August 31, 2011

August 29, 2011

Nebraska corn crop 77% good to excellent, 51% dented

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 51 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was dented, a 20-point jump from last week, although that number is 10 points behind the five-year average and 16 points behind last year.

Corn in the dough stage reached 93 percent, which is 1 point ahead of average but 5 points behind last year. Corn rated mature entered the charts at 1 percent, off from the 3 percent average and last year’s 2 percent.

As for overall crop condition, USDA said 77 percent of Nebraska's crop was rated good to excellent, which is up 2 points from two weeks ago. That leaves 16 percent of the crop as fair and 7 percent as poor to very poor.

The Midwest crop tour organized by Pro Farmer wrapped up last week. The editors estimated Nebraska’s corn yield at 165 bushels per acre for this year, which is 1 bushel per acre below USDA’s August estimate for the state.

The Pro Farmer editors said Nebraska had good ear length and solid weight but that there were some missing years, with ear counts down about 2 percent from last year. Yet should that 165 bushels be realized, Nebraska farmers would still harvest a record 1.59 billion bushel crop (USDA’s August estimate was 1.60 billion bushels).

Harvest will soon be upon us — and all the various yield estimates circulating can be put to rest with some solid harvest data and real yields straight from the field.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's Chinese Trade Team set on Flickr. The trade team was on a portion of the Pro Farmer crop tour, including the leg that went through Nebraska (click for more). Along the way they stopped at Dave Nielsen's farm near Lincoln. Nielsen is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board.
Dave Nielsen (fourth from left) and his dad Wayne (center)
with the trade team from China.

August 27, 2011

Podcast: U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance to tell story, have dialogue on food

In this podcast, Andy Jobman, a farmer from Gothenburg and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and how the organization aims to create a dialog on food and agriculture across the country.

Known as USFRA, the alliance is a joint project of dozens of agricultural organizations across the country, including the corn industry via the National Corn Growers Association. Yet it's much bigger than corn. It includes groups affiliated with egg, beef, dairy, wheat, soybean, cotton, sugar, sheep, peanut, fresh produce, pork, rice, poultry and more.

"It’s an incredible mix of about 50 organizations who came together to help lead a discussion on where food comes from and the future of food," Jobman said.

For more, listen to the podcast and check out USFRA's website.

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

August 26, 2011

Ethanol promotion, discounts during the State Fair (and Husker tickets!)

The Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island gets underway today and the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association are on hand with a display talking about the faces of Nebraska farmers — and a whole lot more. Just make your way to the Exhibition Building on the fairgrounds.

For a full schedule of the corn-related activities, click here.

In the mean time, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board have partnered to promote ethanol, flex fuel vehicles (FFV) and blender pumps at this year's fair. They've even thrown in some ethanol discounts and a chance to win Husker tickets!

The ethanol discounts take place next weekend — Saturday, September 3 through Monday, September 5 at two locations in the Grand Island area. Those driving FFVs will enjoy 20 cents off E20, 30 cents off E30 and 85 cents off E85. (FYI - The discounts come back for Husker Harvest Days!)

The discounts are at the Bosselman's Pump & Pantry (1235 Allen Dr. location only) and the Aurora Cooperative's A-Stop 24 location at 4155 E. Highway 30. For a map and details on the fuel discounts, click here.

“There are approximately 100,000 FFVs in Nebraska and nearly 90 percent of consumers don’t know they drive a flex fuel vehicle,” said Kim Clark, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board.  She said the fair is a great opportunity for people to come out, learn about FFVs and find out if they have one parked in their garage.

To address FFV and ethanol questions specifically, the groups will host a Q and A session on the Exhibition Building stage on Saturday, September 3 from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. The “Do You Flex Fuel?" program will feature an auto mechanic, fuel retailer, ethanol expert and an automobile salesperson.

As for the Husker tickets, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board are giving away two pairs -- one pair for the September 10 Nebraska vs. Fresno State game and another pair to the September 17 Nebraska vs. Washington game.

Registration for your chance to win is online -- just click here. Winners will be notified September 6.

Good luck! ...and be sure to stop by the Nebraska Corn Board or Nebraska Ethanol Board booths at the fair for details.

August 25, 2011

Nebraska Corn Board Meets with Chinese Trade Team

Which country has one of the largest populations and has an economy that is exploding in growth? The answer is China. The latest statistic on China’s population states that it has around 1.3 billion people and an economy that is expected to grow around 9.28% in 2011. Not only is China growing in its population and economy, but the country has also increased the amount of corn it imports from other nations. In 2010, the USDA estimated that China imported 1.5 million metric tons (MMT) of corn from U.S. corn farmers.

On August 19, the Nebraska Corn Board had the opportunity to meet with a Chinese trade team that was hosted by Ag Processing Inc. The Chinese trade team was a group of traders from COFCO, one of China’s largest oil and food importers and exporters. Nebraska Corn Board’s Executive Director, Don Hutchens, explained some of the things that are happening in Nebraska’s corn industry and also some of the challenges that Nebraska corn farmers are facing. Alan Tiemann and Dave Nielsen, Nebraska Corn Board farmer-directors, also attended and shared information about their farm operations and also how this year’s corn crop compares to previous years. After a luncheon, the Chinese trade team traveled out to Dave Nielsen’s farm operation so that the trade team members could see this year’s corn crop along with some of the technology and equipment that corn farmers are using today.

Dave Nielsen explained to the trade team members how his multi-generation family farm works and how he is producing more corn with fewer resources. Dave also explained how he is using no-till practices and uses crop rotations to try and increase yields. Many of the Chinese trade team members were surprised at how much it costs to operate a farm and also at how many acres Dave farms. In China, corn farms are a lot smaller than corn farms here in the United States. Many of the members of the trade team were able to view an ear of corn that was just entering into the dent stage.

Overall, it was a great experience to show the Chinese what Nebraska’s corn crop will be like this year, and also a great way for Nebraska to continue expanding its exports to other countries. Opportunities like these help expand not only Nebraska’s exports, but also the United States exports. As mentioned earlier, China has a growing population and economy. As China continues to grow, we will most likely see its’ imports of U.S. corn grow as well.

To see more pictures from the Chinese trade team visit, you can visit our flickr account.

August 23, 2011

Nebraska State Fair begins this Friday!


It’s that time of year again!

Yep, you got it. The Nebraska State Fair is right around the corner. Starting this Friday, August 26 people from all over Nebraska and of all age ranges will attend the State Fair.

With this year’s Department of Agriculture theme, “The Story of Nebraska Agriculture”, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board are partnering together to provide information for consumers about flex fuel vehicle (FFV) education, ethanol education, and blender pumps at each of their booths in the Exhibition Building.

In addition to ethanol information and education, the Nebraska Corn Board booth will have a video about the, “Faces of Nebraska Family Farmers” and jars of corn representing corn production from 1930, 2011, and the future.

There will be a few events you can attend while at the State Fair to learn more about flex fuel vehicles, ethanol, and blender pumps. On Saturday, September 3rd from 3 - 4 pm, the Nebraska Corn Board is hosting a Question and Answer Panel on FFV’s, blender pumps, and ethanol on the stage in the Exhibition Building.

Also during the State Fair, if you have an FFV, you can enjoy additional savings at blender pumps in Grand Island. See the Nebraska Corn Board or Nebraska Ethanol Board booth for more information. Check out either of the booths anytime during the State Fair for more information on promotions, to learn about flex fuel vehicles, which ethanol blends you can use in your FFV, and more.

You can also visit the Nebraska Corn Board website for more information . The Nebraska Ethanol Board has a flex fuel vehicle club where you can sign up to receive news and information about flex fuel vehicles, blender pump promotions and ethanol discounts,

Are you a Husker Football fan?! Just for answering a few questions about ethanol, you could win two tickets to a Husker football game. Find out more at our booths, but also visit or to enter, starting August 26th.

CommonGroundLogo_wWhile at State Fair, meet some Nebraska CommonGround volunteers while tasting some food and recipes while you’re at it! On Saturday, September 3 from 5:15 – 6 pm at the Exhibition Building stage, sample some great recipes from Nebraska farm women and hear their stories of life on & off the farm.

Are you on Twitter? If so, you can tweet with the hashtag #NeCornEthanol all throughout the fair and we will be awarding prizes daily!  

See you at the fair!

Schedule Short-cut for Nebraska Corn Events:

Friday, August 26th State Fair Parade through Fonner Park at 5 pm
• Come see the Sustaining Innovation trailer at the State Fair Parade and get some candy corn!
Monday, August 29th "Nebraska Corn for Kids” presentation 10-10:30 am on Exhibition Building Stage
Tuesday, August 30th “Nebraska Corn for Kids” presentation 10-10:30 am on Exhibition Building Stage
Wednesday, August 31st Nebraska Corn Growers “Beef Pit” Day
• Come get some great tasting beef from the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Beef Pit in the Exhibition Building – and see some friendly corn growers serving you!
Saturday, September 3rd “Do You Flex Fuel” Panel on Exhibition Building Stage 3-4 pm
• Hear from the experts about using ethanol in your flex fuel vehicle.
“Cookin’ with CommonGround” demonstration on Exhibition Building Stage 5:15-6 pm
• Sample some great recipes from Nebraska farm women and hear their stories of life on & off the farm!
Sunday, September 4th 4-H & FFA Appreciation BBQ 11 – 1:30 pm
• If you’re a 4-H or FFA member or family member – pick up your free lunch ticket and get a great pork lunch while the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Pork Producers Association honors a Nebraska pork producer.
Nebraska Farmer’s Check Presentation to Red Cross 1 – 2 pm
• The Nebraska Corn Growers Association will be presenting a donation check to the American Red Cross from the grain donation program that Nebraska farmers across the state donated to help with the Japan Relief Effort.

August 22, 2011

Podcast: Farm program changes are likely on their way

In this podcast, Larry Mussack, a farmer from Decatur and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the debt limit and budget talks that took place in Washington, D.C., last month, and how they relate to agriculture.

"While agriculture, foreign aid and earmarks are often mentioned when it comes to cuts, combined they barely make up 1 percent of the federal budget," Mussack said. "So while cuts there may be necessary and helpful they certainly won’t solve the problem."

He noted that about 90 percent of government spending goes to defense, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and interest on the debt. Education gets about 4 percent and transportation only about 3 percent.

As National Corn Growers Association president Bart Schott noted recently, anyone with basic math skills can see that the budget cannot be balanced on the backs of agriculture. However, Mussack said, he also noted that it is obvious significant cuts must be made to all programs if we want to avoid the economic meltdown seen in Greece, Italy and Spain.

"As the farm bill heats up in 2012 with the prospects of an even smaller pie to divide than we’re facing now, we will need your input and support," Mussack said. "We will need all corn growers to understand the challenges and options before us, and your voice can help determine the path we take and encourage those in D.C. to make reasonable and sound decisions."

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

August 19, 2011

Nebraska Corn Board elects new officers


The Nebraska Corn Board met and elected officers on their first day of meetings in Lincoln last week.

The Board met on Thursday, August 11 and Friday, August 12 at The Cornhusker Hotel to conduct regular board business and hold election of officers.

Alan Tiemann, at-large director from Seward, Neb., was elected to remain chairman of the board. This will be Tiemann’s third term to serve as board chairman.

Tim Scheer, District 5 director from St. Paul, Neb., was elected as vice chairman. Scheer previously served as the secretary/treasurer.

Curt Friesen, District 3 director from Henderson, Neb., was elected as secretary/treasurer.  Friesen previously served as the market development committee chairman for the Corn Board.

“The Nebraska corn industry has played a dynamic role in helping the Nebraska economy through its market development, research, promotion and education,” said Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “The role these farmer leaders have is critical in supporting the mission and vision for Nebraska’s 26,000 corn producers that pay the corn checkoff.”

curt t_BoardPictured here from left to right at Friesen, Scheer and Tiemann.

August 17, 2011

August 15, 2011

Nebraska corn rated 75% good to excellent, 10% dented

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 75 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was rated good to excellent as of August 14, with 18 percent of the crop rated fair and 7 percent poor to very poor.

USDA said 10 percent of the crop was dented, which is behind the five-year average of 22 percent and last year’s 28 percent dented by this point. Corn in the dough stage is also behind, with 58 percent in that stage this year compared to the five-year average of 70 percent and last year’s 76 percent.

Nationally, 60 percent of the crop was in good to excellent condition, with 25 percent rated fair and 15 percent poor to very poor, all were similar to last week are off from last year when 69 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 20 percent fair and 11 poor to very poor.

As for other national measurements, USDA said 17 percent of the crop was dented, off from the five-year average of 21 percent and last year's 30 percent, and 52 percent was in the dough stage, off from 58 percent on average and 71 percent last year.

This week's photos comes from the Howells-Clarkson (top) and Imperial FFA chapters. For more photos, be sure to check out the Nebraska Corn Board's 2011 crop progress photo set on Flickr.

For more details of Nebraska's corn crop, visit the Corn Board's Crop Progress Update page.

August 12, 2011

Podcast: Promoting U.S. beef, well-balanced diet in Japan

In this podcast, Curt Tomasevicz, a spokesman for the Nebraska Corn Board, talks about his part in a recent mission to Japan to promote U.S. beef as part of a balanced diet and provide meals to tsunami and earthquake evacuees.

The Nebraska Corn Board initiated and funded the mission, which took place in July, to get an in-depth view of the U.S. corn-fed beef promotions taking place in Japan through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Photos from the mission are on Flickr.

Tomasevicz helping prepare meals for evacuees.
"We had an opportunity to spend time with key individuals from various companies but also made sure to visit with a number of consumers so we could tell a bit of our story," said Tomasevicz, the Olympic gold medalist. "As an athlete I shared the importance of eating a well balanced diet that includes protein like Nebraska and U.S. beef."

A girls soccer team had an opportunity to pepper him with questions they had practiced in English. They wanted to know why the team was in Japan and what he liked to eat. The team presented the girls with bento boxes, which are lunch boxes that included U.S. beef with rice.

Tomasevicz also enjoyed preparing meals for evacuees. This was also a great experience for John Willoughby and Bill Schuster to see how their efforts through the Nebraska grain donation program went into effect.

"It is difficult to describe the devastation, and while I know the Corn Board posted pictures online, the scene is incredible in person," he said.

While Tomasevicz didn't mention it in his radio report, the gold medal he carries is recognized everywhere. For more on how that helped in this mission, click here.

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

August 11, 2011

Nebraska farmers may harvest record corn crop

Nebraska corn farmers are looking at potential yields of 166 bushels per acre, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. If realized, that would put Nebraska's corn crop at 1.6 billion bushels, a new state record.

A 1.6 billion bushel crop in Nebraska is 9 percent more than last year and 2 percent more than the previous record high set in 2009, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office. Yields of 166 bushels per acre would match last year, meaning the boost in production is coming from the corresponding 9 percent increase in planted acres — 10.0 million acres. (The record yield of 178 bushels per acre was set in 2009.)

A solid yield estimate is backed by Nebraska's excellent corn crop condition, with 79 percent of the crop rated good to excellent as of Aug. 7, with 15 percent rated fair and only 6 percent poor to very poor.

Nationally, of course, the word of the day is USDA lowering yield estimates from 158.7 bushels per acre last month to 153.0 this month. That, and a reduction in harvested area, dropped estimated national production to 12.9 billion bushels, off from last month's estimate of 13.5 billion.

While Nebraska saw a big jump in production over last year, so did other important corn states, including Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota. Texas and Kansas, meanwhile, saw significant declines due to poor weather, particularly hot and dry conditions.

Overall, though, the 2011 crop — if realized — is still up 4 percent from last year and the third-largest production total on record.

The 5.7 bushel decline in the national yield estimate was certainly more of a drop than many had expected from USDA. It will be interesting to see how that plays out as farmers start harvest, which will be here soon.

USDA also updated (.pdf) its supply and demand numbers based off the new yield estimate. A recap of the numbers is below, as provided by the Nebraska Corn Board's Kelly Brunkhorst.

August 9, 2011

Growing more with less, someone else sharing your story

It’s always great when we see others out there sharing the importance of agriculture, and in this instance – helping to tell our Sustaining Innovation message that Nebraska farmers are growing more corn using less resources!

Recently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report on fertilizer use and prices for corn across the US. This report is the result of the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) jointly conducted in 2010 by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) and USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). ARMS data used to be collected annually for corn, but has been collected less frequently since 2001.The last ARMS data for corn prior to 2010 was in 2005. This information, coupled with data on crop production in Nebraska from the Nebraska State Agricultural Statistic Service, provides an opportunity to explore how efficiently Nebraska farmers are using nitrogen (N) fertilizer for corn production.
Figure 1 illustrates the average N rate for corn in Nebraska as reported in ARMS data. This illustrates that the average rate of N fertilizer has remained basically unchanged for the past 40 years – around 140 lb N/acre. At the same time, corn production has seen a steady, linear increase in Nebraska over the same period (Figure 2).


When these two datasets are combined, the resulting trend in nitrogen use efficiency, expressed as pounds of N fertilizer applied to produce a bushel of corn, is illustrated in Figure 3.

In 2010, this value was 0.84 lb fertilizer N per bushel of corn. This compares to an average value of 1.5 to 1.6 lb fertilizer N per bushel of corn in the 1970s – about twice the N fertilizer currently used per bushel. This data does not indicate that a bushel of corn requires only 0.84 lb N. There are other sources of N besides fertilizer available to the crop – mineralized soil organic matter, residual nitrate from previous fertilization, legume and manure credits, for example – which contribute to the total N need for a corn crop of 1.1 – 1.2 lb N/bu. This data does indicate that Nebraska farmers are using nitrogen fertilizer much more efficiently now than they were 30-40 years ago.
They accomplish this using a wide range of practices – accounting for all sources of N available to the crop besides N fertilizer, as indicated above, as well as efficiency-boosting practices such as sidedressing, fertigation, use of nitrification and urease inhibitors, use of slow release formulations, setting realistic yield goals, and efficient irrigation management.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) guidelines on fertilizer use are available in the publication Fertilizer Suggestions for Corn (EC 117). Specific recommendations for fields using soil test information and cropping history can be calculated using the web resource SoilTest Nebraska ( Since 2005, UNL has provided economic adjustments to N fertilizer recommendations based on the relationship of crop and fertilizer N prices.

Figure 4 illustrates trends in the ratio of corn to N price over the past 50 years. The peak in this relationship occurred in the 1970’s, when fertilizer was quite inexpensive compared to the price of corn. In 2010, even though fertilizer prices seemed high, the value of the crop – on average – was even higher, resulting in a price ratio of 17:1. To avoid either deficient or excessive rates of N application, the price ratio range in UNL N recommendations for corn is confined between 4:1 and 10:1. To optimize profit, producers will want to use economic factors specific to their own situation; in general 2011 N rates should have been slightly higher than in recent years.

References: Richard B. Ferguson, UNL Extension Soils Specialist and UNL CropWatch

August 8, 2011

New study says no land use change due to biofuels

A new study on indirect land use change (ILUC) due to biofuels (like ethanol) production indicates that the real impact of U.S. biofuels production on ILUC domestically and internationally is negligible or nonexistent.

Indirect land use change is important because some believe the environmental and greenhouse gas benefits of biofuels like ethanol are somewhat negated when other farmland is brought into production. However, ILUC is mostly a theory and has had little scientific support — yet regulatory bodies, such as the Air Resources Board in California, have tried to set renewable fuels standards that would exclude corn-based ethanol simply based on these theories. (For more click here, here and here.)

The study, "Indirect land use change for biofuels: Testing predictions and improving analytical methodologies" was coauthored by Dr. Seungdo Kim and Dr. Bruce E. Dale of Michigan State University. It was published in the July 2011 Biomass and Bioenergy Journal.

“It is the first evidence-based evaluation of ILUC utilizing actual historic data, employing a 'bottom-up', data-driven, statistical approach based on individual world regions’ land use patterns and commodity grain imports,” said Dr. Roger Conway, senior partner at Rosslyn Advisors LLC and former director of the United States Department of Agriculture's Office of Energy Policy and New Uses.

Very few previous studies have attempted to find empirical evidence for or against indirect land use change from the historical data. Most previous studies relied on global economic simulations. "Unlike most other ILUC work this study relied on very few assumptions and did not attempt to quantify nor to predict ILUC effects," commented Bruce Dale, coauthor of the study. "We searched for direct historical evidence for ILUC in relevant world areas rather than attempting to project or predict what course ILUC might take. Projecting forward can force scientists to make untestable assumptions."

One interpretation of no ILUC effects is that U.S. crop intensification absorbed and exceeded new ethanol production demand. It is also possible that the effects of biofuels production expansion on ILUC may simply be negligible. Past studies based on economic model assumptions often do not take into account new agricultural techniques that allow for greater crop yields on existing U.S. lands where biofuel corn is produced.

The new study used 1990 -- when the U.S. biofuels industry was very small -- as its baseline and then measured crop changes against that as U.S. ethanol production grew rapidly in subsequent years. In order to test the hypotheses that ILUC had occurred, the authors searched for actual land use change in 18 regions around the world where corn and/or soybeans are produced.

Had ILUC occurred, use of crop land and arable land would have increased while the area of natural ecosystem land would have declined. Further, grain shipments from the U.S. to the other regions would decline. Finally, cropland in other regions would positively correlate with changes in harvested areas for corn and soybeans in the U.S.

Using historical data to investigate real ILUC effects, the study found no statistical evidence of the changes predicted by ILUC theory in any of the 18 world regions. "Prior modeling studies that relied on many assumptions have led to inflated projections for indirect land use change," added Dr. Steffen Mueller of the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Some work has substituted other data, such as the price of corn, to project ILUC. Modeling is important, but all models need to be tested and verified. These findings show that there is no substitute for using actual historic data when investigating ILUC."

Because other studies based their projections on economic model assumptions rather than empirical land use data their predictions on the effects of ILUC due to increased U.S. ethanol production varied widely.

August 5, 2011

Food Systems Round-Table connects farm to fork

This week, the Nebraska Soybean Board hosted the annual Food System Round-Table event to bring everyone that deals with food to the table – literally! – to talk about food.

Part of the day featured a food panel discussion including a food blogger, a CommonGround farmer volunteer, a registered dietician and an ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The food blogger was Ann Huddleston of Healthy, Tasty Chow ( who blogs from Elkhorn, Neb. Her perspective as a person outside of agriculture to a group of ag folks was very interesting – offending at times – but something we need in agriculture need to hear.

The CommonGround volunteer was Joan Ruskamp or Dodge, Neb. She is a self-proclaimed city girl converted to farm life. Joan and her family own and operate a feedlot, grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa and is very involved in her community, especially with five kids.

The registered dietician was Kelli Kennel from Hy-Vee grocery stores. Kelli grew up on a farm, but considers herself far from it. She specializes in helping customers make healthy food choices.

The remaining panelist was Casey Foster, ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture who works closely on opening new markets for value-added ag products, like expanding the farmers market program in the state.

The conversation started with the question, “When it comes to food, what kind of things interest you in terms of issues surrounding food?”

Joan – “The biggest issue is misunderstanding of the general consumer. We {farmers} take it seriously that we’re producing food. We know we’re producing food and we want to be really good at it! I’m a consumer too and even though we have a feedlot of cattle outside of our home, I buy my beef from the grocery store. Our food system is safe and I trust it to feed my family.”

Kelli – “It’s important to make food enjoyable and healthy in your lifestyle. Consumers want the quick fix when it comes to healthy eating. I tell them the best fix is the good, old fashioned way with diet and exercise being the key, which surprises most people.”

Ann – “The most important aspect for my choice as a consumer for food is convenience that is healthy. I am more interested in how food is produced - any type of food production is interesting to me. I visited an egg farm in Arizona and didn’t mind it because it was really clean. Yeah, I wished their cages could have been bigger, but the cleanliness surprised me and I have a better trust in it. Another issue is taste for me. I will buy something over another because I like the taste – I buy grass-fed beef because I prefer the taste, not because of the production method.”

“How can we help you become more comfortable with modern agriculture?”

Ann – “I have never met a bad farmer. I get my information for my food blog from everywhere. If I don’t know if the source is credible, I will still use it, but take it with a grain of salt. I am always looking for a credible third-party researcher – not one out there with a profit affiliation.”

Joan – “As a farmer, I am using video. I want to show everyone out there what I’m doing on my farm and try to better explain it so they can “see” it for themselves.”

Casey – “We use surveys to see how people can become more comfortable with modern agriculture. With the farmers market program, a major factor of healthy food and trust is the produce that you buy. Finding wholesome, locally grown food ranks high on people’s list.”

Ann, the food blogger, also gave some intriguing insight to her consumer choices and why she does what she does. When it comes to buying natural, Ann buys as natural as she can, if it is affordable. “I will go all over the place to find the best food!”

Thanks to the Nebraska Soybean Board for putting this round-table event together to gain more insight on how consumers make decisions and how we in agriculture can help them make those decisions in an educated way.

Ethanol powering United States Auto Club racing

Ignite Racing Fuel, a 100 percent American-made ethanol-based fuel, is now the Official Racing Fuel of the United States Auto Club, according to a news release posted on the USARacing website. This adds to the many racing series who have adopted ethanol as their fuel -- from NASCAR to IndyCar to boating.

"Specially formulated solely for high compression, high horsepower, off road applications and ethanol equipped fuel systems, Ignite products range from 108 to 114 octane of pure American POWER, for substantial cost savings compared to foreign petroleum based racing fuels. With the cooling effects of the alcohol in ethanol and the clean burning nature of a biofuel, Ignite is the natural choice for speed and longer engine life," the release about Ignight said.

Kevin Miller, USAC president/CEO, noted that Ignite Racing Fuels have proven during testing to have a 40 percent reduction in consumption, which translates to savings for racing participants without compromising performance. "It’s great to have an alternative which not only serves the environment but also the budgets of our competitors and offers a safer racing atmosphere," he said.

Ignight is produced by National Biofuels Distribution of Carmel, Ind.

August 2, 2011

Podcast: Argonne researcher debunks some ethanol myths

In this podcast, Paul Cernik, a farmer from Colon and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about a few ethanol myths addressed recently by a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory.

The first myth he addressed covers the ethanol energy balance...that myth that ethanol requires more energy to make than it yields. While this has been debunked many times, some still believe it’s true.

The Argonne researcher said ethanol is most certainly positive on the energy front for two key reasons. First, corn production efficiency has increased dramatically, with farmers now growing 160 bushels per acre today versus the 95 grown in 1980 (and yields continue to increase).

Second, ethanol production has become more energy-efficient. Most corn used in ethanol production goes through a dry milling process that uses far less energy than the wet milling process used before. The combination of more corn per acre coupled with a reduction of energy input to process ethanol, results in a very favorable energy balance.

The researcher addressed a couple of other myths, most of which should simply go away but unfortunately live on thanks to ethanol naysayers and internet searches.

"This is why we must continue to work to tell the truth about ethanol and the benefits it has for everything from economic development to reducing our dependence on foreign oil," Cernik said.

"Ethanol is making a real contribution to our energy needs while reducing our dependence on imported petroleum. And that’s no myth. It’s a fact," he said.

Nebraska Corn Board intern Lance Atwater recently completed a series of blog posts where he took time to bust five myths that continue to be repeated by the anti-ethanol crowd. Specifically, Atwater noted that ethanol does not take more energy to produce than it yields, that ethanol production does not reduce our food supply, that gasoline does indeed produce more greenhouse gases than ethanol, that ethanol requires less water to produce now than it did several years ago and that although cars using ethanol do get less fuel mileage, it is recovered by the lower cost of ethanol.

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

August 1, 2011

17% of Nebraska corn in dough stage, 77% rated good to excellent

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 17 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was in the dough stage as of July 31, which is 8 points below the 25 percent five-year average. Last year's crop was right at that average, with 25 percent in the dough stage by now.

Ear of corn silking - waiting to be pollinated from the tassel.
USDA said 89 percent of the state's crop was silking, 1 point behind the average and 5 points behind last year. In terms of development, last year's crop was simply well ahead of average by this point.

Nationally, 18 percent of the crop is in the dough stage, which is 5 points behind the average and 12 points behind last year. So while marginally behind average, keep in mind that last year's number was 18 points ahead of the 2009 crop — so corn development last year was very fast thanks to early planting and some early good weather.

While it is a bit early for much of a dented estimate, USDA did note that 4 percent of nation's corn crop crop was dented, off from the 5 percent average and 6 percent last year. In Nebraska, USDA said no corn was dented, but a year ago only 2 percent of the crop was dented, compared to the five-year average of 1 percent.
Corn kernels just starting to form.

As for crop conditions, USDA said 77 percent of the state's crop was rated good to excellent, with 16 percent average and 7 percent poor to very poor. Last year (Aug. 2, 2010), 84 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was rated good to excellent, with 11 percent as fair and only 5 percent poor or very poor. In 2009, 79 percent was rated good to excellent.

Nationally, 62 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, with 24 percent fair and 14 percent poor to very poor, the same as last week. Those top numbers are well behind year ago when 71 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 19 percent was fair and 10 percent poor to very poor. In 2009, 68 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent.

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

For more details of Nebraska's corn crop, visit the Corn Board's Crop Progress Update page.

Why the Need for a Safety Net?

If you are involved in agriculture, you know it can be a very risky business. Just ask a farmer and they will tell you that they deal with risk every day. Unfortunately, not many people around the United States understand how risky farming really is and that agriculture is probably the riskiest industry around. Unfortunately, it is not just people around the United States thinking this, but there are also a few politicians in Washington, D.C. that don’t realize the risk farmers make every day.

As everyone knows, our country is currently facing a major debt crisis, and serious cuts need to be made. Farmers and ranchers realize that they need to be part of solving the debt crises and are willing to take cuts. However, how much can farmers and ranchers really give up? In a recent Farm Futures article, House Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) nailed this question on the spot. He stated that while farmers and ranchers want to be part of the solution to our debt problem, they also can’t be the ones taking the majority of the cuts when they only receive less than one half of one percent of the federal budget. Representative Frank Lucas also stated that there needs to be a safety net for farmers and ranchers, especially when times may be rough.

So a person may ask why farmers and ranchers need a safety net, when other industries don’t always get safety nets. As I mentioned earlier, farmers and ranchers are involved in the riskiest industry in the U.S. and can go out of business very quickly. There are certain risks that farmers and ranchers take that they can’t necessarily control. Such risk includes markets, weather, and the cost of production. Today, the markets can be like riding a roller coaster and are almost unpredictable. Any event can cause prices in the market to go up or down, such as production numbers, world events, and yes, even the weather. The weather is probably the biggest risk agriculture faces because unfortunately, the weather can be unpredictable, even with the technology that we use today. A person just never knows if they will be lucky enough to have good weather, weather that brings their crops ideal amounts of moisture along with cooler temperatures. However, there are times when the weather can be a farmer’s worst nightmare by ruining their crop within minutes because of strong winds and the “white combine”, also known as hail. Lastly, farmers and ranchers are unable to control production costs. Now, that doesn’t give them the excuse to not budget and keep track of their expenses, but there are times when the cost of inputs exceeds what a farmer will actually make in return.

After looking at the uncontrollable risks that farmers take on every day, just so we can eat, it is easy to see why they need a safety net. As mentioned earlier, farmers and ranchers know they have to take some cuts as well to help solve our country’s debt problems. However, they also would like to have some type of fall back in place in case agriculture ever goes through a rough patch. Why shouldn’t there be a safety net for the people and families who produce our food? Without them, our plates would be empty.