March 31, 2014

USDA Report Indicates Corn Stocks Up, Prospective Planted Acres Down


Young corn plants are highlighted by the evening sun in Sarpy County. Photo by Craig Chandler / University CommunicationsAmerican farmers expect to plant 3.7 million fewer acres of corn in 2014, a four percent decrease from 2013, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Prospective Plantings report released today.   If realized, total corn plantings in the United States would total 91.7 million acres for the lowest planted acreage since 2010. Notably, it would still be the fifth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted since 1944.

In Nebraska, the report projected the state would plant 9.4 million acres, 94 percent of the previous year’s planted acres of 9.95 million acres.

"In 2013, U.S. farmers produced a record crop abundant enough to meet all needs and provide an ample carry over into 2014," National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said.  "While it is still early in the season and many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, the public can rest assured that bountiful stockpiles and adequate plantings will ensure our corn security for the year to come."

The USDA's estimate for 2014 is for 91.7 million acres to be planted in field corn.  Assuming the five-year average 83.9 percent harvest rate holds and the projected trend yield of 159.4 bushels per acre is achieved, farmers will harvest 13.37 billion bushels. 

Some states are expected to increase corn planting including Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts and Utah. If projections hold, Idaho would plant a record acreage to corn this year. The actual number of planted acres will be released in USDA's June 30 report.

In the Grain Stocks report, also released this morning, USDA shows corn stocks in all positions stood at more than seven billion bushels on March 1, 2014, up 30 percent from the same time last year.  Both figures for on- and off-farm corn in storage stood higher than at this time last year, up 45 and 15 percent respectively. In total, USDA shows 3.45 billion bushels of corn used between December and February, compared with 2.63 over the same period in 2013.

March 26, 2014

Know Before You Grow


Visit Know Before You Grow to Avoid Unwanted Surprises at Harvest

PrintAs planting season gets underway in southern parts of the country, the National Corn Growers Association reminds growers to visit the "Know Before Your Grow" website. The newly revamped site offer growers important new information to help inform planting decisions in light of the release of new seed varieties currently unapproved in some export markets.

"In a globalized agricultural economy, it is important that farmers understand the delicate balance that must be struck between ensuring access to the technologies while also safeguarding export markets remain open to U.S. corn," said NCGA Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team Chair Jim Zimmerman. "The balance is especially challenging in the case of China since the  country already has an asynchronous approval system for biotech traits. This is only compounded as China has currently fallen behind even their normal asynchronous approval timelines. While we must make vigorous efforts to maintain market access, farmers should remain aware of the importance role these products play in effectively facing problems caused by biological stressors. Both biotechnology and export markets play a key role in maintaining profitability. Making decisions based in solid information will be key to maintaining profitability moving forward."

NCGA stands solidly true to its policy in maintaining all new events must have approval in the United States and Japan prior to release. Additionally, the trait provider must be actively pursuing approval in all other markets for U.S. corn.

Click here or go to to learn more.

March 25, 2014

National Ag Day


Consider this: just about everything we eat, wear and use comes from American agriculture. That’s why Americans will be learning more about agriculture today on National Ag Day.

For farmers, every day is ag day. But let’s celebrate today what farmers and those working in agriculture do for us.

Agriculture:365 sunrises and 7 billion mouths to feed. Celebrate!

2014 ag day

Tweet us, @NECornBoard, about how you’re celebrating Ag Day!

March 24, 2014

Nebraska’s Advantage


imageIs the Nebraska Advantage of crop, livestock, and biofuel production operating at its full potential?

One concern is that Nebraska still exports high proportions of its crop output as commodities. Also, Nebraska is falling behind neighboring states, particularly in hog, dairy, and poultry numbers.

Despite advantages for livestock production in Nebraska, the industry has not grown in the past two decades at rates comparable to neighboring states.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has published a Livestock Industry White Paper to explore the issues and policies that have constrained livestock development in the state and the economic benefits that accompany livestock expansion.

The purpose of this report is to provide an ongoing factual understanding of the industry changes impacting Nebraska — identifying both threats to and opportunities for future economic viability.

Nebraska ranks:

  • 1st in commercial red meat production 
  • 1st in commercial cattle slaughter
  • 2nd in cattle and calves cash receipts
  • 3rd in meat animals cash receipts
  • 4th in all livestock and products cash receipts
  • 4th in beef cows and heifers calved
  • 6th in all hogs and pigs produced

Read the full report, here.

March 19, 2014

Family Farming in Brazil

Debbie Borg, Nebraska Corn Board member from Allen, Nebraska, sends this post from the current mission to Brazil:

2014-03-15 07.46.31We had the opportunity to spend half a day with a 3rd generation  farmer at the Cascata Farm, a centurion farm founded in 1915.

It is a 1,100 hectares (or 1100 x 2.5 = 2750 aces).  They grow around 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of coffee (100% Arabica coffee which is the highest quality), 200 hectares (500 acres) of sugarcane with is leased to the area sugar mill and 100 hectares (250 acres) of corn.

Most of the corn is used for what is called, “renewing” in the coffee area.  One row of corn is planted between new coffee trees.  This serves as a windbreak for the new coffee seedlings.  This row of corn is hand harvested and then run through their combine.

We learned that coffee is a biannual plant and only harvested every other year.   We saw coffee trees that were from 1 to 15 years old.  A new coffee seedling doesn’t start producing until it is 2 1/2 years old.  We were told that there are 100 year old coffee trees in the area.

Here is a new and old coffee harvester.
2014-03-15 08.23.22   2014-03-15 08.30.45
The main topic amongst the farmers is the drought they are experiencing. The worst they have seen in over 50 years.  And because coffee is a biannual plant, not only is this year’s crop going to be short but next year’s crop is also being affected.

The interesting comment heard from the farm mom was, “In the United States, the farm family does the labor.”  The Cascata Farm place was home to 25 families that live and work on the farm but the farm owner family does not live on the farm - except to spend the weekend (Friday - Sunday) at the farm.  Plus they had about 50 additional workers that are bused in each day with more labor was hired during the coffee harvest.

In addition to crops, they had dairy cows and produced just 400 liters a day and a small feedlot to background cattle.
2014-03-15 10.49.39

March 18, 2014

March Corn Products Spotlight: Diapers

Where would babies be without corn? This was the article title for one of my most recent discoveries. Each month I research a product that contains corn and publish an informative blog post. Most months I type in a specific product but for March I decided to switch it up, I simply did a Google search for “products that contain corn”. I must admit that the title “Where would babies be without corn?” was not what I was expecting to see at the top of the list. Naturally, I was intrigued by this title and decided to give the article a shot, here is a quick summary of what I learned.

Cornstarch is a mother’s miracle, by this I mean the creation of disposable diapers has saved mothers everywhere countless hours of cleaning cloth diapers. Cornstarch has and incredible ability to absorb liquids and therefore is used in diaper production. The absorbent layer found in modern-day diapers is typically made with acrylic acid. Acrylic acid is a component of ethylene which is a derivative of corn. Cornstarch is not only used in diapers but is usually a main ingredient of baby powder.

You do not have to search hard to find these special corn diapers; in fact you would have to search far and wide to find diapers that don’t contain corn products. The more I have researched corn products the more it has sunk in that we really are living in a world of corn. As for me, I enjoy the common things in life that are made possible by corn. Our country is truly blessed to have hard working farmers and ranchers that provide us with many of the common resources that we often take for granted!

Brazil Research Focused on Ethanol Efficiency


20140311_152539_resizedNebraska Corn Board member Dennis Gengenbach of Smithfield, Nebraska, submits this post from the current fact-finding mission to Brazil:

Ethanol production in Brazil is significantly different from what we have in Nebraska.

The trip to the Brazilian Bioethanol & Science Laboratory was a learning experience. In the past, sugarcane was burned to remove the sharp leaves and leave the stalks behind, which contain the sugar. Because of environmental concerns, the Brazilian government banned burning and forced the growers to manually remove the leaves and cut the stems off to harvest the sugarcane—a monumental, labor-intensive process.

Mechanical equipment is being used in some areas; however, only one row of sugarcane is harvested at a time. One of the projects being conducted at the lab will develop a machine to accomplish the sugarcane harvest more than one row at a time.

After learning about the genomics and harvesting process, it was a fascinating experience to see sugarcane planting in the field. They have to till the dirt to prepare the soil. Without tilling the soil is too hard and the sugarcane root won’t be able to grow and nutrients can’t reach the plant.

They till about one meter or three feet down. It is also common practice to cover the sugarcane stalk that is planted in the ground (which becomes the plant) by hand with dirt. During planting, ash, lime, and phosphorus are applied. This is the only time nutrients are given to the plant. Although there may be a more efficient process of planting sugarcane, much of the work is done by hand.

The United States is much more advanced in farming practices and is continuously looking for ways to improve these practices. Although Brazil is advancing, it is at a much slower pace.

Tomorrow we are off to the largest sugarcane mill in Brazil. They harvest 800 million tons per year.

PHOTO ABOVE: Dennis Gengenbach of the Nebraska Corn Board (left) talks with representatives from the Bioethanol Science & Technology Laboratory in Brazil.

March 17, 2014

Biofuels Lessons from Brazil


photo 1Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, sends this post from the current mission to Brazil:

Hola de Ribeirao Preto, Brazil!  It is Sunday morning and we are on a domestic flight up to Brasilia. It has been a very enlightening, busy week.

So far we have been to Delphi Powertain Systems, the Case IH manufacturing plant— which was an interesting experience itself-—with the scores of squeegees that came out after 4 inches of rain fell in a matter of 45 minutes. The rainfall was so heavy the gutter system couldn't keep up and the plant floor was covered in water. Nearly every employee grabbed a squeegee and started pushing the water down drains. For safety reasons we couldn't see or watch any tractors being assembled.

We have also visited with sugarcane farmers, watched sugarcane being planted, toured a peanut processing facility, and visited a livestock farm.

Here are the top three areas that we see the United States improving based on what we have seen and heard so far on this trip:

1. To stay ahead of international competition, we need to expand ethanol exports to other countries especially targeting China to reduce pollution.

2. Expand distillers exports. The ethanol production in the United States isn't expected to decrease—and we don't want it to—so we need to expand distillers exports.

3. There are large areas of Brazil that still are arable but undeveloped. They have the capacity to expand ethanol production with their second-generation technology and their closed loop technology—producing electricity, using the bagasse (one of the byproducts) to operate the plant. We need our ethanol, especially second-generation ethanol, to remain sustainable.

The week in Brazil has been busy and we haven't yet visited with Brazil USDA-FAS, the Brazilian corn growers association, and other government officials. I think the best is yet to come!


A sugarcane planting machine in Brazil. Sugar cane is the primary feedstock for ethanol production in Brazil.

March 14, 2014

Ag Sack Lunch program going strong


ag sack lunch 2014The fourth annual Ag Sack Lunch program moves into the second semester of the 2013-14 season with a full schedule of events now through the end of the school year.

By the end of May, 5,000 Nebraska fourth-graders will have taken part in the 2013-14 program, which is designed to reach students and their families about where their food comes from and the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy.

The program makes use of the fact that over 20,000 students visit the State Capitol Building in Lincoln as part of their fourth-grade curriculum. Teachers are invited to sign up their classes for the program when they visit the State Capitol. The program is sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board (NSB), the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and the Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA).

Sponsored events include a free sack lunch, which features nutritious foods produced in Nebraska, a 20-minute presentation by “Ag Ambassadors” on the vital role agriculture plays in the state’s economy, and a fact-filled card game that students can take home, which helps carry the ag-centered message home to their families.

Ag Ambassadors are UNL students typically from rural towns and farms in Nebraska and are specifically trained to make these presentations.

Ag Ambassadors for the spring 2014 semester and their home towns: Morgan Zumpfe, Friend; Meridith Gross-Rhode, North Bend; Jennifer Keyes, Springfield; Valerie Kesterson, Bridgeport; Abigail Wehrbein, Plattsmouth; Hannah Gaebel, Ashland; Lacey Uden, Juniata; Emilia Woeppel, Firth; Emma Likens, Swanton; and Courtney Schaardt, Table Rock.

March 13, 2014

Brazil Biofuels Mission – Every gallon of gas includes ethanol.

A delegation from Nebraska is currently on a mission to Brazil to gather information on that nation's agricultural prowess and its leadership in ethanol. The Nebraska delegation joins other farmers and corn state staff from Iowa, Indiana and Ohio.

The purpose of the mission is to monitor South America’s future capacity to compete and/or partner with Midwestern agriculture in servicing worldwide energy and livestock markets as well as see the country during sugarcane harvest and processing.

IMG_0164This post comes from Debbie Borg, Nebraska Corn Board member from Allen, Nebraska.

“After a very long 12-hour plane ride, we arrived to begin our Brazil mission.

My first major finding is that every gallon of gas sold in Brazil contains no less than 25% sugar cane ethanol.

Read that again…..EVERY gallon of gas sold in Brazil contains at least 25% ethanol. And yes, they drive many of the same cars and trucks that we do.

So why is there so much push back in the USA at only a 10% ethanol blend?
And 25% ethanol is just the beginning as many Brazilians use from 25% to 100% ethanol. This has been the norm for the past 40 years.

So I say that 200 million Brazilians can¹t be wrong. Ethanol can work in any vehicle.”IMG_0033IMG_0128IMG_0166

March 10, 2014

2013 World of Corn Offers Online Facts and Figures

 U.S. corn farmers soared to new heights in 2013, growing the largest crop on record, at 13.9 billion bushels. To celebrate these heroics, the National Corn Growers Association delves into the facts about corn production, use and offers a historical comparison in its newest edition of the World of Corn. This statistical look at the corn industry, both domestic and worldwide, features a wide array of information on corn production and usage. In addition to the traditional statistics guide, this year's distribution included a compendium edition which brought back Captain Cornelius for an educational comic exploring how corn benefits our world in so many ways.

"In 2013, America's farmers showed how, with resilience and resolve, they truly are heroes," NCGA President Martin Barbre and Chief Executive Officer Rick Tolman note in the introduction. "Following a year of record drought and confronting a late, wet planting season, these strong, independent men and women worked tirelessly to plant a crop that would produce an unparalleled abundance. Their hard work and determination provide our nation with the corn that fuels our economy, feeds our people and drives innovation. Exhibiting both character and excellence, corn farmers provide the uniquely American crop that drives our country's unequaled success."

World of Corn is a respected collection of the most important statistics about corn production, exports and consumption, providing key information in a readable format, comparing numbers and trends across the years.

Again this year, NCGA proudly offers an interactive online presentation of the World of Corn that allows users to easily locate information or to explore the limitless possibilities the crop offers at their leisure. The format offers improved navigability with an elegant user interface. Additionally, a digital version of the Captain Cornelius Corn Day Celebration comic can be found online also.

To explore the World of Corn online, click here.

To enjoy an adventure through a Corn Day Celebration with Captain Cornelius, click here.

This year's publication, which was generously co-sponsored by Monsanto, was distributed in select Farm Futures publications and at the 2014 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. A special edition of the World of Corn featuring statistics in metric measurements will soon follow.

March 4, 2014

Putting a new face on food


Consumer skepticism about food system demonstrates need for farmers to engage.

Some 95% of corn farms in America are family-owned. Still, more and more consumers believe the majority of their food is being produced by large corporate farms.

According to Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center for Food Integrity, consumers have become increasingly interested in food. “Food is on the consumer radar— big time,” he said. “There is also an increased skepticism regarding food production.”

Arnot said that consumers are deeply conflicted about food. There is a low correlation between what consumers say concerns them and their actual buying behavior. “While many consumers support greater regulation that can lead to higher food costs, they will still buy the least-cost product. In fact, one out of four dollars spent in retail food is spent at Wal-Mart stores.”

While one might think that food safety would be at the top of the list of consumer concerns, affordability of healthy food actually holds the number one position. “Safety is an assumed given in the U.S. food supply,” Arnot said. “It’s the one fundamental, non-negotiable requirement of our food system in this country. But people most want access to healthy foods they can afford.”

The Center for Food Integrity recently conducted a nationwide survey to gauge consumer perceptions about the food system in the United States. The results indicate that consumers are less trusting of “corporate” food production and they are demanding a high degree of transparency from those who provide food for the marketplace. Arnot sees this as a challenge and an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to reach out to consumers.

“We’re not going to change what someone believes by providing them with data,” Arnot said. “Farmers and ranchers need to engage directly with consumers in honest conversations about food production. Agriculture has to embrace a much more radical idea of transparency.”

The Nebraska Corn Board supports a number of initiatives that connect food producers with food consumers, including CommonGround, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, Ag in the Classroom and several other consumer-focused programs.

Arnot said that putting a face on agriculture is critical to overcoming consumer concerns. “Shared values drive trust. When consumers see and sense that the farmers and ranchers growing their food feel the same way they do about important food production issues—that builds a connection and understanding that numbers and science simply cannot.”

This will be a long term process, Arnot said. “Agriculture is very results- oriented. When we see a problem, we want to have it fixed in the next production cycle. When it comes to consumer perceptions on food, it’s a generational challenge—and it will take years to establish a stronger connection between farmers and consumers.”

March 3, 2014

U.S. Agriculture Leaders Gather for USMEF Market Expo


A dozen leaders of state and national agriculture organizations from around the United States, including Nebraska Corn Board executive director, Don Hutchens and Nebraska Corn Board farmer-director and U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Chairman, Mark Jagels, embarked last week on a visit to the Middle East and Europe organized by the USMEF. The mission goal was to develop a deeper understanding of the potential of these two export markets for U.S. beef, pork and lamb.


The largest food industry trade show in the Middle East, the Gulfood Show in Dubai, is the first stop for the group, which includes representatives from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, United Soybean Board, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Iowa Corn Growers Association/Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Nebraska Corn Board, Montana Beef Council and Merck Animal Health.

“Gulfood is like the Oscars for our industry,” said John Chihade, president of Chihade International, Inc., an Atlanta-based exporter who has been exporting to the Middle East region for more than a decade and is participating in the 2014 show. “We get to see our customers and our vendors all in one location in a market that continues growing.”

Jagels-interview-hypermarket-US-Beef-DubaiThe Middle East region on display at Gulfood is a stable trading partner for the U.S. beef industry, the No. 4 market in volume during 2013 purchasing 147,696 metric tons of product valued at $276.2 million. The region combines Egypt, far and away the world’s leading market for U.S. beef variety meat, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is almost exclusively a market for U.S. muscle cuts and higher-value beef that grew 11 percent in value last year to $54.6 million. It is a smaller market for U.S. pork, although it grew 27 percent in volume and 50 percent in value last year, largely on sales to the UAE, which hosts numerous business travelers and tourists.

“I am here to try to get more American beef for my customers,” said Ahmed Hefni, general manager of the Egyptian Foundation for Import & Export. “All things being equal, U.S. beef is the only choice, of course, because of its high quality. But, price is always a consideration.”

Hefni noted the competition for his business from a range of countries including Canada, the European Union, Brazil, New Zealand and even India, who were among a range of beef producers with a large presence at Gulfood.

That sentiment was echoed by Thomas Das, vice chairman and managing director of FANTCO, a leading importer based in Dubai, who indicated that Australian beef is the primary competitor to the United States in the region, although the competition is based more on price than quality.

“The UAE is growing and has big potential for continued growth,” said Das, who noted that the consistent supply and quality of U.S. beef is an advantage that he used to help bring the product to an increasing number of high-profile outlets, including an estimated 110 five-star hotels in the region.

The Gulfood 2014 show, which runs through Feb. 27, includes 4,500 exhibiting companies and 120 national pavilions representing countries from the United States to Colombia to the Ukraine to Singapore. An estimated 80,000 visitors from 152 countries are expected to attend.

Halstrom-Jagels-Italy“Maybe 20 years ago, the Middle East wasn’t looked at as much of a volume market,” said Keith Obermiller who manages international sales for American Foods Group of Green Bay, Wis. “But the UAE is unique in this area. Its beef demand is more advanced and diverse, and disposable income continues to rise. And U.S. beef is very much appreciated here.”

In addition to attending the Gulfood Show, the team will receive briefings on the region from USMEF staff, meet with importers, distributors and retailers in the region, and travel to Europe for briefings on the market potential of the EU region and tours of several meat processing plants and livestock operations.

Read more on this mission by Global Meat News - US agricultural group to visit Middle East and Europe.