March 31, 2011

Nebraska corn farmers may plant 9.5 million acres

Planting will be getting underway soon in Nebraska. This
photo is is from a crop update last year.
According to today's Prospective Planting report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nebraska’s corn farmers intend to plant 9.5 million acres of corn this year, which is an increase of 350,000 acres from last year’s 9.15 million acres.

“If realized, this would be the most corn acres planted by Nebraska’s farm families since the early 1930s, surpassing the recent high of 9.4 million planted in 2007,” Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research, said in a news release.

“Farmers respond to market demands and as demand increases, so has their intention to plant more acres and to produce more corn from those acres by increasing yields,” he said. “It’s an incentive for farmers to innovate, to produce more corn more efficiently while sustainably managing crop inputs.”

Nationally, USDA said farmers intend to plant 92.2 million acres this year. That's a 5 percent increase from last year’s 88.2 million acres and a 7 percent increase over 2009 when 86.4 million acres were planted. “Providing weather allows farmers to get rolling over the next few weeks, this would be the second-highest planted acres since 1944 and the most since 93.5 million acres were planted in 2007,” Brunkhorst said.

In Nebraska, Brunkhorst said farmers typically get started planting in mid-April and wrap up as quickly as possible in May.

“There is a good-sized window, but farmers generally prefer to plant early, although weather really dictates how soon and how quickly that can happen, and even impacts the final number of acres planted,” he said. “We had a great fall last year so a lot of prep work has been completed, and that should help many farmers this spring.”

USDA today also reported corn stocks, or the amount of corn in storage in Nebraska and across the country. Nationally, stocks as of March 1 were 6.52 billion bushels, down 15 percent from last year.

In Nebraska, there were 765.8 million bushels in storage as of March 1, 15.5 percent less than a year ago. Of that, Brunkhorst said, 380 million bushels were stored on farms, a decrease of 28.3 percent, and 385.8 million were stored off-farm, an increase of 2.5 percent.

Brunkhorst said while stocks are down, there is still a lot of corn in Nebraska and across the country. “We’re still looking at a solid supply to satisfy the demands for feed, fuel, food and fiber,” he said.

NOTE: This is the first post on Nebraska Corn Kernels for the 2011 crop year - so we've added a new tag "2011 Crop Update". Be sure to check back as planting gets underway, as we'll share photos, figures and more through harvest this fall. You can also look back on crop updates from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

March 30, 2011

Farmers can dismiss confusion of One Call Act

Back in November 2010, an issue arose when a Northern Natural Gas crew stopped at a Platte County field and asked a co-op employee taking soil samples if they had called Digger's Hotline. They responded that they had not, which brought on a request by several Nebraska utilities to make soil sampling a practice under the One-Call Act, which requires a call to the Digger's Hotline.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning made a statement in late March regarding agricultural soil sampling and the state's One-Call Digger's Hotline, which was good news for producers and third-party soil samplers.

"To be clear—farmers, their employees and any third-parties they contract with to do routine soil sampling for agricultural purposes do not need to call the Diggers Hotline prior to taking a soil sample,” said Bruning. “This is an agricultural state and soil sampling is business as usual. I won't second guess the commonsense of Nebraska farmers."

It's important for farmers to know that they are exempt from being required to call the Diggers Hotline, but they should still be careful when taking soil samples. To read more, check out this Nebraska Farmer article.

March 28, 2011

Nebraska farmers can donate grain to Red Cross, help those in need in Japan

Nebraska farmers can donate bushels of corn or any grain to the Red Cross and directly help those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Pacific thanks to a program developed by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Aurora Cooperative and the American Red Cross. Farmer-owned KRVN rural radio is also supporting the initiative.

According to a news release, donations are being accepted at Aurora Cooperative locations in Keene, Sedan and Aurora West (near Aurora) in Nebraska beginning Friday, April 1, and all other cooperative locations beginning April 2. Donations will continue to be accepted through July 30.

“The idea of helping those dealing with this disaster came up during a meeting and we contacted the American Red Cross in Nebraska, who were very supportive,” said John Willoughby, a farmer from Wood River, Neb., and a member of the Buffalo/Hall County Corn Growers Association. “Japan has been our top global corn customer for years and is a key market for many agriculture products produced in Nebraska and across the country. It just seemed right to find a way to help our neighbors in the global market.”

The Aurora Cooperative said it has 19 grain delivery locations across and that all are participating in the program.

“Farmers often help out a neighbor in need. This is a great way to extend that generosity,” said George Hohwieler, chief executive officer of the Aurora Cooperative. “Farmers can simply deliver grain to one of our locations and designate the entire load or a percentage of the load to relief efforts. Farmers will get a receipt for their contribution and 100 percent of the dollars from the sale of that grain will go to the Red Cross.”

Renae Foster, chief operating officer of the Central Plains Regional Chapter of the American Red Cross, said, “Those in agriculture are incredibly giving and we are thrilled to be part of this program and appreciate everyone’s efforts and contribution. They will directly support our disaster relief efforts and help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.”

March 25, 2011

Podcast: $100 oil is back, impacting everything we buy

In this podcast, Joel Grams, a farmer from Minden and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about $100 oil and how such a high price impacts a lot more than just gas prices.

"Oil companies are essentially printing money again," Grams said, nothing that they've never had a difficult time making a buck considering they have a lock on our energy market and get billions and billions of dollars in subsidies and tax credits that are written into long term tax policy.

Grams noted that if oil prices average about $100 this year, we’ll be spending $385 billion on imported oil this year, $80 billion dollars more than last year. "Certainly sending an extra $80 billion out of this country will have a negative impact on our economy," he said. "We also have to remember how high oil prices impact everything we buy. We learned that a few years ago, too."

In the previous oil price run-up, ethanol helped to keep energy costs down and reduce our reliance on oil imports. It's also good for the country's economy. Ethanol has helped rural America avoid the worst of the recession and be the first area to emerge, Grams said.

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

March 22, 2011

Soda's 'natural' sugar marketing gimmick falls flat

There is no nutritional difference between corn sugar (high fructose corn syrup, HFCS) and cane or beet sugar – a sugar is a sugar, after all. They contain pretty much the same amounts of fructose and glucose – and even the number of calories are the same.

Yet some companies fall prey to the marketing gimmick by making the switch, claiming cane or beet (table) sugar is "natural" while implying that corn sugar is not. (FDA begs to differ...all are natural, but certainly sugar doesn't just pop out of the ground, does it? Really?)

Sierra Mist and PepsiCo fell for the marketing gimmick and made the switch last year – a move that, on its own, is fine. After all, who cares which sweetener a soft drink company uses? Especially one that's dead last in the lemon-lime category. (Sprite is the leader with about 5 percent of all soda sales, 7UP has 2.5 percent of the market and Sierra Mist, which claims to be the "soda nature would drink," is a distant third with less than 1 percent of the market. Apparently nature isn't holding up its end of the bargain.)

The problem is what Sierra Mist did next: It attempted to boost sales by spending big bucks re-branding the lemon-lime soda as all natural – implying that others sweetened with corn sugar were fake. The result? Sales dropped 11 percent last year, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (citing Beverage Digest).

The WSJ article said Sierra Mist has started going directly after Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite this month, drumming up the old "natural" and "fake" lines. While it may get a temporary sales boost from lots of high dollar ads, apparently nature (and soda drinkers) won't fall for the "natural" gimmick.

Sugar is indeed sugar.

March 21, 2011

Perks of the Job - by Curt Tomasevicz

You will rarely hear me complain about my job. I love the sport of bobsledding and the chance to fly down on ice at 90+ mph with three other guys. I’ve tried to describe the exhilarating feeling of a bobsled ride, but unless you’ve experienced a trip yourself, my words won’t do the minute of excitement any justice. On top of that, I get to travel the world competing for the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.

There are some small cons to go with all the pros of the sport. For one obvious point, we have to compete in the cold. I know, I know. You can’t have the sport without ice and you need cold to have ice. But that doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy being an outdoor winter athlete. Second, although a bobsled ride may look smooth on TV, it is anything but gentle. The suspension-less sleds bounce and shake and realign your spine and body every time they fly down the 15+ curve tracks. So by the end of a season (I just finished my 7th season), I’m pretty sore and beat-up. My knees and back ache enough to put me in a temporary bad mood.

But the end of the season also brings the opportunities that don’t happen during the season. At the end of the year, we like to treat supporters and sponsors that have helped us along the way with passenger rides. Now anyone can go to either Park City, Utah or Lake Placid, NY and purchase a ride down either of the tracks. But only a select few get to ride with the actual national bobsled team from the top of the track in our top racing sled.

In my career, I’ve been a part of several celebrity passenger rides. The list of some of the most notable people include Paul Jr. and Paul Sr. Teutul of the Orange County Choppers (Mikey didn’t think he was up for it), Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surfer Laird Hamilton, hockey all-star Chris Chelios, Baltimore Ravens’ coaches Jon Harbaugh and Cam Cameron, as well as many others. I’ve even given rides to local Nebraska bobsled supporters. Last week my bobsled driver, Steve Holcomb and I gave rides to NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and Congressman Adrian Smith from Nebraska.

Yes, it’s great to have the opportunity to meet such a wide range of celebrities, politicians, and athletes. But the moment we get to the bottom of the hill and they attempt to step out of the sled, I am reminded of how fortunate I am. Everyone’s reaction is priceless. Some have to take a few minutes to be able to speak again, some have to wipe the slobber and spit off their face as they take their helmets off, and others have to focus just to blink. No matter how calm and cool they seemed at the top of the track, everyone is completely transformed into an excited little kid at the bottom. I’m sure the next day, their necks and backs are a little sore, but the inerasable smiles on the faces make it worth it.

Therefore, I’m certain that the greatest perk of my job is to witness those smiles knowing that I get to do it every day.

Click here to hear Curt talk about his success and family corn farmers in Nebraska.

March 18, 2011

Finding the solutions to feed, fuel the world

By Don Hutchens, editorial in Feedstuffs, March 7, 2011

In a recent viewpoint (Feedstuffs, Jan. 31), Dennis Avery said: “The U.S. in fact, could ease the current global food price spike with one administrative action: limiting the amount of domestic corn that gets turned into ethanol.” For someone who seems to be so worldly and knowledgeable, Mr. Avery is naive and simplistic to think that the world food solution could be so easy.

He also goes on to say, “America’s huge corn crop is diverted from food and feed into an ultra-costly auto fuel that gives consumers poorer mileage even as it drives up their food costs.” Obviously Mr. Avery has not purchased any $3.49 gasoline of late. I have been enjoying filling my flex fuel Chevy Avalanche with E85 (85 percent ethanol) for $2.69 (I lose 2 miles to the gallon uses the E-85). Along with the cost savings, I relish the fact the 13 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2010 displaced the gasoline refined from 445 million barrels of crude oil. This reduction in oil imports saved the U.S. economy $34 billion dollars.

Of course the oil industry does not live on bread alone considering the tax breaks, oil depletion allowances, incentives, etc., that come to, on average, about $20 billion worth of subsidies.

Between the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the oil lobby, corn ethanol has been a steady and consistent target.

However, events of the last few weeks in the Middle East should also serve as a wake-up call to those who seem to find joy in bashing corn and ethanol. It’s not the fundamentals in the markets that sent crude soaring to $100 per barrel – but just the thought of a disruption. Now that will impact food prices and just about everything else just as it did in 2007-08.

It’s also important to remember that the U.S. ethanol industry utilizes just 3 percent of the global grain supply – and returns millions of tons of distillers grains in the process, the prices of which are reported in the back of every edition of Feedstuffs and, according to my estimation, provide a very good feeding value.

Back to world hunger and food prices. Yes there may be in an increase in food prices for many different reasons over the next year. Everything from weather to population growth (206,000 more people per day), market speculators and political conflicts around the world just to name a few.

U.S. farmers and livestock producers strive to answer that challenge by producing more on fewer acres, using less water, reducing erosion and using less energy – some of the very high-yield farming Mr. Avery himself promotes frequently. However, farmers aren’t the only ones being more efficient. The cattle and hog industries are doing the same, and even ethanol producers are using less energy and less water while producing more ethanol from the same number of bushels.

Avery attributed food riots and a 50 percent increase in food prices in 2008 to…yes, you guessed, it corn/ethanol.

There is an arm long list of publications that took a serious look at this issue and clearly refute those claims and instead lay a majority of the credit where it belongs: high energy (oil) costs.

Let’s step back and take a look at what more profits in agriculture and a challenge to produce more, brings to the table. I bet it brings more meat, more grain, more fiber and even more renewable energy.

March 17, 2011

Are fundamentals or non-commercial dollars driving corn market?

By Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board

Over the past few years, non-commercial investment in the commodity markets have gained significantly. This has lead to many things including a lack of convergence in the marketplace, but it also has been a driver in the significant increases we have seen in the futures prices, specifically in mid – 2008 and currently, the graph (below) clearly shows the effects that non-commercial liquidation of the long positions can have.

We shared the graph with Dr. Dennis Conley of University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics and he had this to share:
When I inspect the graph, it looks like two things are happening. First, for the past few years there is non-commercial interest in futures contracts as a place to invest. The motivation is to try and capture returns for funds that do not have good, liquid alternatives for investment - like stock equities or bonds - during the great recession that started in early 2008. Second, it appears the non-commercials positions are correlated with price. Some of the time the volume of their positions, both during increasing volumes as well as decreasing volumes, tend to look like they are leading prices up and down, respectively.
This all leads to another question, are true fundamentals driving today’s commodity prices? Even if you believe they are, one can not underestimate the role that outside influence is having, specifically non-commercial interest.

March 16, 2011

Podcast: Following protocol, APHIS fully deregulates corn amylase

In this podcast, Joel High, a farmer from Bertrand and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the recent deregulation of corn amylase by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This was the final step in the approval process – and the first ever corn processing output trait to go through our biotech regulatory system, which is significant.

APHIS noted it had not found a plant pest risk associated with the amylase trait and gave it a positive environmental assessment. The biotech corn has been through several federal approval processes since it was first submitted more than five years ago.

"Amylase corn is a biotech corn that produces a common enzyme called alpha amylase that breaks down starch into sugar," High explained. "This means the corn has a built-in enzyme that will make converting starch in the kernel into ethanol more efficient."

By facilitating this key step of the ethanol process, it can lower costs for ethanol producers and help them produce more gallons of ethanol. It can also lower energy and water consumption during ethanol production.

The corn variety is also approved for import in many places around the world, including Japan, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Russia and the Philippines. It’s also approved for growing in Canada. However, the aim with this corn is to keep it here for delivery to ethanol plants and only to ethanol plants as part of a contracted, closed-loop system.

Segregation via a closed-loop system is key because amylase corn is not beneficial in other corn milling and processing sectors, like for cereal and corn chips. It’s designed for ethanol production and that’s where it must go, High said.

The approval by APHIS is also significant because it is the first ever corn processing output trait to go through our biotech regulatory system.

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

March 15, 2011

Celebrate Nebraska during Ag Week

It's National Ag Week – and today, in fact, is National Ag Day – and many events are happening in Washington, D.C., around the country and in Nebraska to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:
  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

For more AgDay facts and figures be sure to check out

In Nebraska, we're fortunate to have a wide range of agriculture production – and an agriculture sector that drives the state's economy year after year. The production and capabilities of Nebraska's agriculture sector is simply astounding and certainly worth celebrating!

Here are a few stats, compiled by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Nebraska is first in the nation in (2010 figures unless noted):
  • Commercial red meat production, 7,144,800,000 lbs.
  • Commercial cattle slaughter, 6,950,300 head
  • Commercial cattle slaughter, live weight, 9,124,450,000 lbs. 
  • Great Northern beans production, 1,186,000 cwt.
  • Popcorn production (2007), 294,541,958 lbs. (133,601,961 kg.)
Nebraska is second in the nation in –
  • All cattle on feed (Jan. 1, 2011),  2,500,000 head
  • Pinto beans production, 1,650,000 cwt.
  • Proso millet production, 2,640,000 bushels
  • Ethanol production, with 24 operating plants having production capacity of 2 billion gallons
Nebraska is third in the nation in –
  • Corn for grain production, 1,469,100,000 bushels
  • All cattle and calves (Jan. 1, 2011), 6,200,000 head
  • All dry edible beans production, 3,193,000 cwt.
A few other stats. Nebraska is...
  • Fourth in the nation in cash receipts from all farm commodities, soybean production, on-farm grain storage and off-farm grain storage capacity
  • Sixth in the nation in all hogs and pigs on farms and grain sorghum production
  • Seventh in winter wheat production, alfalfa hay production and commercial hog slaughter
  • Eighth in certified organic cropland acres and certified organic pasture acres (2008)
  • Tenth in table egg layers (flocks of 30,000+)
That's a whole lot of agriculture and really just the tip of the iceberg. Just think of all the people, products and businesses involved in producing all those ag products in Nebraska every year!

While several ag-related activities are happening throughout the state during ag week, one that would be great to attend is Friday afternoon (March 18) at the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning (near Hastings). Prairie Loft is a great venue for sharing ag and food information and it conducts and hosts many educational activities throughout the year. On Friday, it will host Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach and others who will be featured in a short program beginning at 3 p.m.

There also is a reception until 7 p.m. at Prairie Loft as part of the Hastings Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours program). Sponsors include Adams County Farm Bureau, Dakota Mac, S&S Septic Plumbing, Ron Pavelka Farms, West Fork Farms and Weeks Farms.

March 9, 2011

Policy, education main topics at Commodity Classic

Jon Holzfaster
The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association sent board and staff representatives to Florida last week for the annual Commodity Classic - a national meeting place and trade show for the corn, sorghum, soybean and wheat industries.

Commodity Classic features a trade show, valuable educational sessions, technology demonstrations, association banquets, entertainment events and important networking opportunities.

CommonGround - Dawn Caldwell Dawn Caldwell, one of Nebraska's volunteer spokeswomen for CommonGround, was a speaker at one of the educational sessions and spoke on the secrets of effiective agricultural communications. CommonGround is a program, launched by the National Corn Growers Association and United Soybean Board to increase consumer awareness of food and farm issues. Dawn, and the other two Nebraska volunteer spokeswomen, launched the program in Nebraska, February 26, at the Northern Lights HyVee in Lincoln.

State staff meetings during the Commodity Classic also allowed for the corn state staff and NCGA staff members to gather and discuss important programs such as CommonGround, NASCAR, and Corn Farmers Coalition.

Mark Jagels, USMEFMark Jagels, Nebraska Corn board director and executive committee member of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) was a speaker at a luncheon hosted by USMEF. He spoke on the added value of grain-fed livestock in export markets and the potential for expanded exports in the future.

Below is an update from NCGA about the Corn Congress session in which 125 delegates representing 25 states spent hours discussing and voting on a large list of forward-thinking initiatives that reflect NCGA's commitment to creating and expanding opportunity for its members.

From ethanol to farm bill to genetic research, NCGA grower leaders last week updated the organization's policy book on a number of hot-button issues of interest to corn growers and their farm colleagues nationwide.

"We had an excellent slate of policy recommendations for the delegates to consider, and we are proud of the way they came together and agreed on the direction we will take in the months ahead," said NCGA First Vice President Garry Niemeyer, an Illinois grower who chaired the policy discussion. "We are moving into a critical time in Washington, with ethanol tax policy under debate, the 2012 farm bill looming, and an expanding regulatory burden being placed on our farmers."

Among the additions to the policy book were statements that the ethanol blenders tax credit should be transitioned to a market-based safety net for the ethanol industry and that NCGA should investigate transitioning direct payments into programs that allow producers the ability to manage risk while assuring food security

Delegates also defined what a "safety net" means - a combination of risk management tools available to producers that have the ability to protect against revenue losses due to circumstances beyond their control

At Corn Congress, it was recognized that NCGA was one of the leaders in securing the funds to map the corn genome and that research needs to continue. Delegates called on NCGA to develop an aggressive strategic plan for public research in functional genomics and translational genetics of corn and focus policy and research dollars to that end

Also, delegates called on the NCGA to make every effort to secure FDA acceptance and approval of the Corn Sugar petition and should oppose HFCS-free campaigns by food and beverage companies. NCGA has already submitted comments to the FDA, accessible here, supporting the Corn Refiners Association initiative.

To see photos from Commodity Classic, check out our online photo album. You can also check out the twitter talk through #Classic11.

CommonGround connects Nebraska farm women, consumers in Lincoln

CommonGroundA couple of weeks ago, you read about CommonGround, a new program in Nebraska that is showcasing the common values and expectations between the farmers who grow the food and the consumers who purchase products at the grocery store.

CommonGround was launched in Nebraska on Saturday, February 26, at the Northern Lights HyVee grocery store in Lincoln, where the three volunteer spokeswomen, Shana Beattie from Sumner, Dawn Caldwell from Edgar, and Kristen Eggerling from Martell, shared their stories with shoppers and answered questions about today’s farming and food.

They had many great questions and comments, including, “Where do you farm?”, “Tell me about your family.”, “I’m concerned about chemicals in my food.”, “What do you think about drinking raw milk?”, “I want to support local farmers.”, and more.

Answering questions about food

All three also had the opportunity to share their story with radio listeners as KZEN 100.3 FM had a live radio remote at the store.

Kristen Eggerling, farm mom and rancher from Martell

To learn more about the CommonGround program, go to or follow CommonGround on Facebook or Twitter. Find more pictures on our online Flickr album here.

Dawn Caldwell, farmer from Edger

March 8, 2011

Proven Wrong - by Curt Tomasevicz


Most of the time, it is difficult as humans to admit when we are wrong. Well I will be one of the first to confess that I was wrong this past bobsled season.

This was my seventh year on the national bobsled team. Each of my first six years was spent planning and preparing for one thing – to win an Olympic gold medal. Now, with that goal accomplished, I guess I had a little bit of a relaxed feeling going into this past year. Maybe I didn’t train as intense this past off-season and maybe I underestimated my opponents. My team proved it was the best in the world last year, so shouldn’t that command a certain type of respect? The most decorated Olympic bobsled driver of all-time, German Andre Lange, retired after the 2010 Olympics last February, so shouldn’t the rest of the World Cup circuit lie down at our feet?

The answer was certainly, “No”.
The 2010-2011 season concluded last weekend with the World Championships race held in Konigssee, Germany. If anyone, along with me, thought that the German bobsled program would be a step behind this year, they were proven wrong very quickly. The Germans finished first and second in the4-man race last weekend (with two other teams in the top ten). My team came from behind to climb up from fourth to third in dramatic fashion on the last heat of the second day. We made up three-tenths of second in one run (a significant amount of time in bobsledding) to knock the Russian team out of the last podium position.

The result of the race was certainly an eye-opener. Taking advantage of the home track, the Germans proved that they may not have won last year, but they will definitely be ready for the next Olympics (which will come faster than we think). Of course the Olympic race will be on a neutral track for the Germans and the Americans with the Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

But this season certainly proved that the second you let your guard down and take your top position for granted is the moment you are quickly brought back to reality. This off-season I can promise the competition that the American team will not relax and become complacent with our World Championship medal. Next year, I won’t be wrong again.

Photo from the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation.

March 2, 2011

Podcast: Grain entrapments a serious issue; farmers, farm workers urged to exercise caution

In this podcast, Curtis Rohrich, a farmer from Woodriver and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the dangers of working in and around grain bins.

He notes that a lot of farmers store grain in bins on their farms – in Nebraska, on-farm grain storage capacity is 1.1 billion bushels. Capacity nationwide is 12.5 billion bushels and expanding every year thanks to continued advances in corn production.

On-farm storage, though, requires some precautions when filling, emptying or working in or around a bin. "Statistics for farmers and farm workers becoming engulfed in grain are sobering," he said.

According to figures from Purdue University, through November 2010 there were 52 cases of grain engulfment or entrapment nationwide for the year. Of those, 35 happened on a farm. Of the 52 total grain engulfments or entrapments reported, half resulted in death.

The numbers recorded in 2010 were the highest in a single year since records were kept. The reason behind that makes sense because the number one reason that leads to entrapment is out of condition grain, and there was a lot of out of condition grain put into bins in 2009. Lower quality grain leads to more incidents because farmers need to enter bins more often to get grain flowing or clean out lodged grain.

Other items behind entrapment include high capacity grain handling systems, working alone, relaxed compliance with safety regulations or simply a lack of knowledge concerning risk, Rohrich. "This is especially true for young people," he said.

For more, listen to Rohrich's report by clicking on the icon above - or click here to visit a previous post on this subject and to check out a grain bin safety video produced by the National Corn Growers Association.

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