August 30, 2010

Nebraska corn at the State Fair

Just inside the Exhibition Building's main entrance at the Nebraska State Fair you'll find the Nebraska corn display – just walk in and veer to the south (left) toward the stage. The corn display is hosted by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

And here's what it looks like:

While there, you can get a few facts on livestock, too, including the opportunity to see (and touch!) different types of corn products that are fed to animals.

 You can also sign up for a chance to win a new lawnmower!

On Saturday, the Corn Board's Kelsey Pope and Don Hutchens took the opportunity to pull the corn trailer through the fair parade.
Here they come!

Here they are.

And there they go!

If you're out at the State Fair and enjoying the fabulous facilities be sure to stop by and say hello. And if you're at the fair on Wednesday, be sure to stop by and see a bit of Nebraska gold.

Nebraska corn 70 percent dented

Seventy percent of Nebraska corn is dented, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That's 20 points ahead of last year and 6 points ahead of the five-year average.

The national figure of 73 percent dented is more than double last year’s progress of 30 percent dented at this time. It's also well ahead of the five-year average of 55 percent dented.

Click to enlarge.
USDA said 98 percent of Nebraska's crop is in the dough stage – 5 points ahead of average. It also noted that 2 percent of the crop is mature, which is up from 1 percent last year but behind the five-year average of 4 percent. However, This figure will change rapidly over the next couple of weeks since denting is so far along.

At the same time, the state’s crop condition remains simply outstanding with 81 percent of the corn crop in good to excellent condition, with 14 percent fair and only 5 percent poor to very poor. A year ago 76 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent. All signs continue to point to solid yields and a great corn crop in Nebraska – and harvest data will soon be upon us. For more, click here to view the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update.
Click to enlarge.

Nationally, 94 percent of the crop is in dough stage, up from 73 percent last year and 86 percent for the five-year average, while 17 percent of the crop is mature, up from 5 percent last year and up from the 11 percent average.

USDA said 70 percent of the crop nationwide is in good to excellent condition, the same as last week and 1 point ahead of last year. USDA will start including harvest numbers in next week's crop progress update.

Click to enlarge.
This week's photos, from the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress set on Flickr, feature photos submitted by the Holdredge FFA Chapter (top), Howells Clarkson FFA Chapter (middle), and the Sumner Eddyville Miller FFA Chapter (bottom).

The top photo shows an ear of corn anyone would be happy to harvest. The middle photo shows the extensive root structure of one plant – note that last year's stubble is under this year's plant. Below that is the scene of a field just a couple of weeks away from harvest.

Podcast: Curt Tomasevicz talks about Nebraska corn farmers

This podcast features Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz, who is introduced by the Nebraska Corn Board's Don Hutchens. The two talk about the Nebraska State Fair, which is going on this week in Grand Island.

In the report, Tomasevicz says: From corn-fed beef, pork and poultry – to corn-based ethanol – Nebraska corn farmers are adding value to the crop they grow. Transforming corn into safe, nutritious food for our bodies, clean-burning fuel for our cars and renewable bioplastics for a better environment. And in the process, corn farmers help power Nebraska’s economy from border to border.

For more on what he has to say, click the icon above.

If you'd like to meet Tomasevicz in person, he'll be at the Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Click here for a schedule.

Also be sure to stop by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association booth inside the Exhibition Building at the State Fair.

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

August 27, 2010

Come meet an Olympic gold medalist at the Nebraska State Fair

Nebraska's own Curt Tomasevicz will be at the Nebraska State Fair on Wednesday, September 1 – and there will be a few opportunities to meet the Olympic gold medalist in person, get an autograph and, if you bring your camera, get a picture taken.

Tomasevicz is appearing on behalf of the Nebraska Corn Board, as he is an official spokesman for Nebraska corn and corn farmers. (For more, click here and here.)

Autograph cards like the one below will be available for Tomasevicz to sign. (Check out the other photos below, too!)

If you can't make it to the State Fair September 1, be sure to look for Tomasevicz on TV or hear him on the radio. He'll also be at Husker Harvest Days on September 15 – a schedule for that will be posted in a week or two.
(MEDIA: Click here to see how to request an interview.)

Here's his schedule of appearances for Sept. 1 (as of Aug. 26). We'll update it as we can.
  • 9:15 a.m.NTV's the Good Life live TV show (Come watch! The NTV set is near the high dive show in Kids Zone area.)
  • 10 a.m. – At the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers booth in Exhibition Hall (time for autographs and photos)
  • 11:46-11:56 a.m.KRVN radio show (Come watch! On the stage in Exhibition Building.)
  • 12:15 p.m. – Beef Pit in the Exhibition Building
  • 12:40-12:45 – Live NTV noon news (Come watch!)
  • 1 p.m. – Brief presentation at the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers booth in the Exhibition Building (time for autographs and photos afterward).
  • 4:15 – Kids Zone (exact location to be determined; time for autographs and photos)
  • 6:30-6:40 p.m.Husker Sports Nightly radio show (Come watch! On the stage in Exhibition Building.)
  • 7 p.m. – At the Open Jackpot Market and Breeding Feeders Show in the Ag Arena 
This is the autograph card that Tomasevicz will sign at the State Fair.
On Wednesday, I promised more photos from the photo shoot of Tomasevicz once I tracked them down. I've included some of these below. Just click on the image for a larger view.

Podcast: Irrigation field day an opportunity for farmers

In this podcast, Randy Uhrmacher of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Juniata, provides a bit of detail on the upcoming Irrigation and Energy Conservation Field Day and Nebraska State Fair.

First up is the University of Nebraska Extension’s Irrigation and Energy Conservation Field Day, which is August 30 at the South Central Ag Laboratory near Clay Center. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can improve your bottom line with all of the educational information available.

Registration is free thanks to sponsorship by the NeCGA and Nebraska Corn Board.

For more on that, click here.

The second item Uhrmacher touches on this week is the Nebraska State Fair, which runs from August 27th through September 6th.

As in past years, the Nebraska Corn Growers and Nebraska Corn Board are putting together a great display to highlight corn and other aspects of Nebraska agriculture. Members from both groups will even be working at the Beef Pit on September 1 – the same day gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz will be on hand.

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

August 26, 2010

Corn growers backing 'Home Grown' football game of the week

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association is partnering with the Prep Huddle to bring high school football fans around the state exclusive coverage of the Nebraska "Home Grown Game of the Week" during the 2010 season. (Click here for the announcement.)

Throughout the season, the Prep Huddle will travel to games between schools from Class C-1 and below, featuring some of the best competition in the state's smaller classes.

The partnership between the Prep Huddle and NeCGA was a perfect fit, said NeCGA's Mat Habrock.

"Farming – much like football in Nebraska – is rich with tradition, so the Nebraska Corn Growers Association is really excited for the opportunity to support the Prep Huddle," Habrock said. "Our corn-farmer members are very proud of the communities they live in, and are proud of the home grown talent of the student athletes in their local high schools."

He said partnering with the Prep Huddle is a way for NeCGA to give back to it's members communities.

The season kicks-off tomorrow (Friday) night as the Prep Huddle travels to Broken Bow for a match-up between two teams that ended their 2009 seasons in heartbreaking fashion. The Indians lost 14-12 to eventual State Champion Hastings St. Cecilia, while St. Paul lost a four-overtime thriller to Chadron in the second round of the playoffs.

"The passion for high school football in the state of Nebraska led us to start our website," editor Tony Chapman said. "That passion is at its best in small towns on Friday nights. There is nothing like being on the sidelines or in the stands when two communities do battle. We'll do our best to bring that energy to our readers."

Home Grown games of the week have been set for the first four weeks of the football season, with other games to be determined approximately 10 days prior to kickoff.

Upcoming games include:
  • Hampton at Giltner (Sept. 3)
  • Hastings St. Cecilia at Blue Hill (Sept. 10)
  • David City Aquinas at Fremont Bergan (Sept. 16)
  • Cambridge at Kearney Catholic (Sept. 17)
For more, visit

August 25, 2010

Corn plot tours off to a great start

Plot tour by the Hamilton County Corn Growers.
The Hamilton County Corn Growers Association had a very successful plot tour today, with Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith keynoting the well-attended event. The Buffalo-Hall Corn Growers hosted their plot tour last night. All in all, it was a great start to the plot tour and social season across Nebraska, as several more are scheduled over the next few weeks - and Husker Harvest Days is just around the corner.

According to Mat Habrock of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, the plots and surrounding corn look terrific. It was the first time in several years that the Buffalo-Hall plot wasn't damaged significantly by bad weather. Hopefully that holds true through harvest!

At today's plot tour, held at the Mike Danhauer farm north of Aurora, several seed companies provided updates, as did the Upper Big Blue NRD. The Farm Service Agency also provided an update on ACRE.

Smith, meanwhile, provided an update on activities in Washington, noted the importance of renewable fuels and participated in a question/answer session. He noted that it is important for farmers to tell their story and get it out to the public. Just as important, he said, is for farmers and other constituents to get in touch with his office so he understands what needs to be addressed in his district.

His message ties in nicely with NeCGA's effort to encourage farmers to tell their story and be more active. Click here for more.
Nebraska Representative Adrian Smith (left) addressing
the crowd at the Hamilton County Corn Growers plot tour.

Gold medalist gearing up to help tell the story of Nebraska's gold

In preparation of producing materials featuring Nebraska "gold" – corn – and Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz, a photo session was held a couple of weeks ago on the farm of Nebraska Corn Board member Dave Nielsen, who farms near Lincoln.

A photo of the photo taking is below – and we'll share some of the final photos when we can.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see the gold medal, meet Tomasevicz and perhaps get an autograph, plan to be at the Nebraska State Fair on Wednesday, September 1. We'll post a schedule of where he'll be that day sometime tomorrow.

If you recall (see this post), the Nebraska Corn Board worked with Tomasevicz to have him be the official spokesman for Nebraska corn. Tomasevicz, a Shelby, Nebraska, native, won the gold medal with his teammates on the U.S. men’s bobsled team, nicknamed “Night Train,” in the Vancouver Olympics (the first U.S. gold in the four-man event since 1948!). Watch it here or read about it here!

August 24, 2010

Irrigation, energy field day may help your bottom line

The Irrigation and Energy Conservation Field Day at the South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center is coming up August 30 (Monday) – and the program is designed to literally help corn farmers improve their bottom line.

The field day is free thanks to sponsorship by the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. The program begins with registration at 8:30 a.m., with sessions running  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those who have attended similar programs in the past have given it very positive reviews. It’s simply one of the best events you can attend to learn about irrigation and energy management, new soil moisture measuring technologies and more – including how to best use all the data these tools provide.

Also on the agenda is information on getting the most out of fungicides, which corn diseases to watch for and an opportunity to see sensor-based nitrogen management demonstrated in field plots.

According to a news release on the field day, participants will learn about best management practices for corn production, achieving water conservation in irrigated and dryland corn production, reducing energy use production costs, maintaining and, in some cases, increasing yield and profitability, and better managing surface and groundwater irrigation.

Topics include: Innovations in Irrigation Equipment, New Technologies for Monitoring Soil Water and Crop Evapotranspiration, Sprinkler Packages Selection Options, Minimizing Atrazine Contamination of Nebraska Rivers and a Corn Disease/Fungicide Update, Crop Canopy Sensors for In-Season Nitrogen Fertilizer Management and Interactive Computer Programs: Hybrid Maize and SoyWater.

In addition, there will be an update on Nebraska water issues and the current energy landscape.

At noon Gov. Dave Heineman will discuss "The Importance of Agriculture and Water to Nebraska's Future," while updates from the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association are also planned.

Certified Crop Advisor credits have been applied for.

For more information or to register, e-mail or, call (402) 762-4403, fax (402) 762-4411 or visit Crop Clinics. Pre-registration is requested.

August 20, 2010

Podcast: NeCGA has tools available to help you tell your farm’s story

In this podcast, Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Giltner, there is one area he believes farmers can improve upon: telling their farm's story.

"From traveling around the country representing the NeCGA, it is apparent that our stories as an industry are not always being represented in the correct manner," he said. "It seems as though the story of agriculture is coming from sources who are not the ones growing our food. This can cause problems because facts can become easily skewed. We should be the ones telling the public what we are doing from our own experiences."

A renewed interest by others as to where their food is coming from and how it is raised is "a very wide door opening for everyone involved in farming," he said.

There are many ways farmers can tell their story, he said, and the NeCGA worked with the National Corn Growers Association and Nebraska Corn Board to develop talking points to help.

To view the information, click here to visit the NeCGA's Grassroots In Action page.

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

August 18, 2010

Corn-based PLA helps develop bio-material industry, clean the environment in Taiwan

While in Taiwan last week as part of a trade mission, Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, had an opportunity here a presentation by Shao-Chung Tien, the special assistant to the chairman of Wei Mon Industry Co., Ltd. (For a bit in English, click here.)

Shao-Chung Tien pointed out that Nebraska corn is the raw material for making PLA resins in Blair, Nebraska, and it is PLA resins that have helped develop the bio-material industry in Taiwan and China, according to a report from the U.S. Grains Council's Clover Chang, director of its Taiwan office.

Shao-Chung Tien also expressed an appreciation for the Council's programs in helping develop this environmental friendly industry in Taiwan and that his company will continue to buy PLA resins from Nebraska.

The trade delegation had an opportunity to visit Wei Mon and Good Flag Biotechnology Corporation to see the process of converting corn-based PLA resin into cups and food containers. Chang said the delegation members were impressed by the process and that the U.S. corn product is helping develop bio-material industry and clean the environment in Taiwan.

Alan Tiemann (in the white shirt on the right) and other delegates
of the trade team view part of the process of converting corn-based PLA
into consumer products at Good Flag Biotechnology Corporation
in Taiwan (click to enlarge).

August 17, 2010

Corn-fed beef is a nutritious friend to environment

Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Corn Board, wrote a commentary for the Lincoln Journal Star last week to explain a bit about grass-fed and corn-fed beef.

She wrote the piece in response to a column that appeared in the paper by Erin Duerr titled “From Scratch: Try natural, grass-fed beef for your meals.”

Here are a few lines from the commentary, but I'd encourage you to read the full article here:
Which is the better beef: grass-fed or corn-fed? More than ever before, consumers have a lot of questions about their food, and beef is no exception. They see cattle grazing in the fields and they see cattle in feedlots, but they don’t understand the difference.

Growing up on a cow/calf ranch, I’ve seen both sides of beef production. I now work on behalf of Nebraska’s corn farmers representing the livestock industry, as well as running seedstock cattle of my own.

It is important to know that most all cattle are raised and spend most of their lives on range or pasture conditions eating grass from the time they are born until they are 12 to 18 months of age. Then, depending on how the feeder cattle are marketed, they are moved to a feedlot and usually separated into groups of 100 where they live in pens that allow about 125 to 250 square feet of room per animal. Cattle usually spend four to six months in a feedlot, during which they are fed a nutritionally formulated ration of corn and/or silage, hay and distillers grains.

Pope then goes on to write about the nutritional value, economics and environmental aspects of both types of beef production.

August 16, 2010

Crop progress, irrigation season coming to a close

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office, corn condition is rated 57 percent good and 26 percent excellent, above 2009 ratings. Corn in the dough stage was at 80 percent compared to last week’s 54 percent. Corn in the dent stage was at 32 percent this week compared to 7 percent last week.

Temperature across the state averaged 2 degrees above normal with highs reaching over 100 and lows in the low 50’s. Limited rain fell across the state with the majority happening during the first part of the week.
Nationally, 74 percent of the crop is in the dough stage, which is 16 points ahead of the five-year average and 36 points ahead of last year. Thirty-two percent of the nation’s corn crop is in the dent stage, which is 10 points ahead of the average and 23 points ahead of last year.

As for overall crop conditions, USDA said 83 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was rated good to excellent, with 11 percent as fair and only 6 percent poor or very poor. Nationally, 69 percent of the crop is good to excellent, with 20 percent fair and 11 percent poor or very poor.

This week's photos, from the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress set on Flickr, feature photos submitted by the Heartland FFA Chapter (top photo), Holdrege FFA Chapter, Howells Clarkson FFA Chapter (bottom photo), and the Sumner Eddyville Miller FFA Chapter.

Podcast: Higher ethanol blends are necessary and a step in the right direction

In this podcast, Elgin Bergt of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Schuyler, notes that Nebraska farmers are really good at growing corn. Since the production per acre continues to rise, we need to continue to grow markets for that corn. One of those markets is corn-based ethanol.

Bergt said that not only does the ethanol industry use a lot of corn, it also produces the feed ingredient distillers grains, which is important to livestock producers. Right now most gallons of gasoline sold contain about 10 percent ethanol or e10. This is the highest blend the EPA allows for regular vehicles.

"Yet we’ve reached the point where there are no more gallons of gasoline sold to blend 10 percent ethanol into," he said. "That means the ethanol market isn’t going to grow much and we won’t reduce our dependence on oil much further."

To solve this problem, he said, the ethanol industry has asked EPA to make a higher ethanol blend of up to e15 an option for retailers to provide and motorists to use. Since EPA is taking its time to approve the higher blend, Bergt said a move to e12 (a 12 percent ethanol blend) may make sense.

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

August 14, 2010

Food, fuel and facts

A great article by Kerry Hoffschneider appeared recently in the York News-Times, which was written following this year's Ag Adventure Tour, a partnership between the Nebraska LEAD Alumni Association with Leadership Omaha to "provide an opportunity for rural and urban leaders to connect and build a bridge of communication across the great state of Nebraska," as Hoffschneider put it.

Hoffschneider covered a number of very good topics, and a few paragraphs are included below.

For the full article,  click here.
In terms of agriculture, I'm not going to apologize for getting information from people directly involved in their industry about their industry. Why would I ask a toaster maker about how cars are designed? Agriculture is no different. Yet, there is sometimes a strange level of expectation from some circles that is making people in agriculture feel as though they need to apologize for working and developing their industry. It's really interesting that we want to, for example, have the latest and greatest cell phones or computers, but when those in the business of farming want to stay cutting edge, there are groups out there who want them to farm like it was still 1920 or sadly, no longer farm or produce livestock at all.
That brings me to the ethanol issue and the global picture. On the way home from the Ag Adventure Tour, I had lots of corn to look at from outside my car window and a lot of time to think. I kept thinking about the recent oil spill. I also thought about some email forwards I've received showing pictures of Middle East oil sheiks with their diamond-studded Mercedes and palaces. I also started thinking about men and women, fighting in those countries and dying as we speak. I thought, you know, ethanol makes sense. It just does. I hearkened back to what Hagstrom said on the tour, he fervently motioned his hand towards the window and told the group, “Would you rather try and draw oil from a dead dinosaur somewhere or make fuel with something that we can replenish every year that grows right here at home?
Here's another thought to ponder, ethanol is not typically made from corn that should be used for human food. This helps extinguish the “food vs. fuel” debate. Also, as ethanol production uses only the starch of the kernel, the remaining parts of the corn create a by-product called distiller's grain that is rich in proteins and nutrients, making it great feed for livestock. Oh, and according to the Nebraska Corn Board, 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 2009-2010 were right at the average.
That's just a sample, be sure to read the full article.

August 13, 2010

Land use change theory continues to slide

Ethanol production is up so that means deforestation of the Amazon must be up too, right? After all, that's what we've been led to believe by the anti-ethanol crowd....that using corn to produce ethanol means we're burning and plowing the Amazon to grow "food."

Ever since the highly reported "land use change" theory came up it's been debunked by what's going on in the real world. Including in the last week with the headline "Brazil: Amazon deforestation down sharply in June."

The article reports that satellite imagery shows that while nearly 95 square miles (244 square kilometers) of the Amazon were destroyed in June, the amount of forest lost was down 58 percent from the same month in 2009. For the 11 months through June, deforestation was 49 percent below the losses during the same period a year earlier.

What's changed? How can this be when ethanol production continues to rise and may surpass 13.0 billion gallons produced this year?

Well, the government credits better enforcement of environmental laws for slowing deforestation – but environmental groups believe it's about money: there's less of a demand for goods such as wood and cattle.

For more background on this issue, be sure to check out these previous posts, the second one, in particular, has a nice collection of links:

On a separate subject, there was a good post this week over at CattleNetwork. It has to do with food, the world's poor and biofuels: Farmers & Ranchers Don’t Deserve Blame For World Hunger.

Can we calculate the true cost of our dependence on oil?

An interesting article on the Huffington Post by Mark Engler asks that question – can we really calculate the true cost of our dependence on oil? The article covers oil spills and their associated costs ($167 per seagull, $300,000 for a killer whale)...and the lack of follow-through by the offenders.

It also discusses military costs to protect our access to oil – and the incredible tax breaks and "gushing subsidies" given to the oil industry.

Interestingly, there is a link in the article to a New York Times piece called "The real cost of gas: $5 a gallon," which was published 23 years ago today. (Gas was 99 cents at the time!)

While pointing out some of the costs policymakers and anti-biofuels zealots forget to include on the ledger, Engler notes: High-end estimates of the true costs of the gas we use come to over $15 per gallon. Taxpayers subsidize significant parts of this sum without even knowing it.

Click here to read the full article.

August 12, 2010

Frogs, atrazine and the Nutty Professor

llustration: Nutty Professor
by Linas Garsys for
The Washington Times
If you've followed any of the reports on atrazine, especially those dealing with frogs, you've likely come across the name Tyrone Hayes, a research scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course I'm using the words "research scientist" loosely because it seems his personal agenda may have squewed his work. It's also put a big hole in his credibility. (See below for info on atrazine and frogs.)

Much of this is captured in a report by The Washington Times this week where, appropriately perhaps, the paper included an illustration of the Nutty Professor with the article. The nuttiness comes from a long series of emails sent to Syngenta - one of the makers of atrazine. After several years, Syngenta appealed to the university to get the sometimes threatening emails to stop.

Here's what The Washington Times said about the emails:
After many years of trying to resolve the issue privately, the agri-chemical company Syngenta - the maker of atrazine - recently released the text of some of the e-mails it has been receiving from Mr. Hayes, going back to 2002. The professor's studies and findings are barely mentioned in his e-mails. Instead, the e-mails are obscene, threatening and sexually explicit. They show a megalomaniacal streak in which Mr. Hayes consistently speaks not of his research, but of his personal power and prowess.

Perhaps Mr. Hayes feels that in his efforts to promote a ban on atrazine, any kind of activity is justified. However, harassment, threats and obscenities are never appropriate. It is especially troubling from a member of the active scientific community, upon whose judgment others - including the public - rely in reading and acting on research results.
Well, that's enough on that - just click through to read the full analysis.

But what about atrazine and frogs?
In 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency said there was “no available proof” that atrazine turns male frogs into female frogs. The EPA also said that no additional studies were needed into this because the science was clear. In fact, this was backed by work in Australia and a review by the state of Minnesota.

The biology behind the issue
If you expose very young male frogs to estrogen there's a chance they'll become female or have both male/female traits – and Hayes theorized that atrazine would do the same thing and did a "study" in 2002 in an attempt to "prove" his hypothesis.

In 2003, EPA responded to this theory – there were no guidelines at the time since Hayes didn't follow standard lab procedures nor share all his methods. Inconsistent procedures and a lack of protocols meant work needed to be done just to do a study.

EPA charged Syngenta to get the data – and stood over the shoulder in the lab watching. Following standardized Good Laboratory Practices, which includes being transparent, the company completed a wide range of doses with eight replicates involving more than 3,000 frogs. Two studies were completed (EPA had asked only for one) and then everything was handed over so EPA could do its own assessment.

The result? Atrazine did not turn male frogs into female frogs. Nor did it impact growth, development or survival.

Importantly, since the lab procedures and data were open, others could verify this work – and several did. (Links to all the research are here.)

This is not true for the "research" by Hayes that started EPA down the path to examine the potential impact of atrazine on frogs in the first place. Hayes work could not be duplicated (researchers tried and had different results), his lab did not follow Good Laboratory Practices and he wouldn't share all the data and procedures with EPA. (RED FLAGS!)

Having examined all the data available – and lack of reliable research from Hayes – EPA dismissed his claims. More than once.

Yet allegations continue – by Hayes and organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council who hold him up as a credible scientist. (Even though NRDC apparently doesn't understand that Risk = Exposure x Toxicity. Or maybe that explains why they put an agenda ahead of real science.)

For more on atrazine, be sure to read Atrazine: What is the safety limit on this blog, or a blog post by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan at the American Council on Science and Health.

Chance for record corn yields in Nebraska

In its first estimate for the 2010 corn crop released this morning, USDA forecast yields in Nebraska at a record 180.0 bushels per acre – 2 bushels above last year's record and a testament to the very good condition of this year's crop.

That would put the state's corn production at 1.54 billion bushels off 8.55 million planted acres, compared to last year's 1.58 billion bushel crop from 8.85 million planted acres.

Nationally, corn production is forecast at a record high 13.4 billion bushels – up 2 percent from last year's record. USDA estimated yields to average a record high 165.0 bushels per acre, up 0.3 bushel from last year's record of 164.7.

Yield estimates are based on a survey but, of course, are subject to change as the year progresses, especially once harvest gets underway in the fall.

As for supply and demand, USDA projected that 2010-11 ending stocks would be 1.31 billion bushels, which is 61 million below its July estimate. Lower ending stocks were the result of increases in projected use for sweeteners and starch (30 million bushels) and a 100 million bushel bump in exports, which USDA said was due to tighter foreign supplies of wheat and coarse grains raising prospects for U.S. corn shipments.

August 11, 2010

UNL providing weekly webinar on irrigation scheduling

As reported by Nebraska Farmer, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension is offering a new webinar series to help farmers make irrigation scheduling decisions based on data from soil water monitoring equipment.

The weekly webinar series was developed by Steve Melvin, Extension educator in Frontier County, to help farmers feel more comfortable making scheduling decisions based on data from soil water monitoring equipment. The payoff can be big, since irrigation scheduling can conserve water, which in turn saves money.

"The idea is I will just go through and show my decision-making process based on the data and a chart system I am using, something we've developed over the past few years. The videos show how to use (the charts), but more importantly how to look at data and make soil monitoring-based irrigation decisions based on it," Melvin told Nebraska Farmer.

The first video was posted the first week of July and he'll continue to post weekly videos until irrigation season ends around early next month.

To check out the video series, click here or the video image below.

August 10, 2010

Trade delegation signs deal in Taiwan for Nebraska crops

Nebraska Corn Board chairman Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward, is in Taiwan this week as part of a trade delegation.

The trade delegation and their Taiwanese counterparts.
(Alan Tiemann is seated on the right.) Click to enlarge.
Today, an announcement from Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman said the team had inked a deal with Taiwanese representatives for an estimated $436 million to $516 million in future sales of Nebraska crops to the country. The agreement pledges the future purchase of 800,000 to 1 million metric tons of corn, valued at $176 million to $220 million; 300,000-320,000 metric tons of soybeans, valued at $120 million to $128 million; and 500,000-600,000 metric tons of wheat, valued at $140 million to $168 million.

The agreement was signed by Tiemann; Dennis Fujan, vice-chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board; Dan Hughes, past chairman of the Nebraska Wheat Board; and witnessed by Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach, who is leading the delegation.

Taiwanese representatives included indiviuals from the Taiwan Feed Industry Association, Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers’ Association and Taiwan Flour Mills Association. The agreement pledges to purchase crops through negotiations between importers and private suppliers over the next two years.

The nine-member trade delegation is exploring opportunities for agricultural exports in Taiwan and Hong Kong during the trade mission. While in Hong, the delegation will also promote Nebraska beef.

August 9, 2010

Podcast: U.S. Grains Council marks 50 years of a job well done

In this podcast, Larry Mussack of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Decatur, talks about the importance of developing markets for corn – including export markets.

He discusses the development of corn ethanol and distillers grains as two important markets – and also highlights efforts of the U.S. Grains Council, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Mussack noted the United States supplies more than 60 percent of the global corn demand and more than half of all global feed grains.

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

August 6, 2010

EPA calls Senators 'agricultural alarmists' on dust regs

You can't be on a farm – or any rural area – for too long without seeing a bit of dust. It's just the way it is. From school buses driving down gravel roads to combines harvesting corn to moving livestock to a strong gust of wind.

To some, though, dust is nothing but coarse particulate matter – and particulate matter is a bad thing in the eyes if the Environmental Protection Agency. Certainly EPA is right in some cases - and says that its initiative to curb dust is aimed mostly at urban areas not rural activities.

EPA's dust assessment and policy document, however, caught the eye of a group of Senators who fired off a letter to EPA asking it to back off any plans to regulate dust at levels twice as stringent as the current standard. It's also caught the eye of some farm groups.

"Marketing our grain, driving up and down our gravel or unimproved roads causes a lot of dust," farmer John Greer told KHAS-TV (video below). As for dust regulations, Greer said: "We do not know how it is going to affect us but we are afraid it will affect us big time."

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, one of 21 Senators who sent the letter to EPA, said: "You could go to just about anywhere in the state and we would either be bumping into that or actually over it and then you have all kinds of challenges in terms of how do you mitigate dust when you are out in the field and that sort of thing." (For a link to the letter, click here.)

Kris Lancaster, EPA Region 7 spokesman, however, said new rural regulations aren't part of the plan. In an audio interview, he told the reporter: "Contrary to blatantly false drum beat by agricultural alarmists, EPA does not have any plans to focus on regulating dust from farm fields or gravel roads."

"Agricultural alarmists"? "Blatantly false"? Really?

Johanns wondered if that were true why put agricultural regulations in the proposed assessment policy – which is the first step along the pathway to regulation? "Why do they do these wacky things and then claim that we are the ones being alarmists? These folks drive me nuts," Johanns told KHAS-TV.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley wrote an editorial on the subject, which you can read here.

August 5, 2010

Your daily agvocacy: 100,500

The word agvocacy is popping up around us more and more each day. We read about what it takes to be a true advocate for agriculture and what actions you can take to represent the industry in a positive light. But there is no movement in either of these unless you actually make the action. Those in agriculture are doing a good job right now defending our industry and agvocating for our food system. But the fight is not done.

A recent study found this number: 100,500… the number of words an average person consumes – meaning reads or hears – every day. The amount we read has tripled from 1980-2008 thanks to the internet! (Source: By the numbers, University of California, San Diego.)

Wow…100,500 words! This post is approximately 326 words. Daily, I read over 50 blog posts, the Wall Street Journal, numerous other ag publications, a gazillion emails and more. And that’s just reading. That doesn’t include all the words I hear in a day. So I guess 100,500 could add up pretty fast.

Think then about the average consumer. How many of their 100,500 words to be consumed each day involved agriculture? For many, the closest they come to consuming information about agriculture is talking/hearing/reading about food. But agriculture probably doesn’t even cross their mind with this topic.

So with conversation ongoing about agvocacy, maybe this stat will be your call to action. Be that person who allows the average consumer to fill at least 100 words of their 100,500 consumed each day with agriculture. It might be at the grocery store when you’re at the meat counter, it might be via a blog post, it might be that fact you posted on facebook, or it might even be a phone call from a telemarketer.

Tell them you know about food production because you’re a farmer or you grew up on a farm or you were educated in agriculture. Be a part of their 100,500.

August 4, 2010

Grant County is Nebraska’s 14th Livestock Friendly County

Grant County became Nebraska’s 14th Livestock Friendly County when Gov. Dave Heineman announced the official designation earlier this week.

Other certified Livestock Friendly counties in the state include: Adams, Box Butte, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Hitchcock, Jefferson, Keith, Lincoln, Morrill, Sheridan, Wayne and Webster Counties.

Click here for information from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture on the program.

“In receiving this designation, Grant County has made a strong commitment to supporting rural economic development,” Heineman said. “Being part of the Livestock Friendly program is a way to recognize the tremendous impact the livestock industry has on Main Street and the local economy. It provides jobs for those working with animals and provides a marketplace for grain and hay producers while also adding value to those products."

He noted that the livestock sector is responsible for half of Nebraska's total agricultural receipts and that with the designation, Grant County demonstrated that it is open to agribusiness and the benefits that come from responsible livestock production.

Gov. Heineman presented the Livestock Friendly designations to Grant County Commissioners Frances Davis, Brian Brennemann and Dan Vinton. The county will also receive road signs bearing the program logo to display along highways.

August 3, 2010

Podcast: Look for Sustaining Innovation messages in a parade near you

In this podcast, Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Seward, provides a few points from the Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association's Sustaining Innovation campaign.

He talks about some of the messages – but also highlights some of the new ways the messages are being delivered this year, including in parades and other outdoor events thanks to a decked out trailer, shown below. For more on the trailer, click here.

And remember, if you see the trailer in a parade this summer, be sure to snap a photo and send it in – the Nebraska Corn Board may just post it on its Facebook page. You can also see photos on Flickr.

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

August 2, 2010

28% of Nebraska corn in dough stage; 84% rated good to excellent

USDA's weekly crop progress update released today said 28 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is in the dough stage, which is even with the five-year average but 10 points ahead of last year. Ninety-five percent of the state's crop is silking, 3 points ahead of the average and 7 points ahead of last year.

Nationally, 31 percent of the crop is in the dough stage, which is 7 points ahead of average and 18 points ahead of last year. USDA said 93 percent of the nation's corn crop is silking, 7 points ahead of average and 19 points ahead of last year.

It's a bit early for much of a dented estimate, but USDA did note that 2 percent of Nebraska's crop was dented - double the 1 percent average. Nationally, 7 percent of the crop was dented, up from the 5 percent average.

As for overall crop conditions, USDA said 84 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was rated good to excellent, with 11 percent as fair and only 5 percent poor or very poor. A year ago, 79 percent was rated good to excellent.

Nationally, 71 percent of the crop is good to excellent, with 19 percent fair and 10 percent poor or very poor – pretty much the same as last week. Last year, 68 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent.

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

Bank error in ethanol's favor

In the game of Monopoly there's a Community Chest card that lets you collect $200 thanks to a bank error in your favor. In the game of real life that includes a media circus or two, you likely won't see a dime. Or even an "Oops, we screwed up. Sorry."

And that's where we stand with a World Bank report that came out last week that updated a "leaked" and draft version that came out, of course, during the dreamed up food/fuel debate involving corn and ethanol two years ago. That leaked report blamed biofuels for 75 percent of the commodity price spike seen during that time to biofuels. The new report: not so much.

Maybe if the new report was "leaked" and made to sound so much more underhanded the folks who jumped all over the first fake report would do an update and correct themselves. Or at least pay everyone $200 for their error.

For some time, corn and ethanol groups noted that higher corn prices during 2007-08 were driven mostly by outside factors, including investor money, high oil prices and trade embargoes put in place by some importers and exporters of certain commodities. Bad weather in some parts of the globe also played a roll. Interestingly enough, the World Bank cited all those points as factors that played a bigger role than biofuels - with the 300 pound gorilla ignored by everyone two years ago ($140 oil) getting top billing.

[For more on food prices and biofuels, see: CBO: Ethanol had minor impact on food prices, Grocery Gang's efforts don't change the facts and High oil prices add $5.1 billion to cost of food programs.]

Here's a quote from the paper, which you can download from the Renewable Fuels Association:

This paper concludes that a stronger link between energy and non-energy commodity prices is likely to be the dominant influence on developments in commodity, and especially food, markets.

And more, relating to the investor money pouring into commodities at the time:

The paper also argues that the effect of biofuels on food prices has not been as large as originally thought, but that the use of commodities by financial investors (the so-called "financialization of commodities") may have been partly responsible for the 2007/08 spike.

A couple more good points (emphasis added):

Clearly US maize‐based ethanol production, and (to a lesser extent) EU biodiesel production) affected the corresponding market balances and land use in both US maize and EU oilseeds. Yet, worldwide, biofuels account for only about 1.5 percent of the area under grains/oilseeds. This raises serious doubts about claims that biofuels account for a big shift in global demand. Even though widespread perceptions about such a shift played a big role during the recent commodity price boom, it is striking that maize prices hardly moved during the first period of increase in US ethanol production, and oilseed prices dropped when the EU increased impressively its use of biodiesel. On the other hand, prices spiked while ethanol use was slowing down in the US and biodiesel use was stabilizing in the EU.

“In reversing course, this World Bank report reaffirms the marginal role biofuels play in world commodity and food prices,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “The RFA has long noted that ethanol production has continued to increase while corn prices have now returned to normal levels. Volatile oil prices, speculation, and adverse weather conditions all played far more significant roles in driving commodity prices to record and near record prices. This report should silence critics in the food processing industry, the livestock industry, on Capitol Hill, and anywhere else that sought to portray ethanol as the boogeyman. With this phony food and fuel discussion put behind us, perhaps a real conversation about America’s energy future can ensue.”

Rob Vierhout, secretary general of eBio, the European ethanol industry organization, noted that, “We have always said that our industry had been wrongly blamed for the food versus fuel crisis and now we are proven right. This report should finally silence those that have blamed the biofuel producers for food shortages, food price increases and for committing a ‘crime against humanity’. It is about time these people recognize the facts.”