January 31, 2012

Grant money available for blender pump installation

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

Nebraska has more than 117,000 flex fuel vehicles on the road today, but the places to fill up with E85 and other mid-level ethanol blends are limited. Across the state, there are about 50 E85 pumps and 15 blender pumps.

Where are they located? Most of the E85 and blender pumps are located in rural areas of Nebraska, but the greatest need for them is in the urban areas where a majority of the flex fuel vehicles are located.

Unfortunately, Lincoln, which has approximately 15,000 FFVs, and Omaha, which has about 30,000 FFVs, do not have any blender pumps. In Lincoln you will find four E85 pumps in different areas of the city and in the Omaha metro there are approximately ten E85 pumps.

Other areas with larger populations of FFVs are in Columbus and Norfolk. Once again, there aren’t any blender pumps located in either city. Actually, Norfolk only has one E85 pump and Columbus has none.

With FFV numbers increasing in the state, we need to get more blender pumps installed, especially in the urban areas with large concentrations of FFVs.

The Nebraska Corn Board has grant money available for retailers that install blender pumps. The grant is $5,000 per blender pump up to $20,000 per station location with special consideration given to retailers that install at multiple locations.

For more information about our grant program, visit our website.

Build a solid foundation at Commodity Classic


Commodity Classic is coming up fast! It's set for March 1-3 in Nashville. The trade show is already sold out, hotels are filling up quick and rumor has it registrations have already set a record.

If you're new to Commodity Classic, this is the 17th one, and it's where corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers come to get the inside scoop on what’s new from the people who make it happen. It's America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

"Commodity Classic is unlike any other agricultural event," said Commodity Classic co-chair Martin Barbre. "This is where something as simple as a casual conversation with another grower can lead to ground-breaking and money-making improvements on the farm."

There is a wide variety of educational sessions scheduled, many networking opportunities and a sold-out trade show with more than 960 booths displaying the newest technology, equipment, ideas and innovations in agriculture.

"If you want to know where agriculture is headed, this is the place to be," Barbre said, adding that "2012 will be a sound success for growers who attend Commodity Classic with the solid foundation they’ll build after learning about the issues and advancements affecting their operation this year."

Commodity Classic is presented annually by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers.

Commodity Classic is open to all friends of soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum, from growers to member associations to agribusiness to farm media. This is the one-of-a-kind, can't-miss, brain-engaging event for America's farmers!

Here's just a taste what you'll experience at Commodity Classic:

Get the inside scoop on what's new: Many innovative and thought-provoking educational sessions are available -- and you don't have to sign up in advance. Just drop in on any of the sessions that interest you. Between these sessions and the trade show, you'll hear every detail about "what's next" straight from the horse's mouth—and you'll have the chance for dialogue and questions.

Go one-on-one with top ag and industry leaders: You'll have the opportunity to meet and hear people who are leading the charge—and leading the change—in agriculture.T hought leaders in agriculture share innovation, insight and information. From policy to production practices, from innovation to insight—you experience it all.

Be among the first to see new technology, products and equipment: Commodity Classic is the early adopter's paradise. Companies choose Commodity Classic as the place to roll out new products and services. Best management practices are shared. Technological advancements are introduced. If you're looking for ways to improve your production and profitability, you're sure to walk away with game-changing information for your farm.

An amazing trade show with top company representatives: Commodity Classic boasts one of the largest farmer-led trade shows in the nation, featuring acres of displays, equipment and new ideas (all indoors!). Exhibitors know that Commodity Classic attracts the nation's top growers. So they bring their top people to meet with you. It's your chance to ask questions and express your opinions to the suppliers and companies.

Network with other talented growers from across the nation: Growers who attend Commodity Classic say that having the opportunity to meet like-minded family farmers is one of the top benefits of attending. Exchange ideas. Share practices. Learn from each other. It might start with a casual conversation over coffee—and the next thing you know, you have a friend for life.

Witness your member associations in action: Commodity Classic is also where your commodity membership associations get some serious work done. Policy recommendations on a wide variety of issues are debated, discussed and developed. These meetings, led by grower-leader delegates from across the U.S., are open to all attendees.

Have some serious fun: It's not all business...Bring the family for a little R&R. Enjoy top-flight entertainment. Attend an optional tour. Enjoy a good meal with good friends. Kick back and take it all in. Commodity Classic is the perfect place to restore your passion and pride in being an American farmer—and have some fun at the same time.

January 30, 2012

Smart, sustainable science

Can sustainable and science exist in the same sentence? With corn farming, yes.

Farmers are being more sustainable than ever through responsible stewardship, new genetics 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. And they use science to achieve all of this.
Through smart, sustainable science, farmers and researchers in agriculture have been able to reduce their usage of energy that it takes to grow a bushel of corn by 37% over the past 30 years.
Through smart, sustainable science, new, innovative fertilization methods have allowed today’s American corn farmers to produce 87% more corn per ounce of fertilizer.
Through smart, sustainable science, monitoring soil moisture levels and measuring the amount of water corn plants lose each day is helping Nebraska corn farmers significantly reduce irrigation and water demand.
Through smart, sustainable science, corn farmers have been able to produce a sustainable, corn-based fuel that is freeing our dependence from foreign oil and is better for the environment: ethanol. When corn farmers take their corn to the ethanol plant, they are producing two products: ethanol – a sustainable fuel for their vehicles, but also a high-quality protein feed for livestock – distillers grains. Two products from one – one more way farmers are growing more on less.
There is no question: Corn farmers can do what America and the world is asking of them: Grow more corn for feed, food, fiber and fuel – and do it in a way that protects the environment and provides economic benefits all along the value chain. That’s smart, sustainable science.
Heartland 4

Read some more posts on Sustainability:
Video: This Land is Your Land
Can Nebraska corn farmers continue to grow more with less?
Growing more with less, someone else sharing your story
Finding the solutions to feed, fuel the world
Does Ethanol Really Have a Future? Why yes it does!

January 28, 2012

Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois Corn Visit Texas Customers


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

Growers from the corn boards of Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois recently traveled to Texas to visit with customers and see firsthand the effects of the recent drought. Meetings with associations such as the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas Corn Growers Association provided a great overview of the lingering effects that the 2011 drought has had on cattle numbers and corn production, along with issues that they are addressing on behalf of there membership.


Texas has always been an important customer to these three states due to their large cattle on feed numbers and corn demand that relies on out of state imports. In fact, if the corn produced in the panhandle area of Texas was used consecutively and not spread throughout the year, it would only last 2-3 months. We were able to visit with companies that import corn such as Gavilon and Sunray Coop and those that market distillers grains like Quality Distillers Grain, out of Hereford, TX to those end users such as Cactus Feeders.

Additionally with the drought situation we were able to meet with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District that is tasked with monitoring and conserving ground water.

So following our meetings what were our take home points. Well no doubt, this area and the demand that it creates are an important market that we want to keep due to the strong use of corn in livestock and ethanol. The Midwest has a great infrastructure that is able to rail corn from the many elevators into this area and having this consistent supply is important to these customers. But the drought has had an impact. Corn production was down by 50-60 percent, many cows were culled, with some sent to the northern pastures of Nebraska since the grass never produced the forage that they need. This has created tight supplies of feeder cattle that will last a while.

But the area continues to be proactive and look to the future. The groundwater district is looking at research into what they call a 200-12 project. The goal is to produce 200 bushel per acre corn on just 12 inches of groundwater through conservation tillage, precision water application and other conservation practices. Research is also being done by cattle producers of maintaining cows and replacement heifers in lots versus range to build the herd back up. This all continues to provide opportunities and demand for corn whether it is as a kernel or in the form of distillers grains.

It was amazing to see the difference across two parts of this great nation this past year. On one hand we see the lingering effects of flooding along the Missouri River and on the opposite, the severe drought in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and other states.

January 27, 2012

Low-oil distillers grains becoming increasingly available

U.S. ethanol plants, which produce the feed ingredient distillers grains (DDGS), continue upgrading equipment to extract non-food grade corn oil during the ethanol production process.

While regular DDGS may contain 10-15 percent oil, the low-oil variety contains much less and has different characteristics and feeding values than regular DDGS, as noted in a report from the U.S. Grains Council.

On the left is a non-food grade corn oil immediately
after extraction. On the right is the oil after it settles,
with only the upper portion being sold as oil.
This non-food grade corn oil goes to
biodiesel production or feed.
Of the roughly 200 corn dry mills that produce ethanol, about 90 have oil extraction capabilities, and 105 plants will by this summer.

"On a production basis, about 40 percent of U.S. DDGS produced today is low-oil, and 58 percent will be low-oil by this summer," said Randy Ives of Gavilon, LLC. Ives is value-added advisory team leader for the Council.

Ives explained that low-oil DDGS has higher crude protein and higher levels of amino acids. The concentrated amino acid profile is positive for monogastric animals like poultry and swine, while dairy animals may be able to utilize more product thanks to the lower level of fat in low-oil DDGS.

While its appearance is the same as regular DDGS, the dried, low-oil product has improved flowability.

The Council noted research is underway to help quantify the characteristics of low-oil DDGS. Results will become available later this year.

While buyers and sellers often add the protein and fat numbers together as part of a sales contract, that may need to change going forward.

"This makes asking questions and communicating important," Ives said. "What we really need to do is go back to requesting specific protein and fat levels and then build in a discount schedule to make up for slight differences in the final shipment."

Low-oil DDGS is a great product that has different values for different buyers, depending on the end use, he said. "It’s important for buyers to ask questions and hold suppliers accountable," he added.

Why extract oil?
Just five years ago, few ethanol plants had the ability to extract non-food grade corn oil because the equipment was expensive, and the oil had little value. Now, however, the value of non-food grade corn oil has increased, and plants can extract the oil more efficiently due to improved emulsifiers and centrifuge technology, lowering the payback on oil extraction equipment to as little as six months.

For example, an ethanol plant using 16 million bushels of corn to produce 40 million gallons of ethanol can also produce 135,000 tons of low-oil DDGS and 8 to 12 million pounds of oil.

"With such a positive return, the adoption rate has been incredible," Ives said.

January 26, 2012

Nebraska Corn Board Staff Report with Kelsey Pope

This week the Nebraska Corn Board Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Kelsey Pope, gives a tour of the Nebraska Corn Board website and some of the different social media platforms that it uses!

January 25, 2012

Video: 'I got you ethanol' – because your car deserves the best

"I Got You Ethanol," the title of the music video below, won first place in Iowa Renewable Fuels Association's Fuel the Future high school renewable fuels video contest.

It was produced by and stars Ames (Iowa) High School senior Sam Ennis. In the video Ennis professes his love for his car "Arlene" – and since she deserves the best he got her ethanol. The lyrics cover everything from the environment to economics.


January 24, 2012

Biofuels helping U.S., Western Hemisphere become energy self sufficient

A year ago, a report by BP noted that the United States’ dependence on foreign oil peaked in 2005 and increased fuel efficiency and the increased use of biofuels like ethanol will further drive down that dependence and the use of oil overall through 2030.

BP came out with an updated report this week and reaffirmed that thinking – but expanded it to say that among energy importing regions, North America, with growth in biofuel supplies and unconventional oil and gas, will turn today’s energy deficit (mainly oil) into a small surplus by 2030.

This does not mean we'll have cut the cord from oil. Instead, that the volume of oil imports in the U.S. would fall significantly, at least in BP's estimation.

Bob Dudley, BP's CEO, said U.S. oil imports have dropped by about one-third since peaking in 2005 and are likely to be half of today’s level in 2030. "The U.S. now produces over 50 percent of the liquid fuel it uses – as opposed to importing the majority, as was the case a few years ago," he said in a speech.

In the report's downloadable booklet (.pdf), BP noted that the import share of oil demand and the volume of oil imports in the U.S. will fall due to rising domestic shale oil production and ethanol displacing crude imports.

When looked at on a hemisphere-basis, the Western Hemisphere may become "almost totally energy self-sufficient" by 2030, as the growth in biofuels production (like ethanol) and oil and gas supplies all expand.

This is how The Guardian reported it: "In a development with enormous geopolitical implications, a large swath of the world taking in North and South America would see its dependence on oil imports from potentially volatile countries in the Middle East and elsewhere disappear, BP said, although Britain and western Europe would still need Gulf supplies."

BP said renewables, including biofuels, will continue to be the fastest growing sources of energy globally, rising at an annual clip of more than 8 percent, much quicker even than natural gas, the fastest growing fossil fuel at about 2 percent a year over the period to 2030.
While BP said biofuels growth will still be "very robust", it did scale it back some due to "more modest expectations of penetration of next generation fuels." (Certainly something that can be worked on.)

The report focuses a great deal on growth markets, especially India and China. In fact, BP predicts that energy demand will soar by 39 percent by 2030 thanks to huge growth in emerging markets like those.

BP said such growth in the rest of the world, principally Asia, will depend increasingly on the Middle East in particular for its growing oil requirements. It said the oil cartel OPEC will grow its market share as a result, reaching 45 percent by 2030 – a level not approached since the 1970s. (Will that have an impact on global stability?)

While oil will continue to lose market share through 2030, BP said the demand for hydrocarbon liquids will still reach 103 million barrels per day in 2030, up by 18 percent from 2010.

This means the world will still need to bring on enough liquids – oil, biofuels and others – to meet that forecast 16 million barrel per day of extra demand by 2030 and replace declining output from existing sources. Where should that focus lie? 

Also see:
Biofuels driving down dependence on foreign oil
Big Oil defends tax breaks, massive profits
How many (other) enviromental groups are in bed with big oil?

New fuel blender pump open in Arcadia, Nebraska

Motorists in the Arcadia, Nebraska, area have new fuel options thanks to the opening of a new blender pump at Trotter Service.

The blender pump is one of about 60 in Nebraska that offer higher ethanol blends. The blender pump at Trotter Service makes available E10 for all vehicles, as well as mid-level blends (like E30) to E85 for those driving flex fuel vehicles.

More than 117,000 Nebraska motorists currently own a flexible fuel vehicle which can run on any blend of ethanol and gasoline up to E85, according to a joint news release on the opening from the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board.

To confirm if a vehicle is flex fuel, drivers can check their owner’s manual, their gas cap, look for the flex fuel emblem on their vehicle or visit the website www.ne-ethanol.org/e85.

"E85 is cleaner than gas, it’s produced right here in Nebraska and more and more vehicles can use it every day," said Todd Sneller, administrator of Nebraska Ethanol Board. "When flex fuel drivers fill up on E85, they’re strengthening Nebraska’s economy, making our country more energy independent and going easier on the environment."

The pump in Arcadia is one of 15 in Nebraska installed with support from a Nebraska Corn Board grant.

Kim Clark, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board, said another benefit of the blender pump in Arcadia is consumers choice. "This new blender pump will offer flex fuel vehicle owners a fuel choice based on price, performance and availability," she said.

Those interested in Nebraska Ethanol Board’s flex fuel vehicles (FFV) club, which provides updates on new E85 locations and other announcements, can to go www.ne-ethanol.org/ffv to sign up.

To find a list of fuel retailers that offer E85 and mid-level ethanol blends, just go to www.ne-ethanol.org or www.nebraskacorn.org.

January 20, 2012

Podcast: Golden Ear Award presented, leadership elected at NeCGA annual meeting

In this podcast, Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, provides a report from the organization's annual meeting, which took place recently at the Nebraska Ag Classic in Kearney.

He reports that Keith Glewen was chosen to receive the 2011 Golden Ear Award from the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. The Golden Ear Award is presented annually by NeCGA to recognize and appreciate an individual’s contribution to agriculture.

Glewen is an Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and is located at the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead, Nebraska. His main area of program focus is row crop production, natural resources and environmental management. As an agronomist he has achieved success in developing field and classroom training programs for industry professionals and growers held annually across the state of Nebraska.

Sousek also notes new NeCGA board members and officers. Two new At-Large Directors for NeCGA were elected, including Chuck Emanuel from North Bend and Lynn Chrisp from Kenesaw. Elgin Bergt from Schuyler was appointed as an ex-officio member of the board.

Officers include Sousek as president; Joel Grams of Minden as vice president, Rick Gruber of Benedict as secretary and Bergt as treasurer.

For a list of top NeCGA member recruiters and more, click here.

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

Nebraska Corn Board provides four internships


The Nebraska Corn Board is offering four internships for 2012-2013 and partnering with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). For more than two decades, the Nebraska Corn Board has been working with college student interns selected to work beside staff and members of the board as part of an ongoing internship program.

Two internships are new this year – one in Washington, D.C. with USGC and one in Denver, CO, with the USMEF. These are both for the summer of 2012.

For all internships, the deadline is February 15, 2012. For questions, please call the office (402-471-2676) or email ncb.info@nebraska.gov.

Please click on the links below to read more about the opportunities with each internship and how to apply.

2012-2013 Communications & Market Development Internship – Lincoln

2012 Nebraska Corn Board and National Corn Growers Association D.C. Internship

2012 Nebraska Corn Board and U.S. Grains Council D.C. Internship

2012 Nebraska Corn Board and U.S. Meat Export Federation Denver Internship

Read here about previous interns:
Interns important to corn industry in Nebraska
Corn board continues internship programs in Nebraska, D.C.

January 19, 2012

Nebraska Corn Board Staff Report with Don Hutchens

Nebraska Corn Board Executive Director, Don Hutchens, talks about Nebraska's corn industry and some of things that corn producers in the state can look forward to in the coming months.

January 18, 2012

Nebraska corn growers exploring changes to checkoff

Brownfield's Ken Anderson did a report from the Nebraska Ag Classic earlier this week that explores potential corn checkoff options that the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) and Nebraska Corn Board are exploring.

At their annual meeting at Ag Classic, Anderson reported that NeCGA delegates said they want the Nebraska corn checkoff board, which is considered a state agency, to be more autonomous.

Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and the Corn Board's vice chairman, conducted a lengthy interview with Anderson, covering everything from how the checkoff is organized and how a re-organization could allow the checkoff to be administered more efficiently. He also discussed a potential increase in the checkoff rate and how that could benefit corn farmers and the state as a whole.

NeCGA president Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague, was also interviewed.

Sousek said NeCGA will also be more aggressive in pursuing an increase in the corn checkoff rate, which has been one-quarter of one cent ($0.0025) per bushel since 1988.

Sousek said they’d like to see it increased to four-tenths ($0.004) or even one-half ($0.005) of one cent per bushel.

"We do have the lowest checkoff rate in the country. We don’t want to fall behind when it comes to our responsibilities on a national level,” Sousek told Anderson, "and we don’t want to fall behind on our responsibilities right here within the state. We want to make sure we support our local investments in research and education and market development right here in the state—and that takes resources."

For the full report, with audio, click here.

UPDATE: A bill was introduced in the legislature today relating to the checkoff. Click here.

Predicting the Weather - by Curt Tomasevicz

If anyone should be able to relate to my bobsled team’s recent trouble with the weather, it should be the Nebraska farmers.

Growing up in an ag-based community, I learned how important the weather was to a farmer. People from other parts of the country check the weather forecasts simply so they know whether to wear a jacket or not. In Nebraska, the weather determines the work day or even the week.

Farmers hope for a cooperative April and May. They want the rain to hold off until just after the last field has been planted. Then let the rain come. But, of course, not too much at once so the young crops are forced to extend their roots deep into the ground to provide strength for the wind that is sure to come during the tornado season. They want hot and sunny summer days with scattered moisture to limit the need for irrigation with no destructive tornadoes or hail. Then, toward the end of summer, in September farmers want dry weather to help reduce the moisture content of the corn so they won’t have to run their dryers in the bins constantly before they take their harvest to the Co-ops. During the winter months, it’s best to have a steady amount of snow so the ground can retain moisture for a solid planting season next spring.

The unrealistic weather wants and wishes of the Nebraska farmer could be compared to the weather fantasies of a bobsledder. If you’ve followed my Facebook updates  or my website, www.TomaseviczBobsled.com,  you’ve seen how tired I am of having to compete against both other teams and the weather. We can’t seem to buy a break.

The Night Train going through a left curve on the natural track in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Realistically, I guess my expectations don’t make much sense. After all, we are a winter, outdoor sport competing in the Alps, Rockies, and Adirondacks! Blizzards, flurries, and wind storms are going to occur unpredictably. But it seems that the U.S. team has had more than its share of weather unfairness. In our last four weekends of racing, the snow and wind seem to increase only as our sled is going down the hill. The Germans, the Russians, and Canadians get the calm, clear conditions. It may not seem like much of a factor, but every snowflake in the track and each little gust of headwind, affects the speed of the sled. Now, if the conditions were identical for every sled, then the race could be considered fair. But that’s just not how fate works in our sport.

What’s even more ridiculous is that this weekend’s race in St. Moritz, Switzerland is known for weather-induced results. This track is a natural track, meaning that there is no track in the summer. Workers take blocks of ice and snow and carve the 1700+ meters of track by hand. They spray a mist of water, shave the curves, then repeat that process until the track is a complete mile-long ice sculpture. The only problem with that is that, without refrigeration like the other tracks in the world, the surface of the track melts a little in the afternoons in the sunlight. And the small film of water reduces the friction of our runners on the ice. So on this track, for a fair race to take place, we are hoping for a cloudy and cold day. I guess, just like Nebraskan farmers, bobsledders are never satisfied with the weather!

January 17, 2012

Five Ethanol Stories to Watch for in 2012

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

Last week we looked at the Top 5 Ethanol Stories of 2011 according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This week we will look at the Top Five Ethanol Stories to Watch for in 2012 according the RFA.

1. First commercial availability of E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles. Once federal requirements to certify E15 are complete, E15 will be available on a state by state basis. There are a couple regulations in Nebraska that need to be addressed before retailers in Nebraska can offer E15 after regulation is completed at the federal level. Expect E15 to be certified at the federal level in the first half of 2012.

2. Free and fair trade of ethanol. The United States is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of ethanol. We are also the lowest cost producer. New challenges from ethanol interests in other nations have arisen such as the European Union anti-dumping investigation and the ethanol policies in Brazil. A fair resolution to trade challenges will be important to the continued growth and evolution of domestic ethanol production.

3. Legal activity regarding ethanol may increase. The recent ruling on low carbon fuel standards by a California federal judge stated that California’s LCFS is unconstitutional and was recently appealed. This issue, international litigation and other issues promises to keep lawyers busy this year.

4. Renewable Fuel Standard challenges. Even though this is an election year, and Congress may accomplish less this year than last, there will still be groups that push to amend or eliminate the RFS. The expiration wasn’t good enough for some groups. They are still looking for cheap corn and food versus fuel debates.

5. Answering cellulosic ethanol challengers. There are a couple cellulosic ethanol plants that are working to be up and running this year or early next year. In order for this to be successful, Congress must renew key tax provisions for cellulosic ethanol producers. The RFA and its partner organization, the Advanced Ethanol Council, will make extending these policies a top legislative priority.

Although VEETC expired at the end of 2011, the RFS2 still remains in place. These won’t be the only ethanol stories we will see in 2012, but these are the five main stories that are on the top of our list at the moment. 2012 could be an interesting year and may bring on new ethanol issues and stories.

January 16, 2012

Podcast: Opportunities for corn in Japan, China and Vietnam

In this podcast, the Nebraska Corn Board's Kelly Brunkhorst provides a report on a U.S. Grains Council corn leadership mission that traveled to Japan, China and Vietnam. Brunkhorst was on the mission, which also included association and checkoff staff and farmers from several other corn states.

"The goal is to meet buyers, end users, trade associations and government officials in a key regions of the world," Brunkhorst said. "It helps build relationships between the U.S. corn industry and buyers, as well as provide insight into foreign markets and their needs for those participating in the mission."

Be sure to listen to the podcast for his analysis and reaction.

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

Why Future Generations need Risk Management Skills

Last Thursday after one of my classes, I jumped on to the computer and checked the markets. I knew the WASDE (World Agriculture Supplies and Demand Estimates) were going to be coming out, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

As soon as I pulled up the page of the different commodity markets, I was amazed at how fast prices dropped. Just the day before corn was at $6.50 and that morning the market was showing a price of $6.11. Right there was a 39-cent drop, which could have been a 39 cent gain had a producer pulled the trigger and sold it the day before. The reason why we saw such bearish prices on Thursday was from the fact that corn production was estimated to be up by 48 million bushels.

Not only was corn production up but so were the soybean ending stocks. Soybean ending stocks were reported to be up by 45 million bushels. These factors along with a few others caused the commodity markets to become pretty bearish for the day. It is interesting how much the markets can move within hours, even minutes sometimes!

So one who might not be familiar with markets may ask why they can swing so rapidly within a day? There really is no one answer to that question because there are so many different factors that have an impact on the agricultural markets these days. It could be reports, weather, production, news, and many other current events taking place around the world. While it is interesting to see these price swings, it can be nerve racking for a producer who hasn’t locked in prices. There is no doubt that producers have to be able to manage risk in today’s marketing environment. However, my opinion is that risk management will play an even greater role in the future because there will be new risks that will develop. Also, I believe it is important for my generation to learn the different risk management skills available today so that there is a foundation for the future when new risks do develop.

You might be asking yourself about which risks generations like mine will face. The first and foremost will be the end of direct payments from the government and also a more complex crop insurance program. Although in the immediate future, direct payments will be gone; we still have the crop insurance program. However, if our government can’t figure out a way to resolve our debt problem, they may look at doing away with a safety net for farmers and ranchers if commodity prices stay high. Another risk that future generations will have to manage is weather. Although the jury is still out on climate change, there is no doubt that flooding and droughts will stay around for the long run. Will we see them every year? No, but it will be something that we will have to manage, and if the government doesn’t help provide protection against crop or livestock losses, it will be another risk that farmers will solely have to bear.

Many also don’t think debt as being a risk that future generations will have to learn to manage. Right now, the younger generations are seeing the good times in Ag where their fathers or employers are going out and investing in new machinery and better inputs. Some farmers are even able to trade equipment on year-to-year basis because they can afford it and there is very little debt. However, if corn prices fall back to $3, it will become tricky to finance the purchase of new equipment and inputs. Unfortunately, even if markets become very low, manufacturers of agricultural products won’t lower their prices to match poor markets. So that just adds to the risk of managing debt.

As a person can tell by the things I listed, it is going to be very important for generations like mine to have an understanding of risk management, in both today’s markets and in the future. Unfortunately, if farmers or ranchers don’t learn some of the risk management tools that are available, it will become challenging for their farms to remain profitable. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I strongly believe agriculture has a bright future as long as we remain working hard and managing the risks and challenges that face agriculture in the future!

January 12, 2012

Nebraska Corn Board Staff Report with Kelly Brunkhorst

Nebraska Corn Board Director of Research, Kelly Brunkhorst, discusses the recent ruling on California's low carbon fuel standard. He also mentions what we might see happen in 2012.

To learn more about what is happening in the corn industry or to learn more about Nebraska corn, be sure to visit our website!

Thanks for watching!

Thanks to bigger yields, irrigated corn is more energy efficient

Irrigated corn in Nebraska is highly efficient in the use of energy, water and fertilizer, as the increase in yields more than offset the energy costs of inputs, according to researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The research paper "High-yield maize with large net energy yield and small global warming intensity," was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can view the abstract and view the entire paper here.

The paper was co-authored by Ken Cassman, a UNL agronomist, and Patricio Grassini, a UNL research professor in agronomy and horticulture.

As noted in North Platte Bulletin (click here for the article), the research shows that modern, irrigated, high-input agriculture, even though it uses more fossil fuels than rainfed systems, also produces much higher crop yields. The perception of irrigated agriculture as "energy wasteful" fails to take into account crop-management changes in recent decades that have increased yields without more fertilizer or irrigation, Cassman said in the paper.

"In fact, we found that irrigated corn had substantially larger net energy yield and less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of grain produced than corn from rainfed systems with much smaller input levels and lower yields," Grassini told the paper.

Research findings are based on several years' field data collected from a large number of commercial production fields in Nebraska.

In the Wisconsin Ag Connection (click here), Grassini said that it's important to assess energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of cropping systems on a yield basis, not a land-area basis. For example, it may be possible to achieve a large decrease in GHG emissions in the three Nebraska counties included in the study by converting irrigated cropland into rainfed-only agriculture, but to make up for the estimated 50 percent decrease in grain yield would require an additional 308,000 acres of rainfed corn production.

"Thus, it is penny-wise and pound foolish to convert irrigated agriculture back to dryland production for the sake of reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Grassini told the publication.

"At some point, in a world with limited resources and confronted with emerging challenges such as climate change and limited supplies of fresh water, understanding how all of the world's agriculture performs in terms of net energy yield, greenhouse gas emissions intensity and water and nitrogen productivity is going to be important," Cassman said. "This paper sets standards on how you can do that using real-world farm data."

Yet progress can still be made – as farmers continuously adopt improved management practices, adopt advanced irrigation systems, take advantage of conservation tillage practices, utilize improved hybrids and fine-tune applications of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation water. (It's sustaining innovation!)

Cassman, if you recall, published some research in 2009 that examined modern production methods for corn and ethanol – and the results were impressive. One of the best points of that work (see the links below) was that between 10 and 19 gallons of ethanol are produced for each gallon of petroleum used in the entire corn to ethanol production life cycle.

Some have a hard time grasping this – especially after doing a Google search and coming up with some very (very!) dated work by Pimentel that continues, despite being out of date and inaccurate by today's standard, to be repeated by the anti-ethanol crowd.

January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Crop progress photo winners

The pictures that were featured in the 2011 Crop Progress updates were submitted from seven different chapters around the state, each representing one of eight districts.

Chapters that participated this year were Fullerton FFA, Heartland FFA, Holdrege FFA, Howells-Clarkson FFA, Imperial FFA, Norris FFA, and Sumner Eddyville Miller FFA. The Nebraska Corn Board appreciates each of the chapters taking time to submit excellent photos!

Listed below are the winners of the four different categories for this years Crop Progress photo contest!

To see all of the pictures that were submitted this last year, you can visit our flickr page!

January 10, 2012

The top 5 ethanol stories of 2011

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

As 2011 came to a close and 2012 began, so did the stories about ethanol that made headlines. The Renewable Fuels Association published The Top 5 Ethanol Stories of 2011. I must say, I have to agree with their Top-5 list, and this is the order I would rate them.

1) EPA approves E15 for MY 2001 and newer vehicles. In January the EPA announced that anyone with a 2001 and newer vehicle will be able to choose the fuel they use in their vehicle. They can use unleaded, E10, or E15. E15 is better for the environment and since the US has hit the RFS blend wall, E15 will help to overcome this.

2) Emergence of the biorefinery model. Approximately 40 percent of ethanol plants have begun to extract the corn oil when producing ethanol, and this number is only increasing. Food, feed, fuel, fiber, and now corn oil are produced in the ethanol process.

3) Advanced ethanol production begins, again. Major strides in cellulosic and advanced ethanol production began in 2011. Several companies have begun building commercial cellulosic ethanol plants in the Midwest and plan to use corn stover as the feedstock. This is a big hurdle to overcome since advanced and cellulosic ethanol have been emerging in pilot plants for the last few years.

4) US exports set all-time highs. An estimated 1 billion gallons of denatured and undenatured ethanol were exported in 2011. Canada and Brazil were the #1 and #2 importers, respectively, of ethanol fuel. Additionally, distillers grains exports were at an all time high. It was estimated the 8-9 million metric tons were exported last year.

5) End of VEETC and the secondary tax credit. The $0.45 blender’s credit expired at the end of 2011. Initially, the incentives was put into place as an incentive for ethanol blending to expand the industry and was not meant as a permanent tax credit. The ethanol industry has grown over the last 10 years, and it is now time to move forward without the tax credit.

2011 was an exciting year for ethanol with many accomplishments and stories. This next year should be good as well. Only time will tell!

January 9, 2012

When you hear 'technology', think of a corn farmer

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word, “technology”?
When I hear “technology”, I think of machines, progression, and science. Even though I love agriculture, it doesn’t come to my mind first when I hear “technology”. But you know what is great about machines, progression and science – agriculture uses all of them, especially corn farming.
Machines – How do we get our crops in and out of the fields? Tractors, planters, combines, harvesters, grain carts – all forms of machines. Because of modern technology in agriculture, farmers in America have machines that help them be the most productive in the world, growing 20% more corn per acre than any other country! Farmers also are using GPS-based precision technology to reduce overlaps in the field and to precisely place fertilizer and pesticides exactly where they need to be – and in exactly the right amounts.

Progression – Forward thinking, movement, development. These are all words that describe farmers. Farmers in Nebraska are being progressive by Sustaining Innovation - an unwavering commitment to doing a better job in every row, on every acre, on every farm, every season. It’s how family corn farmers in Nebraska and the nation are ensuring the long-term viability of their industry and our natural resources.
Science – Science can be a scary word. But in reality – science in corn farming is just plain cool. Seed companies are using science to produce better seed genetics, which in turn allows farmers to grow more corn per acre. Did you know in Nebraska in 1900, the average bushel per acre was 26 and that this past year, the average was 160? That is some cool science. Not only are farmers growing more corn on fewer acres, they are doing so with less fertilizer, less chemicals, less water, and less of an impact on the environment.
Nebraska’s corn farmers – and their fellow corn farmers across the U.S. – continue to make significant advancements that have a direct impact on the sustainability of corn production and the natural, environmental and social systems that are connected to it. So the next time you hear the word “technology”, think of a corn farmer.

January 6, 2012

Podcast: Proposed labor rules may take away opportunities for young people

In this podcast, Rick Gruber, a farmer from Benedict and member of the Nebraska Corn Grower Association, noted that there was much talk in December about the proposed changes to child labor rules developed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

"We hope many involved in agriculture took time to comment on the proposed changes," he said. "We also hope the final rules will be more sensible when it comes to young people working in and around farm and agriculture operations."

Gruber said corn growers appreciated the efforts of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation who spoke out publicly on this issue and encouraged the Department of Labor to allow time for more people to comment.

"We also appreciate the media attention to this issue and editorial boards who wrote editorials in support of changing the proposed rules," he said, adding that support from Nebraska’s cattle and pork groups was also important, as the proposal impacts a lot more than just grain producers and corn detasselers.

Gruber said farm jobs and detassling teaches a lot lessons, including working hard, being responsible, being part of a team and making a sometimes difficult job enjoyable.

"These are life lessons that are important to learn. In fact, it may do the world a lot of good if more people learned them at a young age," he said.

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

January 5, 2012

Nebraska Corn Board Staff Report with Kim Clark

Ag Program manager Kim Clark talks about what is currently happening in the ethanol industry and what we can see in the coming month! To learn more about the Nebraska ethanol industry, be sure to visit the Nebraska Corn Board website!

Nebraska Corn Board appreciates ruling on low carbon fuel standard

In a news release, the Nebraska Corn Board said it was pleased when Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill struck down California’s low carbon fuel standard last week (see this blog post for more).

The judge found the standard unconstitutional by means of violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"This is a great victory for Nebraska’s ethanol and corn industries and Nebraska’s economy as a whole," said Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and vice chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. "This judgment will mean that the largest fuel market in the U.S. will continue to be open to the benefits of corn ethanol produced right here in Nebraska and the Midwest."

The low carbon fuel standard that had been in effect since April of last year had the goal of reducing green house gas emissions from transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020. While this was as admirable goal, it had many flaws including penalizing Midwest produced corn ethanol in favor of California ethanol.

"This is what the Judge ultimately struck down in his ruling," said Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board. The judgment also prohibits the enforcement of the low carbon fuel standard while the litigation or possible appeal is ongoing.

With 25 plants operating and producing nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol in Nebraska, California’s 15 billion gallon transportation fuel market was an important destination for Nebraska. "If we would have been shut out of that key market, it would have been devastating to Nebraska and other mid-western states," Brunkhorst said.

The original lawsuit challenging California’s low carbon fuel standard was filed by the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Redwood County Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers and Penny Newman Grain against the California Air Resources Board in December of 2009.

The Nebraska Corn Board said it appreciated the Nebraska Attorney General’s office and five other state attorney generals for filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Beautiful Day in Nebraska

A perfect day in Nebraska which is allowing farmers to accomplish a lot outside!

Outlook for 2012


By Jon Holzfaster, District 8 Director on the Nebraska Corn Board and National Corn Board Director

DSC_0151Where does one start in trying to define what is happening in agriculture today? Sure there are a lot of exciting trends from record net farm income, to record setting input costs, to land sales that start to resemble Eastern corn belt numbers, to record cash rents, to China entering into the market, and the list is endless.

We have all seen a transformation of production agriculture that is both exciting and nerve racking. From new seed traits, to RTK guidance systems, our ability to grow more grain on fewer acres of land using fewer resources is helping set the pace for a sustainable agriculture.

As a farmer, cattle feeder and ethanol plant investor, I get to see it from a number of different angles. Also as a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and serving on the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Board of Directors, I probably am more geared towards making sure the ethanol and livestock industry is equally sustainable and profitable. Each of corn's primary customers of ethanol and livestock face their own unique challenges. I can say as a Nebraska Corn Board member we work hard with checkoff dollars to support both of these value added industries.

Ethanol has been taking it on the chin from some of the other corn users, but in reality we have a real opportunity in Nebraska to take advantage of the corn to ethanol to distillers grains to cattle feeding to red meat processing, and converting much of the livestock byproduct back on the farm for fertilizer. As the nation's No. 3 corn producing state, and the No. 2 ethanol producing state, the No. 2 cattle-on-feed state and the No. 1 red meat processing state, we work hard to promote these industries.

For many of us in ag states it has been agriculture that has kept our economies stronger than states that are more dependent on manufacturing or construction. In fact in a recent editorial, Nebraska's state budget position (now $62 million to the good) was compared to many other states that had to resort to drastic cuts, and our good fortune was attributed to - you guessed it - agriculture.

I have not left out exports. With over 95 percent of the world's population residing outside of the U.S., we cannot overlook the importance of our ag exports. Beef and pork exports have made dramatic improvements since 2003. Now nearly $200 of every beef animal is exported. For pork, over $50 per head goes to exports. Even U.S. ethanol has been finding its way to Brazil, Europe and Canada. Corn and dry distillers grains have seen some growth in the export market, and now, with three free trade agreements getting final approval, we expect more ag exports to follow.

My role at NCGA started with a seat on the Ethanol Committee, and while in that role I witnessed corn ethanol into NASCAR in the form of E-15 and American ethanol. Corn states joined in together to help fund an effort like no other promotion that is now reaching over 73 million fans. We want motorists to realize we can produce a renewable, homegrown fuel that is good for our environment and our economy, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and functions in an automobile whether it is a multi-million dollar race car or the family auto.

I have to compliment the leadership and staff of NCGA for their hard work on this project. NCGA also has worked hard to make sure consumers get the right factual message on corn and corn ethanol. That is why you could find our message regarding the Corn Farmers Coalition in the Washington Metro, and across the D.C. market. There was so much misinformation out in the media and public that the time came for us to get the Corn Fact Book out and in the hands of decision makers.

The future will be what we make of it and how hard we work to stay productive, efficient, sustainable and competitive. The rest of the world is not setting by without change as well. Sure, world population is growing, but so are the competitive markets such as the Black Sea Region and South America. This new plateau that we find ourselves on makes the challenges of the future even more frightening.

Over the last 30 years commodity checkoff programs have played a critical role in the developments of new uses, new markets, new research and a new definition of production agriculture. The new agriculture is still family owned and managed, but it isn't the agriculture of the 1980s or '90s. It has new career opportunities for those that want to stay close to agriculture, it is revitalizing many rural communities, with processing and manufacturing, and it is not afraid to speak up and defend our way of life.

January 3, 2012

Reflecting on 2011

It is hard to believe that we are already entering 2012 when it feels like 2011 had just begun. While 2011 may be over, we won’t forget the memories that 2011 left us. Specifically in the agriculture industry, plenty of memories were made ranging from the high commodity prices to the flooding of the Missouri River. Over all, the majority of corn farmers in Nebraska will tell you that it was not only a good year in agriculture but also a challenging one!

Many of Nebraska’s corn farmers had a good year. The state corn yield average is estimated at 160 bushels, down six bushels from last year but up 32 bushels from nine years ago. Fortunately, for a majority of farmers throughout the state, Mother Nature brought decent weather along with rain that was needed at critical times during the growth stage. Not only were the corn yields good, but we also saw record breaking corn prices this last year. Corn futures hit a historical high of $7.95 last May setting a new record. Many farmers were able to cash in on these high prices before the bottom fell out of the market at the beginning of harvest dropping to under $6.00. Even though high corn prices were a challenge for livestock feeders, they too saw record prices for their livestock.

While things were good on the farm, things were also good off the farm. The EPA approved E15 (15% ethanol) in 2001 or newer vehicles and also dropped the proposed regulation controlling dust. The free trade agreements (FTA) that had been pending for a few years with Panama, Columbia, and South Korea were passed in October with a majority of U.S. lawmakers supporting them. U.S. lawmakers also passed H.R. 2112, which was a bill establishing budgets for the United States Department of Agriculture. Within the bill, there was no language that banned horse slaughter in the U.S. and would allow for the industry to resume.

While there were many positives in 2011, the year didn’t go without having any issues. One of the major problems that not only affected Nebraska corn farmers, but all U.S. farmers was the 2012 Farm Bill. Because of the U.S.’s financial problems, U.S. lawmakers were looking at different ways to get our deficit under control. One of the areas to cut was the Farm Bill and many of the programs that are administered through the Farm Bill were on the chopping block. Unfortunately, the super committee did not achieve anything which has now delayed the passing of the Farm Bill until 2012.

Another issue was that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) looking at the possibility of increasing CDL requirements, where anyone operating agricultural equipment would be required to obtain a CDL. Luckily, many in the Ag community voiced their opinions about these new regulations, which in turn led to the FMCSA dropping the consideration of increasing CDL requirements. Unfortunately, the FMCSA was not the only agency looking at increasing regulations on the agriculture industry. The Department of Labor is also looking at changing the child labor laws making it difficult for youth under the age of 18 to work on farms that are not owned by their parents. While many in the Ag community voiced their concerns over the possibility of this regulation being instated, the Department of Labor has yet to make a ruling on whether it will change the child labor law that could have a major impact on the agricultural community.

Although it may seem like a lot of the issues in 2011 dealt with policies, Mother Nature also made its impact. Flooding along the Missouri river wiped out thousands of acres of crops and pasture. After the floods resided, fields with great top soil ended up being washed away leaving only debris and sand. It will take several years for farmers in these areas to get the soil back to the production stage. Not only did the Missouri river flooding have an impact on some of Nebraska’s corn farmers, but parts of Southwest Nebraska got hit by major thunderstorms, ruining entire crops. One of the storms that went through the first part of August devastated areas, stripping corn plants down to their stems, making it look as if a farmer shredded their corn crop. Corn that was looking to have above average yields ended up being chopped for silage.

Overall, 2011 was a good year for agriculture! While 2011 may have brought some challenges and headaches, the farmers took those challenges head on and showed that they can still be productive and break production records. As we look forward to the 2012 year, there is no doubt that the agriculture industry will be faced with many challenges ranging from policies to Mother Nature. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a cool spring with normal precipitation amounts, and a cooler but dry summer with the exception of a couple periods of hot weather in July. While the summer may be dry, it is expected that we will have a wet fall. It is also predicted that we won’t see commodity prices go as high as we saw them in 2011. For corn, it is likely that we will see prices remain around the $6.00 range. However, it should be noted that the prices will heavily rely on weather expectations and supply and demand. There is no doubt that 2012 won’t be like 2011, but it will be a year to make new memories and to overcome new challenges!

Now that I've reflected on 2011, tomorrow we'll feature Nebraska Corn Board and National Corn Board member, Jon Holzfaster, and his outlook in agriculture for 2012.