January 28, 2013

USMEF welcomes beef agreement with Japan


DSC_0227In a news release today from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a new agreement that will expand access for U.S. beef to Japan is a positive step for the American beef industry as well as the Japanese trade and consumers.

The change, which takes effect Feb. 1, will allow the United States to export beef from animals under 30 months of age to Japan with the exception of ground beef, which will be phased in after a surveillance period to ensure that the new export protocol is proceeding smoothly. In the aftermath of the discovery of BSE in the U.S. in December 2003, only beef from animals 20 months of age or younger has been eligible for export to Japan.

“This is an extremely positive development that successfully addresses one of the longest standing issues between our two governments,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The U.S. beef industry – from farmers and ranchers to exporters – will benefit from increased exports to this premium market. At the same time, the trade and consumers in Japan will see a wider variety of beef products and improved availability of U.S. beef in the retail and food service channels.

“We are grateful to the governments of Japan and the United States for their efforts to make this agreement a reality,” added Seng.

The U.S. beef industry is working closely with USDA to ensure the smooth implementation of the new agreement. Among the provisions of the agreement are that beef products produced before Feb. 1 must be accompanied by appropriate documentation and produced under the current export verification (EV) program. These products may not be comingled with products produced Feb. 1 or after, which must be produced under the new EV program and accompanied by the new export documentation.

Japan is currently the No. 2 market for U.S. beef exports in terms of value and No. 3 in volume (143,900 metric tons or 317.2 million pounds) valued at $969.8 million through the first 11 months of 2012 – expected to top $1 billion in value for the year for the first time since 2003.

USMEF forecasts that U.S. beef exports to Japan in 2013 as a result of expanded access to the market will increase roughly 45 percent in volume and value, reaching 225,000 metric tons (496 million pounds) and $1.5 billion.

DSC_0620Nebraska corn has a strong history of supporting beef exports to Japan through their support of USMEF. In 2009, Nebraska corn and beef farmers participated in a trade mission to Japan and South Korea to promote high-quality U.S. and Nebraska beef. Also, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, Nebraska corn and beef farmers went to Japan to show our support of Japan and deliver free beef meals to disaster victims. Those on that trade mission were also involved in the Nebraska grain donation program to the Red Cross to help Japan.

We are excited for the opportunity for Nebraska and U.S. beef to have a greater presence in the Japanese market and will be participating in promotions in the coming year.

January 21, 2013

Podcast: NeCGA sets legislative priorities for 2013

In this podcast, Joel Grams, a farmer from Minden and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Associations, outlines the organizations 2013 legislative priorities, from activities in Washington, D.C., to those in Lincoln.

On the federal side, a five-year farm bill is a top priority, as is ensuring the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, stays in place.

On the state side, there are several areas of interest but but one of the top items on NeCGA's agenda is working with the Nebraska legislature and stakeholders on the Water Resources Task Force, Grams said.

Click the icon above for details.

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

January 18, 2013

Staff Update

In this week's staff update Kelly Brunkhorst talks about a few of the Ag reports that have recently been released.

January 17, 2013

China: missing a beefy opportunity


00483_BeefKoreaThis week, I read that China has approved four additional Canadian beef facilities that will now be able to export beef to China. These newly approved establishments will increase the Canadian export capacity for beef in a market estimated by the industry to be worth approximately $20 million annually.

Timeout! Nothing against Canada, but why is China investing in Canada and not looking towards the U.S. beef supply?

What is China’s beef with U.S. beef? As of December 24, 2003, China has banned U.S. beef from being imported due to the BSE concerns. Beijing later lifted the outright ban but the U.S. has been unable to overcome continued barriers involving the inspection of the beef. More recent talks with China came up with a staged-basis solution to getting U.S. beef into the country.

Who is our competition for getting beef into China? China allows beef imports from seven countries, including Costa Rica which was approved recently. The main competitors include Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand and now, Canada.

Worldwide beef exports from the U.S. are strong. According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), year-end reports for 2012 reported weekly exports were up 4 percent from 2011. However, for the leading markets of Mexico, Japan, Korea, Vietnam/Hong Kong, Russia and Taiwan, reported exports were 1 percent lower. Export growth in 2012 was led by Vietnam/Hong Kong (+18 percent) and Russia (+12 percent), with Japan and Canada each up 1 percent. Exports were lower for Korea (-9 percent), Mexico (-7 percent) and Taiwan (-39 percent).

Interestingly enough, some of those exports to the Southeast Asia region are making their way into China (off the record).

There is a potential for having a future with China in the beef export market. Even at a relatively low per-capita consumption level, China still consumes about 10 percent of total global beef production. Challenges to China’s domestic beef industry, including high input costs, are making it increasingly likely that China will have to increase beef imports to meet growing demand, led by a booming restaurant industry.

What is the potential if we can open up this export market? U.S. beef exports would likely reach $200 million in value in the first full year of access, swiftly putting China among the top five export markets.

In a recent food exhibition in China with USMEF to promote U.S. pork, Joel Haggard, USMEF-Asia/Pacific senior vice president said, “…almost every Chinese meat buyer we met asked when U.S. beef will return to the market.”

It seems that Chinese meat buyers and consumer want U.S. beef, but politics are getting in the way. Thankfully, USMEF is working to overcome this issue to allow U.S. beef back into China. China’s market for beef has changed considerably since U.S. beef’s exit a decade ago. Unlike pork and poultry production, which has grown due to an influx of private investment and government subsidies, the Chinese beef industry has languished. Domestic production has fallen 10 percent over the past 5 years, from 6.13 million metric tons (13.5 billion pounds) in 2007 and 2008 to an estimated 5.54 million metric tons (12.2 billion pounds) this year, according to USDA statistics.

Hopefully this will provide for a future break to take over from our many missed opportunities. 谢谢 (thank you), China.

January 14, 2013

Thanks to Coaching - by Curt Tomasevicz


I didn’t write a Thanksgiving-themed blog this past November. I was with my bobsled teammates in Canada preparing for a race weekend. The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation doesn’t acknowledge the American holiday with a break in the international competition schedule so we had a regular day of practice. And, other than a chicken, potato, and green bean casserole dinner cooked mostly by my teammate, Emily Azevedo, and calling home to talk to mom and dad, Thanksgiving pretty much passed me by. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent time being grateful for a number of opportunities and people in my life now that 2012 has turned into 2013. As I think back about what shaped my path to becoming an Olympic champion bobsledder, I have to start with my coaches.

Every kid needs a mentor and someone that can have a positive influence on his or her interests as they grow up. For example, these mentors may be in farming by sharing interest through 4-H or FFA with a young one. For me, it was through sports. I played every sport as a kid from grade school through high school. I was rarely inside. I was always being active in something. 

My favorite sport depended on the time of year; baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter, etc. Throughout all of my athletic adventures as a kid, I had great coaches. These coaches taught me everything a coach is supposed to teach an athlete. I learned how to play fair, work hard, share, never give up, and be a good sport. They taught me commitment, sportsmanship, dedication, and teamwork. All of things were a side effect that came along with FUN. I played with some pretty good athletes for a small, central-Nebraska town and we won more times than we lost but looking back, my coaches provided me with some tools that didn’t come from winning or losing. Even now, I still remember how to run the flex full-court offense in basketball and a 5-2 monster, cover-2 defense in football. But those were a means to an end. In the end, I became a better person because of my coaches.

They had abilities to see the big picture and know that life is bigger than sports even though my life at the time seemed to revolve around sports. When we lost because of an umpire’s call in Little League, my coach displayed and enforced sportsmanship by shaking the ump’s hand after the game. When I received a 15-yard penalty in a football game for unsportsmanlike conduct, my coach immediately taught me a lesson in humility and fairness by benching me the rest of the game after getting a well-deserved earful. When my basketball team shot 18% from the free-throw line in a JV game, my coach taught us commitment, concentration, and dedication by keeping us in the gym for an hour after the varsity game that night to shoot free-throws.

It makes me sad to hear that, because of funding, many sports programs are being cut and many kids won’t learn the same lessons that I learned from my great youth coaches. So, in this post-holiday season, I want to say thank you to all my coaches. At some point in time, through baseball, basketball, football, and track,(with the risk of forgetting someone), I referred to each of the following people as “Coach”: Terry Chadek, Gerald Humlicek, Kevin Lyons, Bob Zelasney, Rick Chochon, Rich Gillespie, Jim Kamrath, Steve Cherry, Ron Glatter, Craig Rose, Sandy Voss, Darrol Gray, Todd Bollig, Joe Dey, Jerry Lentfer, Toby Watts, Mike Boss, Tim Hopwood, Doug Zoerb, and Jerry Vrbka. 

January 10, 2013

Boosting renewable fuels


Last week congress approved a bill that helped the country avoid the fiscal cliff.

One of the items in that bill included extending tax credits that help with cellulosic ethanol production. The bill also helps with ethanol infrastructure.

The extension of tax credits come as welcome news to many area corn producers. Jon Holzfaster fills his vehicle up with an E-85 blend of ethanol. The District 8 Director of the Nebraska Corn Board is happy that tax credits were extended to help the ethanol industry.

“The extension of the alternative fuel infrastructure tax will be much more valuable in the short term,” says Jon Holzfaster, Nebraska Corn Board. That tax credit allows the folks that install the infrastructure to provide alternative blends of ethanol or alternative fuels the opportunity to offset some of their tax liabilities by providing a choice for the consumers at the pump with different blends of ethanol.

Holzfaster says if the tax credits were not extended the ethanol industry would suffer. He adds in tax credits will help the industry continue to flourish and help keep the price of gasoline down.

“It is a product that utilizes a renewable resource. It is friendly to the environment and it is saving consumers' money at the pump. We do not feel we really need to have an abundance of Federal legislation behind this but it is good to know that is someone back there that knows that industry and can do things to help the industry in providing that security of knowing you will not have the rug pulled out from underneath you,” says Holzfaster.

Holzfaster says the extension of the tax credits is great news for the future of the ethanol industry. He believes there are many senators on Washington that see the benefits of ethanol and they are fighting to make sure the industry continues to be viable in the coming years.

View Holzfaster’s interview with KNOP-TV News out of North Platte.

January 7, 2013

Farmers Feed US starts in Nebraska


Farmers_Feed_US_logo_3Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch has never met a Nebraska farmer. In fact, they are offering the chance for residents of the state to win a free breakfast, lunch and dinner by way of free groceries– for an entire year.

Beginning today, Nebraskans can register for a chance at one of two grand prizes of $5,000 “Free Groceries for a Year!”* courtesy of a group of Nebraska farmers, a veterinarian and a grocer, at www.FarmersFeedUS.org.

Upon visiting the site, consumers register by “meeting” one of their fellow Nebraskans through a short video that shows how each is involved in producing safe, nutritious and affordable food. Consumers can register with each of the seven featured individuals daily through April 8, the end of the 90-day program.

The Farmers Feed US website features corn, dairy, hog, soybean and turkey farmers, as well as a veterinarian and a grocer, each sharing information about the foods they produce.

Corn HeadashotThe corn farmer in the program might be a familiar face – Kyle Cantrell from Anselmo, Nebraska.

Kyle and his family have been involved in the Nebraska Corn Board’s Sustaining Innovation campaign for the past couple of years, as well as the Corn Farmers Coalition showing the real faces of America’s farmers. 

Over the course of the sweepstakes, consumers throughout the state will also see and hear from these farmers as they are featured in television advertising and on Facebook and Twitter.

Supporting Nebraska agriculture groups include the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), Nebraska Soybean Board, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska Corn Board, Midwest Dairy Association, and B&R Grocery.

Take a tour of the Cantrell’s farm, then register online to win free groceries for a year!

January 6, 2013

Podcast: Internships, iPads in education and the Corn Youth Challenge

In this podcast, the Nebraska Corn Board's Kim Clark provides an update on a number of youth initiatives the board is involved in.

First up, Nebraska Corn Board received a $5,000 grant from DuPont Pioneer to be used toward iPad technology for agriculture literacy. The Corn Board then matched the grant, meaning there is $10,000 available for Nebraska schools.

She said schools can apply to receive an iPad for their school or classroom via Corn Board's website. Applications are due February 28, and you can find more here.

Another great activity is the Nebraska Corn Board’s internships. "We supported five internships last year and have openings for five again this year," Clark said. Applications are due Jan. 15, and additional information can be found here.

One of the internships is a year-long one in the board's office in Lincoln. The other four are summer internships. One in Saint Louis and one in Washington, D.C., with the National Corn Growers Association, and another in D.C. for the U.S. Grains Council. The fourth summer internship is in Denver with the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Finally, Clark noted that the second Innovative Corn Youth Challenge is gearing up for 2013.

Awards for the inaugural challenge were handed out recently, with teams completing the challenge winning anywhere from $200 to $1,000. Winners included students from the Pioneers 4H club, Wranglers 4H club, Humphrey FFA, Super Strong 4H and Strang 4-Bar-H club.

For more on the challenge, click here.

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

January 5, 2013

Podcast: Annual meeting marks second year serving as association president for Sousek

In this podcast, Carl Sousek, a farmer from Prague and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, reports on some of the highlights and remaining business following his two years as president of the organization.

The podcast was recorded the week of NeCGA's annual meeting in December. Sousek said as a grassroots organization, it was critical to have member involvement during the meeting, as it is a great way to ensure member voices are heard at the state level.

He added that members can also work with their local grower leaders to share ideas and help keep membership input at a high level.

"It has been an honor serving this association and our more than 2,400 members," he said.

Listen for more.

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

January 4, 2013

Intern Opportunities

We’re in an age where internships are an important asset to a resume and career success. It shows employers that you have some real world experience; you’re taking what you learn in college and putting it to use. To me, an internship shows that the person has motivation and the drive about whatever they are doing and they want to make themselves a marketable employee. But what do I know, I’m just an intern myself. But because of that role I can tell you that it is an experience you will find nowhere else! How many times in life can you try out a job for three months and then be done with it if you decide it’s not for you? Or you find you have an interest, continue to develop relationships from that internship and turn it into a future job? Not to mention all the real world skills you learn; how to work on a team/as individual, specific workings of an industry/career, not to mention the network you can build.

If you want to succeed in the world must make your own opportunities as you go on. The man who waits for some seventh wave to toss him on dry land will find that the seventh wave is a long time a coming. You can commit no greater folly than to sit by the roadside until some one comes along and invites you to ride with him to wealth or influence.--John Gough

Luckily the Nebraska Corn Board understands these things. This year, NCB is offering 5 internships for this summer and upcoming year. Each offering something a little different but each a great opportunity. NCB has partnered up with a few of its industry partners to offer these great opportunities.

Policy, Membership, and Corn Industry Leadership Internship- Washington D.C. (summer only)
Corn Industry Internship- St Louis with NCGA (summer only)
Policy, Promotion, and International Relations Internship with USGC- Washington D.C. (summer only)
Promotion & International Relations Internships with USMEF –Denver (summer only)
Communications & Outreach Internship- Lincoln (Full year, 2013-2013)

Each of these internships looks at a different part of the agriculture, especially corn, industries and how it can affect the nation and the world. The really cool thing about these internships is that the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), U.S. Grains Council (USGC), and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) don’t have interns themselves but have decided to partner with NCB to place Nebraska interns at their office. They don’t allow this with any other state boards and after their first experience with Nebraska interns this past summer each partner decided to continue the relationship with NCB and their Nebraska interns.

Jess Clower, who was the Promotion & Internationl Relations Intern with USMEF this last summer, said, "Interning with the U.S. Meat Export Federation was an amazing opportunity! It was a thrill and an honor to work with such a great staff that is fully committed to the United States’ red-meat industry. The experiences I gained will only benefit me in the future and reaffirmed my career path to one day work for a membership-based agricultural organization. This internship was truly one of the best opportunities I have experienced." To encourage Jess's interest in USMEF, she was sent to New Orleans for their Board of Directors meeting and product showcase.  Jess was asked at the end of her internship to remain with USMEF for an extra 4 months to work on some other projects they had for her!

USMEF works to increase the value and profitability of the U.S. beef, pork and
 lamb industries by enhancing demand for their products in export markets through
a dynamic partnership of all stakeholders

But these internships are also great because they just allow you to learn more about the industry. Sandra Kavan, interned at NCGA in St. Louis this summer, said, "was a greatexperience for me to expand upon my previous knowledge of corn, ethanol, water quality, and biotechnology. Everyone there was welcoming and always encouraged me to learn about the different aspects of NCGA, they always answered my questions." Sandra was sent to Corn Congress in Washington D.C. this summer for NCGA to  get a closer look at NCGA's role in D.C. and learn a little more about some issues the corn and agricultural sectors will be dealing with in the future.

From almost all the interns and different organizations that hosted these interns, it was ruled a successful partnership with plans to continue it. If you are interested about what went on at these internships please check out the interns blogs or visit http://www.nebraskacorn.blogspot.com/search/label/intern. If you have any questions about the year-long internship here in Lincoln feel free to shoot me an email at ncb.intern2@nebraska.gov.