February 28, 2013

Renewable fuels help state economies


shutterstock_96735895Did you know, the ethanol industry has supported over 383,000 direct and indirect and induced jobs across all sectors of the economy last year? The industry contributed $43.3 billion to GDP and $30.2 billion in household income.

The Renewable Fuels Association has released a state-by-state update to the “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States,” an economic impact analysis performed by Cardno ENTRIX.

The top ten states experiencing the economic benefits of having ethanol plants operating locally are: Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, and North Dakota.

How does ethanol help Nebraska?

  • There are over 80 E85 and flex fuel pumps across Nebraska and 140,000 flex fuel vehicles, and these numbers keep increasing. (Find flex fuel pumps near you here!)
  • One in 10 Nebraskans are driving a flex fuel vehicle.
  • “The Golden Triangle”  - no state is better situated with corn, livestock, ethanol fuel, and distillers grains production than Nebraska. That helps our entire economy!
  • Last year, ethanol saved $1.69 per gallon at the pump in the Midwest and households saved over $1,200.
  • The average salary in the ethanol sector is $56,158 compared to $35,479 in 2000.  (Nebraska Department of Labor)
  • Even with several ethanol plants shut down due to economics, we are still the second largest producer of ethanol.
  • Most of our ethanol produced is export to other states and other countries.
  • We do not have a shortfall of corn - including that used for ethanol production! Corn field and center pivot irrigation in south central Nebraska. July, 2010. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communications

February 27, 2013

Business Virtual Roundtable – Todd Becker

*The Business Leaders "Virtual Roundtable" discussion was gathered for the Spring 2013 CornsTalk publication. The responses of these business associates were consolidated for the publication, but you can find the full responses through this blog series.

ToddBeckerTodd Becker, President & Chief Executive Officer, Green Plains Renewable Energy, Omaha

How does Nebraska's strength in agriculture—and corn, livestock and ethanol specifically—influence your business/organization? How does the fact that you are located in Nebraska provide a competitive advantage or growth opportunities for you?

Nebraska’s leadership role in both corn and cattle production is a good fit for ethanol and for Green Plains. Distillers grains is a significant co-product of ethanol production and this high quality livestock feed has strong demand in Nebraska with the large feed lots located here. The close proximity of our plants in central Nebraska to these cattle feedlots provides Green Plains with an excellent market. Also the location of our Nebraska plants in the western corn belt enables us to be competitive in ethanol markets in the southwest and western parts of the U.S. as well.

What should Nebraska do to leverage its strength in agriculture to enhance economic vitality across the state—and position the state for long-term success in meeting global demand for food, feed and fuel?

Use more ethanol, demand E15 at your gas station. Nebraska produces over 2 billion gallons of ethanol each year, but only uses slightly better than half of the ethanol it could in the motor fuel Nebraskans buy. If you consider that Nebraska exports 97% of the ethanol produced in this state, it’s a shame that we are not doing more to consume this high octane fuel grown in Nebraska. Many studies have stated that ethanol keeps prices down at the pump and just think how much Nebraskans could save by using more ethanol.

What do you think Nebraska consumers—especially those in urban areas—need to better understand about Nebraska agriculture and your organization's relationship to agriculture?

Nebraska is a significant producer of various commodities with value added by companies like Green Plains. All Nebraskans should truly understand the economic impact of agriculture in this state. Our state is a leader in food, feed and fuel production and continues to be an innovator in agriculture. Nebraska’s economy has been stronger recently than other states because of the contribution of agriculture here.

How important is it that Nebraska corn farmers continue to invest in the future of their industry through their checkoff?

Investing in the industry is important for educating the public on what corn production means for Nebraska; the economy, the jobs, the farmer, where corn goes, etc. With corn yields in Nebraska up over 40% in the last 10 years, what does this mean? It’s allowed the opportunity for farmers to expand their market in which they sell their corn into. Without ethanol would we be producing as much corn as we do today? The answer is no, and it’s important for the public to understand that corn production has a place in food, feed and fuel and its impact on jobs and the economy.

What concerns you most about the future of agriculture in Nebraska? And what will it take to address those concerns?

If we didn’t know it before, this past year’s drought was a true testament to the importance of all Nebraska Ag producers working together. Farmers planted more corn than ever in Nebraska to meet the rising demand for food, feed and fuel. The drought was unfortunate and an uncontrollable circumstance that found many wanting to place the blame of the high cost of corn on ethanol. Through the entire renewable fuel standard waiver requests submitted to the EPA, the waiver was denied because it was clear that the change in the price of corn was related to the drought, not ethanol production. This was a wakeup call that all Ag related businesses need to work together and understand that we all have a place in Nebraska agriculture and through diverse markets we are supporting the farmers and each other in good times and bad.

Any other comments or perspectives regarding Nebraska agriculture that you wish to share.

As the world population continues to increase and protein diets continue to grow in popularity, demand for food and fuel will be bigger than ever. As a result, agriculture in Nebraska and in the U.S. will experience growth for years to come. Nebraska has the ability and should take a lead role in the global supply chain for feed, food and fuel. Green Plains is focused on harvesting all the energy available in a kernel of corn, and we plan on doing our part to help Nebraska and U.S. agriculture continue to be one of our economy’s bright spots now and in the future.

February 26, 2013

If I Only Had a Better Tractor - by Curt Tomasevicz


In a perfect world, athleticism would be the complete and only determining factor in a bobsled race. The team with the fastest push and the best driving lines would be the winner. But, in addition to these two athletic abilities, a fast time in bobsled is also dependent on the team’s equipment. The sled and the runners can help or hinder a team regardless of their athletic ability. Is this fair? Maybe not, but it is a fact of the sport.

Each team is always trying to find the most aerodynamic sled. Where should the sled’s weight be distributed? How stiff should the steering suspension be? Do we want the sled to be built from a lighter material to allow for flex or a more rigid material? At what temperature should the lubricating grease be rated? Along with a million other questions that can change from day to day.

Several bobsleds are flipped upside-down on the start deck at the top of the track before a race.
The race officials inspect the sleds and runners before the competition. 
In addition to the sled, the runners making contact with the ice can have different properties as well that can have a dramatic effect on a team’s downtime. Bobsled runners are not sharp blades like luge runners. Bobsled runners are rounded with a radius ranging from 4.0 to 7.0 mm. Sometimes they are at maximum radius in the front and taper to a minimum radius at the back. Runners are also curved from front to back. They are not flat like skies on the ice. A higher rock means that the middle part of the runner will dig into the ice more than the front and back. A lower rock will distribute the contact with the ice more along the entire runner.
So with these “non-athletic” qualities to a fast downtime, there is a fierce competition to find the fastest sled with the fastest runners. Of course there is an official specification book that regulates all measurements and gives guidelines to every shape, dimension, and material that make up a sled and runners. But as time passes and the sport evolves with technology, new and faster sleds and runners are being designed every day.  No one wants their technology shared with the other teams while, at the same time, everyone is trying to figure out why other sleds seem to fly down the ice.  
Sometimes however, it seems that this equipment competition can become an excuse. Teams that aren’t performing want to blame their equipment for their slow downtimes and poor performances. “My sled just isn’t as fast as theirs.” “My runners won’t go fast on this track in this weather.”
Similarly, a corn farmer may always think that a tractor with more horsepower or a planter with 4 more rows will help their profits and yields. Do you really think a combine with leather seats, air conditioning, and a XM radio will make a better farmer?
In bobsled competitions, these equipment excuses can even lead to accusations. After all, if a team is getting beat, it must be because the competition is cheating. Right? (We were accused of cheating in 2009 when we won the World Championship by almost a full second.)

Usually, the teams with excuses are also the ones that don’t have the fastest push times with drivers that aren’t finding the right driving lines down the track. Slow start velocity along with a trip down the track that includes multiple skids and wall-taps seem to be ignored. In our sport, only the fastest pushes and best driving can make you a champion. Great equipment can help, but there is no substitute for athleticism, strength, speed, and skill. The best equipment in the world doesn’t make a team great, the athletes do.
For that farmer wanting the better tractor? Never forget that hard work, dedication, and persistence make the difference, not the equipment.

“A person that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else” – Benjamin Franklin

February 25, 2013

Plan for continued drought?


hdc3We don’t like to think about it, but recent conference speakers have warned farmers in the western Corn Belt and Plains states that dry conditions are likely to continue this spring and summer.

Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services spoke at the Intl FCStone Agricultural and Economic Outlook Meeting in Las Vegas recently, according to AgWeb. "Once drought is in place, it can be self-sustaining and perpetuating," he says. "We’ve been in a very persistent pattern through the winter to date."

Tapley also looked back at weather records over the last 60 years, looking at droughts in 1953, 1955, 1970, 1983 and 1988. Only the 1988 drought was similar in scale and intensity, but all of those droughts tended to linger into the next year. The only saving grace is that dryness was not as extreme in the following summer, he says.

El Nino and La Nina ocean temperatures are also in a neutral phase this year, so they are not expected to be a big driver of weather patterns and rain events.

Thankfully, large snow dumps this past week have helped, but have not been a “drought buster” as some have been forecasting.

State climatologist, Al Dutcher, recently gave an update at the Women in Ag conference and shared that he is ”not overly optimistic, but at least I’m optimistic from the standpoint that I’m seeing features in the atmosphere that might give us the ability to generate some more—better—spring storm activity than we’ve been accustomed to over this last 15-month period.”

Despite the weather experts’ forecasts, the USDA expects a full recovery, estimating that U.S. farmers are likely to produce a record 14.53 billion bushels of corn and a record 3.405 billion bushels of soybeans in 2013.

February 22, 2013

CommonGround Nebraska hits the airways

This month, CommonGround took to the airwaves in Nebraska, participating in a series of interviews with radio and print outlets in the northeastern part of the state. The media tour, which covered areas close to Omaha, featured Dawn Kucera and Joan Ruskamp addressing topics from high fructose corn syrup to the animal care practices used by local ranchers.

“We think that it is important that the people who are buying food have a chance to ask questions of those of us who are raising it,” said Kucera. “Our state’s volunteers represent a broad variety of farmers and ranchers including pork and beef producers, organic farmers and conventional vegetable producers as well as corn and soybean farmers. Our goal in including so many types of producers is to answer all of the questions consumers might have and help dissolve some of the fears that comes from confusion.”

While meeting with the media, Kucera and Ruskamp found that consumers have a wide variety of questions about how their food is grown. The women, both beef ranchers, welcomed the inquiries and responded in an honest, open manner. “As a cattle rancher who runs a feedlot, I saw the news stories and heard the public questioning if we, as an industry, cared about animal welfare, about our own animals,” said Ruskamp. “I know how much work and emotion that I put into caring for our cattle. I saw how the people around me treated their animals, and I thought about how these stories did not represent the reality as I saw it. So, I began volunteering with CommonGround three years ago, when the program first began. I want to talk with consumers and address their concerns so that they can feel confident about the work we do on our nation’s farms.”

Although the volunteers addressed a variety of topics, listeners took away one message that could help them answer all of the current and future questions about food and farming – please, ask us. By offering themselves and their fellow CommonGround volunteers as resources for an ongoing dialogue, the women provide a place for consumers with questions to go for answers from credible experts, the people who grow and raise our food, instead of a list of unverified results like those found when using Google.

To listen to the full interview with Kucera and Ruskamp that originally aired on Freemont radio Station HUB, click here.

Have another question about your food? Find CommonGround online:
Nebraska blog: www.CommonGroundNebraska.com
National Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com
YouTube: www.YouTube.com/CommonGroundNE
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/CommonGroundNE
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/CommonGroundNebraska
Pinterest: www.Pinterest.com/CommonGroundNeb/

February 21, 2013

Smaller world, bigger markets

130211-0151Nebraska Corn Board directors Alan Tiemann and Bob Dickey as well as staff, Don Hutchens and Kelsey Pope, attended the U.S. Grains Council's 10th International Marketing Conference and 53rd Annual Membership Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina last week to review strategies and opportunities for competing in the rapidly changing global marketplace.

The delegates were greeted by Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority. The fifth largest port on the Atlantic coast, Charleston enjoys deep water, a booming local manufacturing economy including many export-oriented companies, and a supportive state and local government. Already capable of handling post-Panamax vessels at high tide, the port is now engaged in a deepening project that will give it unrestricted deep water capability – and an open road for further growth.

Many speakers in the general session addressed concerns that U.S. producers have because of the drought, as well as country director's concerns of market access.

"All of us understand that this is an especially challenging year for coarse grains exports due to the U.S. drought and the short crop," said Tom Sleight, USGC president and CEO. "But all of us also know that the underlying dynamics point to rapidly rising global demand. The weather set us back this year, but U.S. producers and agribusinesses are ready to rebound strong."

130213-0145Sleight also emphasized that now is the time to redouble the Council's efforts – with customer servicing to sustain export demand and ensure that the United States can regain its market share next year, and with continued efforts in policy, demand building and co-product marketing. Through the USDA's export promotion programs, including the Foreign Market Development and Market Access Program, the Council is able to implement and sustain these efforts.

The Council's staff, Dr. Erick Erickson and Kimberly Karst, took time to identify a series of major underlying shifts that will transform the business environment for both producers and agribusinesses. In the near term, U.S. agriculture faces a familiar set of issues: increasing demand from a growing global middle class; increasing competition from foreign exporters; immediate pressures from the drought and short crop of 2012; challenges on market access and international acceptance of biotechnology. Underlying these issues are "megatrends," dynamics that will qualitatively change the nature of the global marketplace.

Erickson and Karst identified four such drivers: individual empowerment in a world in which, by mid-century, a majority of people will be middle class; the aging of the global population, especially in the developed countries; the diffusion of power in an international system in which the currently developing countries – already home to a majority of the world's people – will become the world's economic and military center as well; and increasingly severe land, water, energy, and other resource constraints.

After the meetings concluded, Kelsey Pope took a post-mission with a group of producers and staff from Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. They heard from the local offices of The Scoular Company and Norfolk Southern, as well as a tug boat tour of the Port of Charleston.

For more from the Conference, visit the Council's News Room and find pictures from the event on Flickr.

February 20, 2013

Preparing cattle for winter weather


Post by CommonGround Nebraska volunteer, Chandra Horky from Sargent, Nebraska.

Chandra 2The national weather service has issued a severe winter weather warning for areas in west and central Nebraska and we must get prepared for the oncoming storm for our cattle.

We start by bedding down shelter areas for cows and calves. Cornstalk bales are put into a processor to cut the cornstalks and spread. This is for any new calves that will come during the winter storm. The heifers that look close to calving will be put into the shed. Or any new calves found out in the heifer pen will be put in the calf shed as well.IMG_20130209_115255_019 They bed down the areas where heifers that have had a calf recently and are waiting to be moved to the pairs pasture. In the pairs pasture, we will then process more cornstalk bales behind a shelter belt that is made of cedar trees.

We go out to check all the pairs in the pastures to check for all the calves and make sure they are paired up correctly. At our place, we bring them into a corral that is on the south and east side a cedar tree shelter belt. This will protect the cows and calves from any north, northwest wind.

During this past winter storm we had 23 babies born on Sunday. Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest, but I don't think the heifers got that memo! :)IMG_20130210_100002_687

February 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


The Nebraska Corn Board has been working in cooperation with the Lincoln Children's Museum to come up with an ethanol display for their Tiny Town of Big Imagination display. The display recently opened up to the public so we were invited over to take a look at it. Needless to say we were impressed with the it and hopefully you will be too!  To see more pictures visit our Flickr page.

February 11, 2013

Nebraska corn contributing to a zero-waste Olympics


PLA Glass#2Being that the Winter Olympics are one year from now, corn grown in Nebraska can brag they it was part of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Not only were the London games some of the most memorable games, last year’s summer Olympics also were the first to be zero waste with an estimated 8,500 tons of packaging and food service items diverted from landfills and into a composting facility or recycling centers. Within that total, an estimated 14.3 million Ingeo lined paper cups and 7.5 million Ingeo cup lids were composted.

What is Ingeo? It is the biopolymer made from poly-lactic acid (PLA), otherwise known as corn plastic. The only plant in the world, NatureWorks, is located in Blair, Nebraska and sources corn and other plant material from Nebraska and neighboring states to create plant-based plastic that is otherwise made from oil. The company is growing and will be expanding as they recently announced Thailand as the preferred location for a second manufacturing plant.

Back to the Summer Olympics, sustainability was at the heart of the vision for the Games to make it the first ‘zero-waste’ games. As part of this vision, London BioPackaging was chosen to supply all the food and drink packaging. They supplied in excess of 120 million pieces of compostable and recyclable packaging, ensuring it was all composted or recycled after use.

Nebraska corn could play a role in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as well. You may remember that the Olympic Gold Medalist, Curt Tomasevicz, is a spokesman for the Nebraska Corn Board and will hopefully be returning with the Team Night Train to go for the Gold in Russia. Maybe we can get Curt to take a little of Nebraska’s Gold – Corn – along with him!DSC_0011

February 7, 2013

Snow Dancing


Nebraska was hit with its second snow storm of the winter the end of January causing snow days for many and traffic delays for all. While the snow brought an inconvenience, Nebraska is still many inches of precipitation behind for most years. Leading to the looming question, how will the continued lack of snow and rain impact the ongoing drought?

With record lows for precipitation and highs for temperatures, 2012 took the record for both in the 12-year U.S. Drought Monitor data history. Nebraska was the epicenter of the drought this summer, and drought conditions continue to worsen in the beginning of 2013. As you can see in the maps below, at this time last year only a small section of moderate drought conditions existed in Nebraska. However, this year the entire state is in exceptional or extreme drought.

Before/after effects of the drought in one year:


Nebraska’s family farmers are using innovation to ensure they meet growing global demand, while protecting and preserving precious natural recourses we all depend upon, such as water, by using:

  • Conservation tillage – Many farmers don’t use plows any more, as new tillage practices focus on disturbing the soil as little as possible. This cuts back on the number of trips across the field saving fuel and reducing soil compaction. Also, leaving residue such as cornstalks in the field conserves soil moisture and reduces the amount of fertilizer, nutrient and irrigation required to grow a healthy crop. Field residue also prevents soil run off when snow melts.
  • Advanced seed technology – Seed companies have led the charge to develop seed that is resistant to drought
  • Irrigation research – Through soil moisture monitoring, Nebraska farmers are working to cut back on the water they use without affecting yields
  • Precision technology – Modern tractors and machinery are equipped with GPS to eliminate overlaps in planting and fertilizer application. Satellite mapping ensures farmers apply just the right amount of nutrients in the right place.

Energy required to produce a bushel of corn over the past three decades has decreased by 37%


While the technology farmers are using helps them to be more environmentally responsible, efficient, and accurate, they still need certain levels of moisture to produce a yield required by a growing and hungry population.

So, here’s to rain dancing…or snow dancing!

*Blog post reposted from the Farm Meets Fork blog by Nebraska Farm Bureau

February 6, 2013

Another dry summer? Farmers are eternal optimists.


Tim Scheer and Curt Friesen, chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Nebraska Corn Board took a media tour last week to talk about the drought, Farm Bill, RFS and the impact of Nebraska’s corn industry to the state economy.

At Fox 42 in Omaha, Tim and Curt specifically talked detail of the on-going drought.

FOX 42: Omaha News, Sports and Weather; kptm.com |

Ask farmers about last year's crop and they could answer it in one word, dry. With record lows for precipitation, many farmers ended up losing their crops and a profit.

Farmer, Phil Kempcke said, "This was a tough one, you know, about eight weeks without any rain and about six weeks of 100 degree temps."

Kempcke is hoping this year won't be as dry, but with the lack of moisture this winter, some drought experts are saying farmers need more rain.

"We are still at a pretty big deficit," Kempcke said.

Tim and Curt are telling farmers this year could be just as bad as last if there isn't rain soon.

"The amount of moisture we have had now really makes no difference, it is the spring rains that are going to determine whether or not we are going to come out of the drought," Friesen said.

"We are still hoping we will get moisture this year, but we could be wrong," Scheer said.

The Nebraska Corn Board tells Fox 42 they are hoping the U.S. Congress is able to pass the Farm Bill to extend relief to farmers for the next five years.

February 5, 2013

E15: It’s here to stay


By Kim Clark, director of biofuels development

We have heard a lot about E15 in the news recently, especially from AAA and the American Petroleum Institute (API). It’s unfortunate that the information being spread is not accurate. It is up to you to understand the facts.

Myth #1: E15 is a mandate.

  • e15660Fact: E15 is actually an option. You as a consumer are not required to use it. It is a choice offered to you. We like choice, right?

Over 65% of the vehicles on the road today are 2001 and newer and can use E15, as approved by EPA. Additionally, that 65% of vehicles consumers over 85% of the fuel.

Myth #2: EPA approved E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles without properly testing vehicles.

  • Fact: Six million miles-equivalent to 12 trips to the moon and back, were accumulated during testing on E15. If that isn’t enough testing I don’t know what is. During these rigorous tests, no issues were founde15 moon (2)
  • Fact: More jobs would be created with the use of E15. E15 allows us to move beyond the blend wall and create as many as 136,000 jobs, mostly in rural America.
  • Fact: E15 will eliminate as much as 8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. That is like taking 1.35 million cars off the road.
  • Fact: E15 will allow the US to use more renewable fuels versus fossil fuels like we use now. We would be able to displace 7 billion gallons of oil that is imported from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria.
  • Fact: NASCAR has run more than 3 million miles on E15 beginning with the 2011 racing season and continuing today. They like the additional horsepower and durability.

The naysayers will always be present. Be sure to do your research before you form your own decision.

February 4, 2013

Dodge Super Bowl commercial gives back


If you didn’t see or hear about the Dodge Ram “So God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial, it is creating quite the conversation. The video features Paul Harvey’s voice sharing the poem with “tear-jerking with pride” images of the people across our country who raise our food. A great tribute to the “the farmer in all of us.”


When you watch the video on Ram’s website, the Ram Brand will make a donation to National FFA Organization (up to $1 million) and assist in local hunger and educational programs.

There is also a poll taking place over the next week for the best commercial, so vote it up on YouTube here.


If you are considering buying a Dodge vehicle, make sure your dealership knows that you appreciate their ad!

Please pass this along and God Bless farmers.

February 1, 2013

Meet the Faces of Farming & Ranching


The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) program, partially supported by Nebraska corn farmers through their checkoff, has found four fresh Faces of Farming & Ranching to represent American agriculture to the general public.

The four represent a range of agricultural commodities including corn and soybeans, hogs, cattle, and dairy and they were chosen through on-line voting and a panel of judges from nine finalists announced last month at the New York Food Dialogues. The winners will act as national spokespeople, and will share stories and experiences on a national stage to help answer consumers’ questions about how food is grown and raised to feed our nation.

When the four were introduced by USFRA this week, they were asked what they believe is the most important story for agriculture to share.

usfra-chinnChris Chinn of Clarence, Missouri is a 5th generation farmer with her husband Kevin, his parents and brother raising hogs, cattle, hay and row crops. “I think it’s more important for us to listen to the concerns that people have about how food is produced so we can have a more open dialogue,” Chris said.


Will Gilmer and his father own/operate a dairy farm in Lamar County, Alabama that has been in continuous operation since the early 1950s. “It’s important that we help people understand what the new things we’re doing are, why we’re doing them and how it’s beneficial to them in giving them great choices at the grocery store,” said Will.

usfra-prattKatie Pratt and her husband Andy (7th generation farmer) and their two children raise corn, soybeans and seed corn in Dixon, Illinois in partnership with Andy’s family. “One of the stories that needs to be told is that we are families operating businesses,” said Katie.

Bo Stone jointly owns P & S Farms in Rowland, NC with his wife Missy and his pausfra-stonerents where they grow corn, wheat and soybeans, hogs and cattle, as well as strawberries and sweet corn that are sold at their own roadside market. “We are all consumers of our products and I’d like for everyone to know that we’re in this together,” he said.

Listen to those comments in response to a question by farm broadcaster Jeff Nalley: USFRA Faces of Farming

Find out more about the winners here or watch this video to learn more about them.