June 29, 2012

Podcast: Removing high fructose corn syrup falls flat for food brands

In this podcast, Andy Jobman, a farmer from Gothenburg and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, noted that high fructose corn syrup has made headlines for different reasons recently.

First, the Food and Drug Administration denied a petition by the Corn Refiners Association that sought to use the term 'corn sugar' instead of 'high fructose corn syrup'. FDA did not address or question the overwhelming scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and nutritionally the same as other sugars.

Jobman said it is important to note that FDA still considers HFCS a form of sugar and that it will be identified to consumers in that category on the nutrition fact panel on foods and beverages.

A second reason HFCS made headlines was because ConAgra confirmed it was reformulating its Hunt’s ketchup brand to include high fructose corn syrup. If you recall, Omaha-based ConAgra made a big splash in 2010 when it took HFCS out of all its ketchup.

"Apparently consumers didn’t care and the company didn’t see the sales boost it had hoped for," Jobman said.

ConAgra, like many other companies who have removed HFCS from their products, learned that in the real world, most consumers simply aren’t that worried about it. Soda brands, soup brands, fresh bread brands, snack crackers, bottles of iced tea...none saw a sustained boost in market share after declaring they were free high fructose corn syrup.

For some numbers and research surrounding this issue, be sure to listen to the podcast!

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

Farm Road Rally brings dietitians, farmers together


Get on the bus!

The Farm Road Rally II, hosted by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture (A-FAN) and CommonGround Nebraska, took place this week as a farm bus tour for dieticians, grocery store managers and food influencers in the Omaha area.

The tour left from Omaha and first stopped at Scott Wagner’s family farm outside of Fremont, Nebraska. Scott is a row-crop farmer and shared about raising corn and soybeans and explained the importance of the crops in terms of a livestock feed, fuel and food. Scott showed his large tractor with GPS technology to explain how farmers are more efficient than ever, as well as his semi and grain bins to talk about grain handling and transportation.

On the bus ride after Scott's tour, his father, Virgil, rode with the group and talked about how farming has changed from when he started farming years ago. He even pulled out his smart phone to look up what the commodity markets were doing and to talk about technology.

After learning about the feed, we headed off to show the participants one of the users of that feed – pigs and cattle! We stopped first at Dan Kluthe’s hog farm near Hooper, Nebraska. Dan uses new technology to capture the pigs waste to eliminate his odor footprint and create fuel for his vehicles. Dan explained his animal welfare practices of taking good care of his pigs, so he can produce safe, tasty pork!







Our last stop on the tour was for lunch and a visit to a CommonGround Nebraska volunteer, Joan Ruskamp. Joan and her husband, Steve, have a beef feelot near Dodge, Nebraska. Joan shared the healthful aspect of beef in your diet and then gave us a tour of the feedlot for the participants to see how records are kept, withdrawal periods for animals given antibiotics, feeding rations and overall animal care for the beef cattle.


On the bus ride back to Omaha, CommonGround volunteer, Chandra Horky from Sargent, Nebraska, shared to the participants about her family farm and raising cows and calves – the process of where cattle are raised before they come to a feedlot like Joan’s. Chandra talked about the time of year that their cows have calves, what they feed them, and even how they call them in to feed, “MAAAAASSSS!”. The cows come running when they hear that because they know they are going to get fed. AFAN Road Rally 095

This was the second bus tour that A-FAN has put on. The first Farm Road Rally looked at a cow-calf farm and hog farm, but CommonGround volunteer, Joan Ruskamp, rode along with the tour to explain the feedlot side of the beef industry and answer questions about feeding, hormones and animal care.

Thanks again to A-FAN for shining a light on Nebraska agriculture to those who work on the food end of the industry and communicate those food issues to consumers themselves.

For answers to your food questions and to meet real farmers and ranchers, go to FindOurCommonGround.com!

June 28, 2012

Prairieland Dairy Day 2012


Did you know Nebraska has 230 dairy farms in the state, making it the 5th largest agribusiness?

We were thankful for the rain but the corn van wasn't! Had
to get this washed before any of the staff saw this mess!
In terms of some other dairy producing states, that’s not a very big number so that usually means that dairy is kind of overlooked, especially because we are the Cornhusker state and a beef connoisseur (which is great!). But this last Saturday, dairy took center stage! The Nebraska Corn Board sent me out to set up a booth at Prairielands' Dairy Day 2012 to share positive messages about Nebraska agriculture, corn production, and get consumers excited about using social media in agriculture!

Prairieland Dairy is located about 20 minutes south of Lincoln, and has been a leader in sustainability and new dairy practices for some time now. The dairy itself is owned by 4 four different families who decided to coop together. They have grown their farm to about 1,500 cows and have started processing and marketing their own dairy products locally and have found success! You can find 2%, 1%, skim, and chocolate milk in stores across of most of Lincoln and Eastern Nebraska. They also have seasonal milk flavors including strawberry, cotton candy, and root beer for the summer months! But that is not the only cool thing that they are doing. They recycle almost everything:; the sand for bedding, the lagoon water is treated so that it can be used again, and they also make compost from the manure solid and sell it to whoever wants it. Now if that isn’t innovation I don’t know what is!

So it’s not only great that this dairy is doing all of theose thing for the industry and the environment, but they also completely open themselves up to the public for visits, they want to be completely transparent for consumers! So every year in June they have Prairieland Dairy Day, a day in which people can bring their families and just enjoy a day out at the farm. The really awesome thing about it is that it’s completely free! The food, milk, ice cream and activities are all free, that is so awesome! This is the 9th year that they have hosted the event in which they were expecting around 6,000 people to attend, each year keeps getting better than the last!

This year’s activities included:

Enjoying their free lunch!

The straw castle which  was popular with
those under the age of 15

Training some future Dairy Farmers!

Corn was flying everywhere over in Corn pit was a definate success

The petting zoo allowed kids to get up close and
personal with lots of farm anmals

Prairieland Gold (compost) tent was popular with all ages

The kids got to play in the compost, they
could even take a bag home with them!

Social Media was the big push this year at Dairy Day. They encouraged all to tweet often while using the hashtage #DairyDay2012 or post to facebook what they were doing or seeing. And from all of the people that visited our tent, a fair number were doing just that! It was really great to see non-agriculture people get involved in Ag social media conversations about farming, dairy and food.

Check out pictures on our Flickr online photo album!

Nebraska Corn Board offers new blender pump grant incentive for fuel retailers

The Nebraska Corn Board said in a news release today that it is making grants of up to $40,000 per location available for fuel retailers who install fuel blender pumps.

Blender pumps allow retailers to more easily offer additional ethanol blended fuels, expand their fuel offerings and provide a point of distinction in the marketplace while serving the growing number of motorists driving flex fuel vehicles.

Such pumps also provide opportunities for stations to more easily offer E15, which is approved for use in all model year 2001 and newer cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs.

“We recognize the cost to install blender pumps can be a hurdle, and this grant program is designed to help station owners move forward and upgrade their system,” said Curt Friesen, a farmer from Henderson and member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “We especially would like to see new pumps installed in larger cities where there are more drivers, which means more flex fuel vehicles capable of using ethanol blends beyond E10 and E15.”

There are more than 120,000 flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska and that number is increasing everyday, said the board's Kim Clark. However, there are only about 20 blender pumps and an additional 40 pumps offering E85 across the state.

“Nebraska is the second largest producer of ethanol in the country yet the state is lagging behind in ethanol infrastructure,” Clark said.

Station owners who install blender pumps may benefit from the blending economics and a higher volume of ethanol sales, while their customers enjoy a new array of fuel choices at the pump. “Flex fuel vehicle owners of today and tomorrow will appreciate the ability to pull up to a pump and find higher blends of ethanol fuel such as E30 or E85,” Friesen said.

Clark said E15 should be available for sale in the state by the end of the year.

“Blender pumps are the perfect opportunity to offer E15 along with E10 and other ethanol blended fuels,” she said. “Station owners who lay the foundation for the future of renewable fuels now will really be in a good position in the years to come.”

For more information about the grant program, contact Clark at kim.clark@nebraska.gov or telephone 402-471-2676.

Corn chips – no crunch, bigger yields

Corn kernels with a 'chip' removed. Newer methods
require even smaller slices of the seed corn.
By analyzing a sliver – chip – of a corn seed, plant researchers can discover if it has the right genetics and yield potential before it ever goes on to the next phase of research.

Automated tools remove the chip, which while tiny, is big enough for researchers to analyze for the right genetic markers. If tests on the chip show it has potential, the seed moves forward and is planted in the next phase of research.

Removing a chip does not damage the corn kernel’s ability to grow but it saves considerable research time by eliminating seeds from the program without having to plant, grow and harvest the next generation.

With this sort of enhanced molecular breeding, the odds of finding the right combination of higher yield genes is one in five, compared with two in one trillion in conventional breeding!

June 27, 2012

Is this real life?

By James Keating, U.S. Grains Council Intern

I have discovered that the university life has sheltered me from the real world. You know, the world where your work actually has “real time” consequences. No longer is my success dependent on red ink and term papers that can be easily redone or overcome, but rather my success hinders on immovable deadlines and responsibilities. While the lectures, term papers, and endless debates on every college subject under the sun has provided me with the cognitive power necessary for the real world. I find my practical skills to be lacking, but then again I suppose that is what internships are all about. 

My naivety had led me to believe that despite any work experience I could just jump right in and be a natural at virtually anything I chose to do after graduation. I have discovered that this train of thought is completely misguided. The seminars on the global political economy had not prepared me for the copy machine or the reception desk, and certainly the philosophies of Max Weber and Adam Smith hadn’t prepared me for the attention to detail needed to be an effective “communicator”. All too often we undergrads forget that the real world overlaps into other areas. For instance, I study politics and have the aim to use that knowledge in my career goals centered on teaching and research but I am discovering that much more is expected of you in the real world. Four months ago, I would of shook my head and agreed that this is common sense, but living the reality is another story and feel like while some undergrads are more prepared than others, my sentiment isn’t that far off from typical junior professionals. 

While my internship centers around the global agriculture trade, my duties are primarily as a communicator. Writing news releases, the maintenance of websites and organizing trade teams are the things I work on the most. While I love my coursework, none of it had prepared me for many of these duties. After all, what do I know about web design or the Associated Press style of writing? It turns out….not much. While it seems like I am learning a new skill daily it has occurred to me that just about the time I will be comfortable with everything it will be time me for to resume my studies. All of these factors just make the internship opportunity so much more valuable. I strongly recommend my fellow undergrads to step out of your comfort zones as much as possible. The greatest asset that I am currently acquiring, which also happens to be the hardest one to adjust, is attention to detail. To my own admission, this trait has not been a strong suit of mine and college has allowed for it to go on undeveloped. In the real world, attention to detail is paramount. When it is all said and done, this will be the biggest advantage I will have gained from this internship. It makes a lot of sense that internships are needed for most college students to graduate. They do something that campuses can’t. Force you into practical situations. Tests are over. 

On unrelated news, I have been discovering a greater amount of the city. As every day passes, more of my relationships with the “locals” are being cemented into things that will last long past this internship. I randomly struck conversation with a fellow university student who attends Georgetown; turns out he is from Broken Bow, NE. I couldn’t help but think what a small world. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. 

This past weekend I finally started to do the “touristy” thing. My first historical visit was to the Holocaust Museum, and despite the high praise it received from all my friends, it was still able to blow my expectations away. This is definitely one of the best museums in the country. Stayed tuned as I expect the next few weeks to intensify with the “touristy” things. This coming weekend I will see the famous Camden Yards in Baltimore with a visiting friend from Nebraska.

The U.S. Grains Council is hosting James Keating of Ogallala, Neb., as their first summer intern supported by a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and USGC. David is a senior in political science at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. He will be working with policy, assisting with international trade teams and helping to develop promotions and international relations.

June 26, 2012

'Innovation' gets a campus


Since 93 percent of Nebraska’s land is in production agriculture and more than 30 percent of the state’s jobs are related to agriculture, it makes sense that the focus of Innovation Campus will often tie back to Nebraska’s rural roots.

Groundbreaking for phase one of the University of Nebraska’s Innovation Campus is set for August in Lincoln, at the former state fairgrounds. The key focus areas of this multi-faceted campus are food, fuel and water – areas that are in many ways of significant interest to Nebraska’s rural communities and farmers.

“Every farmer is involved in food production, and a large number of Nebraska farmers utilize water for irrigation, which is unique in the Midwest,” said Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward who is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Add in biofuels like corn- based ethanol and the potential for new biofuels and biochemicals from ag products and it becomes clear Innovation Campus has tremendous potential for farmers and rural communities.”

Dan Duncan, executive director of Innovation Campus, said the food, fuel and water areas of focus are broad enough to include many areas within the university’s expertise and fit perfectly with the state as a whole.

“Innovation Campus was planned to capitalize on Nebraska’s strengths and uniquely position the university and Nebraska as a whole when it comes to research and technology,” Duncan said. “Yet Innovation Campus is not just a place; it’s a state of mind. It’s an interface between the university and private business no matter where that business is located.”

Once a new technology or innovation is created in Nebraska, it gives the state an advantage of being the first to deploy and to market. Duncan explained the development of a pilot project or proof of concept may happen on Innovation Campus, but deployment could be anywhere and “we’re hoping that would be here in Nebraska.”

Tiemann said some of the projects coming from Innovation Campus could make a difference in how farmers grow crops and what those crops are used for. “The potential is wide open,” he said, “all it takes is an idea and we could see new fiber and biofuel projects being built in rural Nebraska or food production facilities, ideas that are created and driven by small businesses throughout the state.”

Phase one of the 232-acre Innovation Campus includes four buildings, including the former 4-H building and Industrial Arts building on the former state fairgrounds. In total, this phase includes around 300,000 sq. ft. plus infrastructure and pad ready sites. Facilities in phase one will begin to be occupied in late 2013.

Innovation Campus phase one, to be built on the former state fairgrounds,
includes (from left to right) the Industrial Arts building with rooftop greenhouses,
a new life science building that includes wet labs and the former 4-H building, which is
connected to a new companion building.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2012 CornsTALK (.pdf).

June 25, 2012

Meet Nebraska Corn Board Director, Dave Merrell

Dave Merrell represents District 7 and has been serving as director on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2006. Dave is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanized Agriculture (Biological Systems Management). He has farmed for over 20 years around St. Edward located in Boone County, Nebraska. His family farm consists of 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans along with raising 40 head of sheep and custom raising 500 head of finishing hogs per year. Dave believes that soil erosion and conservation are important and has adapted his operation to address the challenges of soil erosion. Not only have soil erosion and conservation become key issues, but irrigation has become an issue as well.

Along with serving as a director on the Nebraska Corn Board, he has also served on other boards and councils on both state and local levels. Locally, Dave has served as the United Methodist Church Council Chairman and has also served on the Boone County 4-H Council. On the state level, he has been involved with the Nebraska Farm Bureau State Board and has been the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chairman. Dave is a graduate of Nebraska’s LEAD XXV (25) program and is now an alumnus.

Dave and his wife, Cyndee, have three children, Allison, Blake, and Brandon. When he isn’t busy working on the farm or serving on boards, he enjoys spending time with his family along with playing golf and bowling.

June 22, 2012

Podcast: NDA adopts Driftwatch; 'Saving the Oasis' website launched

In this podcast, Jim Hultman, a farmer from Sutton and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, reports that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s system for locating pesticide sensitive crops in the state is now part of Driftwatch.

A national service maintained by Purdue University, Driftwatch provides more benefits to farmers and pesticide applicators.

For example, Hultman said, applicators can register a business area and receive e-mail notifications when new locations are added in that geographic area. Farmers can draw their own property or field boundaries, which will help create more accurate and informative locations.

Hultman also discusses a website launched by Syngenta that includes several videos relating to atrazine and water.

The website, Saving the Oasis, is in response to the documentary film Last Call at the Oasis. The Last Call film dramatizes a real crisis, the global shortage of clean water. But the film gets its facts wrong about atrazine, a herbicide that is not only safe but actually helps protect clean water and save land from cultivation.

Listen to the Podcast for details.

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

June is Dairy Month!

June is probably one of my favorite times of the year, for numerous reasons. One reason is that it is Dairy Month! And of course as a dairy farmer that is exciting, it’s a whole month to celebrate the great products and people behind dairy. So when the Corn Board asked me to do something for Dairy Month I started to think of all the things that are already available for consumers about dairy; yYouTtube, tTwitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, gossip, etc, but how do you know which ones to trust? I ask myself this all the time and I’m even a dairy farmer. But I always find that the best answers to listen to are people that deal with that topic everyday! So who better to answer questions about dairy than a dairy farmer? So my next thought was let’s go talk to dad, see what words of wisdom he has for the world.

My dad wasn’t big on talking on camera or being put in the ‘spotlight’! He whined and moaned and even rolled his eyes a few times (roles reversed). His next concern was how he looked but I told him not to worry about it. I wanted people to realize just how much work being a dairy farmer is, how not glorious it is. Not saying that he doesn’t love what he does, he does love his farm and his cows, but it’s a hard job.

We finally caught him and sat him down to talk, he only had about 20 minutes until he had to go load his feed wagon for his cows. He hadn’t shaved in 4 days and , had a lovely farmers tan! This was all because a few days before they had been putting up haylage, this causes him to get behind on pretty much everything but he took the time anyways to answer our questions. Thanks Ddad!!

Enjoy the video celebrating Dairy Month:

If you have any other questions you would like answered feel free to ask me – a dairy girl myself or visit the Midwest Dairy website. But remember to enjoy June with 3-a-day of dairy everyday; maybe even ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner? You have my permission!

A couple fast facts for you!
-There are 230 dairy farms in Nebraska
-Dairy is the number 5 agribusiness in Nebraska, generating $173 million a year
-It takes 48 hours or less for milk from travel from the farm to house

June 21, 2012

Do family farms exist?

A lot of words like “factory” or “industrial” are thrown around in the media and online when people talk about farming. Yet what do those words mean?

If a corn farmer has a big combine is she an industrial farmer? If several cousins form a corporation to protect their farm or take advantage of the tax code, are they a factory? What if a farmer uses fertilizer? Or herbicide? Or high-tech seed? What’s the line between a “family” and “factory” farm?

In the end, a vast majority of corn grown in the United States is grown by family farmers. In fact, U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that 95 percent of corn farms in the United States are family owned and operated. That’s real people, real families with grandpas, moms, sons, cousins…all working together to make their farm as successful as they can.

Maybe one family farm has 200 acres and another 2,000. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because both families want to be successful so the next generation can have their opportunity to live off the land.

Find out more about family farmers through the Corn Farmers Coalition that is active right now in Washington D.C., defending and educating about corn farmers in the U.S.!

June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday


Pretty common sight across Nebraska lately.

June 19, 2012

Washington Adventure

By David Bresel, NCGA-DC Intern

David BreselMoving to Washington D.C. for the summer was a dream come true. I have always wanted to spend time in our nation’s capital and was so glad to have the opportunity to do so. Through some friends of friends I was very lucky and found a place to live near Dupont Circle within the city. The neighborhood I live in is great with lots of young professionals and many places to see and visit. It is relatively close to work being right near a Metro train stop. I just hop onto the train everyday and it’s fast, easy and convenient.

My first day at work was great. I didn’t start until the afternoon which allowed me the chance to walk around the neighborhood where the National Corn Growers Association offices are. I gladly discovered what is now one of my favorite things about this city so far, FOOD TRUCKS! Food trucks are a wonderful idea where local restaurants and startup eateries serve a different assortment of goods from their trucks. There is anything from lasagna trucks to cheesecake trucks. It is wonderful to try different foods all the time with the convenience of being located right across the street from the NCGA office location.

I’ve always believed the thing that makes a job great is the people you work with. The people at NCGA are incredible. I have really enjoyed these past two weeks getting to know them, shadowing them, and working with them. My duties have been mixed with administrative type work and legislative policy work. This is great because it has given me the opportunity to really see and get to know all aspects of the NCGA office.

One of the biggest things that the office and I have been working on is the Farm Bill that is being debated in the Senate currently. NCGA and everyone in the agriculture community in D.C. is working hard to try and get the Farm Bill passed. Working to see the bill move through the Senate and then onto the House I’m certain will be an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s been a great opportunity to see how lobbying and politics work on a federal level.

Every day that I come into the office I have been extremely excited. It’s a wonderful feeling to go to work looking forward to what the day has in store. I am eager for the next coming weeks with all of the challenges and rewards that are in store for me and the staff at NCGA. Working here at NCGA has opened an entire new world of career opportunities and desires for my future. I’m very happy to say that things in Washington D.C. are great.

The National Corn Growers Association office in Washington, D.C. is hosting David Bresel of Lincoln, Neb., as their summer intern supported by a partnership between Nebraska Corn Board and NCGA. David is a student in at the University of Nebraska College of Law. He will be involved with a variety of issues related to environmental regulations, transportation, free trade agreements, biotechnology, ethanol and energy.

Drivable Promotion

We have a new addition here at the Nebraska Corn Board, a new van! We recently donated our old van to Nebraska FFA , where the state officers will use it to make chapter visits. It just came back from being wrapped the other day so we decided you guys probably want to know what it looks like! So here it is:

It is a flex fuel vehicle and it looks pretty good if I do say so myself - it has some pretty awesome graphics on it. We will be using this van as a drivable promotion! It will be used anytime the staff has Corn Board business to drive to, in or out of state, giving it the chance to be seen by lots of people everywhere! Putting promotional material on the side of a van seems a bit absurd but it really is a great idea. How often while sitting in traffic, do you stare at other cars, reading some of their crazy bumper stickers? It allows people just sitting in traffic to learn a little more about what corn can be used for and how it is helping them right at that very moment. And of course who wouldn’t notice a big van driving down the road with corn on it?

June 18, 2012

Nebraska corn rated 62 percent good to excellent

The Nebraska corn crop was rated 62 percent good to excellent as of June 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its crop progress report today. It pegged 31 percent of the crop as fair and 7 percent as poor. None was rated very poor, which is positive.

2012 corn crop - Imperial FFA Chapter

About a year ago, Nebraska's crop was rated 76 percent good to excellent, with 19 percent being fair and only 5 percent rated poor to very poor.

The dry weather we had been experiencing was recently relieved by rain in many parts of the state. It will be interesting to see how that plays out with this week's heat, but overall most corn is looking pretty good.

2011 corn crop - Imperial FFA chapter
This year's crop is well ahead of last year's, as shown in the to photos on the right – both were taken on the same day, just a year a part. The top one was taken by a member of the Imperial FFA chapter this year, while the one below it was taken by a member of the same chapter last year.

Nationally, 63 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 28 percent fair and 9 percent poor to very poor. A year ago ratings stood at 70 percent good to excellent, 23 percent fair and 7 percent poor to very poor.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2012 crop progress photo set at Flickr, except the one labeled 2011. This week's photos were taken by the Imperial FFA Chapter.

June 14, 2012

What does a bobsledder from Nebraska have to offer to the cattle industry?

By Curt Tomasevicz 

Last Friday I was invited to speak at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Midyear Meeting, sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board. Since the 2010 Olympics, I’ve given over a hundred and fifty talks and speeches. About two-thirds of my audiences have been students ranging from kindergarten to high school and even a few University and college students. I’ve been asked to vary my topics from things like Leadership to the negative effects of drugs to the positive effects of reading. I use my bobsled story to try and captivate the audience and then slip in my message to hopefully inspire and motivate people to make their lives better.

As I was driving to Atkinson, Nebraska for the Cattlemen’s meeting, I began to think about my presentation that I was going to give. I know it may sound like I was procrastinating if I was only planning my speech just hours beforehand, but have basically three talks in which I can vary the feel and direction of the speech depending on the audience. So like, a company would have a review meeting prior to a big presentation, I like to simply go over my topic and message just prior to the speech. But as I thought about my best approach, I had to ask myself, “What in the world does a bobsledder from Nebraska have to offer to the leaders of the cattle industry in the state?”

I pondered this question for the majority of the two and a half hour drive and as I drove through O’Neill, it hit me that I really don’t have to offer advice. I just wanted to express how proud I was to represent them as well as all Nebraskans and Americans as I compete internationally for the USA.

A few years ago when I spoke to an elementary school, I was asked by a kindergartener (which usually have the greatest questions!), “Why did your football jersey have your last name on the back, but your bobsled speed suit just says USA?” I know that may sound like a simple question, but to me it had a deep underlying meaning. When I played football I was able to represent myself and my family as Tomasevicz was written above #35 from shoulder to shoulder. But when I push a bobsled, I represent my country and that’s truly a great honor.

So, by sharing this story with the attendees of the Cattlemen’s Midyear meeting, I hope that I was able to inspire and motivate the farmers and businessmen to continue to do their job with pride, honor, and integrity even if they may not receive international attention because they’ve won an award. But I hope they took the message that doing the right with or without recognition is more important than winning a gold medal.

June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday


The Corn is looking pretty good up near Heartland thanks to some nice weather!

June 12, 2012

Clean, straight-as-an-arrow rows of corn

By Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board

Take a drive on Interstate-80 across Nebraska and you will see the effects of modern technology on the farm; clean, straight-as-an-arrow rows of corn.

Most of the corn planted in Nebraska has been genetically engineered to be resistant to specific insects. Seed technology in the ground now allows plants to protect themselves from damaging pests, while also supporting conservation tillage -- and that impacts everything from water use to runoff. Corn has also been planted using state of the art guidance systems or more specifically, GPS-based precision technology, that strategically places seed, chemicals and fertilizer just where it belongs – and in exactly the right amounts.

All of this is a beautiful sight to see as I drive up the road. It also is the backbone of the Nebraska economy which feeds the livestock and ethanol industry. Corn farmers are doing this by growing more food, feed and fuel with less – less fertilizer, less chemicals, less water, less land and less of an impact on the environment. All of this is apparent as I drive up the road.

Also remember to glance up to the road once and awhile.

June 11, 2012

Learning through an internship

By Sandra Kavan, NCGA-St. Louis intern

A summer away from home and outside of Nebraska is something that I have never done before, but I have always wanted to experience. Instead of being on the farm, I am about 450 miles from home interning in St. Louis, Missouri at the National Corn Growers Association. This long awaited for experience is living up to every large expectation I have had and proving to be a game changer for when I will enter the work force after college.

Facing the unknown and exploring somewhere new has always been a joy for me, which is exactly what I am doing this summer. I am meeting new people, expanding my networking, getting a hands-on experience with corn away from the farm, and visiting new place in and around St. Louis. Throughout this whole process, I am planning on taking full advantage of my internship and a new city. To be successful I must remember to keep an open mind, listen, and not be afraid to try new things.

I am working on my fifth week of my internship and it has proved to challenge my knowledge and my way of thinking, through all of the different aspects that go on here at NCGA. It has helped me to expand my knowledge on ethanol and biotechnology, whether it is working on different projects or attending ethanol meetings. One of the larger projects that I have been working on is doing research in the biotechnology corn on the length it has taken for a single trait to become nonregulated all the way to the status of stacked traits in our top ten importing nations.

NCGA really wants me to get the most out of my internship, so they are making sure that I broaden my horizons. They have allowed me to go to Chicago for the Ethanol Summit, while also helping me get in contact with some workers from Monsanto for some one-on-one shadow time and also for a tour of their facilities. In July, I will be going to Washington, D.C. for Corn Congress with members of NCGA and farmers from Nebraska.

Besides working, I am exploring St. Louis and the surrounding area thanks to the recommendations and help of employees at NCGA. I have received great recommendations on what I need to see and what there is to do. I have been able to visit a winery, Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, toured Anheuser-Busch, Historical St. Charles, and Six Flags. Next on the list is a visit to the botanical gardens, the St. Louis Zoo, and of course the St. Louis Arch.

This summer is a great way for me to test my footing for the real world and what I am want to pursue for a career after graduation. My internship at NCGA is a definite step in the right direction of where I could picture myself working for a career in agriculture. At times it is hard to believe that it is just a temporary job.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington

The National Corn Growers Association headquarters office in St. Louis is hosting Sandra Kavan of Wahoo, Neb., as their first summer intern supported by a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and NCGA. Sandra will be a senior in agribusiness at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 

June 8, 2012

Podcast: Big oil's E15 'research' has big faults

In this podcast, Dave Nielsen, a farmer from Lincoln and member of the Nebraska Corn Board, calls out the poor research put out by big oil and American Petroleum Institute in their latest attempt to discredit E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend.

They claimed the research they performed on a few carefully selected engines was better than EPA’s own work and other independent research. "A quick look, however, shows this to not be the case at all," he said.

"In fact, it was so poorly done, the manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s vehicle technologies program wrote a blog post calling it out and listing several key scientific problems," Nielson said.

He goes on to point out they tested eight engines, but tested only three engines with straight gasoline. Of those three, one failed their own test. "That seems rather interesting to me, that one of three engines failed the test when no ethanol was used," he said.

In conclusion, Nielsen said, "I can’t wait for E15 to become available in Nebraska later this year, and I hope you’ll fill up with it, too."

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

June 7, 2012

First Trip to an Ethanol Plant!

So I tagged along with Kelsey on Monday to the Nebraska AgriBusiness Club’s June Tour. The first stop was E Energy in Adams, NE which is an Ethanol Plant, (I did not know this until we got there). But I was pretty excited because I’ve never been to an Ethanol Plant. Although I did feel I missed out on the authentic Ethanol production experience because I didn’t get a hard-hat, at least I got super cool safety glasses!

 We started by walking through where the trucks dump the corn and also where they pick up Dried Distillers Grains (DDG’s). There was only one truck unloading while we were there but a line of about 10 waiting to pick up DDG’s. They said the plant will empty about 200 trucks a day during harvest, with it taking about three minutes for a truck to get weighed and unloaded, that’s freaky fast.

The left two doors are for unloading corn while the right
door is for loading trucks with DDG's

The piles of DDG's produced in 2 day, they are
ready to be loaded onto a truck

 We then made our way to where the DDG’s and Modified Distillers Grains (MDG’s) come out of the plant. This plant makes a lot more DDG’s than MDG’s because they are easier to ship, cheaper to ship, and have a longer shelf life. They do produce about five or six truck fulls of MDG’s per week, which are shipped to livestock producers in an 80 -mile radius! But because MDG’s have a much higher moisture percentage (50 percent) they can only stay at the plant for five or six days before they go bad.

The pile of MDG's coming out of the plant

A closer look at MDG's

 As a dairy farmer and an avid meat lover, I have to say that learning how they make the distillers and see the vast quantity they make really was probably my favorite part. But of course as a college kid, I’m real glad to see that so much ethanol is produced, because without ethanol I know I would be a much MORE broke student! I learned that E Energy was designed to produce 50 million gallons of ethanol but right now is actually producing 62 million gallons per year. Also that 90% of their ethanol is sent out by rail to places like California and Colorado to be used. I only wish I understood more of what they were talking about when they were explaining the whole process of making ethanol! There are just so many words I’ve never heard and so many pipes and such going so many places. But I learned a lot, so hopefully next time I go to one I will understand even more!

To see more pictures from our tour visit our Flickr page or check out the Nebraska Agribusiness Club’s blog about the trip.

Fun Facts!
 -One important thing I did learn was DO NOT drink the ethanol when it’s in its alcohol stage (190 proof). A man in Iowa did and when they found him they thought he was dead, turns out he wasn’t but his blood-alcohol level was .7 , talk about a rough next couple weeks!
-They actually sell CO2 from this plant to a local company, for $6 or $7 per ton to be used in beverages. I don’t know how one would measure a gas but these are very smart people so I’ll leave that to them to figure out!

June 6, 2012

Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow—Corn!


By Joan Ruskamp, CommonGround volunteer and farmer from Dodge, Nebraska

‘Tis the season for planting in the Midwest and many other parts of the U.S.  Besides having crops to care for, like many of you, I also have a garden.  Did you ever wonder what goes on when we put that seed in the ground?  I recently started thinking more about that after helping some elementary students plant seeds so they could watch them sprout and grow.

I love sweet corn and it is the easiest vegetable in my garden to care for. Did you know that corn is a member of the grass family?  As the corn plant emerges from the ground, it does resemble blades of grass, doesn’t it?

Corn was domesticated from a wild grain several thousand years ago by Aztec and Mayan Indians in Mexico and Central America.  The early corn resembled a wheat head with small kernels covered by a hull.  Eventually corn spread into North America with the early colonists quickly learning how to grow and eat the field corn in flour as well as feed it to livestock.  Cross pollination developed to increase varieties for flavor, disease resistance, drought tolerance, yield and more.  Today there are thousands of varieties of corn with 200 varieties of sweet corn alone.

As the seed sprouts, it sends down a taproot and starts to develop its first leaves.  (see corn sprouting picture)  The seed will use fertile soil, moisture and the sun to grow. corn and seed

In the picture you can see small white strings, or roots, coming from the seed as well as the shoot that emerged from the seed pushing up through the soil to form the first leaves.

As the plant grows it will eventually develop tassels near the top.  Those tassels are the male parts of the plant that will pollinate the female parts which are the silk strings of what will become the ear of corn.  Each silk corresponds to a single kernel and must be pollinated to form that kernel.

Over the past one hundred years the American farmer has worked hand-in-hand with nature to develop varieties that would astonish the Aztec and Mayan people.  Aside from giving seeds the ability to grow with less moisture, fight off bugs and increase resistance to disease, farmers have increased yields.  In 1962, a little over 4 billion bushels of corn were produced with one farmer producing enough food for 26 people.  In 2010, more than 12.4 billion bushels of corn were produced with the American farmer feeding 155 people.  This tremendous growth has allowed corn to be used in new ways, including ethanol, fibers and bioplastics.

As a farmer and a gardener, I appreciate the work that goes into developing new seed varieties.  I look forward to finding that “sweeter-than-sweet” new sweet corn variety in my garden.  I appreciate the ability of those little seeds to genetically fight problems so we don’t need to use as many chemicals.  So until harvest time arrives, I am singing the tune “Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow”.

June 5, 2012

Nebraska corn rated 75 percent good to excellent

The Nebraska corn crop is rated 75 percent good to excellent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its crop progress report yesterday. It pegged 21 percent of the crop as fair and only 4 percent as poor. None was rated very poor.

A year ago, the crop was rated 73 percent good to excellent, with 25 percent being fair and only 2 percent rated poor.

Emergence hit 100 percent in the last week, which is not a surprise considering the early planting and decent weather. The five-year average for emergence in Nebraska is 90 percent – but last year only 84 percent of the crop had emerged by this time.

According to the Nebraska Corn Board's Crop Progress Update page, sidedressing fertilizer and spraying were the main activities in the fields this week.
Nationally, 97 percent of the crop is emerged, up from 83 percent for the average and only 75 percent last year. The national crop condition ratings came in at 72 percent good to excellent, 23 percent fair and 5 percent poor to very poor. A year ago ratings stood at 67 percent good to excellent, 27 percent fair and 6 percent poor to very poor.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2012 crop progress photo set at Flickr. The top one was submitted by a member of the Heartland FFA Chapter and the one below came from the SEM FFA Chapter.