October 31, 2011

7 billion people and counting

The United Nations today officially marked the global population reaching 7 billion. It called on world leaders to meet the challenges of a growing population, including ensuring adequate food and clean water.

At a press event in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world’s population reached 6 billion in 1998, only 13 years ago, and it is expected to grow to 9 billion by the middle of this century, or even a few years earlier – by 2043.

That's a lot of people – a lot of people who will be looking to farmers of the world for food and a lot of farmers who will be looking to produce that food while using the fewest amount of resources possible.

Here in Nebraska we talk about Sustaining Innovation and how through responsible stewardship and improved management practices, Nebraska corn farmers are growing more corn with less – less fertilizer, less chemicals, less water, less land and less of an impact on the environment.

That notion, however, is true for most farmers no matter what they are growing — from tomatoes to eggs and from rice to beef. All are producing more food today than a decade ago and doing so with a smaller footprint. (American corn farmers grow five times more corn than they did in the 1930s – but are doing so on 20 percent less land.)

If you think about it, that's the goal of any farmer — it is how he or she ensures their success in the future, how they remain viable in the long term. It comes from learning how to get better from every crop every year, and learning from your neighbor, even if that neighbor is half a world away.

Can we grow more grain on an acre? Or produce more pounds of sweet potatoes? Or raise more pigs per litter? The answer is, of course, yes. And it can be done by farmers all over the world, from the United States to Tanzania, from China to Poland.

It just takes knowing how — and building on that knowledge every year.

Just imagine where we were a generation ago. Or two. And where we are today. From horses to tractors that drive themselves.

Where will the next generation take us? Where does it need to take us?

Certainly on a global basis more people need to know how to grow more food and to do so while relying on fewer resources. To be successful, however, it will take a toolbox full of knowledge, innovation and technology. Limiting either only slows the investment needed in global agriculture.

If you think about it, an incredible amount of food is produced around the world today.

Yet still people  go hungry.

Farmers producing food is just one component to having enough food for all. Transportation, politics, economics, reliable trade rules and more play a critical role and must be part of a solution – for all are needed to create a global population that is food secure, now and in 2043.

October 28, 2011

Podcast: Trade is important to Nebraska agriculture

In this podcast, Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about the recently approved free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea – and how trade is important to Nebraska agriculture.

He noted that trade provides good markets for corn and is critical for livestock producers who ship pork and beef around the world.

"Implementing these agreements will keep us competitive," he said. This is important because other countries have agreements in place or are negotiating them with the three countries. When they sign trade deals with others, such as Brazil or the EU, the U.S. loses market share.

"All three agreements are a good deal for Nebraska agriculture, and we thank everyone who offered their support," Hunnicutt said.

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

October 27, 2011

Legacy wall featuring farm families to help complete education center

Rendering of the NCTA education center in Curtis.
The University of Nebraska–Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture campus at Curtis will never be the same again!

This fall, four new facilities — an education center, addition to the veterinary hospital, residence hall and biomass project — are all coming on line for the benefit of all future NCTA students and the Nebraska agriculture organizations who will use the new facilities for meetings, seminars and conferences.

The Nebraska Corn Board was key to the transformation of the NCTA campus through being the first major agriculture organization donor. This donation and continued support for NCTA’s 100 acre farm and other youth ownership programs will make it possible for NCTA to double its enrollment during the next three years. 

Importantly, students attending NCTA learn the art and science of enterprise ownership and be prepared to return to rural Nebraska as partners and eventually owners of farms, ranches and agribusinesses.

The new 27,000 sq. ft. education center features an auditorium, classrooms and laboratories. The agronomy laboratory and a lounge will carry the name of the Nebraska Corn Board — a reminder to  students and other center visitors of the importance of corn to the Nebraska economy.
Sample of a glass tile that will go
in the education center.

Also featured in the new structure will be a Donor Legacy Wall that celebrates the dedication of Nebraska families who built Nebraska farms, ranches and agribusinesses.

A $1,000 donation helps NCTA complete the education center and gives each donor family a tile to display in the center and one to take home. NCTA said the gift is critical to the building project and will create a family keepsake for generations to come.

"The new education center is a fitting place to display the opportunities our parents gave to us to be involved in production agriculture and the commitment we have to preparing our children for the same opportunity," said Conrad Nelson, a corn grower from Wallace. "As an NCTA alumnus, I must say that I am absolutely amazed at all the new programs and buildings being built to support the future generations of farmers and ranchers. There is no question that this wonderful institution will have a major impact on Nebraska agriculture and the rural communities that support it."

A sample of a keepsake tile
for home or business.
NCTA is still taking contributions to help complete the education center and make it the best learning environment it can be for students, and those contributing 1,000 or more allows a logo/photo to appear on a 12x12 inch glass tile adorning a Donor Legacy Wall in the atrium.

In addition to the tile that will hang in the building, donors receive a copy to display in their business or home.

For details, click here or contact Ann Bruntz at abruntz@nufoundation.org or 402-458-1176.

OWH: Corn. Ethanol. Livestock. A prosperous farming combination

An editorial in the Omaha World Herald earlier this week did a great job of pointing out the incredible synergy between corn, ethanol and livestock production.

The basis for the editorial was a report from the Nebraska Business Forecast Council that said farm income in the state may reach a record this year and remain strong.

The World Herald's editorial goes on to talk about the ethanol industry and the role it plays in the state, particularly the production of distillers grains by ethanol plants and the opportunity that provides for cattle producers and the state as a whole:

In 2007, an article in the Sunday World-Herald suggested a possible shift in cattle feeding from Texas to the Midlands. That now may be coming to pass, and the availability of distillers grains for cattle feed could be a factor.
Nebraska already ranks second in cash receipts for cattle and calves and is moving up fast on top-ranked Texas. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics for 2010, third-place Kansas had $6.5 billion in receipts. Second-place Nebraska had $7.2 billion, while Texas took in $7.7 billion.

The benefits to ethanol plants from selling byproducts are clear, but there are other advantages that spread throughout Nebraska. Farming communities and their ag-related businesses prosper when corn is high and ethanol plants are busy and profitable. So do other businesses in small-town Nebraska.
And that means jobs in many sectors of the economy – jobs that breathe life into rural communities.

As the editorial concludes:
Nebraska doesn't lead the nation in either ethanol, cattle or corn. But the way the three work together can mean greater national prominence and more prosperity for the entire state.

October 26, 2011

Distillers grains is a great value in livestock, poultry feed

One of several distillers grains feeding guides
produced by the Nebraska Corn Board.
Research conducted at the University of Nebraska and supported by the Nebraska Corn Board has often demonstrated the high value of feeding distillers grains to cattle.

The board has published several feeding guides, including one focusing on beef cattle that came out last fall. In that corn co-product manual, the researchers noted distillers grains (produced by ethanol plants) have a feeding value at an optimum inclusion level in the ration that is 13-50 percent greater than that of corn alone.

The highest feeding values were for the wet and modified (partially dried) distillers grains, while the fully dried distillers grains were on the lower end. Click here to view and download the beef and other guides.

A new report from the USDA (.pdf) looked at the feeding value of distillers grains for all animals. It found that distillers grains has a tremendous feed value and is replacing more corn and soybean meal in livestock and poultry rations than previously thought.

According to the report, 1 metric ton of distillers grains can replace, on average, 1.22 metric tons of other feed consisting of corn and soybean meal. That's because distillers grains essentially concentrates the protein and other key nutrients found in every kernel.

Every 56-pound bushel of corn processed by a dry mill ethanol plant generates 2.8 gallons of ethanol plus 17.5 pounds of animal feed – but that animal feed has a greater value than that number indicates. USDA said the amount of feed replaced by distillers grains represents nearly 40 percent (on a weight basis) of the corn used in the ethanol production process.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the report dispels the conventional assumption that every bushel of corn processed by an ethanol plant generates an amount of feed equivalent to just one-third of the original corn bushel.

Distillers grains, shown here, are more
valuable in a livestock ration than corn alone.
"The value of the animal feed produced by the ethanol industry has long been misunderstood, understated and misrepresented," said Geoff Cooper, RFA vice president of research and analysis. "Distillers grains continue to be the industry’s best kept secret, despite the fact that we are producing tremendous volumes of this high-value feed product today. Distillers grains and other ethanol feed products significantly reduce the need for corn and soybean meal in animal feed rations. Over the past several years, distillers’ grains have been one of the most economically competitive sources of energy and protein available on the world feed market."

Feed product volumes from ethanol plants approached 39 million metric tons in the 2010-11 marketing year.

RFA also pointed out that the USDA study should alter the view on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions theorized with the ethanol process. It said most existing biofuel regulations, including California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard, significantly undervalue the contribution of distillers grains when assessing the net greenhouse gas impacts of corn ethanol. For more, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: Harvesting Corn

Farmers continue to remain busy getting their crop out thanks to dry weather conditions!

Also, be sure to check out our latest harvest video with Curt Friesen! View it by clicking below or visiting The Cob Squad's Youtube channel!

October 24, 2011

Nebraska corn harvest at halfway point

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 49 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was in the bin. That's 10 points ahead of the five-year average and with soybean harvest nearly complete, the corn harvest rate will only accelerate.

Harvest is behind last year's 71 percent complete at this point...but last fall was certainly unusual and was nearly double the five-year average at the time.

The opposite of that? Just two years ago only about 15 percent of the crop was harvested by this point!

The bottom line – harvest has progressed well, as there have been only a couple of rainy days to slow farmers down this month. The dry weather – plus a hard freeze across much of the state last week – is helping the corn dry down nicely in the field.

Yield reports from Nebraska farmers have generally been very positive and a state average yield of 160 bushels per acre, for a 1.52 billion bushel crop, certainly seems plausible. If realized it would be the second largest crop in the state's history and just off the record 1.58 billion bushels produced in 2009.

Yields last year reached 166 bushels per acre and total corn production was 1.47 billion bushels.

Nationally, USDA said 65 percent of the country's corn crop was in the bin. That's 14 points ahead of last year and 16 points behind last year's scorching pace.

This week's photo comes from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2011 crop progress photo set at Flickr. It was submitted by a member of the Howells-Clarkson FFA Chapter.

October 21, 2011

Podcast: While final yield numbers are unknown, it’s safe to say we’ll have a good corn crop

In this podcast, Larry Mussack, a farmer from Decatur and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talk about how Nebraska farmers and farmers from across the country are going to produce a good corn crop this year.

"Just imagine the yields we would have seen 20 years ago with the weather issues farmers had to deal with this year," he said. "We’ve come a long way."

He noted that farmer know-how and skills advance every year. He said technology and know-how helps prevent insects and other pests from damaging crops, and we better know when to nurture crops with nutrients at the right time and right amount to make them effective.

"All of this adds up to a larger and more consistent corn crop," Mussack said. "It lets us harvest more while using fewer inputs throughout the entire growing season."

These larger crops are there to support end users like ethanol plants and livestock and poultry producers. "We are very fortunate to have strong livestock and ethanol sectors right here in Nebraska," he said. "They provide a solid market for corn and the feed ingredient distillers grains, which are produced by ethanol plants. Combined, all give our state a tremendous economic boost and have helped Nebraska remain in an enviable position compared to many other states."

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

October 20, 2011

Why limited options for flex fuel?

By Kim Clark, Ag Program Manager for the Nebraska Corn Board

Recently my husband and I began shopping for a different vehicle. A must at this point, not a need. Before we began shopping, we agreed on a price point. We didn’t know exactly what make or model of SUV we wanted, but it needed to be flex fuel and be under our budgeted amount. Since we didn’t have many limitations-except price and flex fuel, we thought we would have MANY options.

We started by making a list of SUVs. We knew right away the larger SUVs – the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Excursion, GMC Yukon, etc – were removed from our list because of their price tag, even though all were flex fuel. This left us with the Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, Ford Escape, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Arcadia, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and a few others.

Our previous vehicle was a Ford Escape and we wanted something a bit larger. This eliminated the Equinox, Escape, Arcadia and a couple more. Most of these smaller SUVs are flex fuel so not only is our list becoming smaller, but we are also eliminating flex fuel SUVs!

Our list still contained the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Murano, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and a couple others. It may be getting smaller, but now there aren’t any flex fuel vehicles left on it. You would think at least one of these would be flex fuel!

Since price, size and flex fuel were the only requirements, shouldn't we still have plenty of options?!

After eliminating the large SUVs based on price and the smaller SUVs based on size, we were left with mid-sized SUVs, all of which are not flex fuel. While we were still had several many options for makes and models, the flex fuel vehicle was eliminated because it isn’t found in mid-sized SUVs.

Flex fuel vehicles have been made since 1998 on some vehicle makes and models so why is it so hard to find a mid-sized SUV that is flex fuel? That is what we tried to figure out—with no luck!

Looking further, we found there were some years auto manufacturers made a specific make and model that was flex fuel, but the following year that vehicle wasn’t flex fuel. It doesn’t make any sense.
Although most consumers want a choice in the vehicle they purchase, they also want choice of fuel at the pump, and they want to benefit Nebraska's economy and agriculture, but that choice isn’t available in many SUVs.

By 2012, 50 percent of vehicles manufactured by Chrysler, Ford, General Motors will be flex fuel.

There should be more options coming soon!

October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Corn Harvest

Corn harvest is well underway in Nebraska!

UNL Extension, Nebraska Corn Board team up to offer Youth Corn Challenge

Today’s agricultural world faces several challenges, one of them being the decline of our most valuable resource, the future workforce.

While Nebraska’s population under 18 years of age grew between 2000 and 2009, this increase was seen in only ten of the 93 counties. One strategy to keep youth in rural communities and involved in production agriculture is to involve them in projects that encourage active participation and demonstrate the wide array of careers related to production agriculture.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Corn Board have teamed up to offer the first Innovative Youth Corn Challenge contest.

The contest, open to 4-H members (age 10 and older as of Jan. 1) or FFA members (in-school members), will guide youth through all aspects of corn production, as well as the agricultural careers related to corn production. Youth will be challenged to implement a production practice different than normal to determine if they increased their yield. Economics and sustainability of the practice will also be considered. Yields, cropping history and production information will be collected in the Corn Yield Challenge management summary.

Goals of the contest are to achieve new, innovative and economically feasible crop production methods to improve yields; provide research data for producers to implement in their operations; distribute data to corn producers, researchers and agri-businesses for decision making purposes, and introduce youth to a variety of agronomic professionals, including corn producers.

Youth will work with an adult mentor throughout the process. Mentors can be extension faculty, ag teachers or other qualified agronomy professionals.

There's cash prizes!

Cash prizes and plaques will be given to the first, second and third place teams. First place will receive $1,000, second place will receive $500 and third place will receive $250. A data completion and innovation award will also be given.

To participate, youth must complete and return an entry form by March 1, 2012.

For details on how to participate and to access the form, go to cropwatch.unl.edu/web/cropwatch-youth/activities.

For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at bvandewalle2@unl.edu or 402.759.3712.

October 18, 2011

Everyday, Food Day

An important day is coming up - not Halloween or Thanksgiving - but Food Day. While the recognition and celebration of this day - October 24th - is great in theory to celebrate the abundance of food we have, the people behind it are not supportive of agriculture.

They have developed six initiatives - a few of which are important, such as allieviating hunger and promoting less junk food - but also chimes to the tune of removing subsidies for ethanol and reforming livestock production on "factory farms".

But Nebraska farmers and ranchers are the real experts on food. They ARE food. They produce the safe, nutritious and easily available food that is found in your local grocery store every day. And the organizers of Food Day didn't invite them to be a part of this celebration. But we know we have more to celebrate and we can share some important principles about food because to a farmer, everyday is Food Day.

Thanks to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, they have put together a great resource to talk about the upcoming Food Day: www.realfarmersrealfood.com.

Real Farmers, Real Food has five great goals that are more important to share for Food Day.

They have also teamed up with Nebraska native, Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan. She has a great message about the REAL farmers who produce REAL food - every day!

If you support American Agriculture, you can sign the pledge here, as well a read about myths and facts in food production.

CommonGround Nebraska also has some great messages about supporting the REAL Food Day. Read about it on their blog.

October 17, 2011

Nebraska Agribusiness Club to honor two November 3

Two Nebraskans have been selected to receive Public Service to Agriculture Awards at the Nebraska Agribusiness Club’s 45th annual awards banquet November 3 at Hillcrest Country Club in Lincoln, according to a news release from the organization.
The 2011 honorees are Rodney K. Gangwish of Shelton and Larry E. Sitzman of Lincoln, according to Kyla Wize, chair of the Club’s Awards Committee.

Entertainment for the evening will be provided by “The Conchords” of Beatrice, whose members include Ryan Broker, Scott Spilker, Jeff Davis and Stacy Williams.

Wize said the banquet is open to the public – tickets are $25 each before October 26 and $30 each after October 26 and through the day of the banquet.

Reservations can be made by contacting Dayle Williamson at 402-441-3178 or 402-488-5590 or via e-mail at daylewilli@aol.com.

Gangwish has been involved in production agriculture for more than 35 years and operates 2,000 acres growing corn, seed corn and soybeans. He holds a degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). Throughout his career, he has developed a reputation for being an innovative irrigated farm operator with a passion for serving the industry, agricultural organizations and his community.

Gangwish was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement and has been a leading proponent of international trade, greater economic development opportunities for agricultural producers and a leadership role model. He has been an effective spokesman for agriculture at the state, regional and national levels. A past president of the Nebraska Corn Growers and National Corn Growers Associations, he worked extensively in Washington, D.C., developing policy for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the 1996 farm bill. He also served on both the Agricultural Advisory Committee of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Ag Advisory Committee to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington. He and his wife Jane, have two sons and a daughter.

Sitzman attended UNL and began his career on the family’s diversified farm near Culbertson raising cattle, corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, alfalfa, wheat and eco-fallow sorghum. He served as director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture from 1991 to 1999 and initiated agricultural trade missions that continue today to promote sales of Nebraska agricultural products overseas. He served as vice president of Sand Livestock of Columbus from 1999 to 2003 where he conducted business and fostered relationships with international markets. Sitzman was involved in farm machinery marketing from 2003 to 2007.

Since 2007 he has served as executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association promoting pork products and protecting the interests of pork producers in the state by monitoring legislation and regulation. A graduate of the Nebraska LEAD Program, he was named LEAD Alumnus of the Year and honoree of the year by the Nebraska Corn Board. He received the AgRelations Award from the Nebraska Council on Public Relations for Agriculture, the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award and was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement. He and his wife, Sally, have three married sons, Eddie, Eric and Jason and four grandchildren.

October 14, 2011

Trade agreements offer opportunities for Nebraska, U.S. agriculture

Three trade agreements that had been stuck for several years finally made their way out of Congress this week, with both the House and Senate handily approving trade pacts with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.

All three have potential to increase the sale of U.S. agricultural products, from corn to beef.

“Trade is an important component of Nebraska agriculture. It provides good markets for corn and corn products,” said Tim Scheer, chair of the Nebraska Corn Board’s government affairs committee and a farmer from St. Paul, Neb. “Yet it is also critical for livestock producers, as a growing amount of U.S. beef and pork makes its way to markets around the world.”

The Nebraska Corn Board said it appreciates Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith for voting to approve all three trade agreements.

“We appreciate the support of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation,” Scheer said. “Approving these agreements is critical for the competitiveness of Nebraska and U.S. corn and other agricultural products, especially considering that other countries already have trade agreements in place or are negotiating them. We can’t afford to step away from the table and lose market share.”

One place the United States has lost market share is Colombia – U.S. corn exports to Columbia fell significantly over the last three years, in part due to a 15 percent import duty on U.S. corn and trade agreements the country negotiated and ratified with our competitors. When added up, U.S. farmers have lost nearly 2 million tons of corn exports alone in the last three years that equates to more than $400 million. (See this post for more.) The Colombian trade agreement will help reverse that tide.

The example of Colombia is a good one – we can't just stand by when the rest of the world is expanding trade opportunities. It puts us behind the eight ball and at a significant disadvantage, and once markets are lost and trade patterns change, it can be a significant (and expensive) challenge to get them back.

Of course the trade agreement with South Korea is the centerpiece of all three – it's the largest single U.S. trace pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

While South Korea is already one of the top five corn export markets for the United States, it has potential to grow, as the free trade agreement provides that both feed corn and corn co-products receive duty-free treatment. In addition, tariffs on all refined corn products will eventually be phased out, creating new market access for corn sweeteners and corn oil.

Yet more important is the opportunity Korea offers for pork and beef. Significantly improved market access for beef, pork and other livestock products increases opportunities for Nebraska beef and pork producers and all those who raise livestock.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, annual exports of U.S. beef to South Korea are expected to increase as much as $1.8 billion once the agreement is fully implemented. Implementation will phase out over 15 years South Korea’s 40 percent tariff on beef imports, with $15 million in tariff benefits for beef in the first year of the agreement alone and about $325 million in tariff reductions annually once fully implemented. The current South Korean duty on pork bellies is 25 percent but will be eliminated on all frozen and processed pork products by 2014.

That's a big deal for Nebraska beef and pork producers – as trade adds about $120 in value to each steer or heifer processed and $40 to each hog.

Panama, meanwhile, is poised for growth in all areas and will be on a more level playing field as its neighbors to the north (Costa Rica, via CAFTA) and south (Colombia) who have trade deals with the United States. It also provide duty-free access for a set but growing amount of U.S. corn each year. It also eliminates a 30 percent duty on prime and choice cuts of beef – and phases out the others over time.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, Nebraska exported a total of more than $5 billion worth of agricultural products in 2010, including $1.3 billion worth of corn and other feed grains.

October 12, 2011

Nebraska corn yields, production stay on track for second-largest crop

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest crop production estimate left Nebraska's corn yield  estimate unchanged from last month at 160 bushels per acre. Total production was lowered marginally to 1.52 billion bushels due to 150,000 fewer planted and harvested acres.

If realized it would be the second largest crop in the state's history and just off the record 1.58 billion bushels produced in 2009.

Yields last year reached 166 bushels per acre and total corn production was 1.47 billion bushels.

As for crop progress, USDA said yesterday that Nebraska farmers had harvested 19 percent of the state's corn crop as of Oct. 9. That figure is nearly even with with 20 percent five-year average but is off from last year's 27 percent harvested at this point.

USDA said 33 percent of the corn crop has been harvested across the country, which is 1 point ahead of average but 17 points behind last year's blistering pace.

Nationally, USDA forecast corn production at 12.43 billion bushels, down 1 percent from last month and just a hair below last year's 12.45. If realized, though, it will still be the fourth largest production total on record.

USDA left its yield estimated the same as last month – 148.1 bushels per acre. It did drop harvested acres, though, to 83.9 million, down 1 percent from the September forecast.

In it's WASDE report (.pdf) today, USDA raised beginning stocks for 2011/12 by 208 million bushels from last month based on its September stocks estimate. Corn supplies for 2011/12 were forecast 144 million bushels higher. Total U.S. corn use for 2011/12 was projected 50 million bushels lower due to reduced exports – there's more global competition from the Black Sea region.

The bottom line: U.S. ending stocks were projected 194 million bushels higher at 866 million and the season-average farm price moved 30 cents per bushel lower on both ends of the range to $6.20 to $7.20 per bushel.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2011 crop progress photo set at Flickr. The top one is from the Howells-Clarkson FFA Chapter and the bottom one is from the Sumner Eddyville Miller (SEM) FFA Chapter.

October 7, 2011

Podcast: Sustaining Innovation message part of promotion before Cornhuskers/Buckeyes game

In this podcast, Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, talk about the Sustaining Innovation promotion the board is conducting Saturday (Oct. 8) before the Nebraska Cornhuskers/Ohio State Buckeyes football game.

He noted that Nebraska Corn Board members and staff will be out in force on Stadium Drive before the football game, sharing some positive messages about corn-fed beef, the corn industry and offering a sample of great Nebraska steak. (For more on the promotion, click here.)

Samples will be available starting about 4 pm, he said, encouraging those going to the game to look for the big Corn Board display trailer and signs asking which would you rather have….a buckeye or a ribeye?

"I’m guessing everyone will take the ribeye," he said, "even the occasional Buckeyes fan that shows up in Husker territory."

For more, including some of the facts Tiemann shares, click on the icon above to listen.

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

Corn Farmers Coalition wraps up third year telling the story of family corn farmers

The Corn Farmers Coalition wrapped up another successful year with an "innovation is growing" reception this week in the U.S. Capitol.

The Corn Farmers Coalition is supported by corn farmers from 14 different states, including Nebraska via the Nebraska Corn Board, along with the National Corn Growers Association. It is designed to provide important messages about corn and the family farmers who grow it to policymakers.

For previous posts on the Corn Farmers Coalition, click here.

The Cantrell family of Merna, Neb., in
one of the Corn Farmers Coalition online ads.

Those attending the reception included Kyle and Gina Cantrell (and kids!) of Merna, Nebraska. The Cantrell family was featured in some of the Corn Farmer Coalition ads that appeared in Washington, D.C.

They also appeared in a video the coalition put together to highlight some of the farmers participating in the campaign. (See the video below.)

Another Nebraska farm family – the Chris and Korene Flaming family of Elsie – appeared on the cover of and the Corn Fact Book.

"The Corn Farmers Coalition exists to tell the story of the revolution going on in modern farming and the significant role family farmers have had in this success," NCGA president Garry Niemeyer told a group gathered at the Capitol Visitors Center. "Corn farmers from across the United States came together through their organizations to found the effort with a simple but clear mission: Tell the story of how American farmers – through innovation, technology and hard work – have become the most productive farmers the world has ever seen."

The Flaming family of Elsie, Neb., on the
cover of the Corn Fact Book.
The positive fact-based messages of the Corn Farmers Coalition are directed at legislators and key staff who participate in the policy dialogue in Washington. The 2011 campaign included "station domination" at Union Station and the Capitol South Metro Station, placing prominent messages in front of many legislative and regulatory staff that use the station in their daily commute.

It also included online and drive-time radio advertising presence over the summer, and the printing and distribution of the Corn Fact Book, which tells farmer stories while stressing the importance of how they are growing more corn sustainably.

Niemeyer, who farms near Auburn, Ill., pointed out that nine of the largest corn crops in history have been grown the last nine years. Even this year, despite major challenges from drought, flooding and even hurricanes, corn growers have continued this trend, he said.

"The generations of knowledge represented by the farmers of this nation are a national treasure and that's an American success story the public needs to hear," Niemeyer said. "The Corn Farmers Coalition helps amplify this message and puts a face on family farmers."

October 6, 2011

Podcast: Harvest is exciting, but keep an eye on safety around farms, roads

In this podcast, Jim Hultman, a farmer from Sutton and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talk about farm safety – and being safe on rural roadways – during this busy time of year.

"Harvest is an exciting time," he said. "After all, who doesn’t like to see corn moving quickly through the auger to grain carts, trailers, semis and grain bins. It’s the reward for a year well planned and well worked. However, rushing to get harvest or fall field work done a few hours or a day or two earlier certainly isn’t worth someone getting hurt."

He also encouraged everyone — farmers, friends, folks in town and visitors – to be careful on country roads. While they can be peaceful and serene, he said, at harvest there is more machinery and trucks on the roads than normal and dust, sun glare and standing crops can block a clear view of oncoming traffic at intersections. "This increases the chances for accidents to occur between farm equipment and vehicles, so please drive safely," Hultman said.

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

October 5, 2011

Nebraska Corn Board exec provides insight into China’s corn yield estimate

Corn harvest in China.

Following its annual crop tour of China, the U.S. Grains Council released an estimate of China’s 2011 corn production, pegging the country’s crop at 6.6 billion bushels, up 5.6 percent from last year. The Council estimated a corn harvest area of 76.35 million acres, giving a of 85.9 bushels per acre.

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, participated in this year’s crop tour, which wrapped up last week.

“The 2011 corn crop I witnessed in China was far more impressive than I expected,” he said in a news release.

Hutchens noted, however, that trying to figure out where China is heading from both an economic sense and in agriculture production is difficult.

“When you look at China you see a country that seems to be in the driver’s seat economically. Yet it has to feed 1.2 billion people and is harvesting 80 percent of its corn crop by hand and transporting it via small carts and wagons. Meanwhile, more skyscrapers are going up and it’s the number one market for Lamborghinis. In taking it all in, it’s an enigma and you quickly realize that no one really knows what the ripple effect of China will be,” he said.

Hutchens was interviewed on Agri-Pulse yesterday about the Chinese corn crop. To listen, click here.

China is the world’s second leading corn producer, producing about half that of the United States, but it emerged as a net corn importer a year ago as surging domestic demand outstripped its own production. Despite this year’s record production, the U.S. Grains Council said it anticipates rising demand will continue to create export opportunities for U.S. farmers in the 2011-12 market year and beyond.

“China has great potential to increase its corn yields, but when you consider they have a population of 1.2 billion people that are looking to add higher quality protein to their diets plus create a 25 percent grain reserve, then you see an opportunity for U.S. corn exports,” Hutchens said. “They place a high value on corn and what it can be turned into. They have also had a taste of the feed value of dried distillers grains, which are produced by ethanol plants, and discovered what an outstanding livestock feed it is, and they want more.”

The Council’s China Corn Harvest Tour began in 1996 when it provided the only non-governmental crop survey report available for China. Conducted by teams of experts from the private sector, most with long experience in the China grains market, the Council report has gained a reputation for consistency, reliability, and transparency in assessing an often-opaque China supply-and-demand situation.

China’s rapid economic growth has produced the world’s fastest growing middle class, and demand for meat and dairy products is soaring. China’s domestic corn prices this summer reached $10 a bushel and it has seen drawdowns of already low stocks.

Source: USGC
A record harvest may reduce these pressures in the short run, the Council said, and may give China an opportunity to rebuild depleted stocks through imports. Current estimates for China’s likely 2011-12 corn imports vary widely and range from 78.7 million bushels (USDA) to more than 393.7 million bushels (private estimates).

“Over time, China’s need for corn will grow and the United States, being the world’s largest producer would be a logical source for that corn,” Hutchens said. “With our ability to grow enough corn for our own feed, fuel and food uses and still have enough left over to satisfy a healthy export market, it just makes sense that we’ll continue to be the reliable source for corn globally.”

Corn Board to serve up corn-fed beef prior to Cornhusker/Buckeyes football game

What would you rather have…a buckeye or a ribeye?

When it comes down to a buckeye or a ribeye, the Nebraska Corn Board is confident Nebraska Cornhusker fans will chose the ribeye.

They’re so confident, in fact, they’ll be cooking up and handing out samples of some great Nebraska corn-fed steak prior to the Nebraska Cornhuskers/Ohio State Buckeyes football game this Saturday (Oct. 8).

They’ll begin serving on Stadium Drive on the west side of Memorial Stadium around 4 pm.

Just look for the Nebraska Corn Board display trailer and signs asking which you’d rather have…a buckeye or a ribeye.

“I’m guessing everyone will take the ribeye, even the occasional Ohio State Buckeyes fan that shows up in Husker territory. It’s only fair we give them some great tasting ribeye while they’re here. It’ll be the highlight of their trip because for Nebraska fans, that corn-fed steak tastes a lot like victory,” said Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Seward.

The promotion prior to the Cornhusker game is a component of the Nebraska Corn Board’s “Sustaining Innovation” program that includes sharing information about how Nebraska corn farmers are growing more corn with less fertilizer, less water and less environmental impact.

“We’re sharing the fact that Nebraska corn farmers have cut energy use 37 percent per bushel over the last three decades, and that we’re producing 87 percent more corn per ounce of fertilizer applied thanks to innovative farming practices,” Tiemann said. “We want people to know that 95 percent of America’s corn farms are family owned and operated, and that all farmers are committed to doing a better job every year.”

In addition to all the great things corn farmers are doing, beef producers have also done a great job, getting better and better every year.

For example, according to a study published last year, beef producers are producing 13 percent more beef but with 13 percent fewer animals now versus 30 years ago. For each pound of beef produced in a modern system, farmers and ranchers need 20 percent less feed, 14 percent less water, 10 percent less energy and 30 percent less land.

Those figures fit in perfectly to the Nebraska Corn Board's Sustaining Innovation theme and is something I'm sure board members will share on Saturday.

In addition to funding from the Nebraska corn checkoff, partners in the Cornhusker game day steak promotion include Cargill and Skeeter Barnes.

October 3, 2011



Every time we walk into a movie theater, we can always smell the fresh popcorn that has been popped. For some reason fresh popcorn always adds something to the movie watching experience. Not only do we eat popcorn at the movie theaters, but it also makes a great snack in the afternoon or evening. Studies have even shown that eating popcorn is healthy because it fits in the whole grains category! So it is definitely a unique type of corn!

However, popcorn is unique for me because my family raises it.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go back home and help with popcorn harvest. We have been raising popcorn for several years now and this crop has become very unique for us because we are one of the few family farm operations in my hometown area (Ayr, NE) that grows it. All of our popcorn is contracted through ConAgra, which uses the popcorn in its different brands such as Act II, Jiffy Pop, Orville Redenbacher’s, and many other brands. We haul some of our popcorn via semi to Hamburg, Iowa during fall harvest and then the rest during the winter.

When we harvest our popcorn, we use the same type of equipment that we use to harvest our other types of corn that we grow, which includes number 2 yellow corn and white corn. Although the equipment is the same, we do have to make minor adjustments to the combine since popcorn has a smaller kernel than yellow corn and white corn. Other than that, the equipment is ran the same.

However, there are some differences when it comes to harvesting popcorn.

The first major difference is that there cannot be any type of foreign material in the grain. This includes other grains, dirt, and any other type of foreign material. The reason for this is because after the popcorn is cleaned at the processing plant, it goes right into the food supply. Having farmers help keep the popcorn clean helps insure that the consumer is getting a high quality product. I mean, who would want to find a soybean in the bottom of their popcorn bag. To insure that the popcorn doesn’t get contaminated by other grains, farmers have to always clean out the equipment when switching from other crops to popcorn. This can be tedious work because there are a lot of places on a combine that grain goes through but it helps farmers insure consumers that their product is clean and of the highest quality.

The second difference between popcorn and other types of corn is the difference in moisture levels. Some corn can be harvested at higher moistures and then be dried down but popcorn has to be harvested at 15 percent moisture or lower. The ideal range is between 13 – 14 percent moisture. The reason for this is because this is the moisture at which popcorn is able to pop. If it is too dry or too wet then the popcorn kernel won’t pop.

Another minor difference between popcorn and field corn is that popcorn is measured by pounds instead of bushels. So the picture showing the monitor actually shows lb/ac instead of bu/ac.

As I mentioned earlier, popcorn is a unique crop and is unique for my family. Although there can be certain hassles, such as having to clean out the combine when switching between crops, it is nice knowing that my family and many other popcorn growing family farms are providing consumers around the U.S. and around the world a high quality product. The next time you go to the movies or pop your own bag of popcorn, you now have an idea of where that popcorn came from and some facts about the product you’re eating!