cornstarch is found in pudding and ready-to-eat foods, dextrose improves the color and texture of breads and is found in peanut butter and sorbitol, which is used in the toothpaste you’ll need after eating your big meal and holiday snacks! Maltodextrin, another corn product, is found in instant tea, coffee and oatmeal.

After you’ve enjoyed your scrumptious Christmas meal, everyone knows what’s next…PRESENTS! Many gifts are made from corn PLA, instead of plastic made from oil, and even wrapped in paper made from PLA. iTunes or REI gift cards, Cargo Cosmetics packaging, batteries for the remote control cars, crayons, medicines, disposable diapers and baby wipes and adhesives all have corn as an ingredient in one way or another. That Samsung Reclaim cell phone you got for your significant other, is, in fact, a 'green' phone made from corn PLA bioplastics.

Corn-based clothing is also catching on, and can be found in upholstery, bedding, pillows, and high-end fashion fabrics. Even your carpet that is getting covered up by all of the opened presents and shredded wrapping paper could be made from corn-based polymers which are stain resistant and incredibly durable.

You Nebraskans want to know the best part?! Most of these PLA products have their roots right here in the state with Nebraska corn. NatureWorks, located in Blair, and owned by Cargill Dow, has created an environmentally friendly material that reaches the consumer in food packaging, cold drinking cups, duvets, pillows, blankets and even clothing. These products are environmentally friendly and are 100% renewable. The Blair plant uses more than 40,000 bushels of corn every day in the production of PLA (see here).

The Nebraska Corn Board produced a brochure a couple of years ago that highlights all of these and the many other uses of corn. To have a look, click here to download the .pdf file. Or click here to read about more PLA uses in Nebraska.

This holiday season check your labels and purchase products containing corn. This is the environmentally friendly choice, as well as helping out the Nebraska economy.

Have a very, Merry Christmas from the Nebraska Corn Board and staff!

December 21, 2009

Video, slides from opportunities for retaining ownership webinar now online

A full video and presentation slides of the Retained Ownership Decisions: Advantages of Feeding in Nebraska webinar are now available online, the Nebraska Corn Board said today.

The webinar will be available online through January 31, 2010.

The webinar, conducted last week, featured Dr. Darrell Mark, an extension livestock marketing specialist with the University of Nebraska, and Dr. Galen Erickson, a feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska.

During the webinar, Erickson and Mark provided a wide range of information for cow-calf operators on what to consider when evaluating economic decisions, including selling, backgrounding and feeding out. They also covered options involving commercial feedyards -- and important items to consider when selecting a feedyard, including financing to cost of gain to market accessibility.

“Drs. Mark and Erickson provided great details on cost breakdowns for different options of finishing cattle, including where opportunities exist today and the costs involved and partnering opportunities with commercial feedyards,” said Kelsey Pope, ag program coordinator for the Nebraska Corn Board. “The researchers also covered feed costs and marketing opportunities in Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Department of Agriculture sponsored the webinar.

Pope also noted that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has a listing of more than 185 feedlots representing more than 1.5 million cattle on feed on its website – – in the Ag Promotion Division Section.

“The webinar and feedlot directory are great places to begin investigating opportunities to finish cattle in Nebraska,” Pope said. “Market conditions indicate that retaining ownership may make sense for cow-calf producers, and it may be beneficial to feed those cattle in Nebraska due to several advantages the state has, from quality feedlots to market access to a lower cost of gain.”

December 17, 2009

Podcast: Why social media is important for farmers

This week's podcast features Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters Corp., who spoke at the recent Nebraska Ag Classic. She explains why social media is important for farmers and those in agriculture.

You can find Payn-Knoper on Twitter and Facebook.

While in Nebraska, she asked Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner and president of NeCGA (@cornfedfarmer), and Cheryl Stubendieck of the Nebraska Farm Bureau (@NEFarmBureau) about social media. And she videoed them! You can check out the video of Hunnicutt here and Stubendieck here.

Payn-Knoper is introduced by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association's Mat Habrock.

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

Nebraska Corn Board honors Wehrbein, Bosselman, Andersen

At the Nebraska Ag Classic, the Nebraska Corn Board presented its Ag Achievement Award to former Senator Roger Wehrbein and its Ethanol Appreciation Award to Fred Bosselman Jr. The board also recently recognized Robert Andersen, president of the Nebraska Cooperative Council, with its Elevator Industry Appreciation Award.

For the past 18 years, the Nebraska Corn Board has recognized a Nebraska agricultural leader who demonstrates vision, commitment and a deep understanding of the value of agriculture and the corn checkoff to the state with its Ag Achievement Award.

Wehrbein, this year's Ag Achievement Award recipient, operates a diversified grain and livestock operation in the Plattsmouth area and was first elected to the Unicameral in 1986, serving the second district for 20 years.

“Senator Wehrbein served on numerous committees during his tenure in the Unicameral and is involved in many associations and organizations. His efforts on behalf of farmers and leadership in agriculture is why the Nebraska Corn Board recognized him with its Ag Achievement Award,” said Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

For the past four years, the Nebraska Corn Board has recognized an individual who has shown vision and support for the ethanol industry while being a partner with the corn industry with its Ethanol Appreciation Award. This year’s recipient is Fred Bosselman Jr., president of Grand Island-based Bosselman Energy Inc.

Tiemann said for many years Bosselman has supported corn ethanol and farmers across Nebraska, marketing e10 for decades and recently establishing Nebraska’s first ethanol blender pump.

“In the Nebraska Corn Board’s Powering Nebraska’s Economy With Corn campaign, Bosselman noted that, ‘Yes I am an oil guy, but I am also an ethanol guy.’,” Tiemann said. “He recognizes that ethanol and renewable energy are important to Nebraska and the energy business.”

At the Nebraska Cooperative Council annual meeting, the Nebraska Corn Board recognized Robert Andersen with its Elevator Industry Appreciation Award. This award is presented annually to an individual in the grain elevator industry who is supportive of the mission of the Nebraska corn checkoff.

Anderson, of Lincoln, has been president of the Nebraska Cooperative Council since 1974. He is a member of the board of directors for several agricultural organizations across the state, including the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council and the Nebraska 4-H Foundation Board. He also serves on the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, which is based in Washington, D.C.

”We have always appreciated the support and relationship that we have had with Robert Andersen and the Nebraska Cooperative Council,” said the Nebraska Corn Board’s Kelly Brunkhorst. “It was especially appreciated over the last year with support for the Nebraska corn checkoff program during the regular legislative session and the special session.”

NeCGA honors Johanns, elects officers

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) awarded Senator Mike Johanns the 2009 Golden Ear Award during the Nebraska Ag Classic. The Golden Ear Award is presented annually to recognize and thank individuals for their contribution to agriculture, the corn industry and the NeCGA.

Senator Johanns, who grew up on a farm, has been involved in public service for 25 years, beginning at the local level and rising to mayor, governor, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and now representing Nebraskans in the U.S. Senate.

The NeCGA board of directors also re-elected its officers for 2010 during its annual meeting held ahead of the conference:
  • Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner was re-elected president. He represents the Hamilton County Corn Growers Association.
  • Carl Sousek of Prague was re-elected vice president. He represents the Saunders County Corn Growers Association.
  • Joel Grams of Minden was re-elected secretary. He represents the Kearney-Franklin Corn Growers Association.
  • Elgin Bergt of Schuyler was re-elected treasurer. He represents the Colfax-Dodge Corn Growers Association.
Curtis Rohrich of Wood River and Dennis Scamehorn of York were also elected at-large directors at the meeting.

December 14, 2009

Social media & agriculture...are you wired?

At the Nebraska Ag Classic in Lincoln, we had the privilege of listening to Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp., with her presentation, “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Michele (or for you Tweeps, @mpaynknoper, as I always remember her) is a professional speaker and advocate for agriculture, as well as a social media guru, which you probably read about in a previous post about Ag Classic.

As she said in her presentation, 15 years ago everyone thought the Internet was just a fad. According to the Internet World Statistics web site, there are currently 6,767,805,208 Internet users worldwide. This is a number that has grown 380.3 percent since 2000. I'd say they were wrong about the Internet being a fad, and I don’t see social media being just a fad either with more than 350 million people just using Facebook.

So back to Michele: First, she setup a special hashtag for Ag Classic #NEAC09, and Twitter users all over the place were tweeting information shared from the conference using this to "tag" information.

In her presentation, she shared some great points about social media (SM) in agriculture.
  1. SM = Influence; Leadership = Influence; Leadership + SM = Mass Influence 
  2. 4 out of 5 Americans are active on social media. Have any of you watched a YouTube video? Have you read a news article online. Have you marketed grain online? This is all a part of social media… See, you all are doing it, now just take one step more and be on Twitter and Facebook! 
  3. Opinions are formed daily in communities; ~99 percent of those without any connections to agriculture. It’s our chance as agriculturists to be proactive!
  4. ~1/2 of large acreage farmers spend 5+ hours per week online; 23 percent spend 10+ hours online.
Some of you still skeptical about social media? Think of it as an investment in agriculture. Millions of consumers of your products are on Twitter and it is the perfect venue to share what you do as a producer of our nation's food product!

Take Ray Prock of California’s Ray-Lin Dairy (@RayLinDairy) for example.

When the dairy crisis in the U.S. began impacting his farm, it was only natural for Prock to share his experiences with the public via Twitter. In June 2009, Prock was one of three farmers who led a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag “#moo” to gain public awareness for American dairy farm families suffering through low milk prices. Over the course of eight hours, “#moo” became the fourth-most-popular term in the system, with 3,000 different people saying “#moo” more than 6,000 times! They were successful in reaching about 10,000 people. (Hubbart)

There is a lot of value in using social media to reach the public. Prock simply wants to "get the message of agriculture out there." This is the challenge for all farmers and ranchers nationwide: to get the story and truth of agriculture into the ears of consumers. HSUS, PETA, environmentalists, food critics, etc., are all trying to destroy our industry. Let's be on the offense instead of the defense, and use social media as a new, and effective avenue in today's communication world.

Michele's message drove home the same concept: "Humanize your story."

Consumers need to see a face of the farm from which their food comes from. When farmers can put their stories out for consumers, more knowledge, facts and information can be gained, and we can hope to reach a goal of no more misinformation and myths in agriculture.

If you want to “check out” Twitter without actually setting up a profile, go to: and see what people are saying about food and agriculture

For those SM'ers online, be sure to check us out on Twitter at @NECornBoard and Facebook!

Additional author for Nebraska Corn Kernels

Kelsey Pope, the latest addition to the Nebraska Corn Board staff, will author occasional posts on Nebraska Corn Kernels.

In case you were wondering, the author of each blog entry is marked at the bottom of the post.

For more information about Kelsey, click here.

Welcome aboard, Kelsey!

December 13, 2009

Podcast: NCGA president provides update on activities

In this week's podcast, Darrin Ihnen, president of the National Corn Growers Association, provides an update on NCGA's activities and a few of the important things that happened over the last year.

Ihnen recorded this podcast before speaking during the Nebraska Corn Growers Association annual meeting at the recent Nebraska Ag Classic.

Ihnen is a farmer from Hurley, South Dakota.

December 10, 2009

Legislative Ag Forum: We need to be able to tell our story

The 21st annual Hamilton County Legislative Ag Form was held Monday in Aurora. It is put on by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton County Corn Growers.

Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer), president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, drafted a summery from the session - and provided the photo:

Despite the cold weather and snow, turnout was exceptional.

With the help of Senator Dubas from Fullerton representing the 34th District and vice-chair of the Ag committee, there was a great lineup of speakers:
  • Senator Adams from York representing the 24th District is the chair of the Education committee. 
  • Senator Langemeier from Schuyler representing the 23rd District is chair of the Natural Resources committee.
  • Senator Utter from Hastings representing the 33rd District sits on the Revenue committee. 
  • Jack Moors and Mick Mines were there as the lobbyists for NeCGA.
  • Curt Friesen representing the Hamilton County Corn Growers.
With such a wide variety of senators the topics were wide spread from corn checkoff to the water resource cash fund to education to the taxes and the budget. It is always interesting to get the Senators' opinions on what has happened this past year and what to look forward to in the upcoming 2010 short session.

Senator Dubas mentioned she will be working with the different commodity checkoff groups to see how to best protect the checkoffs in the future. At the same time, Senator Langemeier will be looking at a way to improve upon and reintroduce LB 9 that was deemed outside the scope of the special session.

From the corn side there is much work ahead to make sure we are protecting the integrity of the checkoff for what is was intended for: research, education and market development.

Probably the main idea that came forth is that there is still work to be done on the budget. The special session was just stage one. There is much work to be done, because the projections of the state shortfall did get better after the special session but there will still be cuts that need to be done. We have basically trimmed off all the fat, the next stage will be cutting into muscle.

From the purely ag/rural side, we have much work to do. With the census in 2010, it is projected that the rural part of the state will lose two senators and urban will gain two.

With half of the state's population residing in roughly the eastern 50 miles of the state, it is going to be more important than ever to work with our urban counterparts. We need to be able to tell our story and relate it in terms that they understand.

Positive breakevens on retaining ownership offers opportunities

An opportunity to lock in an extra $20-40 a head on calves being weaned this fall offers cow-calf producers an opportunity not seen in the last two or three years, according to Dr. Darrell Mark, an extension livestock marketing specialist with the University of Nebraska.

Mark said it may make sense for producers to retain ownership of those calves and finish them in Nebraska.

“Feed costs in Nebraska are lower than most places thanks to the ready supply of feed grains and ethanol coproducts like distillers grains, plus there are good financing alternatives available in Nebraska feed yards,” Mark said in a news release. “The close proximity to packing plants also results in a savings on transportation costs for most producers.”

Mark is partnering with Dr. Galen Erickson, a feedlot specialist with the University of Nebraska, to conduct a webinar on Wednesday, December 16.

The webinar, Retained Ownership Decisions: Advantages of Feeding in Nebraska, will be held at 11:30 a.m. MST (12:30 p.m. CST) and should last a little over an hour.

During the webinar, Erickson and Mark will discuss:
  • Evaluating your economic decisions, covering everything from selling, backgrounding to feeding out, and options at a commercial feedyard.
  • What to consider when selecting a commercial feedyard – from financing to cost of gain to market accessibility.
  • What you should know about feeding distillers grains, including nutrition, performance and cost of gain.

For more information on the webinar, click here or to register in advance, click here.

While pre-registration is not required, it will make it easier to join the webinar and allow a reminder e-mail to be sent.

Sponsors include the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, who is coordinating and administering the webinar.

December 8, 2009

Millions of dollars of Nebraska corn still in the field

With 12 percent of the crop still in the field -- and a winter storm barreling down on the state -- the Nebraska Corn Board noted today that, while 12 percent may not seem like much, it's about 180 million bushels, or about $630 million worth of corn.

“If it is your crop still in the field it will create some sleepless nights and financial concern,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, in a news release.

Nebraska Corn Board chairman Alan Tiemann noted that the old adage in agriculture “never count your chickens until they’re hatched” also goes for corn farmers – “never count your bushels until they’re in the bin.”

Nebraska is predicted to harvest the state’s largest corn crop in history this year, with a total production of 1.58 billion bushels on a record yield of 178 bushels per acre -- yet getting that crop in the bin is proving to be a challenge.

In audio cuts that accompany the release, Hutchens said he expects that all the corn will make it out of the field - but how long that will take depends on the storm and Mother Nature. He said standability has been good so far, with some corn in the state being hammered with snow now for the third time.

EPA makes it official, declares greenhouse gasses a threat to health, environment

The Environmental Protection Agency held a news conference yesterday to declare greenhouse gasses a threat to the public health and environment.

Here's the headline from a news release:

Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment / Science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity

While we've known for sometime that this was in the works -- following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows EPA to go after greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act -- the announcement makes it official.

And the timing gives the Administration something to hold up at climate talks in Denmark this week. (Doesn't that seem to make it a bit politically motivated instead being based on "science"?)

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said EPA would prefer climate legislation from Congress as a way to move forward with ways reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. She also said the focus would not impact small businesses and only target those who emit 25,000 or more tons of greenhouse gases each year.

While that is a nice thought, a concern here is the courts. A single lawsuit against EPA and a livestock operation, fertilizer company or other ag venture charging that they are emitters and should fall under the regulation and the whole greenhouse gas regulatory structure would be left in a judge's hands. And then it would take legislation just to get back to the intent of EPA's actions.

(Alternatively, future EPA administrators may lower the threshold.)

For reaction from the National Corn Growers Association, click here; American Farm Bureau Federation comments are here.

December 7, 2009

12% of Nebraska corn still in the field

Nebraska farmers have harvested 88 percent of the state's crop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That is good news, for sure, although it does raise concerns about winter weather blowing its way into the state this week.

As Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board noted in a Twitter post today:

OK it's worse than I thought. We have 12% of NE Corn in the field yet or $630 m. value, with a storm rolling in. Pray for standability.

Looking at USDA's report doesn't offer much by comparison's sake, either. While harvest advanced 10 points from last week, by last year at this point USDA had already stopped tracking Nebraska's crop progress because the crop was already in the bin.

The same is true on a national level. This week nationwide, USDA said 88 percent of the crop was harvested - up from 79 percent last week. A year ago, though, harvest was already done. Ditto for the five-year average.

Technology, knowledge improving water management

While most corn grown across the country is watered only by Mother Nature in the form of rainfall, farmers who use water to irrigate crops are finding ways to more efficiently use their water resources.

For example, by using modern tools and a water sensor network hosted by the University of Nebraska, Davenport farmer Mark Jagels’ knew his corn used only 14 hundredths of an inch of water during a cool week this past July -- only 2 hundredths per day and well below a normal July’s water use of 35 hundredths a day.

Knowing that his corn was using so little water, Jagles cut back on the number of times he irrigated the crop, saving water and the energy needed to pump it.

“The tools we have available today measure how much water is in the soil and how much water the crop is using,” said Jagels, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “This reduces our water use, which is important because water is a natural resource that we want to protect for future generations.”

About 85 percent of the corn grown across the country is watered only by Mother Nature, while the remaining 15 percent is both rain fed and irrigated.

Between 1990 and 2008, Nebraska's irrigated corn acres increased about 3 percent, while dryland acres increased about 48 percent. What is interesting is that during that same period, Nebraska corn production jumped from from 934 million bushels to 1.4 billion bushels!

A NASS survey comparing water use from 2003-2008 showed there was 27 percent less total water applied in 2008 than 2003. (Yet ethanol production during this time frame expanded significantly.)

"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," said Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, at the recent ceremony recognizing Chief Ethanol Fuels, Inc.'s 25th Anniversary,

At the rate new technology is developing, and with more research on water efficiency, it is safe to say that Nebraska's corn crop and ethanol production will require less water to produce higher yields in the future.

December 1, 2009

Harvest numbers improve, but still well behind

KHAS-TV aired a report Sunday night - Wet weather slows down harvest - that was spot on. It features an interview with Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer) of Giltner, current president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

You can read the article and watch the video here.

The report noted that yields have been outstanding this year. Unfortunately for some farmers, the yield bump is being offset somewhat by increased costs to dry the crop for storage. Cool, wet weather didn't let the crop dry down in the field, which means propane and natural gas bills will be up.

The wet crop also slowed down harvest because grain elevators can only dry so much grain at a time.

As of Sunday, 78 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was harvested, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said yesterday. That's a 13 point jump from the week before but still well behind last year's 90 percent and the five-year average of 96 percent complete.

Nationally, 79 percent of the crop is in the bin - up from last week's 68 percent but behind last year's 94 percent and the five-year average of 97 percent.

Because of the late harvest, USDA noted that it will continue crop progress reports an additional week. That mean's next week's report (Dec. 7) will be the final one for the season.

EPA puts off higher ethanol blend decision until mid-2010

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter (.pdf) to Growth Energy - the group the initially asked EPA to allow the use of ethanol blends of up to 15 percent - saying that it will be mid-2010 before it issues a final decision on the request.

While EPA is waiting for additional testing data, it did note that results of two tests indicate engines in newer cars (2001 and newer) likely can handle ethanol blends higher than the current 10-percent limit (e10). However, the agency said it continues to evaluate the question of "component durability" when e15 is used over thousands of miles - and that an ongoing Department of Energy study will provide "critical data" on this issue.

This DOE study is expected to be wrapped up by August 2010, although most vehicles in the study will be wrapped up by May, putting data in EPA's hands in June.

"Should the test results remain supportive and provide the necessary basis, we would be in a position to approve e15 for 2001 and newer vehicles in the mid-year timeframe," EPA said.

EPA also said it has started the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised. It is forming a working group to tackle this matter.

Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, said the announcement is "a strong signal" that EPA allow a move to e15.

“The importance of increasing the blend is now universally understood. Moving to e15 provides much-needed market opportunity for the domestic ethanol industry by adding seven billion new gallons of market potential," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

He added that EPA should be commended for its intent to begin the labeling and public education process sooner rather than later.

The Renewable Fuels Association, however, was more critical.

Bob Dinneen, its CEO, said the delay "threatens to paralyze the continued evolution of America’s ethanol industry" and "chill investment in advanced biofuel technologies at a critical time in their development and commercialization."

He also suggested that EPA should approve intermediate ethanol blends, such as e12, and expressed concerns that EPA is focused on vehicles model year 2001 and newer. "The data to date has shown no ill-effects of increased ethanol use in any vehicle, regardless of model year," he said.