July 31, 2012

Meet Nebraska Corn Board Director, Dave Nielsen

Dave Nielsen represents District 1 for the Nebraska Corn Board and has been serving as a director for the board since 2007. He has been farming since 1983 and is a fourth generation farmer. His family farm is located just north of Lincoln and consists of 2,000 acres of dryland corn and soybeans. Dave’s farm operation has a high focus on conservation and practices no-till production while using bio-solids for fertilizer.

Dave is a 1986 graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and majored in the college of agricultural sciences and natural resources. Since graduating from the University, Dave has been active in the agricultural industry and his local community by serving on boards and committees. He has been very active with the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Lancaster Farm Bureau associations. He has served on the Young Farmers and Ranchers committee and has also served on the state legislative and policy development committee. Dave was part of the Nebraska LEAD XXI (21) program and is now an alumnus. Dave has also been part of the Ag Builders of Nebraska (ABN) group and has also served on the Biotech and trade task force for the National Corn Growers Association. While Dave has been very active in the agriculture industry, he has also been very active in his local community. Dave has served on the Danish Cemetery Board of trustees and was also a councilman/chairman for the Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

Dave’s family includes his wife Vicki who is a manager at the Lincoln Benefit Life (Allstate) and is originally from Wilbur, Nebraska. They have two daughters, Taylor and Jordan, and one son, Connor.

Nebraska Corn Board's blender pump grant funds 50% allocated

Less than a month after announcing a new blender pump grant program, the Nebraska Corn Board said this week that it has received "a tremendous response," with half of the funds available in the program already being committed.

As part of its 2012-13 budget, the Nebraska Corn Board set aside $750,000 to further develop fuel ethanol infrastructure in Nebraska through the grant program. Grants provide fuel retailers up to $40,000 to help cover the costs of installing blender pumps.

“We have seen an incredible amount of interest from retailers from all across the state, from Lexington to Blair, including larger communities like Norfolk, Columbus, Omaha and Lincoln,” said Kim Clark, director of biofuels development with the Nebraska Corn Board.

“Blender pumps are a great way to support agriculture and renewable fuels in Nebraska, while offering motorists more choices at the pump. The grant money the Nebraska Corn Board offers helps offset some of our costs to install the pumps and is a great incentive to upgrade,” said Stephanie King-Witt, director of marketing, media and public relations of Bosselman’s Pump & Pantry.

Bosselman's used previous Nebraska Corn Board grant fundsto install blender pumps in Central City, Grand Island and St. Paul.

The company has also jumped at the opportunity the new grant program funds provide. 

David Merrell, a farmer from St. Edward, noted that Nebraska is the second largest producer of ethanol and the third largest producer of corn in the country. “We need to be able to use more of the products we produce right here in the state,” said Merrell, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Blender pumps are a great way to increase the availability of ethanol, especially for those who drive flex fuel vehicles, and we’re seeing more FFVs on the road every day.”

The 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.

Seth Harder, general manager at Husker Ag, LLC, said, “We at Husker Ag feel that blender pumps are a necessary part of rural sustainability. The state of Nebraska has no traditional oil refining capacity, as most of the states in the upper Midwest do not. As such, we are subject to importing over 90 percent of our transportation fuel into the state. Blender pumps allow flexibility, choice and price control for the consumer.”

July 30, 2012

Crop update: Nebraksa corn 35% good to excellent

In its weekly crop progress report issued today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 35 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was in good to excellent condition as of July 29. Continued hot and dry weather has pushed this number lower over the last several weeks.

As noted in the Nebraska Corn Board's crop progress update, 55 percent of the irrigated corn but only 5 percent of dryland corn was in good to excellent condition.

Corn showing stress from heat and a lack of moisture.
Combined, Nebraska corn in fair condition stood at 28 percent, while corn in poor to very poor condition stood at 37 percent.

As noted in the crop progress update, some parts of the state received more than 0.25 inches of rain over the last week, although most farmers in the state received less than 0.10. Drought damaged corn is also continually being chopped for silage or cut to be used as hay.

Nationally, 24 percent of the country's corn is in good to excellent condition, compared to 26 percent last week and 62 percent last year. Corn rated fair stood at 28 percent, compared to 29 percent last week and 24 percent last year, while 48 percent of the crop was rated poor to very poor, compared to 45 percent last week and 14 percent last year.

In Nebraska, 95 percent of the corn across the state was silking, which is 11 points ahead of last year and 10 points ahead of the five-year average. USDA said 39 percent of the crop was in the dough stage, compared with 14 percent last year and 17 percent for the five-year average. Corn dented has already reached 9 percent in the state, ahead of the 1 percent average. No corn was dented a year ago.

Nationally, 13 percent of the crop was denting, compared to 3 percent last year and 3 percent for the five-year average.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2012 crop progress photo set at Flickr. The top photo was taken by the Howells-Dodge-Clarkson FFA chapter, and the one below by the SEM FFA chapter.

Irrigation is more common in Nebraska than most corn producing
states. This year, that irrigation is critical and may help
some farmers still produce a good crop.

Despite ignorant display by Smithfield’s CEO, ag should stick together during drought

Nearly every sector of agriculture is hurting right now, with designated disaster areas spreading across more than 1,000 counties in 26 states – figures that are certain to expand in the coming weeks.

It makes no difference to Mother Nature what part of agriculture you’re in – crops like corn; animal agriculture like beef, dairy and poultry; ethanol producers; orchards; wineries; alfalfa and hay, and so on. Even some farm ponds and streams are drying up, causing additional stress for farmers who typically let Mother Nature provide their animals’ drinking water.

Yet if you ask the $13 million man C. Larry Pope, CEO of Smithfield Foods, he’ll tell you that ethanol is worse than the drought.

What an incredibly ignorant or disgustingly flippant perspective.

Pope brags that his multi-national conglomerate is the largest pork producer in the world, that it feeds 16 million pigs across 12 states. Yet his company, which has the ways and means to hedge corn costs, perhaps gambled and failed for months to lock in corn prices – and profits. And somehow that’s the fault of corn-based ethanol.

Predictably – especially since he said the same thing when corn was $4.00 – Pope wants the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and the ethanol to go away so he can make more money off drought stricken farmers.

Who knows where the corn crop will end up, but it’s safe to say for most farmers the hopes of a record year have dried up. Just as they have for those involved in all the sectors of agriculture mentioned above.

Still there is talk of repealing the RFS out there – but that seems misguided. The RFS is the only thing we have that ensures motorists have options at the pump, as Big Oil would have otherwise eliminated any choices other than oil long ago. The RFS has also helped the United States reduce it’s foreign oil dependence to less than 50 percent, a fact acknowledged even by Big Oil.

Another path to reduce ethanol production is a waiver request – something that was built into the RFS when it was put in place. States and fuel suppliers are the only ones who can ask the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver, which could reduce the amount of renewable fuels like ethanol used over a set period of time.

While some believe this would lead to a magically significant decline in corn prices, according to at least one study it wouldn’t.

What many fail to understand is that in addition to a waiver request, which requires affected parties to show significant economic harm, fuel suppliers/blenders can build up “Renewable Identification Numbers” or RINs. Fuel blenders get RINs when they use more renewable fuels than required – and estimates are that there is a surplus 2.5 billion RINs available right now. And if fuel blenders need more, they can carry a deficit of RINs into the next year. This by itself may already reduce ethanol production and the corresponding corn demand over the next year.

There’s also a surplus of ethanol already in storage – and several ethanol plants, including from some of the biggest companies in ethanol, have already idled plants. Many other plants are running at reduced capacity – and losing money on every gallon they produce.

Unless the corn crop is better than expected, this will lead more ethanol plants to shut down later this year and in the first quarter of next year, further reducing the amount of corn going to renewable fuels. (This will, of course, also reduce the amount of livestock feed and corn oil coming from ethanol plants. The feed, distillers grains, makes inexpensive roughage like chopped corn stocks and soybean stubble a valuable feed option for cattle producers, something that shouldn’t be ignored.)

With the availability of RINs, the stockpile of ethanol and the fact that ethanol plants are already laying people off, it seems a bit premature to even ask for an RFS waiver.

The waiver process is always there, but with all these variables, including the uncertainty of where we’ll be come corn harvest, it seems to early to go down that path.

For now, we should hope for the best, hope that Mother Nature provides a break from the heat and some much needed and widespread rain. That’s the best thing for everyone involved.

In the mean time, people like C. Larry Pope will continue to attempt to drive a wedge between different sectors of agriculture and no doubt some media will go right along with him. Hopefully this does not happen, as all of agriculture needs to pull together during these tough times. Getting the farm bill, which may have disaster assistance for livestock producers tied to it, moving in the House should be the top priority of everyone. Not bickering and finger pointing.

Yet in the end, even with $7.00 corn, there’s still only a dime’s worth of corn in a box of corn flakes, about 1.4 cents more than if corn is $6.00. The packaging, processing, fuel, etc., all make that box what it costs today.

And by eliminating 10 percent of our fuel supply – ethanol – there’s no doubt we’d see a tremendous increase in the cost of gasoline, perhaps $1 per gallon more than today. And that would cost families and our economy dearly.

July 28, 2012

Podcast: Help the American Red Cross ‘Stalk up the Blood Supply’

In this podcast, Jay Reiners, a farmer from Juniata and a member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, talks about blood and platelet donation program known as "Stalk up the Blood Supply and Pig Out" that kicks off Monday, July 30.

Like for the Japan and Pacific earthquake and tsunami relief program that brought in more than $60,000, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association is partnering with the American Red Cross on this effort. This time, however, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association and Skeeter Barns have joined in the effort.

"Demand for blood doesn’t go down during the summer, but donations due," Reiners said, adding the the blood supply remains tenuous. This makes the Stalk Up the Blood Supply program timely.

As part of the Stalk up the Blood Supply program, all presenting donors will receive a complementary meal from Skeeter Barns at special blood drives across the state. There’s also additional prizes, handouts and the opportunity to win concert tickets at some drives.

Just visit click here to discover all the details.

The special Stalk Up the Blood Supply drives kick off in Lincoln on Monday, July 30. Use the link above for the location and times.

Other drives:
  • Wednesday, August 8 in Holdrege, Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island.
  • Tuesday, August 14, in Norfolk
  • Wednesday, August 15 in Columbus
  • Friday, August 31 in Grand Island

All this information – all the locations, days, times and more – can be found at the link above.

"And please note," Reiners said, "these blood drives are open to anyone and everyone, so come on out, donate blood and then enjoy a complementary meal.

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

July 23, 2012

H2 Oh?

Evapotranspiration (ET) gauges, like the one shown 
here, let farmers know how much water corn plants 
have taken up from the soil and evaporated
into the air. Watermark sensors keep track of how
much water is available in the soil. Combined, these 
two technologies give an accurate picture of water
 use and reduces irrigation amounts, saving both water 
and the energy dollars to pump it.
A network of sensors lets farmer Mark Jagels of Davenport know when he should water his corn crop and when it makes sense to wait a few days.

This is key information because Jagels wants to use the least amount of water possible but still produce a good crop. When needed, supplemental water in most cases is delivered through a pivot – a large sprinkler. It’s pretty common in Nebraska to see pivots providing water to corn during the summer. Nationally, though, only 11 percent of the corn crop receives supplemental water from irrigation. The rest relies only on rain - which is a much needed commodity right now during this widespread drought.

Because Nebraska is unique in terms of irrigating corn, researchers have done a lot of work to help farmers best manage this natural resource. That includes the network of sensors managed by the University of Nebraska that Jagels and other farmers follow online.

Some farmers, including Jagels, also install their own sensors so they can manage water use more specifically for their location. “The investment is worth it,” he said, “because the cost of buying sensors is easily offset by leaving pivots shut down for longer periods of time.”

The sensors used by Jagels and in the university network are watermark sensors and evapotranspiration, or ET, gauges. The university has some great websites and information that assist in this easy to use technology. Look herehere or here for various articles on ET gauges and crop water use.

Watermark sensors are buried in the soil at different depths and tell farmers how much moisture is available to their crop. ET gauges tell farmers how much water their corn crop is transpiring. Combined, these tools tell farmers how much water the plants are using and when they may need to irrigate.

Research using these tools has shown farmers how to reduce their water use up to 25 percent while still achieving good yields. “When it’s hot and sunny you want to believe it is drier than it is, that the crop is using more water,” Jagels said. “We’ve learned that isn’t always the case. The technology available today lets us know it’s okay to wait a few more days before irrigating, and that saves money, energy and water.

July 20, 2012

What are the uses of corn?


Corn takes many forms and gets used in many ways. Corn from Nebraska gets divided among three major markets: livestock, value-added and exports.NEBCornGraphic0605Livestock
Livestock is one of the corn grower’s most important customer, consuming more than 40 percent of all U.S. corn – plus the growing supply of corn co-products like distillers grains, which are produced by corn ethanol plants.

In Nebraska, livestock production is the engine that powers state’s economy. It is a more than $7.5 billion industry that is fundamental to the well-being of Nebraska – and contributes in some way to the financial health of every Nebraskan.

DSC_0015About 14 percent of the Nebraska’s corn crop is fed to livestock within Nebraska, with the bulk of that (more than 70 percent) going to beef cattle. For a complete breakdown, click here. In total, though, about 40 percent of the corn grown in Nebraska is fed to livestock somewhere in the United States or around the world. We also feed distillers grains – a coproduct made from ethanol production – to livestock in the state.

Nebraska has more than 5,000 feedyards willing to work with cow-calf producers interested in retaining ownership or partnering on their feeder cattle. They offer competitive feeding rations from the quality feedstuffs available in the state. And now, cow-calf producers nationwide can get an up-close view of the cattle feeding industry in Nebraska, thanks to the six minute video, “Consider the Possibilities – Cattle, Corn and Co-Products – Feeding Cattle in Nebraska”.

Value-Added (biofuels, PLA, corn sugar, etc)
blender pump2One of the first ways we like to add value to corn is by creating a renewable fuel – ethanol. Just one Nebraska plant in 1985 has grown to 24 ethanol plants in 2012. Spread throughout much of the state, these plants have a capacity of nearly 2.0 billion gallons – making Nebraska the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country. Combined, these plants use more than 700 million bushels of corn per year – and produce more than 6 million tons of distillers grains, a high protein feed ingredient comprised of the parts of the corn kernel not used for ethanol production.  

Ethanol has been the fuel choice of most drivers in Nebraska – with market share reaching 70 percent beginning in 2007. Consumers can use E10 or if they own a Flex Fuel Vehicle, can use up to E85 – 85% ethanol! Just recently the EPA has approved the use of E15  in cars manufactured in 2001 and newer.

Fleishmann_PLAAnother way to use corn is for corn-based PLA -- polylactic acid. PLA is clean, green and renewable, and it replaces petroleum-based alternatives. A lot of Nebraska corn is made into PLA since it is produced at a plant in Blair, Nebraska. Pretty much anything that is plastic can be made from corn – plastic cups, silverware, plates, bags, golf tees – you name it!

One more use is for corn sugar or HFCS – a natural sweetener that is used to sweeten and keep foods fresh. Corn sugar is the same as table sugar – just made from corn rather than cane or beet. Corn sugar is handled by the body the same as sugar, has the same number of calories as sugar, is nutritionally the same as sugar and is fine in moderation. Learn more about this at SweetSurprise.com.

DSC_0060Corn exports out of Nebraska are divided into two categories: foreign and domestic. “Foreign exports” involve corn sales to countries around the world. “Domestic exports” includes any corn that is shipped from Nebraska to another state in the U.S., with California being the largest market for Nebraska corn, taking about 145 million bushels of Nebraska corn mostly for livestock and poultry last year. Foreign sales make up about 6 percent of corn usage, with Mexico (via rail) being a top market.

To support foreign markets for corn, the Nebraska Corn Board partners with the U.S. Grains Council to break down trade policy barriers and to educate buyers about the quality of U.S. corn and value-added corn products—as well as sorghum and barley. The Council is a unique partnership of producers, agribusiness, the public sector and overseas customers. It’s goal is to strengthen U.S. farmers’ profitability by boosting worldwide demand for grain. The Council operates offices around the world and conducts innovative market development programs in dozens of countries.

Just as important as feeding corn and its co-products to livestock is developing markets for Nebraska beef and pork overseas. After all, sending corn-fed beef and pork to international customers around the world has a larger economic impact than exporting raw corn and corn co-products. This is why the Nebraska Corn Board supports the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and invests towards market promotion activities and supported U.S. beef and pork trade missions around the world.

Corn Uses
Iowa State University recently developed this poster to show the processing and utilization of corn. Click here to see a larger image.


July 17, 2012

Washington Adventure - Part 2

By David Bresel, NCGA-DC Intern
I have been in Washington D.C. for approximately six and a half weeks and I am still loving it out here.  The important policy decisions that I’ve had a chance to work on and the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet have made this an amazing experience that I’ll not soon forget.  One of the major policy issues that the office and I have been working on is the Farm Bill. 

The Farm Bill was successfully passed in the Senate.  Now we are working our hardest to get the Farm Bill through the House of Representatives.  It is easy to tell that the House Farm Bill is not the most ideal version that NCGA would have preferred.  But having a farm bill pass before the 2008 farm bill expires is important to every agriculture organization.  So, for the last week everyone in the office has been hard at work motivating our Representatives to do something to pass this vital piece of legislation.  My duties have ranged from interpreting the bill language and amendments to going on Capitol Hill visits with the lobbyists. 

Another office project that I have been working on is getting ready for Corn Congress.  Working with the lobbyists I have been helping them get their presentations and agendas ready for the event.  I’ve even had a chance to write a few memos that were used during Corn Congress.  Sitting in on meetings at the event has really given me a greater appreciations for the members of NCGA. 

I was also lucky enough to go to Crab Fest at Chip Bowling’s farm. Chip is a corn grower in Newburg, Md.,  and serves as a member of the National Corn Board.  It was the first time that I’ve ever eaten crab like that.  I also had a chance to go on a boat ride in the Chesapeake.  It was overall a great day and a fantastic experience and I’d like to publicly thank Chip for hosting that event. 

One more noteworthy event that I had the opportunity to witness was seeing the Supreme Court hand down the decision on the health care reform act.  Jon Doggett and Natalie Cook told me to go to the Supreme Court to see the events that were taking place outside as it was going to be a historic day.  So I went to the court and I somehow found my way inside the building.  Then I was able to get into the chamber of the Supreme Court where I sat next to Michelle Bachman and saw the nine justices on the bench and listened to Justice Roberts read the majority opinion in the decision.  No matter what my opinion is on the decision given by the Court it was still an incredibly humbling experience to be sitting there watching and listening to the justices.  It is an experience that I will remember for as long as I live. 

I am so happy to be working at NCGA.  It has reaffirmed my belief that working in the agriculture industry is what I want to do for my lifelong career.    I can honestly say that being here at NCGA and working with the Nebraska CornBoard has been one of the best experiences of my life.  

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.

July 16, 2012

A closer look at Agrex

By Elizabeth Becker - NeCGA Communication Intern from Madison, NE

For all 20 years of my life, I have lived within a half mile of Agrex Inc. of Enola. As stated on agrexinc.com, “Agrex Inc. is a full-service foods commodity trading company, handling grain, feed, ingredients, hay, oil seeds, oils, sugar, starches, and salt from origination to marketing to financing and logistics.” The Enola Agrex specifically handles corn and soybeans.

Agrexinc.com goes on to say, “The company- Agrex Inc. is headquartered in Overland Park, KS. The company owns two and leases two terminal grain facilities in Nebraska. These facilities supply grain to the U.S. domestic market, Mexican market, and Pacific Rim markets. Agrex Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi. 90% owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation, Tokyo, Japan and 10% owned by Mitsubishi Corporation, New York. The company’s strength in its alliance with Mitsubishi and its worldwide network of overseas offices located in more than 75 countries providing marketing information, support and numerous trade opportunities. FGDI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Agrex Inc. FGDI has one of the largest farmer’s cooperatives, providing access to large networks of producers in the U.S. markets.”

Darin is showing the inside of a half million bushel bin.
Seiei Ono is the president and CEO of Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas) and Shu Kobayashi is President and COO of Agrex and also CEO of FGDI. These two Japanese gentlemen and a business partner of theirs paid a visit to the Enola Agrex on Monday, July 9.

Darin Koepke, the senior merchandiser at the Enola Agrex, invited my parents, Tom and Diane Becker (farmers in Madison county), to come and visit with Mr. Ono and Mr. Kobayashi so they could hear from local farmers. Upon hearing this request, my parents then asked me to come along, knowing that I would also enjoy meeting the visitors and touring the grain elevator I had passed thousands of times since I was a little girl. I was extremely excited to have this opportunity and immediately accepted the invitation.

Standing on top of the grain bins at Agrex.
Our small group consisting of Darin Koepke, Earl Joy (elevator superintendent), Mr. Ono, Mr. Kobayashi, their business partner, my parents, and I walked in and around grain bins and were eventually asked if we wanted to take the three-person elevator to the top of the bins to see the view. Now I would be lying if I said I didn’t hesitate at the invitation to stand atop a bin 110 feet off the ground, but I convinced myself that the view would be well worth it, and wow, was I ever right.

I stood next to the railing, 110 feet off the ground, in awe, surrounded by the beautiful artwork God had created all around me, snapping what seemed like a million pictures. After we were done enjoying the gorgeous view from on top of the bins, our group then went to one of my dad’s corn fields nearby. The three visitors were very interested in picking ears of corn off of the stalks while listening to my dad explain the many different tactics that he and his brother use to produce corn to its maximum yield.

Listening to Tom Becker explain various planting tactics
that are used to produce corn to its maximum yield.
After the conversation amid the cornstalks, we traveled a short distance to our machine shed in Enola to show the visitors our planter.

They were very intrigued when my dad told them that we do not till the ground before we plant as to keep more moisture and nutrients in the soil to better benefit our crops. Not only did our Japanese guests enjoy the tour while learning a few things, but I did as well! As a farm girl, I thought I knew most of the ins and outs of farming, and most of my dad and uncles strategic plans for crop production, but after the tour and hearing what Darin, my dad, and Earl said, I realized how much I was unaware of.

Here, Tom is showing our guests the planter that
he and his brother use.
I learned that although Agrex is Japanese owned, only 4-6 trains go directly to Japan per year, with a few heading to California for use in ethanol plants. About 65-70% of the corn that gets hauled to Agrex comes from irrigated fields. It takes about four minutes to load a train car with grain and eight hours to load their usual 110 cars.

I loved the experience of meeting all the people that have such a huge influence on the Ag industry. It made me appreciate even more all of the hard work that my dad and all other farmers put in to feed the world. We are so blessed with everything God has given us, and this little experience of mine reminded me of just that.

I’m not only proud, but lucky, to be a farm girl living The Good Life.

July 14, 2012

Podcast: Corn Board budget focuses on business plan priorities

In this podcast, Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, discusses the board's budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year – the first budget based on a checkoff rate of a half-cent per bushel, thanks to the legislature who voted to support an increase in the checkoff rate earlier this year.

Previous to the budget meeting, board members developed a business plan that provided a road map. Priorities included research, a commitment to defending and expanding opportunities for the livestock industry, developing a strategic plan to expand the marketing of higher ethanol blends, and building partnerships with other progressive organizations through a positive agriculture communications plan.

"Agriculture organizations have to work together today and not be single minded in their vision," Hutchens said. "There are many opportunities to add value to our commodities, promote the high quality of our products and to substantiate a positive image of farmers and livestock producers, so to dispel myths out there in the public."

In the end, he said, the Nebraska Corn Board put their corn farmer’s money right where the business plan focused. For details, have a listen.

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

July 13, 2012

The responsibility of raising food

By Sandra Kavan, NCGA-St. Louis intern

Sandra Kavan
My five-year-old niece asked my mother a great question of why we have so much stuff on our land to eat. My mother ‘s response was that we enjoy fresh food and like to know where our food comes from. Our pork comes from our farm, our beef is from my uncle’s farm, our chicken is from the neighbor, our vegetables we eat all year-round are from our garden that my mother freezes. Our jelly is all homemade, and our tomato sauce is what my mother cans. I love to know that when I am home, I know where about 90% of my food comes from. As my father puts it, I am spoiled because I know what good food is. I would have to agree with him and I enjoy being spoiled with good food.

My niece’s question is from a child who lives in the city but comes to grandma and grandpa’s house, where she will spend the whole day riding around in the combine and tractor during harvest. She is like a lot of society now, where she thinks her food just comes from a grocery store. Society says they want to know what they are eating, for example wanting GMO foods labeled, but they could not tell you that a steak is from a beef cow, you do not get chocolate milk from a brown cow, brown eggs do not have any nutritional difference from a white egg, or bacon and ham is from a pig.

Some adults have asked me how do you not become emotionally connected to your livestock. It is a valid question, but our livestock is our livelihood, jobs, lives, and responsibility. We feed our livestock so they can feed us. We take care of them by keeping them clean, healthy, and out of the elements of different weather (as a pork producer this is important especially in this hot weather for our pigs to be in a cool barn because pigs do not sweat and need to stay cool and out of the sun. Pigs like to be clean, but will roll in the mud if they are outside to stay cool and to protect them from the sun. The mud is their type of sunscreen when they are outside).

My family and I have been working on educating youth and anyone who has a question about farming. Over the years my niece has learned that we rotate our crops every year and that the corn we harvest with our combine is field corn and what we feed our pigs, but sweet corn is the corn that we eat on the cob. She has even been working on educating others in agriculture by taking an ear of corn and a soybean plant into her daycare for show and tell.

I personally have been working to educate youth about agriculture through the Nebraska Ag Sack Lunch Program. It is a program that is the first of its kind where we give fourth graders a free lunch that was produced in Nebraska, while educating them about the four major livestock groups and three major crops in Nebraska. The Ag Sack Lunch Program also informs students about how agriculture in Nebraska helps to feed the world.

My mother is a fourth grade teacher who sets time aside in her classroom to teach her students about agriculture.

I grew up around agriculture my whole life and know that farming is more than just a job, but a large responsibility. It is a responsibility and duty that every farmer/producer takes on, to raise the best quality products and healthy livestock to feed their family and families around the world. My family looks to continue educate the next generation about agriculture and its importance. My niece is only five, but she happily tells others about how she spends days on the farm learning about how a farm works. It is my passion to continue to educate others about agriculture as my future career.

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. 

July 12, 2012

Farmers urged to take precautions when unloading grain bins

Following recent tragedies in Nebraska involving unloading grain bins, the Nebraska Corn Board distributed a news release yesterday to remind farmers, farm workers and farm families that grain handling, especially the unloading and cleaning out of grain bins, deserves special attention because it is one of the most dangerous tasks on the farm.

“There is more than 1 billion bushels of on-farm grain storage capacity across Nebraska, and cleaning out those grain bins is something many farmers do during the summer months as they sell grain and prepare for harvest in the fall,” said Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Seward and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

Tiemann said farmers should take extra precautions and use the buddy system to help keep everyone safe during the process. “Always have at least one other person on site who knows the safety rules, how to shut down augers and how to get help if it’s needed,” he said.

In 2011, the board produced a publication that included a lot of information on grain bin safety. That same year, the National Corn Growers Association in partnership with the National Grain and Feed Association produced a grain bin safety video (embedded below).

Dangers in a bin being unloaded include flowing grain, which can in a matter of seconds pull a person down into and even under the grain. Grain just around the legs is enough to trap a person and grain around a person’s chest can cause suffocation because of the pressure.

Crusted grain along the sides of a grain bin or forming a “bridge” along the top of the grain is also dangerous. A person standing on a crust of grain either not knowing or knowing but trying to break it can fall down into the bin and into the grain should the crust collapse. Grain crusted along the side can fall like an avalanche onto a person who is trying to break the crust or clean out the bin.

“People can suffocate with only 12 inches of grain covering them because that’s the equivalent to nearly 50 pounds per cubic foot and you can’t get up,” Tiemann said.

Another area of concern are sweep augers, which help unload the grain from the bin. While these augers can have some safety guards in place, they are generally open at least on one side to gather the grain. It’s critical to stay clear of the auger and know the situation – and have a buddy who knows how to shut down the system keeping watch.

“Farmers, their families and employees should develop a set of safety rules that everyone should know and follow,” Tiemann said. “Safety in and around grain bins should be at the top of that list.”

July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday | Determination


We found this corn plant growing on Rosa Parks Way in Lincoln and couldn’t resist.

Corn Determination

July 10, 2012

Let's help Nebraska Ag in the Classroom get a truck! Vote today.

The Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom is a finalist in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good Campaign - an effort in which Toyota is giving away 100 cars over 100 days to nonprofits that could really use a new set of wheels.

Watch this video to learn why Nebraska Ag in the Classroom could really use a truck!

We can all help by voting for them! They have a 1 in 5 chance of winning a new truck which will be used to help spread the importance of agriculture and help share with school kids and the public where their food, fiber and fuel come from.

Today only, July 10, you can go to www.100carsforgood.com to vote, or click "Go Vote" below to help them win!

July 9, 2012

Red meat growth promotants and exports

By Jessica Clowser, USMEF Intern
Jessica ClowserThe subject of sustainability has increasingly become a popular topic among those of us who raise and produce food. Innovative technology, such as growth promotants in the form of implants and beta-agonists are incorporated in livestock production, allowing producers to maximize inputs and still produce a safe and wholesome product to “feed the masses”. These technologies are a necessity in order to feed a world which is growing exponentially.

Now, there are markets which refuse to accept hormone treated cattle, i.e. the EU. This opens a special niche market for specific producers who choose to raise non-hormone treated cattle and thus are paid a premium for their product. What gets under my skin, is the falsification by media that hormone treated beef and beef that has been fed beta-agonists is “poison.” At USMEF, I am included on a list-serve our international directors use to give reports on current events and issues taking place in their specific countries and locations. Taiwan has currently been in an uproar regarding U.S. beef that has been fed beta-agonists. The minority party refers to this beef as poison and the majority party continues to state it’s safe. This is an excellent example of how U.S. beef is used in politics internationally; it’s been fascinating to see how it has all unfolded.

During the last month, it’s becoming more and more evident to me how aware USMEF is regarding ALL issues taking place in numerous countries and markets. The international markets do a fabulous job informing everyone in Denver about any and all issues which may affect our ability to market and export red meat. It’s been exciting to witness this dedication to the U.S. red meat industry.

I recently attended a joint meeting in Loveland hosted by the CO Cattlemen’s, Livestock Association, Cattlewomen’s, and Pork Producers. This was a great networking venture and really exposed me to issues affecting Colorado’s agriculture. My favorite speaker discussed what consumers are looking for when going to the grocery store to purchase beef. She is from New York City and manages a firm which specifically monitors and documents consumer behaviors. During her speech, she showed real footage of real consumers and their thoughts on beef. Consumers want words like “traditional beef” instead of “conventional beef,” they don’t like to be told “organic is better,” and finally, they want traceability. This information is extremely beneficially to all beef producers, packers, and retailers; it’s important for us to listen to our consumer in order to satisfy their needs.

On a side note, one of my college friends came out to Colorado for vacation. The two of us toured Coors-Miller brewery, where we sampled some of Coors’ fine beers and toured a little of Golden, CO. We then ventured onto Idaho Springs for some famous Beau Jo’s Pizza. For anyone traveling to Colorado, find out if there is a Beau Jo’s located along your route or around your final destination, it’s amazing! Whoever decided to put honey on pizza crust deserves a medal.

The drive through the mountains was gorgeous! I have never driven west of Denver; the Rocky Mountains definitely took my breath away! Our final destination was Vail where we hiked, shopped, and explored the town for the rest of the weekend. My favorite activity was riding the Gondola all the way to the top of mountain and enjoying the fantastic view.

However, there was a constant haze over Vail from the numerous wildfires igniting all across the state. To live in Colorado is an amazing experience, but the fires destroying Colorado’s beauty and the homes and livelihoods of so many people are absolutely devastating. Living in North Denver, I have seen a constant haze since the High Park Fire and the new Flagstaff Fire near Boulder have erupted. My thoughts and prayers go out to the brave firefighters, the people who have lost homes, and the ranchers who have lost precious grazing ground and livestock.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is hosting Jessica Clowser of Seward, Neb., as their first summer intern supported by a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and USMEF. Jessica graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2012 with a B.S. in Animal Science and recently returned from a semester internship with Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns in Washington, D.C. In Denver, Jessica will be assisting with promotions and international relationship opportunities.

July 6, 2012

The Edgerton Explorit Display


Last week we delivered our newly developed interactive, educational display, called “Can Corn Fuel the Future?” to The the Edgerton Explorit Center.

The Edgerton Explorit Center is a hands-on learning science center in Aurora. The educational unit created for the Center is focused on science to teach their students about growing Nebraska corn, the many uses of corn, and most specifically, the process of making the renewable fuel – ethanol – from corn. ] The purpose of the exhibit is to show the students and their parents one of the main ways we use corn, to produce ethanol and distillers grains! To really try and simplify the process so that everyone can understand how it works.

The display will be housed at the Center year-round except for the times we will be displaying it at the State Fair and the River City Rodeo & Stockshow. It is also possible that the display may make it on the Edgerton on the Move program, a program that brings different science curriculum on the road to elementary aged students across Nebraska.

The videos used in the display are all available online and can be used in any classroom. To view the video’s that are available on the display, visit the Education tab on the Nebraska Corn Board website or click here.

The new Nebrask Corn Board display

Kids testing out the new display

July 5, 2012

Video | New uses of corn

Uses for corn stretch beyond the dining table.

Nebraska Corn Board's director of research, Kelly Brunkhorst, shares in this video about all of the different uses for corn. We traditionally think of using corn for livestock feed or to make corn-based ethanol - a renewable fuel.

Kelly explains there are other uses like biochemicals, bioplastics, CO2,  fabrics, sweeteners and more. Click play on the video to watch:

July 3, 2012

USOC Affected by Fires in Colorado Springs - by Curt Tomasevicz

Over 346 houses burned to the ground last week in Colorado Springs. The city is used to hot and dry summers, but this year there is more of a need for rain than ever. Thousands of acres of trees and shrubs erupted in flames over just a few days to spread through the Garden of the Gods north to the Air Force Academy on the west side of Colorado Springs. Over thirty thousand people were evacuated from their homes and that number is still growing. Included in that thirty thousand people were several members of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) family. Colorado Springs has served as the home for the USOC since the early 1970’s. Since then the USOC has grown to employ hundreds of people and sadly several of them were part of the evacuation.

This past week the U.S. Olympic Training Center, which typically houses many of the country’s elite athletes including Michael Phelps and other London-bound summer athletes, became a refuge site for most of the USOC employees looking for a temporary home. Families with children young and old (even an infant two weeks old) were seen living in the dorms alongside America’s Olympic medal hopefuls. Even pets were allowed in the dorms until a better suited place could be found.

As the new residents of the OTC tried to make the best of the situation and settle in for an unknown amount of time, the fire at the base of the mountains slowly spread. People were glued to the TV around the clock to see the destruction done and to see if the weather will cooperate soon. We desperately needed more rain and less wind.

As I grew up in central Nebraska, I’ve been through several tornado warnings. I’ve even seen the destruction that a tornado can cause to corn fields, pivots, grain bins, and houses. That tense, eerie feeling that comes on those spring nights in Nebraska when the hot days suddenly turn cold and the tornado warnings are issued, could be felt again in Colorado. This time the sudden tornado warnings were replaced by evacuations as the fire spread. It was the same type of worry and panic that could be seen on people’s faces when they had to sit and wait as an uncontrollable force determined the future of their possessions.

Even those not directly affected by the flames suffered. In fact, I chose to spend a week or so back in my hometown of Shelby, NE to wait for the smoky haze to clear the city. The smell and the dirty air made training difficult.

But I was proud to watch as people volunteered and offered their homes (or dorm rooms) to people evacuated from the hazard areas. The Olympic Training Center’s focus turned from winning medals to helping lives. As the fire continued, some people were relieved to hear their houses were safe, but unfortunately, not everyone received the same news.

But I have faith that as long as the residents of Colorado Springs continue to support and welcome the employees of the U.S. Olympic Committee, our goal can once again eventually return to winning medals at the next Olympics.

July 2, 2012

Nebraska corn 56 percent good to excellent, 25 percent silking

In its weekly crop progress report issued today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 56 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop was in good to excellent condition as of July 1. Hot, dry weather has pushed this number lower over the last two weeks – both here in Nebraska and across the country.

Nebraska corn in fair condition stood at 29 percent, while corn in poor to very poor condition stood at 15 percent.

Nationally, corn in good to excellent condition stood at 48 percent, while corn rated fair was 30 percent and corn in the poor to very poor categories stood at 22 percent. Last week, 56 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 30 percent fair and 14 percent poor to very poor. A year ago, 69 percent was rated good to excellent, 22 percent fair and only 9 percent poor to very poor. 

USDA also said 25 percent of Nebraska's corn crop is silking. That's well ahead of the five-year average of 2 percent. A year ago none of the state's crop had yet reached the silking stage.

Nationally, 25 percent of the crop is silking, also well ahead of the 8 percent average and 5 percent last year.

Planted acreage numbers
Nebraska’s family corn farmers planted 9.9 million acres this year, USDA said last week in its acreage report. That’s up slightly from the 9.85 million acres planted last year, although it is a bit lower than the March planting intentions estimate of 10.3 million acres.

Nationally, corn acres were estimated at 96.4 million, up 5 percent from last year and the most since 1937.

Less corn in storage
In its quarterly grain stocks report, USDA said last week there was 355.2 million bushels of corn being stored in all positions in Nebraska, down 18.4 percent from 2011. On farm stocks were at 170.0 million bushels, down 10.5 percent, while off-farm storage was at 185.2 million, down 24.4 percent.

Nationally, stocks in all positions as of June 1 totaled 3.2 billion bushels, down 14 percent from a year ago. Of the total, 1.5 billion bushels were stored on farms while off-farm stocks stood at 1.7 billion bushels. The March-May 2012 indicated disappearance was 2.87 billion bushels, compared with 2.85 billion bushels during the same period last year.