July 29, 2010

Holzfaster, Tiemann elected to national boards

Alan Tiemann at the
U.S. Grains Council's
50th Board of Delegates meeting
in Boston, Mass.
Nebraska Corn Board farmer directors Jon Holzfaster and Alan Tiemann were recently elected to separate national board of director positions, the Corn Board noted in a news release today.

At the U.S. Grains Council's recent 50th Annual Board of Delegates meeting in Boston, Tiemann, a farmer from Seward, Nebraska, was re-elected to serve on the Council’s Board of Directors. Tiemann has been involved with the Council since 1998. The U.S. Grains Council is a private, non-profit partnership of farmers and agribusinesses committed to building and expanding international markets for U.S. corn, barley, grain sorghum and their products, including distillers grains.

Tiemann has been involved in the family farm since 1978, producing corn, wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum and livestock over the years, although corn and corn-soybean rotations are the focus today. He is currently chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

“The Council’s success over its first five decades is attributable to a long tradition of farmer and agribusiness leadership that’s determined to see the Council succeed,” said Thomas C. Dorr, the Council’s president and CEO.

Jon Holzfaster at Corn Congress in
Washington, D.C.
Holzfaster, a Paxton, Nebraska, farmer, was elected to the National Corn Board during Corn Congress in Washington, D.C. Holzfaster, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, was one of four new members elected to the board, which oversees the National Corn Growers Association.

“We had a number of terrific candidates wanting to dedicate time and talent to serving their industry,” said Darrin Ihnen, NCGA's current president. “It’s great to see this level of engagement and the quality of our grower leaders who each bring a different set of experiences and knowledge to NCGA.”

Holzfaster grows corn, popcorn, soybeans, dry edible beans, wheat and alfalfa. He also operates a 1,000-head feed yard. He is the third generation to own and operate the family farm and is fortunate enough to work alongside his dad and brother. He also currently serves as chairman of NCGA’s Ethanol Committee and is involved in other NCGA activities.

Photos courtesy of the NCGA and U.S. Grains Council

July 23, 2010

Video: The danger of science denial

"I think it's clear that we can make food that will feed billions of people without raping the land that they live on. I think we can power this world with energy that doesn't also destroy it. I really do believe that, and, no, it ain't wishful thinking," Michael Specter, a staff writer for the New Yorker, says in the TED video embedded below.

"But here's the thing that keeps me up at night -- one of the things that keeps me up at night. We've never needed progress in science more than we need it right now, never, and we've also never been in a position to deploy it properly in the way that we can today. We're on the verge of amazing, amazing events in many fields. And yet, I actually think we'd have to go back hundreds, 300 years, before the Enlightenment, to find a time when we battled progress, when we fought about these things more vigorously, on more fronts, than we do now," Specter said.

Market development, other programs key to growing exports

The United States has been in an enviable position with its ability to post an agricultural trade surplus year after year, Jim Miller, USDA's Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, told those at the U.S. Grains Council’s 50th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting earlier this week.

Miller said that trend will continue in fiscal year 2010, when the agricultural trade surplus is estimated to be some $28 billion, the second largest in history.

“As we moved through the economic downturn, there were some impacts,” he said, “but the agriculture trade recovery is certainly well underway.”

In fact, he said, agricultural exports are expected to reach $104 billion this year, the second largest in history and below only the record $115 billion in 2008.

In an effort to increase exports across all industries, Miller said the Administration has launched the National Export Initiative with a goal to double exports over the next five years. “That is a very significant challenge,” he said. “It’s going to be a significant challenge for any sector in the economy, even in agriculture, despite its good performance lately.”

He said exports are key to growing the economy and aiding the economic recovery, because rising exports create jobs.

For agriculture, Miller said there are four areas where a renewed effort will pay dividends. Among those four areas are market development programs like those implemented by the Grains Council, which celebrated it's 50th anniversary at the meeting.

“We have a long history – you have a long history – of market development, and we’ve been relatively effective,” Miller said, adding that a budget request for increased market development funds was submitted to Congress.

He said USDA will be “extremely aggressive to make sure those funds are used in a way that allows us to maximize our efforts.”

July 22, 2010

Podcast: Atrazine has a positive economic impact on corn farming

In this podcast, Jim Hultman, a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Sutton, discusses a recent news conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. At the news conference, Dr. Don Coursey of the University of Chicago explained his research into the value of atrazine to farmers.

According to the study, atrazine’s annual production value to corn alone is between $2.3 billion and $5.0 billion. Those figures grow when you add in sorghum and sugar cane. As part of his economic study, Coursey said taking atrazine off the market would cost between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs in the corn industry.

He said the range is high because no product has ever been taken off the market on which so many depend and for which suitable replacements have a wide variety of prices and application programs. Replacement costs could reach $58 an acre for corn farmers.

Atrazine, by the way, has been used safely and effectively for more than 50 years. Click here and here for more on the safety of atrazine.

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

July 21, 2010

Nebraska corn exports remain steady

Since the 2000-01 marketing year, an average of 460 million bushels of corn have been exported out of Nebraska each year – with the bulk of that corn heading to markets in California.

Exports have held within a consistent range even though corn use in the state has increased due to an increase in ethanol production, especially beginning in 2005 (see the chart below).

Nebraska Corn Board data shows that corn for ethanol use in Nebraska increased from about 200 million bushels in 2003-04 to an estimated 645 million this year and projected 684 million next year. Despite that increase, exports in 2009-10 were right at the average.

Estimates for 2010-11 and 2011-12 show exports to be above average as ethanol production levels-off, but corn production expands due to higher yields.

The Board also estimated that more than 100 million bushels of corn demand was offset by distillers grains in each of the last two years. Distillers grains production has increased from 0.9 million tons in 2003-04 to 4.3 million tons in 2010-11.

July 20, 2010

Corn carryout stable despite increase in ethanol production

Corn producers in Nebraska and across the country have continued to excel at producing more corn per acre – with yields continuing to advance despite weather that has not always cooperated.

When ethanol production began to ramp up across the country in 2005, there were some concerns about a shortage of corn – concerns which came to the forefront during the false “food versus fuel” debate two years ago.

As the chart shows below, corn carryout numbers have actually remained steady since ethanol production began to grow so quickly. Corn available for feed use has remained stable – and the ethanol plant-produced distillers grains has actually added a new lower-cost feed ingredient to the marketplace.

July 19, 2010

Crop update: Nebraska corn silking ahead of average

Sixty percent of Nebraska corn is silking, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That's 4 points ahead of the five-year average and 11 points ahead of last year.

Corn in the dough stage stood at 2 percent, which is 2 points behind the average and 1 point behind last year -- although it is certainly early to make much of a comparison. A lot will change over the next 7-10 days.

As for the overall crop condition, USDA said 84 percent of the state's crop is in good to excellent condition, compared to 73 percent two weeks ago and 82 percent last year at this time. Moisture from Mother Nature has been beneficial in some regions -- perhaps even excessive in others -- which has allowed farmers who have irrigation to put it off for some time. In fact, some farmers in south central Nebraska didn't have to irrigate until after the Fourth of July.

For details, click here to visit the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update page.

Nationally, USDA said 72 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition, down 1 point from last week but up 1 point from last year. Silking reached 65 percent nationwide, 18 points ahead of average and a whopping 35 points ahead of last year. Eight percent of the nation's corn crop is in the dough stage, 1 point ahead of average and 4 points ahead of last year.

Every measurement available -- so far -- shows that this year's crop is ahead of last year -- and last year's yields were pretty darn good if you recall. Of course, there is a lot growing season left and certainly it doesn't make sense to count the bushels before they are in the bin -- and some analysts feel that yields will have been topped off nationwide due to excessive moisture. Time will tell!

This week's photos, from the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress set on Flickr, feature photos submitted by the Imperial FFA chapter (top) and Holdredge FFA chapter (bottom).

The top image shows a closeup of the corn tassel, while the bottom is great shot of corn silking. Pollen from the tassel must fall on the silk to create a kernel of corn on the ear -- with each silk representing a kernel.

July 15, 2010

Holzfaster elected to National Corn Board

Paxton, Nebraska, farmer Jon Holzfaster was elected to the National Corn Board yesterday during Corn Congress in Washington, D.C. Holzfaster, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, was one of four new members elected to the board, which oversees the National Corn Growers Association.

Holzfaster grows corn, popcorn, soybeans, dry edible beans, wheat and alfalfa. He also operates a 1,000-head non-commercial feed yard. He is the third generation to own and operate the family farm and is fortunate enough to work alongside his dad and brother. He also currently serves as chairman of NCGA’s Ethanol Committee and is involved in other NCGA activities.

At the same time Holzfaster was elected, it meant new officers were confirmed for NCGA – with Garry Niemeyer of Illinois being confirmed as NCGA's new first vice president.

That means when NCGA's new fiscal year begins, current chairman Bob Dickey from Laural, Nebraska, will step down as current president Darrin Ihnen of Hurley, S.D., moves into that role.

Dickey, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board, served as president of NCGA last year and as chairman this year. He has served for many years on the NCGA Corn Board, and will continues to serve on the Nebraska Corn Board.

July 14, 2010

Real Nebraska farming on Facebook

Two central Nebraska farmers – and their farms – have an established following on Facebook, and by regularly posting what's happening on the farm they are sharing their experiences with a much broader audience. (This isn't Farmville, folks! It's the real thing.)

At times, questions and answers are posted under photos and updates. It's a great way to help tell the story of farming today. (Can you believe some folks still say agriculture is a big secret?! It's more open today than ever.)

There are many farmers are on Facebook, and more are joining all the time. By adding a public "farm" page like these below, anyone can see the updates and photos – and "Like" the farm so they see updates in their news feed. It's a great way to expose others to farming and agriculture

The first farm on Facebook we'll highlight today is RAK Farms Inc. RAK Farms is a family farming corporation owned by Randy and Kathy Uhrmacher, who take pride in helping produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world on less water, fertilizer and chemicals than in the past.  You can find Randy as @Cornfrmr on Twitter. The photo above is from the farm's photo album, which is update regularly thanks to a smart phone.

Here's a recent status update from RAK Farms, noting that, thanks to timely rains, irrigation pumps had not yet been used as of Monday.

Next up is Ryan and Kristi Weeks, who started the Weeks Enterprises, Inc. A Five Generation Family Farm Facebook page. This is a five generation family farm that produces yellow corn, popcorn, white corn, soybeans, alfalfa and prairie hay on about 2,200 acres (click on the "Info" tab from the Facebook page for more). If you go under the "Video" tab, you can see a great video that Ryan posted while harvesting popcorn last fall. You can find Ryan on Twitter as @HuskerFarm.

Below is a status update from the farm just a few days ago:

Ryan is also involved in the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning, which you can also find on Facebook. He and the Prairie Loft director Amy Sandeen often post farm-related updates there, too.

Do you know any Nebraska farmers who have a Facebook page for their farm? Let me know and we'll do another post in the future.

July 12, 2010

Podcast: Corn Farmers Coalition taking messages to D.C.

In this podcast, Curt Friesen, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Henderson, talks about the latest efforts of the Corn Farmers Coalition.

The Corn Farmers Coalition works inform policymakers in Washington, D.C., about the positive changes in corn farming over the last few decades. Farmers in Nebraska and across the country and the National Corn Growers Association launched a new communication effort a few weeks ago – and many farmers who are in D.C. for Corn Congress this week will get to see some of the ads first hand.

Friesen noted that people need to know that there are real family farmers all across the country working hard to produce feed, food and fuel. The decisions made in D.C. directly impact all these families – real people who make a living off the land.

He said it is important for people to hear and see messages like those being used as part of the Corn Farmers Coalition campaign. People need to know about the good job farmers do and how we can feed and help fuel the world while caring for the environment and being sustainable, he said.

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

July 6, 2010

Crop update: Corn silking getting underway

Seven percent of Nebraska's corn crop was silking as of July 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in today's crop progress report. That's even with the five-year average but up 2 points from last year at this time. Nationally, 19 percent of the crop is silking, up from last  week's 7 percent, last year's 8 percent and the 12 percent average.

As for overall crop condition, USDA said 73 percent of Nebraska's corn is in good to excellent condition, while 11 percent is fair and 6 percent is poor to very poor. Nationally, 71 percent of the crop is good to excellent (down 3 points from a week ago but even with last year), while 19 percent of the crop is fair and 10 percent is poor to very poor.

Overall, the country's corn crop is in outstanding condition and all signs are pointing to above average yields -- although weather over the next few weeks is critical since corn is entering the silking phase. This is the reproduction portion of the growing season, with tassels appearing on the top of corn plants to drop pollen on the silks coming out the top of the husk. Each silk represents a kernel -- so this process is critical for yields. Once the silk turns brown you know it's been pollinated. The silk falls off after it fertilizes the ovum to form a kernel.

Back in Nebraska, USDA's state field office noted that the week ending July 4 was mostly dry week with sunshine, allowing farmers to get back into fields. However, statewide rainfall on Sunday again shut down field activities. Generally positive rainfall figures, however, have allowed some farmers to turn off irrigation since most top soil and sub soil have adequate moisture.

This week's photos, from the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress set on Flickr, feature photos submitted by the Imperial FFA chapter (top two) and Holdredge FFA chapter (bottom image).

The top image shows the height of the crop (it's grown a lot since our last update), with the canopy beginning to close. The middle image is a great shot of corn roots spreading out into the soil, while the final image is a top-down look at a bit younger plant. Soon, it will shoot up and produce a tassel.

For more, check out the Corn Board's Crop Progress Update.

July 2, 2010

Podcast: As we celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to energy independence

In this podcast, Carl Sousek, a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Prague, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency will eventually allow higher ethanol blends to be used across the United States.

This is key, he said, for the United States to continue to grow its use of renewable fuels and meet the Renewable Fuels Standard that requires the use of ethanol from all sources to 36 billion gallons by 2022. "Without higher blends this will be impossible to meet," he said.

He also noted that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack recently said that as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence.

As a reminder of that goal, Sousek noted that the Renewable Fuels Standard "was adopted in 2007 in a piece of legislation called the Energy Independence and Security Act. I think that says a lot, don’t you?"

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

July 1, 2010

Nebraska corn crop continues to show strong ratings

Nebraska corn crop continues to show high ratings following the June rains that have blanketed a good portion of the state, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release yesterday. Good to excellent ratings of 81 percent are just below last year at this time, with last year’s corn crop a record, up over 12 percent from the previous year.

Couple this with USDA’s planted acreage in Nebraska of 8.8 million acres, this should keep Nebraska as the third largest corn producing state in the nation, the Corn Board said.

“With the beneficial spring planting weather, producers made good time in planting,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board. “Following planting, we saw rains cover a good portion of the state and provide good moisture, which has gotten this year’s corn off to a great start.”

Unfortunately some areas of the state have seen damaging floods and hail that will take some time to realize the impacts. “Our concern goes out to the family farmers that were impacted by the pockets of heavy rains and damaging hail,” stated Brunkhorst.

Nationally, USDA reported yesterday corn planted acres at 87.872 million acres, which is up 2 percent from last year.

USDA also released on Wednesday their June 1 stocks report, with Nebraska total stocks up more than 7 percent from last year. Broken down, on-farm stocks of 255 million bushels is up 2 percent from last year and off-farm stocks of 265.6 million bushels is up nearly 13 percent. Nationally, stocks are up 1 percent from last year.

“With corn stocks up both in Nebraska and nationally, along with a strong start to the corn progress, we have the beginnings of another good corn crop,” Brunkhorst added. “Corn farmers continue to prove they can provide corn to meet the nation’s and world’s needs, supplying food, feed, fiber and fuel and maintain a surplus of corn.”