February 26, 2010

The power of social media: You can make a difference

Do you remember the successful campaign involving [yellow tail] wine a couple of weeks ago?

The effort was successfully repeated this week (see below).

The initial campaign started when a group of agvocates launched a public campaign to convince [yellow tail] to end its support of the animal rights group known as the Humane Society of the United States. (Do not confuse HSUS with your local shelter or humane society. The two are not at all related. Want to know more? click here and here and here and here. And those are just from the last week!)

The focus of the effort involved social media - blogs, commenting on the [yellow tail] Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube and an anti-[yellow tail] Facebook page. Because [yellow tail] took a while before agreeing to never again provide money to HSUS, the campaign went on for some time - and eventually traditional media got involved. A good recap of the grassroots effort can be found here. (For The CobSquad's video, click here.)

After realizing that the agvocates would not stop - and perhaps learning a bit more about HSUS and what it really does - [yellow tail] agreed that would never again donate money to HSUS and would also not continue with a planned in-store promotion with the organization.

Grassroots wins!
A second effort by agvocates came just this week against Pilot Travel Centers (@pilottravel on Twitter and on Facebook). Apparently it too, was sucked in by HSUS and kept HSUS donation jars in its facilities. But not any more.

A couple of days of commenting on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and even phone calls to travel centers by farmers and ranchers and Pilot agreed to end the support - see its statement.

Ray Prock Jr., a dairy producer from California, said it best in this tweet: Ag's learning that if many voices speak together as 1 voice the message gets louder & cannot be ignored.

I would surmise that HSUS is not pleased that it is 0 for 2 in the last two weeks. In fact, it even accused the efforts of thousands of individuals as being organized by "factory farming interests." But that is their biggest failing (among many!). They don't yet fully understand that social media is being harnessed by farmers and ranchers across the country. Farmers can (and are) speaking for themselves. (Is HSUS starting to feel the pressure? It kicked a person out of open meeting just today, as noted here.)

HSUS - and others - are learning that farmers can organize themselves and stand side-by-side for a common cause. The game has changed.

If you don't believe that, just ask [yellow tail] and Pilot.

Women in Agriculture

If you’re in Kearney today, watch the streets, because there are over 350 women in town dedicated to agriculture! The 25th Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference got started yesterday with Michele Payn-Knoper, nationally-known public speaker and founder of Cause Matters, Corp, speaking about “Celebrating Agriculture”. Michele (@mpaynknoper) approached the concept of connecting women in ag with their role on the farm or ranch and how they can promote agriculture. She emphasized the importance of social media in agriculture and the role women have with this, as the largest growing population on Twitter is women over the age of 50.

There was several conversations with women about social media. Some were worried or reluctant to get started, but it was a great way to get the conversation started of using social media to promote agriculture and food production to consumers.

Women attending the conference are provided several workshop session options in agriculture ranging from communication and advocating for agriculture, managing farm records and risk with the farm business, and specifics on livestock, landscaping, computers, and health.

The Women in Agriculture program is a cooperative effort between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics, and in-part sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board. For more information on the program, visit the Women in Ag web site.

February 25, 2010

Pocast: Leadership program focuses on Washington

In this podcast, Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses NeCGA’s annual leadership program, which covered a lot of ground in D.C. He recaps some of the meetings farmers in the group had with various organizations and Congressional representatives - and explains the importance of the program.

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

February 20, 2010

It's FFA week!

February 20-27 is National FFA week - giving everyone involved in FFA the opportunity to tell and show all the great things FFA does that makes a positive difference in the lives of students.

FFA is all about developing potential - in leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

For more, check out the Nebraska FFA and to the Nebraska FFA Foundation.

Oh...and a brief announcement from Mike Rowe!

February 18, 2010

'Water 'n Poo' -- and you

Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp. sat down recently and recorded a video with Will Gilmer, a dairy farmer from Alabama.

You may know Gilmer as "The Singing Dairyman" thanks to his "Water 'n Poo" and other "Moo Tube Minutes" videos he creates with his mobile phone and posts directly to YouTube - no high speed internet access or video editing software required.

Payn-Knoper talks to Gilmer about the importance of making your message entertaining and educational - about talking (or singing) a certain way to make farming and agriculture interesting to people. You can read her blog post about it here.

Gilmer enjoys providing information to people on how their milk is produced, and to  help tell the story, he's adopted Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. (He's @gilmerdairy on Twitter.) He also blogs at gilmerdairy.blogspot.com and maintains his dairy farm's website at www.GilmerDairy.com.

He provides a great excellent example as to how social media tools can help tell the story of agriculture.

In this video with Payn-Knoper, he talks about why he does what he does.

And, of course, here's the famous "Water 'n Poo" video. Enjoy!

FFA photo contest winners for 2009-10

The Nebraska Corn Board partners each year with FFA chapters to encourage FFA students in those chapters to submit field reports and photographs from their region to help document conditions from planting through harvest.

The Nebraska Corn Board uses the photos and information in Crop Progress Updates it produces throughout the growing season - and a few photos also find their way to this blog.

After harvest, all of the photos are sorted into different categories and judged.

The photo above is from the Imperial FFA - it took first place in the expanded view category.

The photo below is from the Holdredge FFA - it received second in the expanded view category.

This photo is from the Imperial FFA - it won in first in the close up view category. It shows corn beginning to dent.


The photo below is also from the Imperial FFA chapter - it won first in the action category.

 This photo is from the Heartland FFA chapter - it took second in the action category.

The final photo is from the Imperial FFA chapter - which was first in the people category.

The Corn Board provides a stipend to the FFA chapters based on the number of photos submitted and if the photos were voted into the top spots at the end of the year.

Other than these top winners, participating FFA chapters included the Chase County FFA, Loup City FFA and Blue Hill FFA.

You can see a larger image by clicking on any of the photos.

February 17, 2010

Myths, facts about meat production

An alliance of associations that represent the livestock, meat and poultry industries have come together and formed a web site called SafeFoodInc.com. This web site they created is aimed to set the record straight in the meat industry by providing current data, full facts, sourced information and third party experts with real expertise in their fields. Through this, they created a guide for consumers confused about recent claims made by some activists and media reports. They share interesting and common myths that consumers read or hear and believe about meat production.  Here are a few of the myths and facts specific to corn in the animal's diet. To read the whole guide, please click here.

MYTH: Most U.S. cattle are fed an unnatural diet of corn when grass would be more natural.
FACT: Cattle are herbivores (they eat plants) with ruminant digestive systems (four compartment stomachs). Corn is a plant that ruminants – from cattle to deer – will eat and enjoy when they have access to it. Anyone who has ever seen corn added to a feed trough knows that cattle will come running to eat it. When corn is fed, it is part of a feed mix that includes other roughage needed for digestion.

• Most beef produced in the U.S. comes from pasture-fed, grain-finished cattle. These cattle spend most of their lives on a pasture eating grass before going to a feedlot for four to six months.
• At the feedlot, cattle are grouped into pens that provide space for socializing and exercise. They receive feed rations that are balanced by a professional nutritionist. Feedlots employ a consulting veterinarian, and employees monitor the cattle’s health and well-being daily.
• Feeding cattle a grain-based ration for a small period of time helps improve meat quality and provides a more tender and juicy product for consumers.

MYTH: Corn feeding causes E. coli O157:H7 while grass feeding does not.
FACT: If the meat industry could make E. coli O157:H7 disappear through a simple change in the diet, we would do it today. The science will show, however, that it’s just not that simple.

• According to expert scientists Dale Hancock, Ph.D., and Tom Besser, Ph.D., DVM,, at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, “Statements suggesting that all or most of human disease associated with E. coli O157:H7 can be attributed to feeding cattle grain instead of hay…is not supported by the existing scientifi c literature.”
• The myth that corn feeding is to blame while grass and hay diets are the panacea seems to originate from a 1998 study of just three cows by a Cornell researcher. The study’s design was badly fl awed, according to experts in the fi eld of animal nutrition. Still, the discounted study’s conclusions continue to be cited as truth despite extensive research showing otherwise.
• A substantial number of papers by researchers around the world have documented that cattle on pasture or rangeland (i.e., eating grass) have E. coli O157:H7 in their feces at prevalences roughly similar to those of grain-fed cattle of a similar age (Sargeant et al, 2000; Fegan et al, 2004; Renter et al, 2004; Laegreid et al, 1999). One study (Fegan et al, 2004a) found that a higher prevalence among pastured cattle and, among positive cattle, similar concentrations of E. coli O157:H7 in feces.
• E. coli O157:H7 also is found in the gut of wild animals like deer that are not fed corn.

To read more myths and facts about meat production, go to guide, and check out the web site, SafeFoodInc.com.

February 15, 2010

Good reads: The dark side of going green and more

Several interesting and somewhat related articles have appeared across the internet over the last several days. All focus on food and farming.

One, called Farmer Knows Best: The dark side of going green and more, appears in the Weekly Standard and was written by Blake Hurst, the Missouri farmer known for The Omnivores Delusion article over at The American.

In this article, Hurst covers about the $65 million “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program over at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the notion of local food production and how some perceive it to be better because it reduces the production of greenhouse gases, noting that "food miles" has become important to some, including marketers.

Here are a few lines:

This is mostly harmless, and farmers will benefit if they can capture some slightly larger percentage of the food dollar by selling at the farm gate or through a local USDA-subsidized farmer’s market. I love showing people my farm, will talk with anybody about agriculture, and am more than willing to “know” my consumer. Even so, I imagine the experience will be a letdown for her [Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture]. I’m sure to disagree with most of the views a typical Whole Foods/farmers’ market customer holds about what they eat. The opportunities for confrontation are legion, and maybe some of that $65 million should be set aside for arbitration as foodies find out what “their” farmers actually believe about food production.
He then goes on to explain a study by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) that slays the concept of food miles because it "ignores the advantages that fertile land and agreeable climate give some producers. If my corn yield is 200 bushels an acre, while farmers in Tennessee achieve half that yield from comparable inputs, then I can afford to ship my crop a greater distance."

Hurst uses PERC's examples of strawberries grown in California, which has a good climate for the crop. Strawberries grown in Canada, meanwhile, must be in heated greenhouses in the winter. "In December, strawberries from California can be shipped to market in Canada with less total energy use than the locally grown crop. The food miles are greater, but the carbon footprint is smaller," he said.

For more, click here.

The second article, A Balance Between the Factory and the Local Farm, by Damon Darlin appeared in the New York Times.

In this article, Darlin also covers the local food movement -- and makes some good points about what may be practical:

Some of these so-called locavores may think they are part of a national movement that will replace corporate food factories with small family farms. But as much of the East Coast lies blanketed beneath a foot or more of snow, it’s as good a time as any to raise a few questions about the trend’s viability.

First, how practical is local food sourcing in a nation that enjoys a diversity of food? From a practical standpoint, there isn’t much that can be grown in winter in most parts of the country.
He notes that people who grow vegetables in empty lots and schoolyards have a nice, wholesome hobby -- but one that can make little sense economically. He doesn't let off big food companies, either; instead, he believes there is a happy medium some where.

Finally, over at DTN, Chris Clayton, in Food Talk Turns Into Conversation on Ag, covers the White House initiative "Let's Move," which was announced by Michelle Obama last week.

The article quickly turns to the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program over at USDA, the school lunch program and more. It also includes an interview with Blake Hurst.

It's a good read, so click over before DTN moves it to the archive.

As American as a pork, bean and apple pie

Pork loin. Four types of dry beans. A couple of apples. Toss in a few other ingredients and bake in a pie. Yes -- a pie!

No, this isn’t the latest food craze circulating through the culinary elite. It is the basis for the grand prize winning recipe in the New Pork & Beans Recipe Challenge sponsored by the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission and Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

“The winning recipe -- Pork, Bean and Apple Pie -- was the judges’ favorite,” Todd Stuthman, chair of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association’s domestic marketing committee, said in a news release. “The creative mix of pork, beans, apples, onions, cinnamon and cayenne pepper combined and baked in a pie crust offers a great mix of flavors served in an interesting way.”

Pam Lam of Seward, Neb., created the grand prize winning recipe and received the $1,000 top award.

“Pork, Bean and Apple Pie is incredibly creative and tasty, but the other winning recipes, including a sweet wild rice and pork salad and tango lime pork wraps, are excellent. Simply delicious,” said Lynn Reuter of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission. “There were so many good recipes it was difficult to choose the top five.”

To download the recipe -- and the four other winning recipes, click here (.pdf).

All recipes entered into the contest needed to include either boneless pork loin or tenderloin and any dry edible bean, canned or dry-packaged.

Other winning recipes from the .pdf above include:
  • Sweet Wild Rice and Pork Salad
  • Pork Enchilada Casserole
  • Tango Lime Pork Wraps
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin and a Spanish-Style Cassoulet

This was the second year for the New Pork and Bean Recipe Challenge. Last year’s winner was Cowboy Pizza, which was created by Jerlyn Hohnholt of North Platte, Neb.

February 12, 2010

Video: How to destroy a [yellow tail] wine bottle

Just over a week ago, we posted about Yellow Tail wine's decision to donate $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. In doing so, several agriculture supporters spoke out against Yellow Tail, especially on their facebook page, posting comments about how their decision affects animal agriculture.

Also in response, another Facebook page was stared - Yellow Fail. You can find that page here. You can still become a fan and show your discontent, or can also email the company from its website.

However, the staff at the Nebraska Corn Board decided to get rid of a few unopened bottles of Yellow Tail in a creative way. Randy Klein, Director of Market Development, and his daughter, took their last two bottles of Yellow Tail and used them for a little target practice. The CobSquad used some creative media to create the final outcome. If you're looking for a laugh, please watch this video and share with others against supporting Yellow Tail wines, as well as HSUS.

February 11, 2010

Biofuels will save us $41.5 billion on oil imports in 2022

Thanks to the blizzard, the Des Moines Register's Philip Brasher had some time to dig through the 1,120-page regulatory impact analysis that the Environmental Protection Agency published last week on the Renewable Fuels Standard. (He pointed out that "this tome isn’t to be confused with the 418-page preamble... ." I didn't make it through the preamble, so I appreciate Brasher's efforts.)

You can read Brasher's post here.

One of the nuggets Brasher found was that EPA estimates that when 36 billion gallons of biofuels are in our fuel system in 2022, oil imports would drop some 9.5 percent, or 900,000 barrels a day. If you prefer a dollars and cents perspective, that means we'd save $41.5 billion on oil and petroleum product imports in 2022.

Brasher also noted that: Consumers should barely notice any difference of the coming increase in ethanol and biodiesel production in their food bills. Food costs would rise by about $10 per person a year by 2022. In 2007, Americans spent $3,778 per person on food, about 10 percent of their total income. The increased use of biofuel byproducts for feed would keep meat prices from rising as much as they otherwise would. (Emphasis added.)

"Biofuel byproducts" is code for "distillers grains," which is a tremendous feed ingredient produced by corn ethanol plants. (For more on distillers grains and the RFS, click here.)

Podcast: It takes all farming methods to meet consumers' demands

In this podcast, Brian Nedrow, a farmer from Geneva and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, explains that every farmer has his or her own way of farming the best way they can.

"This doesn’t mean the way I do something is better than other farmers, nor that their methods are a step above mine," he said. "The bottom line is we’re all striving to meet the demands of our operations and markets in the way we like to operate."

Despite this, he said, some individuals and groups try to pit one type of farming against another when both are needed to meet consumer demands.

He noted that farmers need access to technology to be more efficient and productive. High productivity provided by family farmers, he said, makes it possible to feed the vast majority of people while leaving plenty of room for those who want to pursue other production methods for consumers who prefer to buy those products.

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

February 9, 2010

Ethanol: To California via Brazil

There's been some talk lately (here, here and here) about the possibility of Brazil importing U.S. ethanol to supplement its supplies since it is running short -- global sugar prices are abnormally high and pulling more sugar from cane there instead of to ethanol, and Brazil's sugarcane crop was lower than expected.

Ethanol supplies will remain tight in Brazil until the next sugarcane crop this spring. After that, who knows.

At the same time, the state of California has made it clear that it prefers ethanol from Brazil than ethanol produced in the Midwestern United States because it rated ethanol from sugarcane - and shipped some 6,000 miles to the state - as "better" in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than ethanol made from corn produced 1,500 miles away. (The U.S. EPA disagrees with this.)

So...the plan is to ship ethanol 5,000 miles from the U.S. Corn Belt to Brazil so Brazil can ship ethanol 6,000 miles to LA. Or...will California just stay loyal to oil?

The answer really shouldn't be that difficult, should it?

For more on California's low carbon fuel standards, click here, here, here and here.

California: Big oil's love nest

In a blog post over at Domestic Fuel, Joanna Schroeder exposes California's true love: big oil.

The post - the first in a series on oil - comes after a group in the state turned down $11 million in stimulus money to install 55 e85 stations. Sure, they flirted with the idea of installing e85 pumps to help improve the access to ethanol. Yet they remained true to their first love: oil. (Check out this LA Times piece on the decision.)

That means no significant ethanol infrastructure development for ethanol - for all ethanol, corn, cellulosic or whatever.

Interestingly enough, the decision came hours after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advanced rules demonstrating the benefits of corn-based ethanol when it comes to greenhouse gasses. (Of course California has its own ideas about low carbon fuels, which went into effect Jan. 1.)

As Schroeder points out:

What would cause the most notorious state, hailed around the world for its progressive environmental policies, to shun a lower carbon fuel? Hmmm...could it maybe, just possibly be that it is blinded by it’s Big Love for Big Oil?

For more, click here.

February 5, 2010

Leadership program wraps up; Farmers' voice needed in Washington

A packed schedule on the trip to Washington, D.C. for the NeCGA Leadership Educational Program, resulted in my inability to update the blog daily. Yet, I can share with you now the wrap-up report of our exciting trip!

You read about our first couple of days in D.C., described by Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer), President of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, in an earlier post.

As we awoke to around three inches of snow on Wednesday morning, we soon discovered how disabling snow and winter weather is to the D.C. area. All area schools had been cancelled, many offices closed and hardly anyone attemped their own transportation on the streets. This really tickled our Nebraska farmers, who think three inches of snow is a walk in the park compared to the winter we have experienced in the Cornhusker State.

Nevertheless, we were lucky that the United State Department of Agriculture (@USDA_NASS) staff braved the elements and made it in to conduct a mock lock-down for our group. This mock lock-down allowed the group to walk through the procedures that the National Agricultural Statistic Service, a division of the USDA, typically conduct when they provide crop marketing reports, such as the Prospective Plantings Report and Crop Production Reports, to name a couple. All participants in a lock-down must give their phones, computers, pagers, and anything they use to communicate with the outside world, to an armed guard. These people must remain in the locked area until the report is complete – sometimes up to eight hours. The information that is released is important to keep undisclosed to prevent anyone from obtaining knowledge that could affect commodity market prices.

The group then had lunch with the U.S. Grains Council (@USGC), an organization developing export markets for U.S. barley, corn, grain sorghum and related products. USGC staff presented key strategies and priorities for expanding the corn market worldwide, as well as international biotech policies and attitudes of biotech crops. The group then split-up and attended meetings with Syngenta, the North American Millers Association and Growth Energy.

In between these business meetings, we were able to meet with Senator Mike Johanns and Congressman Adrian Smith. Both of these interactions allowed our group to thank Senator Johanns and Congressman Smith for their continued support of agriculture, as well as expressing concerns for the future, such as legislation including greenhouse gas regulations, indirect land use change, and ethanol expansion.

The day was concluded only after a generous seafood-buffet dinner at Phillip’s Flagship, and a walking tour of the monuments by night by part of the group. (I wore my pedometer and can verify that we walked about 8 miles just on this tour! Thanks Carl for the exercise!)

Thursday started out with sunshine and allowed our group to meet with The Fertilizer Institute and American Farmland Trust groups. The group again went in three different directions for legislative visits with Congressman Lee Terry, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry ad Senator Ben Nelson. Again, we were able to thank them for their support of agriculture, as well as concerns for the future.

The business portion of our trip ended with lunch at the Capitol Hill Club and a presentation from the National Pork Producers Council. The fearless leaders of our group gave us a debriefing which allowed time to share the highlights of the trip and what Nebraska producers can take home from this important visit.

Besides business, we had the chance to take a brief walk-through between meetings at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Library of Congress, and a tour of the Capitol along with tickets to the House and Senate Galleries. We even walked into the chance at seeing the new Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts being sworn into Senate, along with appearances by Vice President Biden, and Senators Kerry and McCain.

As Brandon mentioned in the previous blog post in reference to the purpose of the trip, “It is the beginning stages to rising up more agvocates.” I can truly agree with him, as this trip allowed for the farmer leaders, as well as myself, to see the bigger picture in which our ag industry is formed. Legislation is created and laws are formed on foundations in which the legislators share their views and vote. If we [farmers, ranchers, agriculturists] do not share our beliefs and concerns for the ag industry with legislators, then how are they to know what is really best for us? This is our chance to go agvocate and share how proposed bills will affect not only our industry, but our lives personally which are invested in agriculture.

*Pictures taken by Kelsey Pope

Podcast: Opposing the cap and trade bill was right decision

In this podcast, Rick Gruber, a farmer from Benedict and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses the group's opposition to cap and trade legislation passed by the House of Representatives last year. He noted that the National Corn Growers Association board also voted to oppose the measure.

NCGA's decision came after an analysis was completed by Informa Economics showing that over the long haul the legislation would be significantly detrimental to U.S. corn farmers.

That was consistent with the position the Nebraska Corn Growers took following votes at its annual meeting in December. At the meeting, Nebraska farmers voted to not support cap and trade legislation and to take resolutions to the national meeting in March saying so.

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

Distillers grains credit, updated RFS positive - but concerns remain

The Environmental Protection Agency’s updated regulations implementing the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard include an important credit for distillers grains, a feed ingredient produced by corn ethanol plants, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release.

“We have said for many years that distillers grains is an outstanding feed ingredient that is often overlooked when it comes to corn ethanol production,” said Jon Holzfaster. “We are pleased to see EPA recognize the positive addition distillers grains brings to the table.”

Holzfaster is a corn and cattle producer from Paxton and a farmer director of the Nebraska Corn Board.

In its report, EPA noted that new research available since the initial proposal indicates that distillers grains is more efficient as an animal feed than what it had originally assumed. This means less corn is needed for animal feed. “Therefore, in our analysis for the final rule, domestic corn demand and exports are not impacted as much by increased biofuel production as they were in the proposed analysis,” EPA said.

Research into the efficiency of distillers grains was supported, in part, by the Nebraska Corn Board.

Still, the Nebraska Corn Board said concerns remain - particularly on the notion of using international indirect land use estimates.

“While we appreciate that EPA updated its models to use more current production standards for both corn and ethanol, since the efficiency of both have increased significantly over the last several years, corn-based ethanol continues to be penalized by shaky science when it comes to land use,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research.

With the land use change theory included, EPA estimated that corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gases 21 percent over gasoline. Without that penalty, corn ethanol would achieve a 52 percent reduction.

“While the rules are workable and provide some stability in the marketplace now, the thought that they include unscientific theories on land use change and other questionable assumptions is concerning,” Brunkhorst said.

The Nebraska Corn Board also noted that while growing the ethanol industry is important on many fronts, from environmental to energy security, EPA now needs to allow the marketplace to grow.

“We need higher ethanol blends, such as e15, available on a wide scale, and we need to continue to push for e85 and flex fuel vehicles,” Holzfaster said. “Without these advancements, ethanol will run out of space in the marketplace and we won’t be able to replace significant amounts of petroleum fuel in the future.”

EPA is currently considering allowing blends of up to e15 (15 percent ethanol), but that decision may not come for a few months. See this post.

February 4, 2010

Become a fan of [yellow fail]

Yellow Tail - the wine company - may have poured a glass bigger than it can drink when it decided to donate $100,000 to the industrial animal rights group known as the Humane Society of the United States.

The donation sparked a fury of activity on the company's Facebook page, with more than 350 comments chiding them on their choice of charities to support. If you're on Facebook, click here to view the page. (They are also on Twitter as @yellowtail_USA.)

Also in response, another Facebook page was stared - YellowFail. You can find that page here. Become a fan and show your discontent! You can also email the company from its website.

(To leave a message on the Yellow Tail Facebook page, you have to become a fan...but you can 'unfan' them afterward.)

This is a great example of how people can use social media to push for change.

Late yesterday, Yellow Tail said it would be making changes to its "tail for Tails" program.  No word yet, though. Perhaps the brand's owners, Casella Wines, are a bit shocked by the response.

Here are just a few of the great blog posts about the effort:

UNL management, outlook conference set for this month

The Cornhusker Economics Management and Outlook Conference is scheduled to be held at five locations across Nebraska this month. The annual conference is a great way to assess some of the important issues facing agriculture sectors this year.

Speakers include Darrell Mark, Paul Burgener, Dan O'Brien, Roger Wilson, Tim Lemmons, Robert Tigner, Brad Lubben and Allan Vyhnalek.

They'll cover outlooks for livestock markets, grain and oilseeds markets, crop and livestock inputs, the land market and policy direction in Washington. All sessions will include information on risk management, while a special presentation will dive into getting a handle on risk. A final topic includes incorporating risk management strategies, including updates on ACRE.

Conference date and locations include:
  • Feb. 15: Norfolk
  • Feb. 15: Lincoln (evening)
  • Feb. 16: Grand Island
  • Feb. 23: Alliance
  • Feb. 24: McCook

For more details and registration information, click here.

The conference series is sponsored in part by funding from the Nebraska Soybean Board.

February 3, 2010

Ethanol moves forward, but concerns remain about land use theories

With the publication today of its Renewable Fuels Standard, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized that corn-based ethanol provides a significant advantage over conventional gasoline when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, with a reduction of more than 21 percent in some cases.

Despite this, EPA continued to include the often criticized "international indirect land use change" (ILUC) theory in its calculations. Toss those out - as they should be - and corn ethanol's GHG reduction jumps past 50 percent and it would qualify as an "advanced" biofuel. (Advanced biofuels have a separate requirement line in the RFS. In 2010, for example, advanced biofuels need to make up 0.95 billion gallons of the RFS.)

Interestingly, that figure is close to this research from the University of Nebraska.

Back in September, the Nebraska Corn Board's Kelly Brunkhorst noted that ILUC doesn't seem to match real world experience because U.S. farmers today are growing more corn on fewer acres, plus for each bushel of corn used to make ethanol nearly 18 pounds of distillers grains, a great animal feed, is produced by the ethanol plant.

It is also frustrating that the idea of ILUC is applied only to ethanol and that indirect impacts of petroleum-based fuels (like this) are ignored.

The big change in EPA's calculations appears that it used more current corn production numbers. This is something the industry pointed out to EPA - and to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as ARB developed its low carbon fuel standards (LCFS). ARB didn't listen, though, even though it makes sense to look at current corn production methods, efficiencies and more. Looking backward just doesn't cut it when it comes to corn and ethanol production.

Here's some additional background:

Podcast: Research

In this podcast, Dennis Gengenbach, a farmer from Smithfield and member of the Nebraska Corn Board, explains that research, like other checkoff-backed efforts, is critical to the future of the corn industry.

He noted that checkoff-backed research has helped farmers to better understand water use, grow the marketplace for ethanol, demonstrate the benefits of distillers grains, unlock the mysteries of the corn genome and more.

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

February 2, 2010

Leadership program is beginning stage of developing agvocates

Nineteen Nebraskan's are in Washington, D.C., this week as part of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association's annual D.C. leadership program. We'll be posting updates as we get them from participants.

Today's update is from Brandon Hunnicutt (@cornfedfarmer), a farmer from Giltner and president of NeCGA:

The 2010 NeCGA Washington DC Leadership Program got underway Monday night. It was the first time the participants had a chance to really get to know each other. It was a group that really connected well, even though we were from different areas of the state, as well as different ages.

On Tuesday, they we were introduced to many things. For many participants, it was the first look at what the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Corn Board and the National Corn Growers Association do and how each of them are structured.

As we moved forward, we also learned about what some of the key issues are in-state for this coming legislative session. It is always interesting to watch the reactions and discussions that come up from these presentations. For some it is truly the first real look at what we do and what some of our key issues truly are.

As the day moved forward, lobbyists from NCGA helped steer the group through some of the main things going on in Congress as well as what we may have to be looking for in the future. The discussion about cap and trade was very interesting and was put into a perspective that should help the participants get a better understanding of what we are truly facing in that legislation.

The day wrapped up, business-wise, with an update from the Renewable Fuels Association. There are many issues that face the ethanol industry. Yet at the same time there are many benefits to ethanol that we need to be out trumpeting in the marketplace.

This is one of those opportunities that is a great experience that anyone truly interested in legislative issues, the corn industry and our partners should definitely attend. It allows for a better understanding of what truly takes place inside the bowels of the Beltway.

It also is the beginning stages to raising up more agvocates. This is something we, in ag, need to make sure we are doing on an everyday basis, not just once a year in D.C.

A-FAN adds videos on animal care, sow housing

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) posted two more videos on its website and YouTube Channel today.

One video focuses on sow housing and the second another on beef cattle. Together they bring the total number of videos produced by the organization to more than a dozen.

“Many people have questions about why farmers do certain things when raising livestock. These new videos and the others we’ve produced let everyone hear directly from the farmers themselves and see what they are talking about,” said Roger Berry, A-FAN Field Director. (Find A-FAN on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AFANpage.)

One of the new videos features Dorchester, Neb., beef producer Joel Weber who explains the importance of providing good care for cattle. He notes that well cared for cattle perform better and produce better beef. Weber is a fourth generation farmer.

The second video features Terry O’Neel, a hog farmer from Friend, Neb. O’Neel explains why he houses sows individually and how that individual care benefits the animals, maintains herd health and ultimately provides better pork.

Berry said A-FAN's video library offers insight into livestock operations and explains the importance of livestock production to Nebraska's economy.

“We hope these videos help answer some questions but also encourage a positive dialogue between farmers and those looking to learn more about what it takes to raise livestock and produce the high-quality products available today,” he said. “With modern communication tools it is easy to ask a farmer directly about livestock and food production. What consumers will learn is that today’s livestock producers share their values and strive to produce safe, wholesome food.”

Berry said there are farmers online writing blogs, maintaining Facebook pages and responding to questions via Twitter.

“People used to be able to ask their relatives about livestock production,” he said. “While that may not be the case anymore, people can instead use these communication tools to reach out and ask a farmer, ‘Why do you do that?’”