April 28, 2011

NASCAR partnership means deals for corn farmers

When the National Corn Growers Association and NASCAR formed a partnership – with NCGA becoming an Official Partner of NASCAR – all the perks and benefits of that partnership were extended to every corn grower who is a member of their state corn grower organization, which is, in turn, is a member of NCGA. We're talking discounts on race tickets, NASCAR gear, business services and more!

A key component of the partnership, of course, is American Ethanol, which will be on display at every race – on the fuel ports of every car, on the green flag, in at-track hospitality programs, via the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award and in TV and radio commercials that showcase America’s corn farmers.

In Nebraska, the Nebraska Corn Board, which administers check-off funds, supports the partnership and promotion of ethanol via NASCAR by contributing funding through the NCGA.

The benefits of NCGA's position as an Official Sponsor, though, extend to all members of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, which is the state's corn grower membership organization.

This is an exciting partnership that showcases the high performance benefits of domestic, American Ethanol – more than 75 million fans will hear this positive message thanks to the support of corn farmers! 

To help members gain access to all the partner benefits, NCGA launched an online portal to all things NASCAR. It's an online connection customized for NCGA by NASCAR.

In the “Deals” section of the website, members have access to exclusive offers on the latest gear and unadvertised offers from Official NASCAR Partners and Licensees such as:
  • Bank of America,
  • DirectTV,
  • Office Depot,
  • Hotels like the Gaylord Texan and Hard Rock Las Vegas,
  • Sprint Wireless,
  • U Coat It floor coatings, and
  • UPS.

Plus, a whole host of great benefits for NASCAR fans!

Want to see the action in person? The “Race Tickets” section will hook you up with best deals on the circuit for select races. NASCAR RacePoints is the official rewards program of NASCAR, where you can enroll and earn points when purchasing NASCAR apparel, merchandise, collectibles and experiences.

On the “Fan Center” page, you can view weekly race videos, become part of NASCAR’s social network and find the NASCAR Fan Guide, wallpaper and screen saver downloads. Even test your NASCAR knowledge every week for a chance to win cool prizes in the “Play to Win” section.

To register and take advantage of all these offers, click here – just note that you need to be a member of NeCGA/NCGA to qualify.

April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday | Planting off to a slow start


Thanks to the Imperial FFA Chapter for their Crop Progress photos. To see more photos, check out our online album here.

April 26, 2011

Nebraska corn farmers making $2.6 billion investment

From Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress update
for April 25.
It takes a lot more than hard work to get the corn crop planted. It also takes money – for everything from seed to fertilizer to all the other inputs it takes to get the crop in the ground and off to a good start. Those purchases come from local seed dealers, cooperatives and dozens of other businesses that benefit from the investment farmers make each spring planting corn.

In Nebraska, that investment comes to some $2.6 billion, which has a significant economic impact on rural communities and the entire state.

“This multi-billion dollar investment, perhaps better known as planting, occurs in just a few weeks every spring,” Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in a news release. “It’s a tremendous investment, but one that also is subject to Mother Nature and the whims of outside markets.”

To put the $2.6 billion investment into perspective, Hutchens compared it to the combined construction investments in Lincoln and Omaha. “Over a two-year period, that comes to about $900 million and includes the construction costs of an arena, baseball stadium and a dozen other projects, all very valuable growth investments, but about one-third the investment corn farmers make each and every spring,” Hutchens said.

On average, farmers spend more than $270 per acre to get the crop in the ground and off to a good start, based on estimates calculated by the University of Nebraska Extension. Multiplied by the 9.5 million acres the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Nebraska farmers will plant this year, provides the $2.6 billion investment by Nebraska corn farmers.

That investment doesn’t include the whole story, though. “Those dollars get circulated through communities and the entire state,” Hutchens said. With a multiplier of 2.5, planting corn this year will actually provide a $6.5 billion economic impact across the state.

Those estimates don’t include labor or land costs, or the cost of irrigating for those farmers who carefully utilize that resource. It also doesn’t include the expense of harvesting, hauling and storing the final crop. All those costs come later and provide their own economic impact.

“While the dollars invested in getting the crop off to a good start are impressive, it also doesn’t include the value of that corn crop once it is harvested,” Hutchens said. “From feed to fuel to fiber, that crop is worth a whole lot more than just bushels of grain sold into the market.”

Corn harvested this fall will be used as feed for livestock and poultry, which results in high-value protein products that Nebraskans and people all over the world enjoy. Ethanol is another important market. That process involves taking corn and creating two products – fuel that helps keep gas prices lower than they otherwise would be and millions of tons of distillers grains, another feed product for livestock and poultry.

Bio-renewable materials like PLA are also made from corn. They are used in everything from plastics to fabrics and replace their petroleum-based counterparts in the process.

April 21, 2011

Lincoln Earth Day to celebrate ethanol in Nebraska

By Kim Clark, Nebraska Corn Board Ag Program Manager

This Friday, April 22, marks the day Earth Day has been celebrated for the past 40 years. Many people pledge to help on Earth Day to secure a healthy environment for the future. This can be is done through environmental education, planting trees, water conservation, promoting a green environment, and more.

America’s corn farmers also help the environment every year. They have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced nitrogen utilization, and grow more on less acres. The corn our farmers grow is used for food, feed, fuel, and fiber – all that from just one crop!

The starch portion of the corn kernel is used to make ethanol fuel, and the protein portion, a byproduct of the ethanol fuel, of the corn kernel is used to feed livestock -- beef, dairy, poultry, and pork. Ethanol, produced by America’s corn farmers, reduces our dependency on foreign oil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creates jobs in America, and promotes American agriculture. There are just some of the many ways America’s corn farmers are helping the Earth – which is an everyday habit for them.

In Nebraska, the Lincoln Earth Day event will be celebrated on Saturday, April 23 in Antelope Park at the Auld Recreation Center. The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board are partnering together to promote ethanol. On display will be a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) truck and blender pump. Blender pumps mix ethanol fuel together for use in FFVs. The fuel blends in blender pumps can be E10, 10% ethanol and 90% regular gasoline to E85, 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

Stop by our booth between 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm to learn more about ethanol fuel and FFVs and to show your support for America’s corn farmers!

April 19, 2011

You Can Take the Bobsledder Off the Farm, But… - by Curt Tomasevicz

I’ve heard a thousand jokes made at my expense because I can say, with quite a bit of certainty, that I am one of a very few, if not the only, bobsledder that hails from the state of Nebraska.

I grew up in a typical small town (Shelby) near the center of the state right in the middle of “corn country”. My teammates joke about being me being “corn-fed” and, in their minds, I drove a tractor to school every day when I was in high school. They don’t know of small-town street dances or know of a community without a stoplight, let alone a whole county without one (there isn’t a stoplight in all of Polk County). But little do they know how much my “corn roots” are still a part of my life.

The bobsled season consists of a competitive World Cup season from October through March. And our heavy off-season training runs from early or mid-May through September. So that leaves the month of April for some downtime was well as time for amateur athletes to try to receive an income to help with funding for the rest of the year. So what else would a small-town Nebraska kid do for work in the month April? Farm work, of course!

I’ve been great friends with Phil Hall, a seed-corn farmer near Thayer, Nebraska, for over a decade. Each spring I spend a number of days helping Phil prepare for planting season. This year I spent a couple days helping empty some bins and a few days stalk-chopping several hundred acres. I know this line of work is far from my education in electrical engineering. But I’ve found that I really like the ten hours of solitude in the tractor plowing along. I can’t say that I am cut out to be a farmer year-round, but when it comes time to get my hands dirty, I don’t hesitate to give Phil a hand.

I know that my few days in the field are far from being able to call myself a corn farmer, but I took pride in the fact that, when one of my bobsled teammates called me to discuss some off-season training plans, I surprised him when I said that I would have to call him back when I had a chance to turn off the 8100 John Deere tractor that I was driving.

In my mind, it certainly beats waiting tables part-time like he is doing to earn money for his off-season job. It just goes to show that you can take the bobsledder off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the bobsledder - I think I’ve heard that saying somewhere…

April 14, 2011

Podcast: Grain donations for Red Cross top $31,000 in two days, still coming in

In this podcast, Rick Gruber, a farmer from Benedict and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, reports that in the first two days, farmers donated more than $31,000 in grain to the Red Cross, which will use the funds to directly help those impacted by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the pacific.

Even before this radio report aired last week, however, donations had passed $41,000 and bushels were still coming in to to Aurora Cooperative or CPI locations.

Farmers can continue donating corn, wheat, soybeans and sorghum through July 30.

The program was developed by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, the Aurora Cooperative and the American Red Cross. KRVN rural radio is also supporting the initiative.

"We’re excited to have CPI join the program, and would like to have other cooperatives across the state join in, too," Gruber said, adding that others who are interested can contact Mat Habrock at the Nebraska Corn Growers for more information.

For more on the program, click here and here.

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

April 13, 2011

White corn buyers from Mexico tour Nebraska

Surely, those tortilla chip lovers out there know that Nebraska is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for production of white corn? Nebraska’s production of white corn is around 27 million bushels, with the five-year average of planted acres being 145,127 acres.

The U.S. Grains Council brought up a trade team from Mexcio and the Nebraska Corn Board hosted them to tour two cooperatives and a private grain company, all of which supply white corn to buyers in different U.S. markets by contracting white corn production with Nebraskan farmers. The trade team guests came to Nebraska to explore white corn production and contracting opportunities. The trade team participants were from Almer and its parent company, MINSA, whose goal is to provide the most competitive ingredients for snack foods and tortillas. They have two plants in the U.S. in Iowa and Texas, along with several other plants in Mexico.

Mexico also grows a lot of its own white corn. What is most interesting for Mexico is that they have two cycles of harvest; defined by an Autumn-Winter season and a Spring-Summer season. Unfortunately, Mexico had a rare freeze earlier this year that killed a lot of corn during mid-season growth. Much was replanted, but still left corn stocks short. Thus, the purpose for the trip to the U.S. was to gain a long-term relationship with white corn growers and suppliers to have resources for the future. South Africa is another large white corn market for Mexican buyers, and even though it is cheaper to buy, the shipment and other fees cause it to cost about the same as U.S. corn.

The trade team first met with employees of the Aurora Cooperative in Aurora, Nebraska. The discussion revolved around white and yellow corn production in the area and the use of irrigation.

“We can expect corn yields to be consistent or growing year in and year out because of irrigation,” said Todd Gerdes, specialty grains and grain origination manager of the Aurora Cooperative. His coworker, Mark Jorgensen, Aurora Cooperative’s Sedan location merchandiser, stated the importance of genetically modified (GM) corn. In Nebraska, 91% of the corn (both white and yellow) is GM corn.

“GM corn has a natural resistance and efficiency to make it a better quality,” said Jorgensen.

The trade team then traveled to O’Malley Grain, Inc., now a part of The Andersons, Inc. in Fairmont, Nebraska. This elevator has a program for supplying food-grade corn directly to the buyer.

“We’re going to eat it [white corn] so it needs to be the best quality,” said Dale Byrkit, O’Malley Grain Fairmont location general manager. Byrkit also agreed to the positive use of irrigation, “We have a consistent quality of food-grade corn because of irrigation in Nebraska.”

Dorchester was the next stop for the trade team, meeting with Dale Hayek, elevator manager of Farmer’s Cooperative. Hayek concurred to previous discussion on use of GM white corn and increasing yields.

“Historically, there has been a yield drag in white corn,” said Hayek, “But this last year, we had higher test weights and increased yields.” Hayek also communicated to the team some concern over lost acres to seed corn in the area.

Lastly, the trade team stopped at Nebraska Corn Board chairman and U.S. Grains Council at-large director, Alan Tiemann’s farm in Seward. Alan was able to show the team a Nebraska corn production map, talk about irrigated and non-irrigated acres, and show his planting and harvesting machinery.

See more pictures from the trade team tour on our Flickr online photo album.

April 8, 2011

Curt Tomasevicz addresses Nebraska FFA

Today, Curt Tomasevicz was the keynote speaker for the fifth session at the 83rd Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln.

While training for the winter bobsledding season and attending numerous speaking engagements, Curt has served as the spokesman for the Nebraska Corn Board the past year, representing Nebraska’s corn industry and 26,000 corn farmers.

He has also been blogging on the Nebraska Corn Kernels blog for the past few months. Check out his stories here.

Today, Curt talked about his Olympic experience, training and his recent Bronze win at the World Championships. His motivational message stems from some important advice he once received: 1) know your past, 2) know what you're doing now in the present, and 3) have goals for the future.  He also shared important and positive information about corn production and Nebraska farmers to encourage the FFA students.

The FFA students were excited to not only hear Curt speak, but get to talk to him in person after the session.

Look for more pictures on our online album, Flickr!

Farmers encouraged to maintain Bt refuge, respond to assessment requests

Since the Bt crops were introduced back in the mid 1990s, farmers have had to plant a certain percentage of their acres to non-Bt varieties to help ensure insects did not become resistant to the technology.

“Planting a refuge has been and continues to be a key component of an insect resistant management, or IRM, program,” Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research, said in a news release.

Bt has been re-registered by Environmental Protection Agency, which asked technology providers – seed companies – to step up monitoring and make sure refuges are being maintained.

“There is a concern that as corn prices rise, farmers will be tempted to plant less of a refuge because having that Bt protection on more acres means greater yields,” Brunkhorst said. “At the same time, there are many Bt products that offer different types of protection, so it is more difficult to calculate a proper refuge.”

One tool that can help farmers is a refuge calculator developed by the National Corn Growers Association and all major seed technology providers. Available for free at www.irmcalculator.com, the calculator includes all Bt product options for different parts of the country and simplifies developing a refuge.

Bt technology involves incorporating natural Bacillus thuringiensis proteins into the plant’s stalks, leaves or roots. This significantly reduces insect damage because Bt proteins are toxic to many crop pests but are harmless to people, which is why Bt proteins have been sprayed on many different crops for decades and are still widely used today.

Having a refuge helps ensure crop pests do not become resistant to Bt proteins, thereby reducing their effectiveness.

“Bt technology is worth a lot, as the different types of Bt protection today keep the plant healthier both above and below ground. This means improved yield potential,” Brunkhorst said. “At the same time, it significantly reduces the amount of insecticides sprayed on corn acres, which saves money and time. Farmers need to maintain a proper refuge to make sure we don’t lose the use of this beneficial technology.”

In the past, seed companies did their own monitoring, and sometimes contracted with organizations like the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) to assess randomly selected customers to monitor IRM compliance rates. This year, however, tech providers came together to contract with AOSCA on a national level and make the program completely independent from the seed companies.

The Nebraska Crop Improvement Association, an AOSCA affiliate, will handle the assessment in Nebraska, with letters going out to farmers beginning in June and phone calls to schedule appointments after that.

The assessment must be completed in person and only takes 10-20 minutes.

“They aren’t looking for any more details than the total acres, how many were planted and how many were left in a refuge for each Bt product,” Brunkhorst said. “Part of the technology agreement includes meeting refuge requirements and providing information on their refuge when asked as part of the compliance program, so we’d encourage farmers to respond and cooperate.”

April 7, 2011

State FFA Convention rolls into town

Today, Lincoln, Nebraska, is flowing with blue and gold jackets. Why? The State FFA Convention is in town!

Through the next couple of days, FFAers will be attending conventions sessions, leadership workshops, competitions and the trade/career show. Something new to convention this year is the recently introduced America's Farmers Mobile Experience by Monsanto.

This traveling display is designed to educate consumers on modern agriculture and the challenges farmers face to meet the growing demands. The new Mobile Experience is a traveling 53-foot trailer that expands into 1,000-square-feet of interactive exhibit space and is touring the country, giving people across the nation the opportunity to learn more about the vital role America's farmers play in today’s world.

The America’s Farmers Mobile Experience will be located on N Street, just north of Pershing Auditorium, and open from 1 to 7 p.m. (The street will literally be closed down for this!) It will be open for anyone who is interested. 

During the 24-minute tour, you'll hear about the challenges America’s farmers face, watch a video that spotlights an American farm family, and learn about the tools and technology farmers use every day that help them meet increasing global demands. Check out pictures of the Mobile Experience on Monsanto's Flickr site.

The Mobile Experience will also will be on East Campus on Friday, April 8. It will be parked south in the green space south of LW Chase Hall, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You may also visit it then. But if you can't come to Lincoln to see it, you can take a sneak peak of the mobile experience by going to: http://www.americasfarmers.com/.

The Nebraska Corn Board has an important role with FFA in Nebraska. Not only do we sponsor three proficiency awards during the convention (Diversified Agricultural Production - Entrepreneurship/Placement, Diversified Livestock Production - Entrepreneurship, and Diversified Livestock Production - Placement), but we host a booth for kids to come by and talk to us about what we do, we help judge contests and best of all, we donate the use of an E-85 powered van to the state FFA officers each year.

New this year, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association helped create and sponsor a new opportunity - the Agricultural Issues Academy, which took place April 6th. This program was designed for Nebraska FFA members to learn about the issues involving Nebraska agriculture and gain the tools needed to become advocates for agriculture.

Also special to this year's convention, the Nebraska Corn Board is sponsoring Curt Tomasevicz to be the keynote speaker during the general session on Friday, April 8th. He will share his experience as an Olympic gold medalist in the bobsled event, as well as his connection to Nebraska farmers. 

Podcast: Grain donation program to help Red Cross efforts in Japan

In this podcast, Paul Gangwish, a farmer from Shelton and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, explains a grain donation program that allows farmers to donate bushels of corn or any grain to the American Red Cross and directly help those impacted by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

The program kicked off April 1 and runs through July 30. Farmers can deliver grain to Aurora Cooperative or CPI locations - or simply transfer bushels in storage to the program. Just contact a grain merchandiser from either company.

The program was developed by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, the Aurora Cooperative and the American Red Cross. KRVN rural radio is also supporting the initiative.

"Japan has been our top global corn customer for years and is also a key market for many agriculture products produced in Nebraska, including beef and pork," Gangwish said. "You could say that in the global marketplace, Japan is one of our most important neighbors" – and farmers always help out a neighbor in need.

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

April 6, 2011

Grain donation program nets $31,000 for Red Cross in first two days

Trucks at Aurora West ready to dump corn
for the Red Cross on April 1.

Nebraska farmers delivered more than 4,600 bushels of grain that sold for a donation in excess of $31,000 in the first two days (April 1-2) of a grain donation program to support Red Cross efforts to help those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Pacific.

The program was announced early last week, and since then donations locations have expanded to include Cooperative Producers Inc. locations.

Donations at just Aurora Cooperative locations as of mid-day today added more than 1,300 bushels to that for a total of more than $41,000, said Aurora Cooperative's Dawn Caldwell. She said the first check will go to the Red Cross late today or tomorrow.

“We’ve seen an incredible response to the grain donation program. It’s the largest program we’ve ever had in our chapter, and dollars generated will go directly to the Red Cross international relief effort,” said Renae Foster, chief operating officer of the Central Plains Regional Chapter of the American Red Cross. “The need in Japan is staggering, and the Red Cross will continue to provide assistance in terms of food, medical care, emotional support and general supplies in response to what may be the largest natural disaster in history.”

Farmers can continue making donations to support the initiative through July 30. Grain donations can be made at Aurora Cooperative locations, and also at all CPI locations.

Farmers who are storing grain at either cooperative can also contribute by contacting their grain merchandiser and transferring ownership to the Red Cross.

“Japan is one of our important customers, buying more than $370 million in Nebraska agricultural products like corn, beef and pork, last year alone,” said Lynn Chrisp, a farmer from Kenesaw and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “This is a great way for farmers to help them during this disaster, to be a good neighbor to one of our most important global customers.”

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association said it was excited to see CPI join the program and encouraged other cooperatives to join in, as well.

“The more locations there are to deliver corn, the bigger impact we’ll have,” Chrisp said. “In fact, we’re hoping the grain donation program is adopted in other states, too.”

The grain donation program was developed by the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Aurora Cooperative and the American Red Cross, with farmer-owned KRVN rural radio also supporting the initiative. It began April 1 at three Aurora Cooperative locations and expanded to other company locations the following day.

For more information, interviews and details from various news outlets, click here, here, here, here, here and here.

April 5, 2011

Podcast: Same pattern emerging on food, fuel; USFRA to talk about farming

In this podcast, Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, talks about the contrived "food versus fuel" issue. He notes some people didn't learn lessons from the the last time this came up and that "a lot of it is just an excuse to raise prices."

Tolman noted several studies (like this and this and this) came out stating that corn/ethanol had little to do with food prices - and that we'll just have to work through this process again. "The impact of commodity prices on food prices is minimal and way overstated," he said.

He also provides some background on the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, a group made up of 25 national farm agriculture groups. "It's a bold effort," he said.

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

April 4, 2011

Summer Bobsled Training - by Curt Tomasevicz

I’ve been asked a number of times about our off-season training. With the limited number of tracks in the world (approximately 14) and of course the summer temperatures, it becomes impossible to practice bobsledding year-round. We are only able to actually practice on the ice from October through the end of March. After that, the cost of keeping ice on a refrigerated track is just too inefficient.

We are forced to find ways to improve our pushing ability, without actually pushing a bobsled. There are a few obvious ways to improve push times; get stronger and get faster.
I will spend May through September in Colorado Springs training as I have for the past five years. Our off-season workouts are very intense. They are split between time on the track (the running track) and time in the weight room. Our workouts are a combination of an Olympic weight lifter’s and an Olympic sprinter’s. We need the strength to be able to move the 500 lb sled and still have the speed to be able to keep up as it gets moving down the icy hill before we jump in.

To break it down even further, our lifting workouts are probably 80% lower body work. My two favorite words are “squats” and “cleans”. These two lifts make a bobsledder. Some of our workouts in the past few years have included up to 180 repetitions of squats. A wise strength coach once said that “Squats can cure cancer.” Maybe that’s a meat-head comment, but that is the type of mindset we must have to endure the grueling offseason workouts. I’ve been known to lose my lunch a few times throughout the summer due to the training exertion. I love being in the weight room testing my body’s limits every day. I may not be one of the fastest guys on the team, but I take pride in being one of the strongest. Many of my teammates say it’s unfair because, I’ve been Corn-fed all my life!” (A benefit of being from Nebraska).

On the sprinting side, it is rare if we sprint for more than about 40 or 50 meters during a workout. I know that sounds easy. But every time we sprint, we must give 100 percent effort. And that can be exhausting in a different type of way. People make the assumption that because I’m an athlete and I train for a living, I should be able to run a mile easily. I have to say that any type of cardio or endurance activity makes me want to cry. My sport is nothing but fast and explosive. (Besides, I get bored doing anything for more than a few seconds!)

Of course lifting and sprinting make up our primary training, but it’s also important to train intelligently. We are careful to eat the right diet throughout the off season not just to maintain our weight and muscle development, but also to prevent injury and decrease recovery time. We do stretching workouts, sit in cold-tubs of water (about 45 degrees) for recovery, as well as get massages. I’m not referring to the relaxing, gentle massages. I’m talking about elbow to the thigh bone massages from 250 –pound men.
So when people think about bobsledding as a winter sport, they can now understand that pushing a sled for 5 seconds is a job that requires a 12-month commitment: a full-time job.

In a way, I guess it the same approach as Nebraska corn farmers. A successful harvest isn’t just the result of a few months of work. Many times the difference is done before planting season even begins. 

Watch Curt's training videos to learn about what it takes to be a bobsledder:

Listen here for what Curt has to say about Nebraska farmers growing more with less!