January 29, 2010

Recap of ag technology conference

For a decade now, those interested in and involved in agriculture have gathered to discuss the latest technology in agriculture at the annual Nebraska Agriculture Technology Association (NeATA) conference.

A recap of this year's conference, held earlier this week, is provided below by Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer on Twitter):

The 2010 Nebraska Agriculture Technology Association (NeATA) conference took place Jan. 27 and 28 in Grand Island. This was the 10th annual conference and was a very informative and successful conference.

From its first year in Kearney to its current place in Grand Island, it has been a place for farmers, industry, consultants and others to come together to learn about cutting edge technology and what others are doing on their farms. From the beginnings of yield mapping data to ag robots to social media there as been a multitude of ideas and technologies presented. Plus, there are always the "easy" discussions of such things as farm bills.

This year was no different. From the first night presentations of Precision Nutrient Management on Site-Specific Management Zones the conference was started out making people think or re-think how they develop soil sampling practices. Also, learning about the precision ag being used in Australia, it is a truly international affair.

One of the most interesting session was a panel discussion on Broadband Internet titled "Broadband: Who needs it?" What looked like an easy discussions on the merits of high speed internet, turned to a discussion on the lack of broadband service in Nebraska and what that may mean for the future of, not only ag, but rural Nebraska as a whole.

From discussions of wireless networks for irrigation management to mapping evapotranspiration to a session on Excel there was definitely something for all ranges of those on the ag technology spectrum. Plus, there was time on social media and raising up more advocates for ag.

This conference has turned into a great collaboration between ag and University of Nebraska extension that we hope will continue in the future. For more information become of fan of Nebraska Agriculture Technology Association on Facebook or go to neata.org.

Improving farm productivity allowed U.S. to become industrial power

In 1900, more than forty per cent of a family’s income went to paying for food. At the same time, farming was hugely labor-intensive, tying up almost half the American workforce. We were, partly as a result, still a poor nation. Only by improving the productivity of farming could we raise our standard of living and emerge as an industrial power.
That paragraph can be found in an article in The New Yorker from mid-December.

While the article is about the health care debate, it dives into the advancements in agricultural productivity - and even touches on agricultural extension.

The best agriculture information begins at paragraph 7 and runs through paragraph 21.

Are are a few more lines, but consider checking out the full article:

For industrializing nations in the first half of the twentieth century, food was the fundamental problem. The desire for a once-and-for-all fix led Communist governments to take over and run vast “scientific” farms and collectives. We know what that led to: widespread famines and tens of millions of deaths.

The United States did not seek a grand solution. Private farms remained, along with the considerable advantages of individual initiative. Still, government was enlisted to help millions of farmers change the way they worked. The approach succeeded almost shockingly well. The resulting abundance of goods in our grocery stores and the leaps in our standard of living became the greatest argument for America around the world.
It is nice to see a positive acknowledge of the dramatic improvements in agriculture productivity -- improvements that continue to this day. Every year farmers work to produce more with fewer inputs -- more corn, soybeans, pork, beef, milk or whatever. They do this through improved techniques and advanced technology.

By striving to become more efficient, farmers can better care for the environment because they can meet all demands by producing more on fewer acres - using less fertilizer and other inputs in the process. Efficiencies also benefit the livestock side. For example, more milk per cow means less manure, less feed and so on; all while producing the same amount of milk.

It is this ability to continuously become more efficient that makes so many other things possible -- including other food production methods, from organic to local to whatever.

January 28, 2010

Farmers discover power of social media

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, are helping to define a new direction for agriculture that puts farmers in direct contact with consumers.
That's the opening line from a Grand Island Independent story on farmers and social media. Read it here.

The article is from a presentation on Wednesday at the Nebraska Agricultural Technologies Association Conference and Trade Show. One of the presentations Wednesday was on social media and agriculture, hosted by Dennis Kahl, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator. You can find him on Twitter using the handle @exteneducate.

As the article noted, a big advantage of farmers using social media is it allows them to reach out to consumers to tell their story. It also allows farmers to communicate with other farmers, suppliers and more.

Here are a few more highlights - but the article is a good read. It was written by Robert Pore, who is also on Twitter (@robertpore):

One of the audiences farmers are directing that storytelling to is the consumers, Kahl said. By communicating directly with consumers through social media sites, he said, they can answer questions posed by consumers on such topics as food production and animal husbandry.


Cheryl Stubbendieck (@NEFarmBureau), vice president/public relations and Web site administrator for Nebraska Farm Bureau, said with farmers connecting one-to-one with consumers through social media, “... consumers can get their questions answered and get them answered by people they respect.”

“It is another avenue, and an effective one, to correct misinformation and supply good information to the public,” Stubbendieck said.

Through social media, she said, farmers can build better relationships and trust with consumers.

January 25, 2010

Agvocate; Video comments support ag industry

Agvocate: the term of effectively communicating to the public the importance of agriculture contributing to our economy and the environment.

May it be a dairy farmer who blogs about how he is treating his milk cows humanely, or a corn farmer tweeting about how his biotech crops are safe, or even an extension agent talking to a group of parents about the nutritious benefits of beef. These are all agvocates. They are doing their part to inform the public, i.e., urbanites, food elitists, animal rights activists, vegetarians or just uniformed citizens, about the benefits of agriculture and how we are producing a safe food product.

Now it can be your turn to be an agvocate.

Mike Rowe, which many of you know from the TV show Dirty Jobs, posted a video about modern egg production on his website. There have been several positive comments from farmers and supporters of agriculture, yet the negative comments confirm that the animal rights industry have been doing their homework to reach individuals who will listen to their message.

Please take some time to watch this video and be an agvocate by posting a positive comment supporting agriculture and livestock production in this country. Better yet, after you post your comment on the Mike Rowe video, comment on this blog so other readers can see how you are agvocating!

Mike Rowe – Egg Farming: It’s a Tough Job!

Podcast: Looking for an army of active farmers willing to speak out

In this podcast, Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, talks about the respect farmers have among consumers and how they can use it to help tell the story of farming and food production.

He said farmers have a 95 percent approval rating and can counter some of the myths and misinformation circulating today about corn, ethanol and more. "We need an army of active farmers out there responding to some of this misinformation," he said.

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

January 22, 2010

Protecting farmer interests in air, water and land

Nebraska Corn Growers Association member Steve Ebke is chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s Production and Stewardship Action Team. This team provides leadership to NCGA in addressing issues related to corn production, environmental stewardship, transportation and livestock issues.

It also conducts NCGA's National Corn Yield Contest.

NCGA recently highlighted the Production and Stewardship Action Team's goals for 2010 - covering everything from the impact of climate legislation and regulations on agriculture to seeking appropriations to improve vital waterways and supporting advances in production technology.

In an interview posted on NCGA's website, Ebke indicated that the team’s top priority will be participating in climate change discussions on Capitol Hill.

“Monitoring the cap and trade legislation is even more important following the recent testimony of USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber. USDA’s legislative analysis indicated a significant loss of farmland due to afforestation as well as a loss of production and significantly higher input costs,” said Ebke. “However, the department failed to include offsets opportunities from working land.”

Ebke said another priority is one NCGA has worked on for years - lock and dam modernization.

For more - including an audio interview with Ebke - click here.

January 21, 2010

NeCGA, 100+ other groups, oppose EPA's plan to regulate greenhouse gases

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association was one of more than 100 groups that sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) supporting her resolution to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

You can view the full letter over at the National Corn Growers Association website here.

“Both the current and past administrations have acknowledged that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle for establishing greenhouse gas policy,” the letter states. “Such regulatory actions will carry severe consequences for the U.S. economy, including America’s farmers and ranchers, through increased input costs and international market disparities.”

Murkowski is introducing her resolution after EPA’s December finding stated that escalated levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are endangering human health and the environment through climate change. (See this post for more on that ruling.)

Other Nebraska groups that signed the letter include:

For a good article on the subject - and to see which other Senators support the move, check out DTN's Chris Clayton's report here.

Nebraska Ag Tech conference, trade show set for next week

The 10th annual Nebraska Agricultural Technologies Association Conference and Trade Show is scheduled for Jan. 27-28 (Wednesday-Thursday of next week) at the Midtown Holiday Inn in Grand Island.

Robert Pore, in his Aglines blog, has a good round-up of the event. Click here.

General session topics and speakers include everything from precision ag to weed management to nutrient management to mapping evapotranspiration and more.

Additional sessions will cover the use of crop canopy sensors for nitrogen management, using wind and solar energy to power pivots, irrigation water management, precision manure management, RTK networks, smartphones and online networking.

Pre-conference workshops will examine optimizing pivot irrigation management and social media - both are great options.

For more, follow the link above or go to http://neata.org/.

January 20, 2010

More people going social - are you?

A research summary posted over at Groundswell shows that 70 percent of those 18 and older who are online participate in social media in some form - whether that be through reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching video, reading forums or checking out cutomer ratings/reviews and tweets. (These are the "Spectators" in the Forrester graphic below. And yes, if you're reading this, you're among the 70 percent!)

About one-third of those online post updates to a social networking site like Facebook and/or Twitter weekly. This group is called the "conversationalists," a group it says are 56 percent female - and 70 percent of those making up this group are 30 or older. (One of the younger groups on the ladder's rungs, which is inteesting.) Facebook is more prevalent than Twitter in this group.

The survey noted that nearly 60 percent of Internet users visit social networking sites or have a profile on one -- a segment that is "growing rapidly" Groundswell blogger Josh Bernoff said.

This does not demonstrate that social media is "the" way to reach people. Just that it is "a" way - and not one that farmers and those in agriculture can ignore or blow off as a fad.

Tools available to farmers and others in agriculture to tell their story - to jump in the game - are fairly easy to adopt. Your messages about farming, farm life and food production are growing in importance as people want to learn about where food comes from and they hear negative stories from those who don't agree with how you farm or raise livestock.

People want to know the truth - they're just waiting for someone who does the job to tell them about it.

Podcast: An ethanol update - California lawsuit and e15

In this podcast, Dennis Scamehorn, a farmer from York and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, provides information on a lawsuit filed against the California Air Resources Board involving the ARB's low carbon fuel standard that would essentially cut off domestic corn ethanol from this important market. For more on that subject, click here.

Scamehorn also provides an update on the push to e15. For more on that, click here.

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

NCGA opposes House cap and trade bill

The National Corn Growers Association Corn Board has decided to oppose H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act. That is the cap and trade bill that passed the House in 2009.

NCGA said increased costs to farmers and impacts on food and energy security are behind the decision. The cost estimates were revealed after a recent analysis (.pdf) of the legislation’s economic impacts on corn growers and other sectors of American agriculture.

NCGA said it still remains neutral on cap and trade as a policy issue and will continue to work with Senate staff to craft legislation that benefits agriculture.

In a news release, Darrin Ihnen, president of NCGA and a farmer from South Dakota, said:

Since the passage of this bill by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009, the National Corn Growers Association has maintained a neutral position on the legislation pending further review. Although our neutrality has often put us at odds with the majority of other mainstream agricultural groups, we believe it was critical to remain engaged with lawmakers while the economic impacts were analyzed, and last year NCGA retained Informa Economics of Memphis, Tenn., to study the potential impacts on agriculture.

Now, based on the recently completed economic analysis, NCGA has no choice but to oppose H.R. 2454. The results of the Informa study indicates that every corn grower in the country will experience increased costs of production resulting from H.R. 2454. In the early years of this legislation, these higher production costs will be relatively minor. However, over time these prices will significantly increase, placing an unnecessary burden on growers.

Ihnen also ntoed that while the legislation offers opportunities to produce carbon offsets, the study shows that not all growers will be able to participate, and those unable to adopt continuous no-till production will experience serious economic hardship resulting from H.R. 2454. This would be most true for farmers in the northern Corn Belt.

Concerns were also raised about diverting productive farmland into newly planted forests or perennial grasses solely to gain offset credits.

January 19, 2010

California fuel regulations will have significant impact on Nebraska’s economy

California’s low carbon fuels standards that were given final approval last week will have a major negative impact on Nebraska corn ethanol should the rules be rolled out as planned, the Nebraska Corn Board said in this news release.

The Nebraska Corn Board estimates that 27 percent of Nebraska’s ethanol with a value approaching $1 billion goes directly to California’s fuel market.

“What California has done is over think its goal to use low carbon fuels and in the process rely on improper models filled with outdated data, and include a theory on indirect land use change,” said Jon Holzfaster, Nebraska Corn Board farmer director from Paxton and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee.

“The result will be that Nebraska corn ethanol, and most all ethanol produced in the United States, will be shut out of an important domestic market. The economic impact will be negative for Nebraska's ethanol industry, rural communities and farmers," he said.

While California is the largest fuel-consuming state, 11 states in the Northeast have essentially copied California’s standards, Oregon is looking at following suit and others may be next. The bottom line, Holzfaster said, is that motorists will be forced to rely on more crude oil and, possibly, foreign sources of ethanol.

“The model California uses somehow concludes that ethanol from South America is ‘better’ and that crude oil is OK,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board. “Yet the major producer of ethanol in South America is facing a shortage and common sense tells us ethanol performs better than crude oil on many levels.”

The California ARB ignored the incredible advances in corn and ethanol production over the last several years, choosing instead to look backward on data instead of to the future. “The lowest carbon fuel on the market today – which will approach 12 billion gallons in 2010 – is corn ethanol,” Brunkhorst said. “There is no other viable option available on that scale now, nor will there be next year or the year after that.”

The notion that corn ethanol is not a low carbon fuel comes from the idea that corn ethanol production in the United States causes land to be tilled in other parts of the world, releasing carbon that is then assigned to U.S. corn ethanol.

“This is quite unscientific, yet people have been led to believe it is true,” Brunkhorst added. “At the same time we’re looking at record U.S. corn crops being produced on fewer acres. The whole land use idea is out of synch with reality. It’s just a theory, and a bad one at that.”

California’s ARB is currently facing a lawsuit over the low carbon fuel standards. The lawsuit, filed by the two largest U.S. ethanol trade organizations and others, charges that the standards are unconstitutional, erecting new regulatory obstacles to ethanol, impacting the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and threatening the nationwide market for domestic ethanol. They also charge that the rules go against the Commerce Clause, which forbids state laws that discriminate against out-of-state goods.

January 18, 2010

NeCGA, others urge EPA to base atrazine review on science, not politics

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association joined more than 50 other ag groups from across the country in signing a letter clarifying farmers' support for the herbicide atrazine.

The letter was sent to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and was in response to a letter sent a couple of weeks ago by environmental activists claiming that growers opposed the use of atrazine.

“It is truly disheartening when political agendas attempt to overturn scientific process,” the letter from NeCGA and other ag groups said. “Such is the case in the January 5th letter submitted to the EPA by a handful of special interest groups misrepresenting themselves as the voice of the agriculture community in an attempt to negate the overwhelming support and confidence in the herbicide atrazine and to gain media attention for themselves.”

Jere White, executive director of the Kansas corn and grain sorghum growers associations said in a news release that farmers have been involved in EPA’s reviews of atrazine since the mid-1990s. The groups that signed the letter in support of atrazine represent a large number of farmers and agricultural producers.

He said groups signing the letter represent "hundreds of thousands of farmers from Hawaii to Pennsylvania" and that many of the farmer groups have been involved in EPA’s repeated studies and reviews of atrazine for more than 15 years.

"I don’t think the environmental activist groups understand that there are trade-offs," White said. "For example, removing atrazine would actually hinder many of our row crop farmers’ efforts to use conservation no-till and reduced-till practices. Without atrazine, many would have to return to tilling their land, increasing the risk of erosion and runoff.”

The groups signing the letter asked EPA to understand that the majority of farmers support the use of atrazine and asked EPA to use science, not politics, to arrive at a decision on the safety of atrazine.

Here is a portion of the letter:

Our growers have actively participated in the process and supported the safety and scientific approval of atrazine by the EPA over the last fifteen years and three White House Administrations. Mainstream agriculture has participated in every Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) concerning atrazine since the beginning of the Special Review in 1994. As stated clearly to the November 3, 2009 SAP, we strongly believe the scientific weight of evidence, based on EPA's own analysis for decades, shows atrazine to be both safe and effective and that it is the best kind of tool that farmers can have.

We are troubled by the activist forces that seem to be guiding the very intensive and urgent re-evaluation (actually a re-re-evaluation) of atrazine despite its recently completed re-registration, which provided for its continued safe use.

...The benefits of atrazine use to agriculture are well documented and part of existing EPA record. Recent efforts to downplay these benefits in the media are simply the wishes of activists who suggest they have better insight on producing abundant food, fuel and fiber from their comfortable desk than the farmer who has been doing it all his life. It should be noted that our farmers consider themselves the ultimate conservationists, for without the careful cultivation of their land...their own livelihoods are at risk.

January 15, 2010

Groundwater levels rise across state

Above-average precipitation over several years, improved farming practices and irrigation technology have created "reasons for cautious optimism," as a recent report says groundwater levels over much of Nebraska have rebounded slightly.

That is the lede paragraph from this article in The Grand Island Independent

Reporter Robert Pore wrote the article after examining a groundwater report produced by the University of Nebraska.

While declines in water levels are still evident from "the period of predevelopment of irrigation," over the last year widespread increases of 1 to 5 feet were shown.

"A return to anywhere from average to well above-average precipitation in all but the western tip of the Panhandle is the main reason for these increases," Jesse Korus, a groundwater geologist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's School of Natural Resources, told the paper.

While the first part of this decade saw several years of drought, the drought ended and above average rain in 2007 and 2008 reversed it, helping to recharge aquifers.

Jess Mintken, Natural Resources District resource conservationist, also credited improved farming practices and irrigation technology for helping to recharge groundwater aquifers.

"People are using water more wisely than perhaps they did a decade ago," Mintken told the paper.

Two examples of this are low-pressure pivot irrigation and more farmers using conservation tillage and other management practices to help the soil retain moisture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture also indicates changes in water use.

The USDA study shows that 80 percent of the irrigation in Nebraska is done with pivots (low pressure sprinklers) versus 20 percent for gravity irrigation - a significant change from 1998 when only 35 percent was the more efficient low-pressure sprinkler method.

Farmers also reduced their water use 11 percent in 2008 compared to 1998 - and 33 percent from the drought year 2003.

While Nebraskans regularly see irrigation pivots during the summertime, since irrigation is more common in the state, that is not case across the Corn Belt. In fact, less than 15 percent of the nation's corn crop sees irrigation water -- meaning 85 percent is watered only by Mother Nature.

We did not have any irrigation on the farm I grew up on in Northwest Iowa - and I didn't really know much about it (or what a "pivot" was) until moving to Nebraska, which has an incredible resource in the aquifer.

January 14, 2010

Corn harvest in the snow

Some great photos and accompanying article in the Lincoln Journal Star highlight one Nebraska farmer's efforts to harvest the rest of his corn crop through snow drifts.

Check out the article here or by clicking on the photo.

Alan Rippe, a farmer from the Tecumseh-Syracuse area, asked for some advice via an Internet chat board -- and received it from some folks in Canada -- "my neighbors to the north," he told reporter Art Hovey.

Rippe noted that the few hundred acres he had left represents "a lot of dollars out in the field" - so he thought he should give it a try.

The newspaper notes that this harvest was known as the latest harvest since 1982, but as it dragged on, the latest since 1967. Yet we're in 2010 now - so, as reporter Hovey noted in his article, "it becomes more confusing to settle on a calendar comparison."

PHOTO: Robert Becker / Lincoln Journal Star

Top posts from 2009: From tweet corn to astroturffed fools

In taking a look at Nebraska Corn Kernel's stats for 2009, the posts below were the most read.

It is an interesting mix - from ethanol and "Tweet corn" to Time magazine and those astroturffed fools at GMA and AMI. It's also good to see that a couple of videos made the list.
  1. Chief Ethanol Fuels turns 25
  2. Nebraska happiest place in the U.S.
  3. Tweet corn – Nebraska farmers on Twitter
  4. Corn Farmers Coalition aims to educate
  5. Cups of corn in Indiana’s government center
  6. Pork and beans recipe contest is back
  7. State Fair gives farmers chance to highlight sustaining innovation
  8. Several 300+ bushels per acre in corn yield contest
  9. Time (magazine) is not on your side
  10. Videos: Ethanol blend pump grand opening
  11. Video: Mike Rowe on lamb castration
  12. Nebraska Corn Board’s FFA photo contest winners
  13. U.S. Corn yields second highest ever
  14. University report slams corn ethanol myths
  15. GMA and AMI: Astroturffed fools

A few other posts that I liked...
That last one - on the genome - has a great graphic of what the genome looks like. If I had a poster of that, I'd hang it on my wall.

January 13, 2010

National Ag Day Essay Contest Announced

The Agriculture Council of America(ACA) calls on seventh- to 12th-grade students each year to submit an original, 450-word essay about the importance of agriculture. This year’s theme is “American Agriculture: Abundant, Affordable, Amazing,” and the deadline is Feb. 12. Teachers and parents are asked to encourage their students to participate.

This year, the theme highlights the importance of agriculture and how the industry continues to overcome new challenges. These include keeping food affordable, meeting the demands of a growing population with fewer acres, working with legislative influences and addressing consumer concerns. Students may choose to specifically address one or more of these challenges in their essay.

This year’s national winner will receive a $1,000 prize and round-trip ticket to Washington, D.C., to be recognized during the Celebration of Ag Dinner held March 18 at Whitten Patio. At dinner, the winner will have the opportunity to join with industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and other friends in a celebration of agriculture.

Statewide winners of the contest also will be selected. Each state winner will receive a $100 prize.

Entry applications and official rules for the contest can be found here.

January 12, 2010

Crop report has ‘record breaking’ written all over it

Nebraska farmers brought in a record 1.58 billion bushel corn crop this growing season -- produced on nearly 4 percent fewer acres than the previous record thanks to a record yield of 178.0 bushels per acre.

“It is encouraging to see USDA report that corn supplies continue to grow,” Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release today. “This despite the fact that 354,000 acres with a value of about $221 million are still standing in Nebraska fields. That, too, may be a record for January, but we certainly hope farmers have a chance to get those bushels harvested.”

Nationally, USDA said farmers produced a record 13.15 billion bushels on nearly 8 percent fewer acres than the previous record. National yields blew by the previous record by nearly 5 bushels per acre to 165.2 bushels.

Yet about 5 percent of the nation's crop is still in the field -- with a value of $2.29 billion. USDA said it will resurvey farmers in some states and adjust acres, yields, production and stocks estimates if necessary in its March 10 report. Nebraska will not be part of that survey.

Hutchens said it is important for farmers and grain elevators to monitor grain they have in storage to maintain quality. “This was a crop that struggled to dry down in the field and had to be harvested with a higher moisture content than normal,” he said. “While everyone worked hard to get this done, we know there is some wet corn in bins that may require additional attention come spring.”

With corn production continuing to expand thanks to improved technology, farming practices and know-how, the need to develop and support new markets grows, too, according to Curt Friesen, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Henderson.

“Nebraska is blessed with 23 operating ethanol plants, some 2.4 million head of cattle on feed, a wealth of other livestock and poultry and a solid processing sector to utilize this record corn crop,” Friesen said. “Every time a bushel of corn is used in the state, positive economic returns ripple through rural communities and the state’s economy as a whole.”

Yet without the efforts of developing and growing those markets, corn farmers and the state’s economy would suffer, said Friesen, who is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board’s market development committee.

For more on today's USDA reports, click here.

Big corn crop gets bigger, yields blow past previous record

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this morning that U.S. corn farmers produced an estimated 13.15 billion bushels of corn in 2009-10, a figure that is up 2 percent from the November forecast and 1 percent above the previous record of 13.0 billion bushels set in 2007.

Yields were estimated at a record 165.2 bushels per acre, up 2.3 bushels from the November forecast and a whopping 4.9 bushels above the previous record of 160.3 bushels per acre set in 2004.

Production at that level means the total 2009-10 corn supply stands at 14.83 billion bushels (13.15 billion in production plus a 1.67 carry-in plus 10 million in imports).

In Nebraska, USDA gave a crop estimate of 1.58 billion bushels off a yield of 178.0 bushels per acre. Both are records -- with the previous production record coming in 2007 at 1.47 billion bushels and previous yield coming in 2004 at 166 bushels per acre.

In its supply and demand report, USDA estimated that corn for feed use would be 5.55 billion, an increase 150 million from December. It left corn for exports unchanged at 2.1 billion and corn for ethanol unchanged at 4.2 billion.

The bottom line is an estimate of ending stocks rising to 1.76 billion bushels, up 89 million from December's estimate.

Corn stocks
USDA said corn stored in all positions as of December 1, 2009, totaled 10.9 billion bushels, which is up 9 percent from December 1, 2008. Of these stocks, 7.45 billion bushels are stored on farms, up 15 percent from a year earlier, while 3.47 billion are stored off farms, which is down 3 percent from last year.

In Nebraska, USDA said 1.33 billion bushels of corn are stored in all positions, with 930 million being stored on farms and 404 million being stored off farms. A year ago 1.19 billion bushels were in storage, with 780 being stored on farms and 407 being stored off farms.

January 11, 2010

Holzfaster aiming to increase ethanol consumption

As a Paxton, Nebraska, native and past chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, Jon Holzfaster is leading the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee in its role of increasing ethanol consumption.

This committee’s purpose is to make sure that corn farmers are taking a leadership role in the production of ethanol, and are advocating for the increased production of domestic energy resources. One specific goal is to increase the domestic market and overcome the blend wall.

“We will increase the market for ethanol and overcome the blend wall if we achieve a blend up to e15,” Holzfaster said in an interview posted on NCGA's website. “The EPA made some favorable moves last year. They are taking a closer look at e15 right now, but I am excited about what we might see in the future in terms of a move from an e10 to a higher blend.”

According to Holzfaster, the potential for EPA approval of the move to blends up to e15 is exciting and would be a tremendous milestone for corn growers and the ethanol industry. He is also excited about NASCAR’s interest in going green.

“NASCAR is excited about a future partnership with the ethanol industry to not only help promote the fact that they are becoming more environmentally friendly, but also to help the ethanol industry promote their product,” said Holzfaster.

To read more -- and hear the audio interview -  click here.

January 8, 2010

Tolman urges farmers to help clear industry misconceptions

Rick Tolman’s message about the considerable amount of misinformation concerning agriculture rang loud and clear to more than 150 corn producers and agribusiness exhibitors alike at this week's Freemont Corn Expo.

Tolman, National Corn Growers Association’s chief executive officer, braved the ice, snow and wind to present about the future of farming at the expo.

“The bad news is, agriculture is getting blamed for soil erosion, overuse of chemicals, air pollution, worldwide hunger, obesity, animal welfare, environmental regulations, taxes, 'industrial farms,' subsidies, sustainability, and on and on,” said Tolman. “However, the good news is that you as farmers can help inform the public and consumers about ag’s truth, and NCGA can help.”

He explained that NCGA is a corn focused, grassroots organization that covers the entire spectrum of corn issues every day. Checkoff dollars earned from raising corn are highly leveraged and efficiently used to promoting the industry the entire audience is involved in.

Tolman further focused on how these checkoff dollars are allowing U.S. corn exported around the world, where the demand for U.S. corn is very high.

In an article in the Fremont Tribune, Tolman talked about a misconception that corn is being diverted from the world food supply to provide ethanol, thereby shortchanging people around the world and a cause to world hunger:

That’s not reality, he said, due to the tremendous productivity that exists today.

“The pie is getting bigger because of increased productivity,” he said.

The ethanol boom occurred between 2005 and 2008, but in 2007 the U.S. exported more corn than it ever had.

“If we’re taking more corn from starving people, how could we have record exports?” he asked. “The facts don’t support the emotion.”

Tolman also showed reports from a NCGA consumer research survey, where a strong support for farmers was noted. Nearly all Americans (90 percent) have a positive image of farmers. Looking even further at what consumers view as a trusted news source on issues such as agriculture, farm subsidies, corn products and ethanol, family farmers ranked the highest trusted source (95 percent) followed by doctors, nutritionists and researchers.

“Take this information and use it to promote agriculture,” said Tolman. “Join your ag associations, stay informed as someone heavily invested in production agriculture, and speak out when called on to do so.”

January 5, 2010

Top Tweets for Nebraska Corn Board

For under year of Tweeting between the Nebraska Corn Kernel blog authors, the Nebraska Corn Board has been able to establish a status among other ag news sources for reputable information, facts and stories of agriculture in Nebraska, across the nation and even have international followers.

Providing tweets to our followers with web links allows us to track how many viewers are reading the information.

This is valuable to show what our followers are most interested in and to provide more of that specific information. For those on Twitter not tracking their tweets, I would suggest using bit.ly, as you can easily copy in the link (which then shortens it), and use the shortened link in your tweet. You can use this site to go back and see how many times someone clicked on that link.

Here is a list of our Top Tweets in which viewers read the most for 2009:
1. Good read: “It’s Time for Farmers to Tweet!” http://bit.ly/6DivFX

2. Study: Raising pigs indoors healthier for animals, people http://bit.ly/4SeFgr #oink

3. #HSUS ‘Rescues,’ Forgets Baltimore’s Horses http://bit.ly/5wlC3L

4. Register 4 @NECornBoard and @NEDeptAG webinar on Advantages of Feeding in #Nebraska, December 16 at 12:30 CST http://bit.ly/58EXrc #livestock

5. ~5% of #corn crop goes to make food ingredients, chemicals, fabrics & plastic. #cornsTALKwed http://bit.ly/7rbJkM

6. Technology, knowledge improve water management and irrigation across #Nebraska http://bit.ly/6rzj0C

7. You can’t have Christmas without Corn! Read the newest blog post on the holiday season. http://bit.ly/7Vdyzs

8. Podcast: Farmers can reach out and tell their story http://bit.ly/5xSFBQ

9. Nebraska Produces Record Amount of #Ethanol. http://bit.ly/4rDDpI

10. #Beef made the list to 25 Ridiculously Healthy Foods http://bit.ly/7EJAxF #food

11. Bogus Times, Grist articles on HFCS add to echo chamber http://bit.ly/8s2Mol

12. Testimony presented on corn checkoff http://bit.ly/IjF05

13. September proclaimed Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska http://bit.ly/Q94QO

14. What is the corn checkoff? http://bit.ly/7kMFT

15. Corn genome sequence - 'wiring diagram' - being released http://bit.ly/3Q5suZ

16. Nebraska Ag Classic includes topics on social media, dealing with animal rights groups http://bit.ly/41GChy

17. Nebraska corn 48 percent harvested http://bit.ly/1HgOLH

18. Chief Ethanol Fuels turns 25 http://bit.ly/ATD7A

January 4, 2010

FFA helps highlight agriculture at Rose Parade

FFA members from across the country - including Katie Frenzen of Fullerton, Nebraska (below) - rung in the the New Year in California by helping put the finishing touches on the FFA entry in the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade.

During the parade, Frenzen walked beside the float, which honors the association for its work guiding students toward careers in agriculture. At least one FFA member from each state and Puerto Rico, along with four representatives of the Stars Over America program, participated in the parade.

Frenzen is president of the Nebraska FFA.

An estimated 42 million people in the U.S., and 100 million people worldwide watch the Rose Parade. This year, the National FFA Organization was able to share the message of the importance of agriculture through their float, "FFA Today."

At 75 feet long, 30 feet tall and 18 feet wide, the FFA float was one of the largest in the parade. It featured three gigantic sculptures depicting FFA members engaging in agricultural, educational and development activities. The float was highlighted by several elements from the FFA emblem, each with a significant meaning. Alongside the emblem was a sleek horse, a combine, barn and windmill, a stand of evergreens, a grove of fruit trees, and finally urban buildings and a communications satellite -- contrasted with the rural features to display the scope of FFA activities.

The float was designed to represent all FFA members, past and present, as well as portray a most positive image of agriculture into rural, suburban and urban-based homes, and share the message of the diversity of agriculture.

All of the FFA float costs and expenses were underwritten entirely by RFD-TV and the sponsors and advertisers associated with RFD-TV's live broadcast of the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade and Equestfest.

State-wide forum on rural jobs set for Friday

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office in Nebraska is holding a statewide video forum on rural jobs and small business credits this Friday - January 8 - from 10 a.m. to noon (CST).

The video conference forum is being at eight locations in the state.

According to information on the meeting, the USDA is leading an effort to hear from rural America on its ideas on what is needed to create jobs and economic development in rural communities across the country. This meeting is one effort to get input from Nebraskans.

While USDA Rural Development Nebraska is the convener of the meeting, co-conveners include a number of Nebraska groups, from banking to colleges. Included on the list is the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

For more information on the meeting, click here.

January 2, 2010

Podcast: A review of 2009 with an eye towards 2010

In this week's podcast, Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer), a farmer from Giltner and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association,  gives a quick review of 2009, a look into 2010 and provides details on the Freemont Corn Expo, which is scheduled for January 6.

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