February 25, 2011

Nebraska agriculture featured on NPR's All Things Considered

National Public Radio's All Things Considered program spent some time last week in Nebraska visiting farmers, an ag economist, bankers and others to discuss the farm economy, grain prices and technology – even including a moment talking about Twitter.

The story "What Recession? It's Boom Time For Nebraska Farms" ran today - follow the link for an abbreviated written report and full audio, or click the embedded play button below. It's a good report by Robert Siegel and crew.

Brandon Hunnicutt and his wife, Lisa
Included in the report is Brandon Hunnicutt, a family corn, soybean and popcorn farmer from Giltner – aka @cornfedfarmer on Twitter. The report notes Hunnicutt's family, which includes five children and his wife, Lisa, and the farm they operate with his father, brother and cousin. It describes how they have invested in technology and facilities to help them be successful.

Yet All Things Considered dived into the grain prices and related ag economy as a whole, with economist Ernie Goss of Creighton University; Kelly Holthus, president of Cornerstone Bank in York, farmer Clint Jensen,who serves on the local advisory committee to the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, and others.

In essence, the report notes that the ag economy is in better shape overall because of good demand for grain and a number of other factors that result in higher prices overall. Those higher grain prices and the economic activity they create then trickle through to many other businesses.

While Siegel didn't talk about Nebraska's economy in general, without the strong ag base we have, the state would be in a considerably more difficult position today. Agriculture drives our economy and there are tremendous benefits to helping keep Nebraska agriculture going strong.

Harvest Public Media and Nebraska Public Radio's Clay Masters () spent some time with Siegel and the other NPR folks on the trip. He wrote a blog about a portion of that here.

National FFA week: Infinite potential

It's National FFA Week and there have been some great stories around Nebraska about FFA - and many Nebraska FFA chapters are holding special events to celebrate.

The theme for this year is Infinite Potential – and it embodies all the best about FFA members, from the most recognizable symbol of the organization, the blue corduroy jacket, to the bright future of agriculture and the traditions of leadership and hard work. More than half a million members around the nation are participating in National FFA Week activities at local and state levels.

National FFA Week was launched in 1947 to take place over George Washington's birthday – Presidents Day now. The goal is to tell America about the great opportunities available for all youth and how FFA is committed to developing character and leadership skills and preparing members for a lifetime of civic leadership and career success.

You can find out what some of the Nebraska chapters were up to this week at the Nebraska FFA Foundation webiste.

For reports on FFA week in Nebraska, click here and here.

Jordyn Lechtenberg, Nebraska state FFA president also shared her thoughts on National FFA Week at the DIRT blog. Lechtenberg's family has a cow/calf operation and farm corn, soybeans and alfalfa. She'd currently a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in agricultural banking and finance and minoring in entrepreneurship.

Also be sure to check out Nebraska FFA's Facebook page.

I-29 Dairy Conference sees record attendance

By Kim Clark, Ag Program Manager, Nebraska Corn Board

A focus on animal well-being – That was this year’s theme for the sixth annual I-29 Dairy Conference. The two-day event, held on Feb. 9-10 in Sioux Falls, S.D., brought together about 225 dairy producers, agriculture industry personnel and sponsors from the I-29 corridor. The planning committee for the I-29 Dairy Conference included dairy faculty, extension educators, and ag industry personnel from Nebraska, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Iowa.

You may be asking yourself, why is the Nebraska Corn Board blogging about dairy cattle on a corn blog? Well, the answer is simple. Dairy cattle consume 65-70 percent of their diet in ground corn, corn silage and corn milling co-products.

Although this was only my second year of serving on the conference planning committee, I was nominated to serve as chairperson for this year’s conference. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I accepted the offer, but I gained valuable experience. My job as chairperson was to contact speakers for their summaries, presentations and travel arrangements; coordinate conference calls with the committee members throughout the planning process; create the brochure and proceedings manual for the conference; send everything to the printers; field questions from attendees…you get the picture. I couldn’t have done this on my own. Each committee member also played a role in the planning and organizing of the conference.

The planning for the conference began shortly after the movie, Temple Grandin, premiered on HBO, and we decided to have Grandin, a professor at Colorado State University and an autistic woman who designs livestock handling facilities for feedlots and meat plants, be our keynote speaker. Doors for this were opened to the general public – and we couldn’t have asked for a better turn-out or presentation. To my surprise, after her presentation, Temple autographed her books that were sold at the conference. Everyone, including me, was excited to meet a celebrity – especially a celebrity that is local, well known and respected in the agriculture industry.

Day two of the conference began with Scott Higgins, CEO of Ohio Dairy Producers Association talking about the agreement that reached between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Ohio’s agriculture organizations to halt HSUS’s ballot initiative in 2010. After that, Grandin spoke about how reducing fears in dairy cattle helps improve milk production.

The conference wrapped up with an afternoon of presentations from several dairy industry experts. Jim Paulson, Minnesota Dairy Extension Educator, enlightened everyone about sustainability and how it relates to agriculture. Other topics for the afternoon included Dairy Carbon Footprints: A Tool for Your Farm presented by Crystal Powers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lameness: Effects on Performance, Profit, and Welfare by Dr. Jan Shearer from Iowa State University, and Mold and Mycotoxins in Your Dairy Feeds by Dr. Lon Whitlow from North Carolina State University.

All the hard work, late nights, phone calls and crazy dairy dreams have paid off. With another I-29 Dairy Conference finished, record attendance and positive comments from attendees and sponsors, I couldn’t be more proud to have served as chairperson for the dairy conference and represent the corn and dairy industries.

February 24, 2011

A myth is still a myth when it comes to corn and ethanol, food and fuel

And the myths continue...

Food prices are increasing at the grocery store because of ethanol, the uprising in Egypt occurred because of ethanol, ethanol is taking away from our food supply, there would be fewer hungry people in the world if we didn't use ethanol.

We’ve heard it all before (except the Egypt one, but you get the gist). These are just a few of the myths about corn and ethanol in circulation.

It’s notable, of course, that a recent uptick in all this nonsense began about the same time oil prices began to rise – it wasn’t that long ago oil was $60. It has gradually been inching up but topped $100 today for a while, fueled in part by the continued unrest in oil rich regimes around the world.

And, as noted by the LA Times, this run-up in prices will impact all of us and nearly everything we purchase (notably, food).

Does that remind you of 2008?

For a while in 2007-08 (and again recently), some folks tried to blame ethanol and corn for increasing food prices. Yet like before, corn prices plays a relatively minor role in the grand scheme of things. A bit part not even worthy of side kick status.

Remember the World Bank “correction”? Or FAOOr USDA? All concluded that corn prices and ethanol were but a footnote to the real juggernaut to any increase in food prices three and four years ago.

In the end, at least for ethanol, it’s about food AND fuel. While this tends to get lost among the handy sound bites, we need to talk about how food and fuel are being made from the same bushel of corn grown by America’s farmers.

Ethanol companies use about 3 percent of the world’s grain supply for ethanol production and approximately 36 percent of the U.S. corn supply (a corn supply that has grown considerably since 2000 – ethanol doesn’t use more corn from the same-sized pie every year…the pie is getting bigger!).

However, corn ethanol plants also produce distillers grains, a great protein feed for hogs, beef and dairy cattle and poultry. Feeding distillers grains to livestock decreases the amount of other feed ingredients, such as ground corn, corn silage, soybean meal, some hays and other forage, in feed. Although the ethanol industry may use 36 percent of the U.S. corn grain supply, when you add in the millions of tons of distillers grains they also produce to feed livestock, the figures change.

Even countries around the world are catching on – exports of dried distillers grains reached an all-time high in 2010 and will be even higher this year.

The value of corn in food
The Food & Fuel page over at NebraskaCorn.org includes some good points as to the impact of corn prices on some basic foods.

AT $6 corn, a box of corn flakes contains about 8.6 cents worth of corn but the box sells for about $4.00. A gallon of milk costs $2.99. Of that price, dairy farmers receive about 90 cents and about 19.3 cents is attributable to corn. A 2 liter bottle of soda, which contains high fructose corn syrup, contains about a dime’s worth of corn.

Often times packaging (oil) and shipping (again, oil) is considerably more costly than the value of the corn in the box, jug or package.

Reminds me that even the “tub” that holds popcorn at the movie costs more than the popcorn in it. Remember that?

Also remember that even BP acknowledged that biofuels are driving down our dependence on foreign oil. The sooner we get over the ethanol myths and move on the sooner we'll be less reliant on unstable parts of the world for our energy needs.

Other posts of note:

February 23, 2011

Nebraska farm women to address food concerns at HyVee in Lincoln

A group of Nebraska farmers is making it easy for urban shoppers to learn about farming and food production.

In a uniquely mom-driven program, Nebraska farm women are joining together to talk to other women about food production, food safety, farm life and their common ground.

Dawn Caldwell
A special kickoff event for this program, known as CommonGround, is Saturday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Northern Lights HyVee on 84th and Holdrege in Lincoln.

“Most Americans are three generations removed from the farm and their only connection to food production is at the grocery store,” Shana Beattie, a farmer from Sumner, Nebraska and CommonGround spokeswoman, said in a news release. “That’s true even in Nebraska, with more people growing up in urban and suburban areas, miles from farm life. Naturally that leads to misconceptions about farming, farm life and the food we eat. We want to set the record straight about farming and food.”

Kristen Eggerling
This is where the CommonGround program comes in.

The Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association, and United Soybean Board joined together to spearhead this grassroots campaign to showcase the common values and expectations between farmers that grow the food and consumers who purchase products at the grocery store.

“Food safety is my top priority as a farmer. We want shoppers to know that our families eat the same foods and drink the same water they do,” says Dawn Caldwell, a farmer from Edgar, Nebraska and CommonGround spokeswoman.

Shana Beattie
To meet Beattie and Caldwell, as well as spokeswoman and Martell rancher Kristen Eggerling, visit the Northern Lights HyVee on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Grocery gift cards and cookbooks will be given away to shoppers throughout the day.

February 21, 2011

A Late-February Memory - by Curt Tomasevicz

I know that late February is not typically a person’s favorite time of the year. Of course, I’m sure there are exceptions, but for the most part, even the snow-enthusiasts are beginning to get tired of the slick roads, the short day light hours, and the low temperatures. Spring weather is more than month away so there isn’t really even a light at the end of the tunnel yet. In Nebraska, the ground is still frozen so preparations for planting season are still on hold. As a winter-sport athlete, you would think that I would love the chilling temps and snow, but I have to admit my favorite month would have to be July or August. But without a doubt, I will certainly always hold a spot in my heart for the last two weeks of February; the typical block of days reserved for the Winter Olympics every four years.

One year ago this week, my teammates and I won the Olympic gold medal in the 4-man bobsled race. It’s amazing how much has happened in the past year. Approaching February 27, 2010, I certainly didn’t know what may lie ahead for me. During the days leading up to the race, I remember how hard I tried to soak up every moment of the Olympics. I really felt fortunate just to be able to be in the position I was. I woke up early every day at the Games in the Athletes’ Village because I didn’t want to miss a moment of the experience. I knew that the 16 days of the Olympics were going to go fast, and as one of only a few thousand athletes in the world, it would be a life-long memory.
So I watched almost every competition from our live feed in the athlete’s lounge. I relaxed in the game lounge where there were at least ten X-Box game systems and video games, as well as snack bar. And of course, I spent a lot time in the dining hall which became a place for all the world’s athletes to meet and mingle. Don’t get me wrong, I was still preparing as hard as I possibly could to be at my very best athletically for my race. We had practice as well as weight and sprint training in the days leading up to the event. But, more than anything, I remember having this feeling that ‘something big was going to happen’. I understand that’s easy to for me to say now. Hindsight makes that an obvious statement. So as I look back at one year ago from this week, I have to say that feeling of anticipation was unmistakably the strongest emotion. I couldn’t wait for my race and, at the same time, I knew that I would always remember those last two weeks of February 2010.

It’s been an amazing year to say the least.

February 18, 2011

Podcast: American Ethanol powering NASCAR beginning with Daytona 500

In this podcast, Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and member of the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about the upcoming racing season and NASCAR's switch to a 15 percent ethanol blend for its three national touring racing series – including the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that kicks off with the Daytona 500 this Sunday (watch it live on FOX, beginning at noon Central).

He talks about the relationship between Nebraska corn farmers, the National Corn Growers Association and American Ethanol – and how NCGA is an Official Sponsor of NASCAR.

Scheer noted that NASCAR said it made the move to E15 because it is committed to helping the environment. It also believes in supporting job creation, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and backing family farms. After all, NASCAR itself is family owned.

"Nebraska corn farmers should be proud to be part of such an exciting partnership between corn farmers, ethanol and NASCAR," Sheer said. "And it couldn’t have happened at a better time considering the EPA has approved E15 for vehicles manufactured in 2001 and newer. We’ll get to see the viability of E15 proved at every NASCAR race every week."

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

February 17, 2011

‘Pigs on Parade’ to raise money to fight hunger

The life-sized blank canvas
for Pigs on Parade.
Combining pigs and art, Nebraska pork producers are celebrating their 50th anniversary while raising money for the Food Bank for the Heartland with “Pigs on Parade.” This public art project gives Nebraskans an opportunity to decorate their own two-foot-tall fiberglass pig.

Life-sized fiberglass pigs, manufactured by IconPoly of Gibbon, serve as a canvas for creative Nebraskans and Nebraska businesses who participate in Pigs on Parade. The fiberglass pigs must be purchased by March 1, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association said.

“The Pigs on Parade art project is a great way for businesses to support their local and state pork producers as we celebrate 50 years of good pork production practices,” said Mallory Wittstruck, 50th anniversary event coordinator. "While it celebrates our anniversary, it also raises money for the Food Bank for the Heartland."

Businesses can have their employees decorate the pig or work with a local artist to do it for them, said Russ Vering, a member of the NPPA board of directors. “Even getting the community involved or having local elementary students decorate the pig as an art project is a fun way to raise hunger awareness in Nebraska," he said.

For more information on Pigs on Parade, click here.

February 16, 2011

A-FAN to appear on RFD-TV 'LIVE'

You will be seeing some familiar faces on the television network, RFD-TV, this Thursday.

RFD-TV and A-FAN (Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska) are teaming up to do a special 90-minute RFD-TV “LIVE” prime-time broadcast tomorrow, Thursday, February 17 beginning at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.

"We’re pleased to be teaming up with RFD-TV and to be able to tell our story of what we’re doing in Nebraska to promote agriculture," said Willow Holoubek, spokesperson for A-FAN. "We’re in a real battle in rural America. There’s a lot of misinformation in the media about how food is produced. We want to show every consumer that Nebraska farmers and ranchers safely and responsibly provide food for our tables. We’re proud of Nebraska’s strong agricultural traditions and way of life, and we’re working hard to keep our family farms successful, while remaining environmentally responsible."

Patrick Gottsch, RFD-TV founder and president added, "What this organization has done in Nebraska should be done in every state. I hope every farmer and rancher in America tunes in Thursday night to hear the story of A-FAN. RFD-TV is ready to help any state that wants to do the same thing. I encourage viewers to call in that night and ask questions."

A panel of Nebraska farmers and ranchers will take part in his special broadcast, hosted by RFD-TV news director Mark Oppold. This panel will include:

Dawn Caldwell, A-FAN communications committee chairwoman and Common Ground spokeswoman:

Bart and Shana Beattie, family farmers and Common Ground spokeswoman from Sumner:

Anne Burkholder, feed lot owner and manager in Cozad:
Short videos will highlight Nebraska farm families and their dedication to food production and their way of life. You can see these videos on A-FAN's YouTube page.  

February 15, 2011

Bowyer named spokesman for American Ethanol

Clint Bowyer, spokesman
for American Ethanol,
driver of the No. 33
In addition to the partnership with NASCAR, American Ethanol has entered into a sponsor partnership with Richard Childress Racing and its No. 33 Chevrolet driver Clint Bowyer for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Bowyer will serve as an official spokesman for American Ethanol and American Ethanol will be the primary sponsor of the No. 33 Chevrolet car at the Kansas Speedway 400 and an associate sponsor of the car for the rest of the season.

“Born and raised in the Midwest, it’s truly an honor to support American farmers as they strive to develop energy independence for our country,” said Bowyer. “I look forward to representing American Ethanol both on and off the track beginning this weekend in Daytona.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said Richard Childress Racing and Bowyer are great additions to the American Ethanol team. “Clint’s from Kansas, and he knows first-hand the opportunities that American farming and American ethanol offer our country – opportunities to create jobs here, clean our air, and strengthen national security by making our nation more energy independent," he said.

Growth Energy led the effort to create American Ethanol, the coalition that signed a partnership agreement with NASCAR to promote the use of domestically-produced ethanol. The National Corn Growers Association also joined American Ethanol, putting farmers in Nebraska and across the country in partnership with ethanol producers and NASCAR.

NASCAR's new fuel - Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend - makes it's debut at the Daytona 500 this weekend. The race airs at noon locally on FOX.

"Corn farmers have played a big role funding research to make ethanol production more efficient and promoting its many benefits," said Bart Schott, president of the National Corn Growers Association. "Now, it is time to showcase all ethanol has to offer on a national stage."

February 14, 2011

Farmers looking forward to green flag at Daytona 500

Gentlemen, start your ethanol-powered engines!

Nebraska corn farmers and the Nebraska Corn Board are looking forward to the start of this year’s NASCAR racing season since every car in every race will be fueled by Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend made from American corn grown by America’s farmers, the Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release.

It all kicks off when the green flag drops at the Daytona 500 this Sunday, February 20 (local coverage begins at noon on FOX).

Late October, NASCAR announced it would begin using the 15 percent corn ethanol blend in its three national racing series, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. NASCAR said it made the move because it is committed to helping the environment. It also believes in supporting job creation, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and backing family farms – NASCAR itself is family-owned.

“America’s corn farmers should be proud to be part of such a historic event,” said Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “This couldn’t have come at a better time considering the EPA has approved E15 for vehicles manufactured in 2001 and newer. We’ll get to see the viability of E15 proved at every race.”

Scheer is also a member of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee.

In addition to powering races, corn farmers have become a partner in NASCAR via a partnership between the National Corn Growers Association and NASCAR. In fact, NCGA has become an Official Partner of NASCAR and will help promote the brand American Ethanol. The Nebraska Corn Board, which administers check-off funds in Nebraska, has contributed funding through the National Corn Growers Association to support this partnership and the promotion of ethanol via NASCAR.

American Ethanol will be on display at every race – on the fuel ports of every car, on the green flag, in at-track hospitality programs, via a special “American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award” and in commercials that showcase America’s corn farmers. Corn farmers from across the country will also be attending many of the races to show their support for NASCAR and American Ethanol.

“More than 75 million people follow NASCAR and we’re thrilled to be playing a role in expanding the visibility of E15 through this partnership and American Ethanol,” Scheer said. “We’re looking forward to the green flag dropping at the Daytona 500 and seeing corn ethanol fuel some incredibly powerful cars.”

February 10, 2011

Farmers encouraged to focus on safety around grain bins

Injuries and fatalities involving entry into grain bins reached new highs in 2010 – with 52 cases being reported nationwide through November 2010. Half of those cases ended with a fatality (see chart, left).

Of those the 52 total cases, 35 occurred on farms.

Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release that the numbers, compiled by Purdue University, are alarming because they are the highest recorded in a single year by the researchers at Purdue.

“On average, 70 percent of incidents happen on farms and half of all incidents result in the death of a farmer or farm worker,” Brunkhorst said. “Working in and around grain bins can be very dangerous. Flowing grain can completely engulf a worker in seconds.”

Horizontally crusted grain is like a bridge and can collapse and immediately bury farmers walking across the top of it. The collapse of crusted grain on the side of a bin is like an avalanche that can break bones or bury workers.

“People can suffocate with only 12 inches of grain covering them because the weight of the grain prevents movement,” Brunkhorst said.

To alert farmers to this important issue, the Nebraska Corn Board’s latest “CornsTALK” newsletter features a cover story on grain entrapment, including the types of engulfment and contributing factors.

“Out of condition grain is the number one contributing factor of grain entrapments,” Brunkhorst said. “In 2009, a lot of out of condition corn was put into storage simply because it didn’t dry down in the field. Unfortunately, we saw the results of that in 2010’s grain entrapment numbers. We want to encourage farmers to be diligent and train their family members and workers on the hazards of working in and around grain bins and discuss what to do should an accident occur.”

The National Corn Growers Association has produced a video (below) on the subject in conjunction with the National Grain and Feed Foundation (related to the National Grain & Feed Association) that talks about the hazards of flowing and lodged grain. It also discusses how an engulfment can impact a family and farm operation.

February 9, 2011

Powering bobsleds and racecars - by Curt Tomasevicz

I have to admit that as I grew up, I didn’t pay much attention to NASCAR. Of course I watched SportsCenter religiously and the NASCAR highlights took up a few minutes of the program every weekend. I never sat and watched an entire race on a Sunday afternoon although I would have to say that Dale Earnhart became my favorite driver simply for the fact that he drove a black car and was known as the “Intimidator”. But, for the most part, I thought the sport was pretty simple and I didn’t think that my life would ever be connected to it.

Well, I was wrong. I know all about going fast – mine is powered with Nebraska corn-fed beef but those NASCAR drivers are now powered with good all-American corn ethanol. There are a number of ways that bobsledding can be compared to NASCAR. In fact, our sleds often display all of our sponsor decals and can look similar to a racecar. There are similarities in aerodynamics as well as in steering principles. Both types of drivers have to learn how to handle their cars or sleds in order to be the best drivers possible. In NASCAR, the driver and the equipment determine the chances of a team’s success. The same can be said for bobsledding.

Interestingly, all the sleds that were used at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver were created and designed by Geoff Bodine’s bobsled project. Geoff Bodine is a retired racecar driver. He won the Daytona 500 in 1985. He learned in 1992 that the American bobsled team must buy their sleds and equipment from their international competitors. Obviously, our opponents aren’t going to sell us competitive equipment. So Geoff decided to use his NASCAR technology to better the American bobsled program. He assigned one of his top engineers to begin designing bobsleds instead of racecars. (Ironically, the chief engineer’s name is Bob!) . Eighteen years later, he was able to see his project help produce an Olympic Gold Medal.
In addition to being able to turn right, the biggest difference between the two sports is of course the fact that NASCAR’s racecars are powered by engines with hundreds of horsepower and bobsleds are powered by two or four athletes pushing as hard as they can. My job as a brakeman can be looked as being the fuel for the sled. I push as hard as I can and sprint with the sled until I reach top speed. Our starts are measured by the hundredth of a second, and each hundredth can mean the difference between winning and losing. And now, starting this year, the fuel for a NASCAR is ethanol. That’s right, all-American ethanol made from the corn produced in Nebraska and in the Midwest.

When I’m back in Nebraska and people tell me that they were proud to hear that the a fellow Nebraskan provided the power for the Night Train bobsled in the 2010 Olympics, I can also tell them that the power for all the NASCAR races – starting with the first race of the season, Daytona 500 on February 20 – is also from Nebraska. There is a great amount of pride that all Nebraskan farmers and sports fans should feel about E15, a homegrown, renewable fuel that is environmentally friendly – not to mention a high performance fuel.

Bobsleds. NASCARs. What will Nebraskans power next?

February 8, 2011

U.S. Grains Council meets for strategic planning for U.S. corn, DDGS

A record-breaking number of participants, more than 230, are gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana this week for the U.S. Grains Council’s 2011 International Marketing Conference and Annual Membership Meeting.

During the first two days of meetings and speakers, presenters and the Council’s international staff members, focused on export issues including trade policy, biotechnology and value-added.

Thomas Dorr, the Council’s President and CEO, gave opening remarks by explaining the theme for the meeting: The Year of Competitiveness. A new strategic plan described by Dorr will be an opportunity for the upcoming year to gain results from adding value to U.S. grains through international markets. The new strategic plan is built around an “egg yolk” which is policy, surrounded by demand, trade and marketing. They also have a number of new ways to look at current and future international markets.

A hot topic during the meetings is the anti-dumping DDGS case in China, which happened December 28th. The Council has been instrumental in providing resources and communications on the issue, which is currently under investigation. Resolving this issue is critical to the long-term access to competitive markets.

Another important part of this annual meeting are the Advisory Team (A-Team) panels who meet to discuss specific critical issues. A-Teams include Asia, Rest of the World (ROW), Biotechnology, Trade Policy, Membership/Communication, and Value-Added.

According to a recent news release, Erick Erickson, USGC special assistant for planning, evaluation and projects, emphasized the role of A-Teams in developing the Council’s United Export Strategy (UES), the annual plan that directs Council priorities and programs.

“These programs are for our members, so it’s critical that they bring their own perspectives and insights to the discussion to help determine our future,” Erickson said. “The checkoffs invest grower dollars in export market development, and our success contributes to growers’ bottom lines.”

Nebraska Corn Board chairman and member of the Council Board of Directors, Alan Tiemann, sits on the Mem/Com A-Team as the board liaison. In the first two days, they have discussed key issues and putting a communication plan together for the new strategic branding and outreach, as well as an update from the 2010 Corn Mission.

The Council meeting will convene until Thursday, February 10 at the Hotel InterContinental in New Orleans. For updates on Twitter, follow the #usgrains11 hashtag.

February 4, 2011

Podcast: Irrigation & Energy Conservation Workshops begin Feb. 7

In this podcast, Greg Whitmore (@sustainablegreg), a farmer from Shelby and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about upcoming Irrigation and Energy Conservation Workshops for corn growers. The workshops are conducted by the University of Nebraska Extension.

The first of four workshops is Monday, February 7, in Ogallala. The remaining workshops are February 8 in Scottsbluff, February 14 in York and February 16 in Norfolk. Registration starts at 9 a.m. at each location and meetings should wrap up by 4 p.m. (For more, click here to download a .pdf.)

These programs are free and include lunch thanks to the sponsorship by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

Whitmore noted that it's the time of year when extension and university experts from virtually every Midwestern state hit the road, and it’s no different here in Nebraska. "We are fortunate to have such a great resource available that is full of people who want to see farmers do better every year," he said.

The irrigation and energy conservation workshops are a great opportunity to learn how to put more money in your pocket while saving water resources, Whitmore said.

Water and energy topics include estimating your pumping plant efficiency, estimating evapotranspiration and the effects of crop residue, a how to session for water mark sensors and soil water monitoring, scheduling that last irrigation, and an update on the Nebraska Ag Water Management Demonstration Network.

Presenters will also cover what’s new in control panels, variable rate irrigation and the associated costs of these technologies. Other important topics include managing nitrogen to protect water quality, atrazine stewardship and an update on chemigation equipment, including training and uses.

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

Misinformation in the news leads to restless farmers

By Don Hutchens - executive director, Nebraska Corn Board

Well the troops (corn farmers) are getting restless and tired of having corn ethanol blamed on the national syndicated newscasts like FOX, CNN, MSNBC and others. I have received a number of calls from not only Nebraska corn farmers, but from Kansas as well this week, asking, “Where do they get off on blaming corn/ethanol for higher food prices, or for starvation, or for contributing to the conflict in Egypt?” I sure cannot disagree with their premise. It seems that the oil lobby, the Grocery Manufactures and a few other misinformed groups are gaining in the headline battle.

Today was somewhat of the frosting on the cake (I hope that frosting contained HFCS), when one article went to the extreme in blaming the conflict in Egypt on corn ethanol. They were accusing ethanol because of the demonstrations of their food prices going up. I have to say, I think most readers are smarter than the author gave them credit.

One of the signals the conflict in Egypt should send to all of us in the U.S. is that being less dependent on foreign oil would be a good thing. We have the ability here in the U.S., and in other countries, to grow more grain on fewer acres with fewer resources. Now we need more farmers, like the ones that have called our office this week, to communicate to the FOX, CNN, MSNBC and other news sources that they need to be more fair and balanced, and share the other side of the story.

February 3, 2011

17 days to Daytona and green flag on ethanol

In 17 days the green flag will drop at the Daytona 500. This year, however, that green flag means a whole lot more than the start of the NASCAR season.

It also signals the launch of a new, greener fuel known as Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend made in the United States from corn ethanol that will be used in all NASCAR national racing series. It also marks a new venture for the nation's corn growers, who are joining forces with NASCAR to promote the use of corn-based American ethanol.

As an Official Partner of NASCAR, the National Corn Growers Association will leverage its relationship to spread the message to NASCAR fans around the country about the role American farmers play in the development of ethanol.

NCGA will be joined in this effort by other partners involved in American Ethanol, including several state corn groups like the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association. (For more on that, click here.)

“We’re greatly excited about this opportunity to help educate NASCAR fans at the race tracks and around the country about the great work of our corn growers in feeding and fueling the world,” NCGA chairman Darrin Ihnen, a family farmer from Hurley, S.D., said in a news release today. “Ethanol is a growing use for corn, and provides us a domestic, renewable fuel that reduces emissions and creates jobs right here at home. We are encouraging corn farmers nationwide to watch the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, and be proud of their role in fueling NASCAR and the nation.”

Car featuring American Ethanol logo at
the launch event in Las Vegas. (Source.)
Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, said, “NASCAR is very proud to welcome as partners the hard-working family farmers all over the United States who grow the corn that will be used in our new Sunoco Green E15 fuel. We are happy our sport can play a part in creating jobs and fostering energy independence by using a renewable fuel grown and produced in America.”

In December 2010, NASCAR unveiled its landmark partnership with American Ethanol just weeks after announcing the switch to E15. Growth Energy, a leading ethanol advocacy organization, created the American Ethanol partnership to push for broad acceptance of a renewable domestic fuel for all American motorists.

NCGA will work with Growth Energy throughout the racing season to create educational and promotional activities in support of the corn growers who play a vital role in the American ethanol industry. Corn farmers will even be on hand at many races throughout the season to answer questions about their contribution to producing this renewable ethanol.

“The goal is to bring ethanol’s positive messages from job creation to cleaner air to consumers. When people hear a message like ‘American Ethanol: Trusted By NASCAR,’ that carries a lot of weight and adds to ethanol’s credibility and reputation,” Ihnen said.

February 2, 2011

Podcast: Annual leadership program heading to Washington

In this podcast, Steve Nelson, a farmer from Schuyler and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, gives a preview of next week's leadership program in Washington that he and 14 other Nebraska corn growers will participate in.

This is the Nebraska Corn Growers Association’s 18th annual leadership program, which helps farmers better understand all the activities inside the Beltway and how what goes on there impacts farmers on a daily basis. "It also helps people who work in D.C. better understand our needs and concerns," Nelson said. "After all, who better to hear from on issues surrounding corn and agriculture than direct from a farmer?"

While in D.C., the groups will also meet with the Washington-based staff of the National Corn Growers Association. Nelson explained that NCGA helps organize portions of this grassroots effort.

The leadership program is supported by the Nebraska Corn Board and Farm Credit Services of America and we thank them for their commitment to this important grassroots effort.

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

February 1, 2011

Biofuels driving down dependence on foreign oil

Click to expand.
The United States’ dependence on foreign oil peaked in 2005 and increased fuel efficiency and the increased use of biofuels like ethanol will further drive down that dependence and the use of oil overall through 2030, according to a report published in January.

That report doesn’t come from an ethanol or corn organization, however.

It comes from BP. (Yes, that, that and that BP.) Specifically, BP’s Energy Outlook 2030, which you can download here (.pdf).

In the report, BP said biofuels production (largely ethanol) is expected to exceed 6.5 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 1.8 Mb/d in 2010 – contributing 30 percent of global supply growth over the next two decades, and all of the net growth in non-OPEC countries.

Click to expand.
After 2020, BP said, roughly 40 percent of global liquids demand growth will be met by biofuels – up from 13 percent in 2010 – with the U.S. and Europe leading consumption growth. By 2030, this figure approaches 60 percent.

In other words, biofuels and increased efficiencies will make oil the slowest-growing fuel over the next 20 years.

In the United States, the import share of oil and gas will fall to levels not seen since the 1980s, do in part to ethanol, which BP noted displaces oil imports. No, I’m not making that up. Here’s a shot of that bullet point from the report:

Still, global growth in liquids demand (oil, biofuels and other liquids) is projected to rise by 16.5 million barrels per day, exceeding 102 million barrels per day by 2030. That growth comes from rapidly-growing non-OECD economies. Think China, which is set to become the world's largest consumer of oil. Yet it’s more than China. It’s other parts of Asia, the Middle East and South and Central America, too.

Those countries who don’t develop strong biofuels markets will be stuck further under OPEC’s oil thumb. BP estimated that “the importance of OPEC is expected to grow,” with OPEC’s share of global oil production increasing from 40 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2030 – a level not reached since 1977.