December 31, 2013

Podcast: Speak up and comment on EPA's proposal

In this podcast, Joel Grams, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, shares about the proposed cut-back on the 2014 corn ethanol requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA proposes a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in corn ethanol—and that is already having an impact on corn prices. A reduction of this nature will have a negative effect on agricultural in general—and on the rural communities that depend on a strong ag economy.

There is a comment period open until January 28th to let EPA know how this will hurt Nebraska corn farmers and the state's economy.  When you submit your comment, make it personal. Tell EPA what the renewable fuels industry has meant to your farm and your community. If you have a child returning to the operation, tell that story. If you have a specific example of how a healthier ag economy has helped your hometown, share it.

This isn't just for farmers to comment. It affects everyone in the state, so get others in your community to submit comments as well—bankers, school board members, county commissioners, economic development staff. Every sector of Nebraska's rural economy has benefitted from a robust ag economy in the state. We need all of them to send a comment to the EPA. We have just a few weeks left to tell the EPA how we feel. Don't delay. Please visit today to comment on EPA's proposal.

Listen for more!

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

December 16, 2013

The Day Nebraska Invaded Utah - by Curt Tomasevicz

Everyone knows that Nebraskans are passionate about sports, especially football. But that passion was taken to a new level and a new sport during the first weekend of December. Some drove, some flew, some took a bus, but all battled nasty weather that included ice, snow, and bitter cold temperatures. In total, near one hundred people made the trek from Nebraska to Park City, Utah for the second World Cup bobsled race of the 2013-2014 Olympic season.

I was floored when I heard the number of people adventuring west. About two months ago, I sent out an email to some friends and family and invited them to come to the 4-man bobsled race in Utah because I knew that many wanted to see the Olympic race that will be held in Russia in February. But because of distance, time, and financial situations, very few could make it. The second best place to watch a live race would be Park City, Utah. I called home a week or two after sending the emailed invitation with time to let it circulate. I thought maybe there would be a dozen or so people that would respond. Instead I was told that my home town of Shelby, Nebraska would be chartering a bus to make the trip!

The weekend’s schedule included a 2-man race, two women’s bobsled races, and the grand prix event, the 4-man race. I would only be competing in the last event. But I wanted to have time to talk to and greet all those that came. So I reserved the party room at the Park City Ruby Tuesdays near the bobsled track for the night before the 2-man races. However, when I made the reservation, no one knew that the bus would lose its heat and force its passengers to spend an extra 12 hours in Kearney, Nebraska. So the initial reception was limited to only those that flew into Salt Lake City or those that drove separately.

I briefed everyone that could attend on what to expect at the races and what to look for. I not only wanted to have the usual passionate and boisterous Nebraska fans. I also wanted the educated fans that the Huskers are accustomed to on football game days. I told those at the reception about start times and down times, about start order and second heat protocol, and about the favorites and the underdogs of the race. I also warned them that, as many already assumed, it would be cold.

That night, at about 3 a.m., the bus finally arrived in Park City giving the passengers a short night before the 2-man race the next day. Because I was not pushing in the 2-man race, I was able to mingle with friends and family during the race and give as many hugs and handshakes as I could.

On Saturday, despite snowy conditions and temperatures reaching only about 10 degrees, the 4-man race was held in the late morning. My team drew first, meaning we were the first ones off the hill at the 11:04 a.m. start time.

The moment was exactly how I would have dreamed. It was one of the loudest starts I can remember, next to the Olympic Games. The one hundred crazy fanatics screamed, yelled, and rang cow bells like they had been bobsled fans all their lives. After the first heat, we were in a three-way tie for first place, a tie to the hundredth of a second. Needless to say, I have never been a part of a closer contested race.

The second heat was going to break the tie with the German team and the Russian team. With the other two teams going before us, we were the last sled off the hill that day. Again, the chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” gave us the needed fire to have the fastest push of the race. And we were able to pull away from the other two teams. We won the World Cup race by over a third of a second (a big time win in bobsled). That was the icing on the cake.

The best part of the day was after the race. Winning the gold medal was great, but the pinnacle was after the award ceremony when I was able to celebrate with everyone that made the trip. I was incredibly moved by the support that I felt. My yet-to-be-born cousin, my 80 year old great uncle, and everyone in between that came to Park City reminded me what every Olympian should know… competing for the USA is the greatest honor any athlete could ever experience. Each person at that race as well as those that could not attend, shared in that victory. I can only hope that I can be a part of the team that stands on top of the podium again in February in Russia.

Thank you Nebraska and everyone that has helped me be able to bobsled for the past decade!
Most of the 100+ Nebraskan's that attended the race in Utah

After the award ceremony

December 12, 2013

December Corn Product Spotlight: Packing Peanuts

With the holiday season here shopping is on everyone’s mind. Whether or not it’s that new TV you’ve had your eye on, or the sweet treats that you plan on sending to your sister out west, there is one thing that will be used to keep most of our precious gifts safe. That one thing is packing peanuts.

Now, packing peanuts might not be your favorite part of the holidays but most children seem to enjoy them. I can still remember as a young child, dumping the box of packing peanuts out all over the tile floor and either stepping on them or ripping the peanuts into shreds. A big box of packing peanuts could keep me entertained for at least half an hour. As I sit here and think back on my younger years I realized that I didn’t even know corn was the main ingredient in those fun little toys.

In the early 1990s the starch-based packing peanuts that are used today were developed as a more environmentally friendly option compared to the regular foam packing peanuts. Even though the first biodegradable packing peanuts were made from grain sorghum the majority of starch-based packing peanuts are now made from corn. This means that even though the peanuts are not recommended for eating, they are nontoxic if ingested. Also during the manufacturing process all the nutritional value is removed from the starch so eating starch-based packing peanuts will not help you meet your daily carbohydrate intake.

Sadly, there are some drawbacks to this product. The starch-based packing peanuts are more expensive to use and they don’t hold up as well when dealing with large weights. But they can be broken down with water, so instead of having to throw them away, you can simply wash them down your sink!

So next time your kid takes a bite out of a starch-based packing peanut, you can feel safe that they didn’t just eat a toxic substance and you can relax and let them entertain themselves with the packing peanuts, instead of the gift you just spent your Christmas bonus on!

U.S. Grains Council develops exports of corn


DSC_0211No other organization in the United States can do what the U.S. Grains Council does, said Alan Tiemann, farmer-director on the Nebraska Corn Board from Seward, Neb., as well as Secretary/Treasurer of the U.S. Grains Council Board of Directors.

"With the council's public-private partnership we're doing great things around the world to develop exports of our products," said Tiemann.

Tiemann has a unique perspective on his 15 years of council experience. Beginning in 1997, he represented the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board for six years. Then, after a break, he moved to Nebraska's corn checkoff board in 2005, becoming an at-large director on the USGC board and, last summer, the council's secretary/treasurer.

Tiemann, Alan - NEW"One of the biggest changes I've seen in my years at the council is in structure from a board of delegates to a board of directors," he said. "It's allowed the council to become more efficient than when they had three huge meetings each year."

He urges members to maximize the benefits of council membership by being involved.

"Even if you're not named to an advisory team (A-Teams), the best thing you can do is show up at the meetings and visit as many A-Teams as you can," he said. "Find out where your skill set fits with the council's work and get involved.

"The council has such a diversity of teams that there's something for everybody to get passionate about."

Tiemann's own passion is new markets. "We're still working to expand China, but markets are constantly evolving from where they were 20, 15, even 10 years ago. Will the next opportunity be Africa? India?

"That's what I'm excited about at the council."

The uncertainty of a Farm Bill is also a concern for the U.S. Grains Council who utilizes FMD/MAP funds to develop these foreign markets, as well as funds from corn, sorghum and barley checkoffs. One more reason we need a Farm Bill Now!

December 11, 2013

Nebraska commodities join to urge farmers, comment on EPA ethanol-reduction proposal


farmer-computerThe leaders of Nebraska’s commodity groups and membership associations have joined in an urgent call to action to Nebraska farmers to get vocal—and angry—about recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would reduce the nation’s commitment to renewable fuels.

In a joint statement, the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Wheat Board and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association expressed great disappointment and concern regarding the recent proposal from the EPA to reduce the required amount of conventional biofuels (mainly corn and sorghum based ethanol) in the nation’s fuel supply.   EPA proposes to adjust the conventional biofuel requirements in Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed by Congress downward by some 1.4 billion gallons for 2014.

The groups also strongly urged Nebraska crop farmers to submit comment to the EPA expressing their displeasure with the proposed renewable fuels reduction.  The 60-day comment period began on Friday, November 29, 2013.

A portal has been established on the Nebraska Corn Board website at, which links directly to a comment submission form and suggested verbiage on the National Corn Growers Association’s website.


“Agriculture was placed in this unstable position by EPA when they released their proposed cuts of the RFS,” said Tim Scheer of St. Paul, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.  “It is absolutely imperative that farmers get engaged during the 60-day comment period if we have any prayer of getting EPA to rescind this proposal.   All the work and investment that Nebraska corn farmers have put into building the ethanol industry is at risk.   We’ve already seen corn prices drift downward—almost to the cost of production.”

Nebraska Soybean Association president Ken Boswell of Shickley said, “This proposal plays right into the hands of the oil industry, which has been pulling out all the stops to prevent loss of market share to renewable fuels such as ethanol and soy biodiesel,” he said.  “By weakening our nation’s commitment to sustained growth of renewable fuels, EPA is saying that increased energy security, cleaner air, domestic jobs and consumer choice don’t matter as much as oil company profits.”

Dayton Christensen of Big Springs, president of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association, said the robust rural economy for the past few years—spurred in part by the RFS—has been good for all sectors of agriculture. “It doesn’t matter if you grow corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans or sugar beets, the RFS has helped create greater demand for ag products, improved on-farm profitability and helped rejuvenate rural communities,” he said.  ” We’ve seen young people returning to participate in this rebirth of agriculture—and farmers are able to invest in more technology to grow even more with less to meet global demand.”

Don Bloss of Pawnee City, president of the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, said, “It might be expected that farmers would be upset about this—and we are—but every American should be angry as well,” he said.  “The RFS is federal policy that has actually done exactly what it was supposed to do—and we should stay the course in order to increase the diversity of our nation’s transportation fuel supply and help keep down costs at the pump.”

Last week, three Nebraska corn farmers were among those testifying at an EPA hearing on the proposal.   Nebraska Corn Board vice-chairman Curt Friesen of Henderson, Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) president Joel Grams of Minden, and NeCGA member Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner all spoke in opposition to the EPA proposal.

“The economic vitality that the RFS has spurred in rural America extends well beyond my farm. I see the impact of increased tax revenue for our county to build roads and provide services. I see main street businesses with customers in the aisles. I see entrepreneurs starting new ventures— many of which are based in agriculture and food production,” Friesen said during his testimony.  “And I have seen young farmers returning to agriculture, such as my daughter and son-in-law.”

December 4, 2013

Beef cow herd to turn around?


It appears that the pieces are all in place to finally turn around the U.S. beef cow herd, according to a recent report from The Daily Livestock Report.  There are a number of important pieces but two are critical:

  • Strong calf prices.

imageIn the chart to the right, calf prices are bumping into record levels once again as stocker operations look to place cattle on wheat pasture and feedlots try to secure their share of the tight calf supply.

The supply of cattle outside of feedlots was estimated to be slightly larger last January 1 but much of that 0.6% increase was likely due to delayed placements due to high feed costs. A beef cow herd that was 2.9% smaller, yr/yr, on January 1 has almost certainly produced about that many fewer calves this year and ongoing heifer retention has tightened things even more. No wonder calf — and feeder — prices are this high.

  • Plentiful grass.

NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor map for November 26 shows only 13.8% of the U.S. having drought conditions rated as severe or worse. That compares to 34.7% one year ago and 35.2% on January 1, 2013. Just three months ago (late August), nearly 30% of the U.S. was in droughts rated as sever and worse. It is clear that some cow-calf areas (western Kansas, Nebraska, California) are still quite dry but much of the critical cow-calf country
from Texas northward through Missouri and eastward all the way to Florida are in pretty good shape. The Livestock Marketing Information Center reports that as of October 27, the date of USDA’s last crop and pasture conditions ratings for 2013, states with only 15.1% of the nation’s beef cow herd had 40% of their acres rated in either poor or very poor condition. One year ago that number was an astonishing 70.8%. States with nearly 48% of the nation’s beef cows had at least 40% of their acres rated in good or excellent conditions this year. That number was only 21% one year ago. Improved pasture conditions go hand in hand with lower grain and protein supplement costs to leave production
costs significantly lower than last year.

What cow-calf operators want to do from a economic standpoint and what Mother Nature allows them to do are frequently two different things — but not this year. A strong profit incentive and sufficient resources are driving beef herd expansion!