March 30, 2012

Podcast: Agricultural Issues Academy an incredible experience

In this podcast, Alix Mashino, a senior at Boyd High School and a member of the West Boyd FFA Chapter in Spencer, Nebraska, talks about her experience at the inaugural Agricultural Issues Academy held before the Nebraska State FFA Convention a year ago.

She noted it was an incredible experience that changed how she looks at the agricultural industry.

"As an agriculturist, I feel it is our duty to tell our own story to the best of our abilities. We are each experts in what we do. If we don't tell our story, others without as much knowledge will tell it for us. The Agricultural Issues Academy gave me the knowledge and tools to agvocate on an ongoing basis," she said.

She took that to heart and started her own blog, which you can find at

The second Agricultural Issues Academy was held this week. It included 37 students out of 70 that applied. "Students selected had an incredible experience, just like I did last year. I’m certain they gained skills and insight that will help them as they finish school and move into a career," Mashino said.

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

Nebraska corn farmers investing nearly $3B to plant 10.3 million acres

Corn farmers in Nebraska intend to plant 10.3 million acres of corn this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's prospective plantings report released this morning.

The Nebraska Corn Board, using estimates from by the University of Nebraska, said in a news release that takes about $270 per acre in crop inputs to get the corn crop planted and off to a good start, meaning Nebraska corn farmers will invest some $2.8 billion this spring. That figure does not include land costs, labor or equipment – it’s purely inputs like seed and fertilizer.

“Farmers make this multi-billion dollar investment every spring in the hope of producing more corn per acre, as they strive to get better every year,” Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research, said in the release. “USDA’s planting intention numbers today, if realized; show how farmers respond to market signals with the investment necessary to meet demand.”

Good prices are the market signal for more corn acres, yet planting numbers can change depending on springtime weather. Last year’s March estimate, for example, was 9.5 million acres, which was later revised to 10.0 million. In the end, though, Nebraska farmers actually planted 9.85 million. The decrease from upward revision came due to weather conditions that prevented planting.

Still, last year’s 9.85 million acres was the largest since the 1930s in Nebraska – and farmers intend to top that by 450,000 this year. Time will tell if that forecast holds true.

Nationally, USDA said farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres this year. That's up 4 percent from last year’s 91.9 million planted acres. If realized it will be the most planted acres in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.

The figure is also 1.9 million million acres more than what USDA used at its annual outlook forum earlier this year and 1.5 million more than the average estimates put out by analysts ahead of the report.

Good early spring weather has allowed some farmers in the Midwest to finish field work and begin planting. Brunkhorst said, however, that most farmers in Nebraska will hold off on planting until mid-April because crop insurance coverage doesn’t take effect until then and there’s still the risk of frost.

Historically in Nebraska, farmers begin planting in mid-April and wrap up as quickly as possible in May.

Other Nebraska crops planting intentions:
  • Sorghum: 165,000 acres, up 10 percent from last year
  • Dry edible beans: 155,000 acres, up 41 percent
  • Oats: 75,000 acres, up 25 percent
  • Soybeans: 4.7 million acres, down 4 percent
  • All wheat: 1.4 million acres, down 11 percent
  • Sugarbeet: 50,000 acres, down 4 percent
  • All hay: 2.4 million acres, down 3 percent
  • All sunflower: 50,000 acres, down 15 percent

March 28, 2012

Using a fuel that is easier on the wallet and the environment!

Have you filled up your vehicle lately? If you have, you’ve probably noticed you paid more than the last time you filled up your tank. Gas prices have been sky rocketing lately, and it looks like we are starting to see a repeat of 2008.

The current national average for regular gasoline is $3.90, only ten cents away from being at $4.00. In Nebraska, regular gasoline prices are averaging $3.88 and isn’t far off from the $4.00 mark either. If a person thinks about it, if you drive a car with a 14 gallon tank, it will cost you $54.32 to fill up today. A year ago, it would have only cost a person $3.58 to fill up their tank with regular gasoline, or $50.12 total.

So how can we combat these high prices, especially as we enter into the busy summer season? The best and easiest solution is to use ethanol blends of fuels. So what do blends mean? Simply, cars cannot run on ethanol alone, so most commonly, there is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline which is E10. These blends of fuel can range from E10 up to E85 and with these blends of fuels come cheaper fuel prices as well. The current price for a gallon of ethanol is around $3.30, nearly sixty cents cheaper than buying regular gasoline.

It might not seem like much right now, but in the long run it can add up and save drivers hundreds of dollars. Ethanol won’t only be easier on your wallet, but will also be much better for the environment. Because of technology advances in corn and ethanol production, ethanol now has a net positive energy gain. A net positive energy gain means that ethanol produces more energy than it takes to make it.

So the next time you go to fuel up your vehicle, think about using an ethanol blended fuel. Not only is it a renewable fuel, but it is produced right here in America by family corn farmers. It helps keep your money right here in America benefiting rural communities and schools instead of going overseas to other countries.

Anyone can use the ethanol blend of E10 in their vehicle, and just recently the EPA has approved the use of E15 in cars manufactured in 2001 and newer. If a person drives a flex fuel vehicle (FFV), they can use any blend of ethanol, such as E85. To find out if you drive a FFV, check the gas cap or check your driver’s manual. Have a classic car? Check out this guide for using ethanol blends.

March 27, 2012

Podcast: Many paths for farmers, corn growers to reach out and tell their story

In this podcast, Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, discusses some of the ways NCGA and its members are reaching out to those interested in farming and ranching and where there food comes.

He also encourages farmers to get involved where and when they can – including discussing farming and agriculture with people whom we already believe may understand it. "It is amazing to me how many people have a misunderstanding of agriculture and I think everyone of us who are involved need to take the time to do that," he said. "There's some great tools and resources out there."

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

March 26, 2012

Midwest corn growers study tour examines key issues in EU

Farmers and corn organization staff members from Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois returned from the European Union yesterday. They were in Europe for a study tour that spent time in The Netherlands, Germany and Hungary.

Key issues discussed with numerous organizations during the mission included animal welfare regulations, biotechnology, ethanol imports, sustainability regulations, the farm bill (CAP in the EU), agricultural trade and production.

The mission was coordinated by the U.S. Grains Council, with components focusing on beef and pork being organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

A summary of several days of the mission is available at the Midwest Corn Growers Study Tour blog. (Older posts on a mission to Brazil and Argentina are also included on the blog.)

Here's a list of the main posts from the EU mission, just click through for details:

Getting Grounded - Cary Sifferath, director of Mediterranean and Africa initiatives for the U.S. Grains Council, gave the group a briefing on the grain and commodity markets in the European Union. He noted that France, Romania, Italy, and Hungary are the top corn-producing countries in the EU. He also covered biotechnology (GMOs) and biofuels.

Nice to Meat and Zanderbergen - John Brook of the U.S. Meat Export Federation introduced the group to a couple of companies that are leading the way for U.S. beef in the European Union. They include Nice to Meat, which imports black angus from the U.S., and Zanderbergen, a family-owned company that is the largest importer of beef in the EU.

'Tell what you do. Do what you tell.' - A Dutch swine farm including time with farmer Jan van Schijndel and a representative from VION, a Netherlands-based farmer-owned cooperative that is among one of the largest meat processors and distributors in the EU. Also discussed were new regulations go into effect in 2013 prohibiting the use of sow gestation crates.

We pick their brains. They pick ours. - Time at the international headquarters of Alfred C. Toepfer International, where the group me with grain market experts and economists.

Regulations. And more regulations. - A summary of a meeting with Andreas Feige, managing director of the International Sustainability Carbon Certification (ISCC) in the EU. Essentially, this system is a sustainability certification system. Proof of sustainability is required for biofuels to qualify for fulfillment of quotas or to be entitled for financial incentives.

Dekalb in Hungary - At a Monsanto seed corn plant in Nagyimand, Hungry, where Dekalb corn and oilseed rape is produced. They use a system of distributors and dealers to market their products, which include about 30 corn hybrids (all non-GMO, of course), mostly within the 90-100 day maturity.  Each bag of seed must be government certified!

A Bit of a Head Scratcher... - A visit to a port on the Danube River that has 84 storage buildings with a capacity of 256,000 bushels each. Even though the port is right on the Danube, only about 20% of the grain is shipped by barge. The remainder moves by truck or rail. Following this is a stop to visit farmer Ferenc Miko. Ferenc won his nation's corn yield contest last year with 302 bushels per acre on non-irrigated land.

A Roundtable with Sharp Corners - A frank discussion on regulations, biofuels, livestock production, animal nutrition and the new CAP program in the EU.

A team photo from the Ferenc Miko farm. The photo includes
Ference Miko (center, front row),
his wife (2nd from right, front row) and the
Dekalb seed representative (first left, front row)

March 23, 2012

Nebraska farmer visits third graders in Austin, Texas

A few months ago, a third grade class in Austin, Texas, took a tour of Mark Jagels farm in Davenport, Nebraska. The third graders didn't drive or fly up to Nebraska. They just took advantage of modern communication tools, with Jagels and his wife, Suzanne, walking the students around the farm with a Motorola Xoom tablet and iGoogle video.

Then they did a video chat so students could ask questions. (Read more about the experience here.

This month, Mark Jagels, who is on the Nebraska Corn Board, and Suzanne traveled to Austin to see the third graders in person. (Their son, Brett, just happens to be the students' teacher...hence the connection!)

They took yellow and white corn and soybeans along for the students to examine up close, and explained the different products that come from each, noting how each product benefits humans, livestock and people in other countries. "We also explained that when we sell the corn and soybeans, this is how we made money," Mark Jagels said.

They also played videos that showed some of the things that happen on their farm.

He said the students were very interested in livestock and wanted to know the size of baby calves and cows, how long a cow is pregnant and how old the calf is when you wean it. The curious kids also wondered how cows know which calf is there, if cows get married, if they ever get sick and why they receive and eartag and brand.

Plus...How long do you feed them in the feedlot? What kind of food do they eat? How much water and how many pounds of food do they consume each day?

"It was really exciting to see them ask questions and learn about where their food comes from," Mark Jagels said. "Thanks to our son and daughter-in-law (who also teaches at the school) for stressing the importance of agriculture, their farming background and for giving my wife and I the opportunity to spread the story of agriculture some 1,110 miles from our farm!"

March 22, 2012

Nebraska FFA Chapters! Would you like an Olympic gold medalist to visit your chapter?

The Nebraska Corn Board is offering an opportunity for Nebraska FFA Chapters to have Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz visit their chapter.

Wouldn't Tomasevicz be the ideal speaker for an FFA banquet? Or he could spend some of the day in your classes or speak to your school!

For a chance to have him come to your chapter, look for the Nebraska Corn Board booth the Nebraska State FFA Convention March 28-30! (Next week!)

Their booth will be in the ballroom lobby of the Marriott Cornhusker in Downtown Lincoln. There you'll find a large cutout of Curt Tomasevicz and his bobsled team – with FFAers getting to become members of his team via the cutouts!

FFA members can just take a picture to become part of the team (see the FFA officers photo below!) and then upload it to the Nebraska Corn Board Facebook page to enter.

If your photo is selected, you'll will win $50 in ethanol-blended fuel and get Curt Tomasevicz to visit your FFA Chapter!

Enter photos on Facebook by Wednesday, April 4, 2012 or by email to if you don't have a Facebook or account or have issues uploading to to Facebook.

March 21, 2012

Wild Hogs vs. Deer – Similar Issues Throughout U.S.

By Shannon Wietjes, Nebraska Corn Growers Association Intern
Water. Farm Bill. Animal rights. Environment. What do all of these have in common? Well, they are all issues that we face here in Nebraska every day. However, we aren’t alone in dealing with these issues. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for National Ag Day Training through the 4-H program. Along with over 100 other college students representing youth organizations, such as Agriculture Future of America, FFA, 4-H and other organizations, I was able to express my concerns about these issues and many more to the decision makers in D.C.

Although some of our issues differed by the area of the country we came from (we have issues with overpopulation of deer in Nebraska…in the south they are overrun with wild hogs) major themes continued to pop up throughout our conversations. Corn producers want the Farm Bill to be passed just as much as the cotton producers. Water is a precious and necessary resource each person needs no matter what part of the country they live in. Protecting the environment is just as important for farmers in California as it is for us here in Nebraska. Issues within agriculture may differ slightly as you travel across the country, but we all face issues that need addressed.

This is something we need to remember – we are not alone. Sometimes in agriculture, we get wrapped up in our farms, in the issues that affect us at the local or state level and we think we are alone in the fight. However, people all over the nation are facing the same issues and are interested in helping agriculture improve as well. Each person’s voice and opinion is important, but if agriculture joins together and works to improve the industry as a whole, we will all benefit. So, even though we don’t have wild hogs running rampant here in Nebraska (I kind of wish we did, I love pigs!) we do have similar issues that can be changed if we work together. Less than 2% of the population of the U.S. produces the food for everyone else; we need to stick together to continue to feed the world!

March 16, 2012

Podcast: Despite spam-like ads, sugar is sugar, even in chocolate milk

In this podcast, Dan Wesely, a farmer from Morse Bluff and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses TV and other ads for a brand of chocolate milk that the manufacturer suggests is healthier because it contains "no high fructose corn syrup."

Wesley calls Dean Foods' ads for its chocolate milk "spam" because they stretch the truth and mislead.

"Deen Foods thinks it is being clever by suggesting its chocolate milk is healthier because they don’t use high fructose corn syrup – or what we call corn sugar. Instead, they use sugar from another source," Wesley said.

The chocolate still contains sugar — and the same number of calories. "And since Dean Foods says it is indeed made from milk produced by cows, it contains the same good nutrients as any other milk you can buy, chocolate or otherwise," he said.

Science and researchers for years have said there’s no difference between corn sugar and sugar from other sources. The American Medical Association and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics even agree on the subject.

Wesley said milk is a great, nutritious product, and that chocolate milk is a nice treat.

"But we shouldn’t have to question the healthfulness of milk based on the misleading marketing ploy by a large dairy company," he said.

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

March 13, 2012

Relationships helped secure record meat exports

In a news release yesterday, the Nebraska Corn Board noted that the United States sold more than $5.4 billion in U.S. beef and $6.1 billion in U.S. pork – both records – to international customers last year.

It's an achievement that comes, in part, due to the building of relationships with global customers over the years, Mark Jagels, a farmer from Davenport and member of the Nebraska Corn Board, said in the release.

“International buyers and consumers want to know where their beef and pork are coming from. They want to know it is safe and nutritious, and they want U.S. farmers and ranchers to help tell that story,” Jagels said. “Farmers here in Nebraska and across the country help do that by using checkoff dollars to support international marketing efforts organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.”

U.S. beef promotion at Daiei Grocery Store in Tokyo last year.
Jagels is a fourth generation farmer – he's also vice-chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. During a presentation at this year's Commodity Classice, he noted that pork exports jumped 18 percent to 2.25 million tons and beef exports 21 percent to 1.29 million tons in 2011.

That equals a lot of soybeans, corn and distillers grains going overseas via value-added red meat products – more than 94 million bushels of soybeans and more than 568 million bushels of corn.

Kelsey Pope, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of advocacy and outreach, said 27.5 percent of the pork produced in the United States was exported last year, adding $55.55 to the value of each hog. Nearly 13 percent of the total came from meat products not typically consumed in the United States.

As for beef, she said, 14 percent of all U.S. beef was exported in 2011, adding a record $206.37 to the value of each steer and heifer processed. “Like with pork, about 13 percent of the total came from meat products we don’t generally consume in the U.S. but are highly valued by international customers,” she said.

Support from the Nebraska Corn Board for the U.S. Meat Export Federation totaled $430,000 in 2011, but other Nebraska ag groups, including the soybean and beef checkoffs, brought the total support from Nebraska farmers and ranchers to more than $1.2 million. When you compare this with the $1.3 billion export value of Nebraska beef and pork in 2011, the return on investment is tremendous.

For more, click here.

March 12, 2012

Japan: One year later

One year ago on March 11, Japan was struck with a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami. To us in Nebraska, it was hard to really relate with their suffering and their need.
But we knew we needed to help.

Farmers from all across Nebraska came together and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association started the grain donation program for Japan through the American Red Cross, where over $60,000 was raised to support the cause. Read more here.
In July, the Nebraska Corn Board sent a team, hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, to Japan to promote U.S. beef and pork -- and to help deliver meals to evacuees with Curt Tomasevicz. Read about that mission here or for a compilation of posts, click here.
Now a year later, Japan is recovering. Our export markets are returning to above normal, and our ag trade partnerships are strong. Please take time to view this video of how Japan is surviving one year later, and to appreciate their gratitude.

March 8, 2012

Goals on Ice and in the Field - by Curt Tomasevicz

Like almost every athlete, professional or amateur, I have come to understand the importance of goal setting. This is a lesson that we are taught at a young age. Usually in elementary school we are emerged in a reading program that requires us to read a certain number of books in a month or specific number of pages in a semester. We learn that, step by step, we can accomplish some pretty big tasks.

As an athlete, it’s vital to set long term goals. This gives us a point in our future for which to aim. We need that specific target to keep motivation. If we don’t have that point in our future, then we are just wondering around and going through life aimlessly and that is a good way to get lost in life. In order to reach those long term goals, we must first develop short term goals and create a series of goals to build for that long term desire. As an Olympic bobsledder, my long term goal, as it was for the year 2010, is to win a gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. But I can’t just make it happen at the Olympics. I need a series of goals to get to that point.

Just over a week ago, my team and I were able to meet a huge stepping stone goal on our way to winning another Olympic gold medal. Every year in our bobsled season races, the culmination is the World Championships. For the third time in four years, the Night Train was able to end the season with the title “World Champions”. We won the 4-man race on February 26 on our home track in Lake Placid, NY. This was a huge sign to the rest of the world that we don’t mind having the target on our back. We like the pressure and the continued high expectations to win and be successful. So bring on Sochi and the expectations of a repeat win.

This attitude can be applied to anything life, not just athletics. In everything we do, we have to set reasonable and meaningful goals. Sometimes people write their goals down and keep them somewhere so they can be reminded of their goals daily. Maybe it’s about weight loss. I could be about building relationships. Perhaps goals include saving money day by day.

Or maybe, as a farmer, your goal is sustained high yields and a sizeable profit without breaking your back and exhausting yourself so you can also enjoy other areas of life. What are the short term steps necessary to make that long term goal a reality? What do have to do to put yourself in a position to have a great harvest? Plan ahead and think about potential obstacles that you may encounter throughout the planting, irrigation, and harvest seasons. Make sure you can measure your progress so you know that you are on pace to be successful.

Goal setting is the key to finding success in anything you do, from the bobsled track to the corn field. Work hard with a distinct and specific plan and you’ll be able to reach that long term gold medal.

The 2012 World Champions. Team Night Train. L to R Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz, Justin Olsen.

March 7, 2012

Commodity Classic 2012

This year’s Commodity Classic, which was held in Nashville, Tennessee, was definitely a classic as it broke both the attendance record and trade show exhibitor record. There were over 6,000 people that attended and the trade show had over 250 displays. It was also a time for the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Sorghum Producers to meet with their members and go over policies that they would like to support or oppose this upcoming year.

The most talked about issue at this year’s Commodity Classic was the upcoming Farm Bill. All four commodity groups agreed that the Farm Bill needs to be passed this year. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, also agreed with the associations as he gave a keynote address during the general session. Secretary Vilsack said the Farm Bill needs to get done now and not be put off any longer. He also mentioned that the new Farm Bill must be equitable and needs to include a safety net. Almost everyone agreed that direct payments will be left out of the next Farm Bill and that there will be more focus on a stronger crop insurance program.

When looking at other issues that many farmers will face this next year, National Corn Growers Association President, Garry Niemeyer, said that the biggest challenge corn farmers will face is the volatility in the markets. He said it will be important for corn farmers to manage their risks as we might see tighter profit margins this coming year in the corn market. However, Mr. Niemeyer noted that corn farmers have a bright future, especially with new technology coming out. He said the National Corn Growers Association is also partnering with groups to help educate consumers on today’s agricultural practices, such as working with the Corn Farmers Coalition, CommonGround, American Ethanol, and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Another highlight of Commodity Classic was the trade show that featured all of the new technology available to farmers. This new technology ranged from new seed traits to newer equipment. Many exhibitors also showed off their new software programs that can be used on cell phones and tablets. This software ranged from helping make marketing decisions to receiving information from your equipment, such as fuel efficiency. If attendees weren’t in the tradeshow, it is likely they could have been found in one of the many different learning sessions that ranged from advocating about agriculture to how to increase yields.

Overall, this year’s Commodity Classic highlighted the many innovations that are being made by America’s farmers. It also was a great opportunity for farmers to network with other farmers from different parts of the U.S. While another Commodity Classic has come and gone, the information learned at this year’s Commodity Classic will live on helping our farmers continue to produce the safest and healthiest food for our growing world population.

Commodity Classic pictures can be seen on Flickr!

March 5, 2012

Podcast: Bt compliance program helps ensure proper refuge acres

In this podcast, Joel High, a farmer from Bertrand and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, discusses the updated Bt compliance program that began last year.

The upgraded program was created as part the Environmental Protection Agency process when Bt corn was re-registered. It is designed to improve compliance with insect resistance management requirements.

High notes that one major change to the compliance program was how on-farm compliance assessments were done. In previous years, it was random.

"Last year, though, it was more targeted and based on purchase history," he said. "Each technology company independently reviewed available sales data for its Bt customers and assessments were conducted with growers who may have purchased not enough refuge seed."

Be sure to listen for information on compliance results and how re-assessing out of compliance farms is handled.

"The organization overseeing the compliance program said it was pleased with the outcome because it shows the program is working and that a majority of growers are following guidelines," High said.
High encouraged farmers to work with their seed dealers and trait developers to understand the enhanced requirements under the compliance program and then follow-through. The National Corn Grower Association's insect resistance management refuge calculator may help, too.

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

March 1, 2012

Strong Farm Economy Video

Today, we'd like to feature this video in lieu of a staff report.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum last week that 2012 should be another good year and strong ag exports should boost the farm economy. Take a couple of mintues to watch his comments.