May 28, 2010

Meat Buyers, Corn Growers Gather in St. Louis

About 90 meat buyers from the Caribbean, China, Hong Kong, Mexico and the ASEAN region met with livestock producers, corn and soybean growers and foodservice groups at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Board of Directors meeting and Product Showcase convention this week.

The overseas meat buyers attended the convention to participate in a cutting and sampling demonstration of U.S. beef and pork, as well as meet with foodservice agents to make connections for exporting U.S. beef, pork and lamb into their countries. The buyers compared and tasted beef samples from several different categories, such as grain-fed and grass-finished, Prime versus Select, and beef from younger versus older cattle. Samples were also compared that had been aged using different methods and for varying time periods.

On the agenda for USMEF committees and conference attendees were speakers and committee meetings, sessions on emerging issues in the global meat marketplace and economic outlooks, and breakout sessions with USMEF overseas staff in the retail and foodservice arenas.

Speakers on the agenda included Jerry Steiner, executive vice president of Monsanto Company; John Brewer, administrator from USDA’s Foreign Ag Service; and USMEF President & CEO Philip Seng. Updates from USMEF overseas staff included issues briefings from Joel Haggard from the Asia Pacific region, Chad Russell from the Mexico and Dominican Republic region and John Brook from the Europe, Russia and Middle East region.

Nebraska Corn Board member, Mark Jagels, is a member of the USMEF executive committee and lead the Feedgrain & Oilseed Caucus. At this meeting, attendees heard from Jeff Johnson of Pioneer; USB Market Evaluation of Korea by director of feed utilization, Philip Lobo; U.S. Livestock & Grain Outlook by American Farm Bureau Federation’s livestock economist, John Anderson; U.S. Land Price Outlook by the editor of Land Owner Newsletter, Mike Walsten; Kansas Corn & EU Hilton Beef Burger promotions by European USMEF direction John Brook; Japan Pork Seminar presentation by Calvin Rozenbook of Iowa Farm Bureau and Rich Degner of Iowa Pork Producers Association; and the U.S. Fertilizer Outlook by Mike Piken of Cleveland Research.

This meeting was not only great for the meat buyers, but for corn and soybean growers to communicate with the international visitors about how they raise their feed and how it is safe to feed beef, pork and lamb. It was especially interesting to find out why consumers in Asia are cautious of U.S. meat. A lot of it has to do with misinformation. This meeting provided many doors of communication to become open with the international meat buyers and our feedgrain and oilseed growers.

Green to be top ag administrator at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ronnie D. Green, a resident of Sutton and a beef geneticist, has been named University of Nebraska Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This is the top ag administrator post at the university. He is replacing John Owens, who will return to faculty ranks June 30. Owens has been vice president and vice chancellor since January 2001.

Green, senior director of global technical services at Pfizer Animal Health, will begin his work at the university July 19 pending approval by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

"I see this as a phenomenal opportunity to serve the people of the state of Nebraska and beyond," Green said. "The global possibilities for the institute at this time in its history are remarkable. The Global Water for Food Institute and Nebraska Innovation Campus are two noteworthy projects that will make a lasting positive contribution to the state and the world. The opportunity to be a part of those initiatives as well as to continue to evolve the important research and outreach of the university is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to help transform our world."

For more details, click here to jump to the Nebraska Farmer article.

May 26, 2010

Podcast: A review of NeCGA's legislative year

In this podcast, Mick Mines, the government relations expert who works for the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, gives a quick review of the Nebraska legislative year.

He noted that NeCGA had some great success with several bills. While there was only time to highlight a few, you can always keep track of the issues NeCGA follows by checking out the policy page of their website.

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

Corn farmers head to D.C. with messages about modern family farmers

The Nebraska Corn Board and corn farmers from 13 other states and the National Corn Growers Association as part of the Corn Farmers Coalition announced a new educational effort today aimed at providing facts about modern family farmers to policymakers and opinion leaders in Washington, D.C., who impact the fate of America’s family corn farmers.

"Some myths about farming and corn continue to make the rounds, and this effort will help provide the truths to counter that," Nebraska Corn Board member Curt Friesen, a farmer from Henderson, said in a news release. "At the same time, real American farm families will make up a significant portion of the campaign to help put a face back on farming."

This is important, Friesen said, because many people do not realize that most farms, and 95 percent of corn farms specifically, are family owned and operated. "We need policymakers to understand the decisions they make impact real family farmers, and that it’s these families that are the backbone of this country," he said.

"This awareness is important to our survival," said Darrin Ihnen, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from South Dakota.

“Our mission is to put a face on today’s family farmers, showcase the productivity and environmental advances being made in the industry, provide factual information on how innovative and high tech corn farmers have become,” said Ihnen. “This is a corn farmer image effort designed for thought leaders in Washington. When all the business news out there seems to be negative, corn farmers have a great story to tell.”

Friesen said the incredible advances in productivity made by today’s corn farmers "allow us to feed and help fuel a nation, while at the same time reducing the environmental footprint of farming. This is a very positive story, and the Nebraska Corn Board is excited to be part of the Corn Farmers Coalition, which allows us to tell that story in a bigger way then we could on our own.”

The main advertising campaign for the Corn Farmers Coalition will begin June 1. Educational efforts will include important facts about family farmers in Capital Hill publications, radio, websites, the Metro (passenger rail) and Reagan National Airport. The program will focus on family farmers telling their story and will continue until Congress recesses in August.

The image above is, in fact, one of the messages that will be used. To view more print ads, click here.

May 25, 2010

How many (other) enviromental groups are in bed with big oil?

Here's a quote from an interesting Washington Post article titled "Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP":

The Conservancy, already scrambling to shield oyster beds from the spill, now faces a different problem: a potential backlash as its supporters learn that the giant oil company and the world's largest environmental organization long ago forged a relationship that has lent BP an Earth-friendly image and helped the Conservancy pursue causes it holds dear.
The "spill," of course, refers to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The cozy relationship refers to a $10 million (in cash and land) contribution to the Nature Conservancy by BP and its affiliates over the years. Certainly some of the cash has helped the Conservancy do what it does best -- but then something like the oil spill happens and suddenly a big benefactor is creating a big problem. How upset can you get about the disaster when you risk future donations?

How many other environmental groups are in the same boat? The Environmental Defense Fund is one example cited in the article. The Sierra Club is another. (And how does this taint their views of ethanol and other renewable fuels?)

And certainly we're familiar with so-called environmental groups who bash renewable fuels like ethanol -- like the Environmental Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council. They jumped in bed with Big Oil more than once as part of a campaign to spread myths (another word for "lies") about corn ethanol and biofuels.

(Interestingly enough, the American Meat Institute, which represents meat packers, jumped in bed with these same groups...the same groups who bash the corn that feeds the meat they sell. The same groups who bash modern livestock farming and farmers who provide the livestock to AMI members. But that's a story for another day.)

The Nature Conservancy's CEO Mark Tercek responded to some criticism by his organization's ties to BP. From the Washington Post article:

A subsequent post by Tercek named BP and said the spill demonstrated the need for a new energy policy that would move the United States "away from our dependence on oil."
That's a message ethanol and renewable fuel folks have been saying for quite some time now. But it's good to hear it from someone working for an environmental organization.

Addition on 5/26/10: Interesting enough, another environmental group -- Friends of the Earth -- has filed a lawsuit against EPA to reduce the use of biofuels. Their logic is, of course, a bit flawed. I quote:

By displacing some gasoline from the U.S. market, the RFS reduces overall demand for petroleum, which in turn leads to lower prices, increased consumption, and higher greenhouse gas emissions in other countries.
In other words, because ethanol reduces U.S. petroleum demand (a good thing!), others may use more. Call me crazy but that sounds like a problem for those countries who don't have an active biofuel development program, not us. Check out this post at Domestic Fuel for more.

Corn board continues internship programs in Nebraska, D.C.

Since the Nebraska Corn Board was founded more than three decades ago, it has worked to nurture and develop talent among all students who have an interest in agriculture. Particular attention over the last two decades, however, has been given to college students selected to work beside staff and members of the board as part of an ongoing internship program.

This month, the latest two interns began their time with the Nebraska Corn Board. Regina Janousek (top photo) of Clarkson, NE, is interning at the board’s office in Lincoln, while Julie Batie of Lexington, NE, is spending the summer with the National Corn Growers Association’s Washington, D.C., office.

“The Nebraska Corn Board and staff have been blessed to have had so many wonderfully-talented young college student interns in our office,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “They represent an insightful next generation of young people who will help bring a new dimension to producing food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing world population. They are bright, energetic, uninhibited and appreciative of their agricultural roots.”

Janousek is a junior in agribusiness at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She will collect and report corn and corn product utilization and transportation data, assist with market development and government relations programs and activities, oversee crop progress report placement, and be involved in communication efforts as a part of her internship.

Batie, a junior in agricultural education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, will be assisting NCGA staff on water quality and transportation issues, the Cuba trade bill, and biotechnology, ethanol and energy issues in Washington. She will also have the opportunity to shadow each of the NCGA lobbyists over the course of the summer.

The Washington intern position is a sponsored internship exclusively partnered with the NCGA’s Washington office and the Nebraska Corn Board.

“We look forward to having Julie with us this summer,” said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy for NCGA. “The Nebraska Corn Board’s intern program has provided some outstanding opportunities for both the interns and NCGA. We enjoy having a bright and energetic college student give us some fresh perspectives. It is absolutely vital for young people who want to be involved in agriculture to understand how their government works and the best ways to be part of the process. We appreciate the support of the Nebraska Corn Board of this outstanding program.”

May 24, 2010

Crop update: Nebraska corn 96% planted; 59% emerged

It's safe to say that many Nebraska fields had good moisture to start the growing season, and as you can see by the photo below, moisture remained plentiful in places during the past week.

However, the last few days have also brought much needed heat some some areas -- and that is welcome, too. (Although the high winds could take a hike.) Hopefully summer-like storms won't leave too much damage in their wake.

In either case, USDA reported today that 96 percent of the corn crop is planted statewide. As reported in the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update, this is two days progress behind last year’s 97 percent complete. However, that figure is even with the five-year average. Last week 87 percent of the crop was planted.

USDA said 59 percent of the corn had emerged from the soil. This is behind last year’s 68 percent. And although early in the season, the 77 percent of the state's crop remained in good to excellent condition.

Nationally, 93 percent of the crop is planted, compared to 80 percent last year and 89 percent for the four-year average. USDA said 71 percent of crop had emerged, up from 55 percent last week and 50 percent last year. It's also ahead of the five-year average of 62 percent. As for crop condition, USDA said 67 percent of the crop is good to excellent.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update, which obtains photos from students in different FFA Chapters across the state.

The first photo is from the Heartland FFA Chapter, which shows some standing water next to a  young corn plant. The bottom photo is from the Howells Clarkson FFA Chapter.

Holoubek to serve as A-FAN's organizational director

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) said today that it has named Willow Holoubek of David City as its organizational director, effective June 1. Click here for the news release.

Holoubek will succeed Roger Berry who has served as A-FAN’s field director since 2006. Berry recently accepted a position as vice president of member services for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

Holoubek (photo) joins A-FAN after working as a private consultant and project coordinator in the area of bioenergy development. Prior to her work in the bioenergy field, Holoubek served as the Executive Director of the Butler County Development Board from 2007 to 2009, where she worked to aid in the retention, expansion and development of new businesses in Butler County.

“Willow’s wealth of experience in helping build economic opportunities in rural communities and her passion for Nebraska agriculture make her a perfect fit for the A-FAN organization,” A-FAN president Lori Luebbe said. “She clearly understands the importance of Nebraska agriculture and she possesses a broad set of skills, which will aid A-FAN in its mission of promoting the importance of Nebraska agriculture and the role it plays in the economic well-being of our state.”

Holoubek has deep roots in agriculture, spending the last 20 plus years working with her husband Mark and four children on the family’s grain and livestock farm near David City where they raise purebred Angus cattle, corn, soybeans and dairy quality alfalfa. Willow is a past program technician for USDA’s Farm Service Agency, in addition to serving as a clerk in the Butler County Treasurer’s Office.

Holoubek has earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Nebraska, majoring in animal science, and is a past graduate of the Nebraska Leadership Education/Action Development (LEAD) Program (Class XXVI).

As Organizational Director for A-FAN, Holoubek is responsible for administering the day-to-day management of the organization, in addition to working with A-FAN’s various committees and Nebraska Agriculture Promotion and Education Projects. Holoubek will also serve as a resource for Nebraska farmers and ranchers looking to expand their livestock operations.

May 21, 2010

Dirty oil is getting dirtier

Taking off on a flight from North Carolina this week, I couldn't help but notice the landscape -- all the rolling hills of trees dotted by sunlight as far as the eye could see.

This picturesque landscape contrasts heavily with the reality that a few thousand miles northwest of there, a virgin forest the size of North Carolina is under assault.

You see, under a 54,000 square mile forest in Alberta is oil sand ("tar sand"). Right now, 1,700 square miles of this forest are planned to be clear cut, followed by scraping away the surface soil to get at the oil sand, which is then treated with water to produce oil from Alberta's oil sands. A 1,700 square mile wasteland -- "moonscape" -- with dozens of square miles of tailing ponds so toxic and polluted that companies try to scare birds away with with scarecrows and cannons.

Interestingly, the efforts and reality of getting at this oil was highlighted this week in this New York Times article, and in the recent edition of Ethanol Today, in the article Oil: Dirty and getting dirtier.

Combined, these two articles highlight our growing dependence on dirtier sources of energy.

Already several hundred acres of forest have been clear cut and are being mined, as shown in these photos, including the image above from National Geographic. By next month, a refinery in Chicago will be getting 35,000 barrels of oil a day from this area via a pipeline.

Another 2,000-mile underground pipeline has already been proposed and would cut through Nebraska on its way to refineries in the South. It would allow Canada to ship another 1.1 million barrels of oil a day. (Hearings are being held across the state, including last week in York.)

The Times article discusses the pros and cons of getting oil from a friendly neighbor compared to a dictator, even if it is potentially an ecological disaster that abundantly spews carbon (and a multitude of greenhouse gases) and other pollutants.

Ethanol Today compares and contrasts the real cost of this oil - and notes that many agencies are underestimating the environmental impact of getting this and other oil to market. Specifically, it looks at the California Air Resources Board numbers in its low carbon fuel standards.

Certainly the need for oil remains for now - but the way we'll get that oil will only get dirtier and dirtier. Contrast that to advances made in developing biofuels, which get cleaner and cleaner.

It makes no sense to put up road blocks and hinder the development of cleaner, renewable fuels from all sources, including corn ethanol. All this will do is increase the rate at which we develop and produce dirtier oil.

It makes no sense to assign renewable fuels a "land use change" penalty in low carbon fuel rules -- and then not fully include the real greenhouse gas/carbon emissions and land use change from oil exploration and production. (Talk about ignoring reality.)

It makes no sense that the California ARB would give "a free pass, regardless of carbon intensity, to any oil originating in California, Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Iraq, Brazil, Mexico and Angola," as noted in Ethanol Today. (A free pass for heavy crude oil that represents 95 percent of California’s petroleum market. Perhaps this is why major oil companies don't loudly object to the rules.)

To some, it seems, oil doesn't have an environmental footprint - but they are wrong.

National Geographic has captured some, like the one above. BP has a live video feed and other videos/images of another in the Gulf. And if you do a search for images of Nigerian oil, you'll find pictures like this one (source).

Now imagine a growing field of corn.
Clean and green.

We need to encourage the development and production of renewable fuels. And we need to increase their availability and use.

May 19, 2010

Nebraska’s egg industry adds value to corn, aid overseas

Just as Nebraska farmers are producing more corn with fewer inputs on fewer acres, the Nebraska egg industry is producing more eggs per hen every year, the Nebraska Corn Board said in this news release.

Nebraska’s commercial laying hen population in 2008 was at 10 million birds producing more than 2.5 billion eggs annually. The number of layers as of April 2010 is fell to 9.4 million – but those hens were producing approximately the same number of eggs, which shows great production efficiency among Nebraska egg producers.

Nebraska currently ranks ninth nationally in total egg production, and is also a national leader in the production of further processed egg products.

“The egg industry is another great way of adding value to corn and distillers grains which provides an economic boost to a lot of other businesses,” said Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Corn Board. “With May being Egg Month, consumers in Nebraska should realize just how incredible the state’s egg industry really is.”

The interesting thing about Nebraska’s egg industry is that none of the eggs are sold “in the shell” like what you find in cartons at the grocery store.

Instead, they are processed by companies known as “egg breakers” and turned into high-value pasteurized refrigerated liquid eggs, which are then sold as a liquid, frozen, dried or as specialty products. These high-value products are used domestically in the foodservice sector but are also shipped all over the world, including for aid projects like “Eggs for Haiti,” an effort of the national Good Egg Project, which donated more than 3 million eggs to Haitian relief efforts this past year.

The egg industry contributes about $95 million to the Nebraska economy each year. Part of that contribution is the consumption of more than 8 million bushels of corn and the growing usage of distillers grains.

May 17, 2010

Nebraska corn 87% planted, 36% emerged

Although slowed by rain over the last week, Nebraska farmers had 87 percent of the corn crop planted as of May 16, USDA said today. That compares to 78 percent last week and 86 percent for the five-year average.

A year ago, corn planting was 91 percent completed by this date, so recent weather patterns certainly slowed things down a bit since farmers had been running ahead of last year's pace until this week.

Nationally, 87 percent of the crop is planted - up only 6 points from last week's 81 percent planted. Still, national progress is well ahead of last year's 61 percent planted at this time and the five-year average of 78 percent planted.

Reports from Iowa and some other states, however, indicate that some acres may need to be replanted due to a significant amount of rain last week. Plus there was a cold snap that may have frosted off a few acres. Time will tell.

As for emergence, USDA said 36 percent of Nebraska's corn crop had emerged, up from 16 percent last week and nearly even with the five-year average of 37 percent. A year go, 42 percent of the crop had emerged.

Nationally, 55 percent of the crop is out of the ground, up from 39 percent last week and only 28 percent last year. The five-year average is 39 percent emerged by this date.

Early crop conditions provided by USDA today show that 76 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is in good to excellent condition, with 20 percent being fair and 4 percent poor. Nationally, 67 percent of the crop is good to excellent, 27 percent is fair and 6 percent is poor to very poor.

If you were wondering about soybeans, USDA said 44 percent of Nebraska soy acres are planted, compared to 57 percent last year and the five-year average of 38 percent. Nationally, 38 percent of soybean acres are planted -- up from last year's 23 percent and the average of 35 percent.

Podcast: Environmental consequences of oil a reminder of benefits of renewable fuel

In this podcast, Randy Uhrmacher, a farmer from Juniata and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, references the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

While we need the oil from these domestic operations, he said, the negative environmental consequences are a tremendous reminder of the benefits of renewable fuels. Renewable fuels like ethanol are clean and have a positive impact on the environment.

He said corn-based ethanol is central to our efforts to achieve this and that ethanol provides a solid foundation and is making a growing contribution toward achieving the goals of less dependence on foreign oil and providing safer and cleaner energy sources for future generations.

Even though everyone recognizes the need to expand the use of ethanol and other biofuels, roadblocks are in the way, Uhrmacher said -- although there are opportunities before Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency right now that will help.

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

May 13, 2010

True or False: There is one silk for every kernel on an ear of corn

That question - and many more - were part of the Nebraska Corn Board's educational program at this year's Groundwater Festival.

Founded in 1988, the Groundwater Festival is an annual one-day event for fourth and fifth grade students of Nebraska. This year's festival was held in Grand Island earlier this week.

The Corn Board's program focused on a Bingo game - but to get a spot on the board, you had to answer a question correctly.

For example, to get a "C-2" (instead of b-i-n-g-o, players tried to get c-o-r-n or a-q-u-a), a student would need to answer the question: How many acres of corn were planted in Nebraska in 2009?

If the student got the right answer, he or she would then occupy that space.

To get a question for "Q" a player would need to answer correctly: How many inches of water are saved when conservation tillage is used compared to those who didn’t use conservation tillage practices? (Choices:3, 6 or 12 inches)

A question for "A" is: If farmers switch from gravity to pivot irrigation, what percent of water will be reduced? (Choices: 10, 17 or 37 percent)

The program was created by Paige Bek, who is wrapping up her internship with the Corn Board this week. It was then and conducted by Bek and the Corn Board's new intern, Regina Janousek.

Oh...the answers to the questions here are True, 9.15 million acres, 3 inches and 37 percent (without impacting yields!).

How did you do?

May 11, 2010

Co-products research benefits cattlemen, feeders

Two research studies were recently announced which showed a benefit of feeding corn co-products to both cows and feeder cattle.

The first study was released May 1 from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln's Institue of Agriculture and Natural Resources which found that feeding reproducing cows corn co-products was beneficial to their post calving gain, reproduction and may improve beef production sustainability.

Rick Funston, beef cattle reproductive physiologist at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte, said that very little research has been conducted on feeding co-products, such as dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) or wet corn gluten, to reproducing cows.

UNL animal scientists conducted feeding trials on 134 first-calf heifers between calving and artificial insemination. The experiment was replicated over two years to determine the effect of additional bypass protein and dietary fat from feeding DDGS or wet corn gluten feed.

Further studies found that feeding first-calf heifers DDGS or wet corn gluten feed in amounts that do not exceed protein needs do not have any negative effects on reproduction. In fact, they are beneficial, finding that the first-calf heifers consuming the wet corn gluten feed diet had a greater average daily gain during the supplementation period compared to the cows fed the diet containing DDGS.

Overall, they found that wet corn gluten feed improved cow average daily gain before breeding and DDGS increased reproductive response of the first calf heifers and adjusted weaning body weight of female offspring.

A similar research study released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmenal Sciences yesterday announced that high-quality beef and big per-head profits can be achieved by starting early-weaned cattle on corn and finishing them on a diet high in co-products.

U of I animal scientist Dan Shike looked at how to gain the highest quality beef in the most profitable way. “If you can initiate marbling at a young age with corn, calves are smaller and they eat much less, so feeding them corn for 100 days early saves on feed costs," said Shike.

For the study, heifers from the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center were weaned at an average age of 77 days and fed a high-corn ration for the next 146 days to initiate marbling. Then the cattle were divided into four groups: pasture-fed; high starch; intermediate starch; and low starch. The cattle remained on these treatments for 73 days. Then, all cattle were fed the intermediate-starch diet for the remainder of the finishing period.

These results remained constant through harvest with pasture-fed cattle receiving lower marbling scores and fewer cattle grading low-choice. The cattle fed varying levels of starch had no difference in marbling scores. However, there were differences in profit per head. The intermediate and low-starch groups were more profitable as cattle fed these diets achieved higher gains as efficiently or more efficiently as the high-starch group.

For this study, researchers suggested starting feeder calves on corn and finishing on corn co-products.

To see more information on these two studies, see here: UNL and UofI.

Other blog posts on corn co-products fed to cattle:
Corn checkoff in the news
Positive breakevens on retaining ownership offers opportunities
Committee helps focus, speed research into distillers grains

Nebraska corn-fed beef adds value to ‘center of plate’

Nebraska’s beef producers are the best in the world – and they are experts at converting Nebraska-produced commodities like corn and distillers grains into corn-fed beef that is featured at the center of the plate the world over, the Nebraska Corn Board said today.

The positive message from the Nebraska Corn Board ties in well to May being National Beef Month.

“Nebraska is well suited for beef production. We have the land, the corn, the ethanol co-product distillers grains and the processing infrastructure necessary to be a national and global leader,” said Dennis Gengenbach, vice chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board who is both a corn farmer and cow/calf producer. “It’s no wonder that you can find nutritious Nebraska beef featured on plates in homes and restaurants in dozens of countries around the world.”

This “center of plate” reputation goes along with the importance of Nebraska’s beef industry to the state’s economy – and the significant benefits of converting Nebraska corn and ethanol co-products like distillers grains into value-added beef. This is why the Nebraska Corn Board invests checkoff dollars into research and support for cattle production and into global market development programs that feature Nebraska beef.

Five of the nine farmer-directors that make up the Nebraska Corn Board also raise cattle. “We see the beef industry from many vantage points first hand, and we understand that working together to keep the cattle industry strong is one of the best ways to keep Nebraska strong, too,” Gengenbach said.

“There are a lot of advantages to transforming corn and the ethanol co-product distillers grains into a higher value product like corn-fed beef,” he said. “It provides positive economic activity that’s good for rural communities and the state as a whole. It’s to all our advantage to keep Nebraska beef at the center of the plate here at home and around the world.”

For more details on how the Corn Board supports the state's beef industry – including some $500,000 dollars invested annually into research and market development – click here.

May 10, 2010

Crop update: Nebraska corn 78% planted

Nebraska farmers had 78 percent of the corn crop planted as of yesterday, the USDA said today in it's weekly crop progress report. That's up from last week's 48 percent. It's also one day ahead of last year's 74 percent planted by this point and four days ahead of the five year average of 65 percent planted.

Nationally, 81 percent of the crop is in the ground - compared to 68 percent last week and 62 percent for the five-year average. A year ago only 46 percent of the nation's corn crop was in the ground.

USDA said 16 percent of Nebraska's corn had emerged from the ground, which was near last year's 17 but ahead of the 14 percent average. Nationally, 39 percent of the crop had emerged, compared to 13 percent last year and the average of 21 percent.

In Nebraska, some of that corn faced some cold weather and potentially freezing conditions over the weekend. Other than some rain and clouds for the next day or two, though, weather looks to improve heading into the weekend. Some sun and warmth will get corn off to a great start.

This week's photo comes from the Facebook page of RAK Farms. If you look closely, you'll see two bits of green - two corn plants just emerging from the soil.

Can you grow more corn with less water?

That question – growing more corn with less water – is pondered (and answered) in the latest CornsTALK newsletter from the Nebraska Corn Board.

The newsletter is available online and is included in the May edition of Nebraka Farmer, which is hitting mailboxes now. You can also download the newsletter here (.pdf).

The answer to the water question is most certainly yes – and that's backed up by multiple, in-field research projects. At the same time, using less supplemental water saves money while giving farmers an opportunity to be a better steward.

Some tremendous research into water use is going on across Nebraska – and the results are dramatic and demonstrate that it’s possible to reduce water use while maintaining yields.

What researchers are learning is how to quantify changes already adopted by many farmers across Nebraska – and discovering what farmers can do to be even more efficient.

For example, expanding conservation tillage, better irrigation timing and converting the few gravity irrigated acres to pivots would reduce water use by 107,000 acre-feet in one Natural Resources District. That’s a 37 percent reduction without any impact on yields.

All of the research highlighted in this issue of CornsTALK is already in practice on some fields throughout Nebraska – and can be easily adopted by those looking to become more efficient, reduce their impact on the environment and save a significant amount of money in energy and related costs.

(FYI - More than 85 percent of corn acres in the United States are only rain-fed. Less than 15 percent are supplemented with irrigation. Irrigation is more common in Nebraska, but that is not the case across the Corn Belt.)

Related articles:
Water conference highlights progressive efficiencies, challenges ahead
Nebraska farmers know water-use efficiency
Technology, knowledge improving water management
Irrigation, livestock water use lowest since 1970s

May 7, 2010

Water conference highlights progressive efficiencies, challenges ahead

The University of Nebraska and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Water for Food International Conference this week in Lincoln.

The conference had a wide range of presentations of the common theme, of Growing More with Less, with many of the presentations highlighting current research or programs that are proving that we can grow more crop per drop.

In fact, more crop per drop was a statement made Jeff Raikes, a fellow Nebraskan and current CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, during his presentation. His presentation also challenged today’s leaders and researches to continue to do more with less.

Raikes said noted that more crop per drop is possible with better farm management, more production from rain fed crops and improved output of irrigated agriculture. It will also take improved technologies – new varieties of crops and seeds, new water storage efforts and more efficient pumps. Plus there’s water rights, infrastructure and compensating farmers for using less water.

Don McCabe of Nebraska Farmer wrote a bit about Raikes presentation. You can find that full article here.

Much of the research highlighted during the conference showed the efficiencies that farmers have achieved over time and what increased efficiencies have yet to be gained.

Presenters were from all around the world discussed not only the possibilities, but also the many benefits that come from such efficiencies. Economic development and decreased hunger rates are just two of the many positives of such an expansion.

The world continues to have a growing population, a population that will continue to demand a food source that will have to be grown on fewer acres with greater efficiencies. The plus is that farmers from around the world have shown that they have increased production per unit of input, have and will continue to adopt the latest in technology and advances and will meet this demand.

The "more with less" language is a message corn growers in Nebraksa – and across the country – have been talking about for more than a year. In Nebraska, this is part of the Sustaining Innovation messages, which include:
  • American farmers grow 5 times more corn than they did in the 1930s but do so on 20 percent less land.
  • Corn farmers cut erosion 44 percent in two decades thanks to new tillage methods.
  • American farmers slashed the fertilizer needed to grow a bushel of corn by 36 percent in just three decades.
  • Monitoring soil moisture levels and measuring the amount of water corn plants lose each day is helping Nebraska corn farmers significantly reduce irrigation and water demand. (FYI, more than 85 percent of the total U.S. corn crop is rain-fed only. Less than 15 percent is supplemented with irrigation.)
  • And more.
The Nebraska Corn Board's Don Hutchens and Kelly Brunkhorst attended much of the conference, so some of the details here come from their notes.

May 6, 2010

‘Theory’ on indirect land use change gets weaker

“Indirect land use change theory” are five words that still have ethanol supporters and farmers scratching their heads. After all, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release today, it seems arbitrary to assign a land use change penalty involving carbon emissions to renewable ethanol when no such penalty is assigned to oil.

Indirect land use change theory and its accompanying penalty are included in calculations by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as part of its low carbon fuel standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its Renewable Fuels Standard. The theory comes from the notion that using corn for ethanol will require soil to be tilled in other parts of the world to plant more corn.

(For some history, click here.)

“We have a problem with the indirect land use change theory because it is only a theory, the science is shaky and real-world evidence suggests the theory is off base,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board.

Brunkhorst explained that a recent update to one of the models used to calculate land use change cut by more than half the original land use change penalty on corn-based ethanol.

By half!

“This was one update and the penalty was cut by more than half. What happens as the model continues to use more current data? How will regulators keep up? How will they justify the use of this theory?” Brunkhorst asked.

The model Brunkhorst referred to is the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) model developed by Purdue University. GTAP was used by the California ARB to help set its low carbon fuel standards.

The recent update included more current information on the ethanol co-product distillers grains, which is fed to livestock, and the addition of acres devoted to the Conservation Reserve Program and pastures – two significant land uses in the United States that were left out of the original model. (How can you forget to include some 580 million acres of pasture land?? What else has been forgotten?)

“While this update is positive, it continues to show that we need more statistical research and better science before we can attempt to blame corn ethanol for land use changes in other countries,” Brunkhorst said. “While ARB needs to update its figures, ultimately we believe that indirect land use change should not be a consideration for any fuel standards.”

At the same time, the California ARB should reconsider its position that there are no indirect penalties from oil production.

“It is difficult to comprehend that the California ARB believes there are no side affects to the continued exploration, development and use of petroleum,” Brunkhorst said. “Just look at the Gulf right now, look at what happens regularly in Nigeria, the tar sands in Canada. Oil has indirect impacts daily, and they are quite profound.

May 5, 2010

Nebraska Corn Board gets new logo

The Nebraska Corn Board unveiled its new logo in its latest newsletter, CornsTALK (.pdf)

The logo will be rolled out over the next few months, including in a new website that the Corn Board has in the works. 

If you are a member of the media and need a copy of the new logo, please email the Nebraska Corn Board at

Here's what the Nebraska Corn Board said in its newsletter about the logo:

The Nebraska Corn Board certainly recognizes that the corn industry in the state and across the country is changing – and that it must continuously adapt, too.

Farmers in Nebraska adapt to change every day, from seed to technology to risk management to weather. Our new logo helps the Nebraska Corn Board represent that as an organization.

It goes beyond a kernel of corn to an image that is more complex and more representative of how different components come together to make up the industry and the multitude of products that come from corn.

The contemporary design incorporates the image of corn in a more creative way – just like farmers creatively manage their challenges and the Corn Board creatively approaches its efforts on market development, research, promotion and education.

“The new logo goes beyond a kernel set in the state,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “It better represents something that is growing and green, just like the corn industry in Nebraska.”

May 4, 2010

Student swap: City, rural students trade places for a day

Rural and city high school students traded places for a day over the last month to help the students learn about life and diversity in a different setting and from a different point of view.

What did the students learn? That they really aren't that different from each other.

"There are always stereotypes on both sides so I think it is broken through those of what is the stereotype of kids that go to a larger city school versus stereotypes of kids that go to a small rural school and live on a farm," Becky McLaughlin, a Lincoln (NE) High School teacher, told KHAS TV in a report (click here for the story and video). McLaughlin was part of the group from the city.

"The comment I heard most was, 'they are just the same as we are.' They like they same kind of music and they text and do all the same things we do," Karla Lubben, a teacher from the smaller, rural school Bruning-Davenport.

Besides attending classes at Bruning, the city students from Lincoln visited local farms, including a dairy farm, and a grain facility.

Organizers said the exchange was a success -- and they are thinking about doing it again next year.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the program was expanded to include more students from more communities?

What a great opportunity to for students from the city to experience rural life and learn a bit about agriculture and what goes on in rural communities - while students from rural communities have an opportunity to walk the halls of high schools that, comparatively, are the size of a small town.

Podcast: VEETC important to support jobs in rural communities

In this podcast, Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about the importance of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC, to the ethanol industry and rural communities.

VEETC, which is up for renewal this year, provides oil refiners and fuel blenders a 45-cent per gallon tax credit on each gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline. This credit provides an important economic incentive to invest in equipment to blend and use ethanol, which in turn supports growth and advancements in the sector.

Extending VEETC for five years was included in HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. The legislation would also extend the Small Producers Tax Credit, which is a special credit for smaller ethanol companies, many of which are farmer-owned. The act was introduced recently in the US House of Representatives and needs the backing of ethanol supporters to ensure it passes.

If VEETC is allowed to expire, Nebraska would loose more than 13,700 jobs, according to a study released by the Renewable Fuels Association. Most of those jobs would be lost in and around rural Nebraska communities that support an ethanol facility.

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

May 3, 2010

Crop update: Nearly 50% of Nebraska corn planted

Corn planting in Nebraska reached 48 percent complete, USDA said this afternoon. That's up from 23 percent last week and is equal to the planting pace of a year ago. It is ahead of the five-year average of 37 percent planted by this date.

Nationally, 68 percent of the crop is in the ground -- up from 50 percent last week and 32 percent a year ago. The five-year average is 40 percent planted at this point, so farmers are 28 points ahead of the average!

As for emergence, you can "row" corn on 3 percent of Nebraska acres, up from 1 percent last week and equal to last year -- although the sun and warm weather in the forecast this week will give that a boost. Nationally, 19 percent of the crop has emerged, up from 7 percent last week, 4 percent last year and the five-year average of 9 percent.

The photo above was emailed in from Nebraska Corn Board member Mark Jagels (@markjagels on Twitter), who farms near Davenport. He's finished planting corn and has moved on to soybeans, which he is planting here. He's practicing no-till and is planting the soybeans right over top of last year's corn stubble.

The second photo comes from Randy Uhrmacher (@Cornfrmr on Twitter), a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers who farms near Juniata. Uhrmacher is also done with corn and today is no-tilling soybeans into corn stubble. He posted this photo on his farm's Facebook page this afternoon.

(Soybean planting in Nebraska is 8 percent complete - compared to 6 percent last week and 4 percent for the five-year average.)

Oil disaster underscores need to increase use of clean, green ethanol

As those along the Gulf Coast work tirelessly to manage a disaster due to the offshore oil drilling accident involving BP, the tragic situation provides even greater impetus for others to move the ball forward on renewable fuels. In fact, the Nebraska Corn Board said today that there are opportunities before Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency right now that will help the United States move toward the broader use of renewable fuels.

In a couple of weeks, Nebraska will be covered by green fields of corn. “Those green fields are a tremendous reminder of the potential and promise of renewable fuels like corn ethanol, and will stand in stark contrast to the images we’ll see from the Gulf,” said Dennis Gengenbach, vice chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Smithfield. “Ethanol is simply the cleanest fuel option. It is renewable, very safe for the environment and does not have the lingering and environmentally damaging impact of oil.”

“At what point do we say enough is enough?” asked Jon Holzfaster, past chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a corn and cattle producer from Paxton. “We need to stay serious about ethanol and biofuels. We need to move forward, stop the oil-funded lies about corn ethanol and move quickly towards increasing the use and availability of all biofuels in our nation’s fuel system.”

Holzfaster is also chair of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee.

EPA is currently completing an analysis that, if approved, will allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends to be used across the country. The current standard is 10 percent ethanol, or e10. “Increasing the blend rate is necessary if we want to have a more significant impact on where our fuels come from,” Holzfaster said. “Moving to e15 is a step, and an important one at that. We can’t get to a renewable fuel future without allowing fuel blenders to increase how much they can blend.”

Another important component is passing legislation to extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC). VEETC, currently set to expire in December, provides oil refiners and fuel blenders a 45-cent per gallon tax credit on each gallon of ethanol they blend. The credit provides an important incentive to invest in equipment to blend and use ethanol from all sources, which in turn supports growth and advancements in the entire sector, Holzfaster said. Extending VEETC is part of the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act - H.R. 4940.

“VEETC is another tool to keep us moving in the right direction,” he said. “It means continued investment, continued jobs growth in rural communities and, importantly, increased use of ethanol in the future.”

At the same time, Gengenbach said, automakers need to make the switch to flex fuel vehicles so more motorists will have the option to use higher ethanol blends, including e85, a fuel that contains 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. “We’re working to increase the availability of e85 blender pumps, which is important, but at the same time we need to encourage the production and adoption of flex fuel vehicles,” he said.

Gengenbach added that hundreds of miles of oil floating in the Gulf and washing ashore – and more than 200,000 gallons a day pouring out of a well 5,000 feet below the surface – is certainly a tragedy. “We need to look at this as an opportunity to step back and learn, to better understand the impact of oil and realize there are environmentally friendly and cleaner alternatives,” he said.