August 28, 2014

Proud to represent Nebraska in international agriculture


By Bryan Brower, US Grains Council Intern

[Bryan%2520Brower%252C%2520USGC-DC%255B6%255D.jpg]I can’t believe that my summer with USGC has already come to an end. I had an absolutely fantastic time, I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience. Interning for the U.S. Grains Council in their Washington, D.C. headquarters gave me a unique insight at how this international non-governmental organization operates and the industry and stakeholders they work to serve. I walk away from my summer with the Grains Council with my first experiences with agriculture and international trade. There is a certain sense of pride to represent a good portion of my fellow Nebraskans and advocate for their concerns and interests on the international level. Along with being able to check living in D.C. off my bucket list, I had an unbelievable experience.

IMG_1014There have been a lot of new developments and transitions at USGC since I have last posted. From USGC annual board of delegates meeting to one of my supervisor’s promotion, Marri Carrow, formerly the Director of Communications, promoted to Regional Director for Latin America. The Council has new leadership in Ron Gray along with a new set of delegates and of course the ever-expanding list of member organizations. All this on top of my special project, arranging for an 11-day, 3-state tour for a 9-person trade team from Taiwan, made for quite a hectic last month at the Council.

Ironically enough, the board of delegates meeting this time was in Omaha which allowed me to travel for the meeting, something other interns have previously not had the opportunity to do. Something all past USGC interns have shared in was all the work that goes into hosting a 300-plus annual meeting at a USGC Omaha BOD meetingconference center in a different city. Helping to coordinate the meeting gave me the opportunity to really see what all goes into maintaining positive member relations. Then having the chance to actually be in attendance for the meeting and learn about some of the emerging opportunities and potential threats and concerns really gave me, someone who before this summer had no real exposure to anything agriculturally related, both a broad and intricate understanding of the industry. After the Omaha meeting, I got the chance to work a couple smaller projects for the new Director of Communications, Melissa Kessler. As a new member of the USGC staff she brought with her new ideaIMG_1028s and a fresh perspective which translated into many new and sometimes exploratory initiatives. It was my job to conduct the first bit of feasibility research and sort of bring everyone up to speed, so to speak, on many of these new projects. This included everything from researching which communication tactics and mediums are most effective with farmers to how to conduct the best return on investment study for USGC. My special project also required quite a bit of my time, from planning meetings and tours to arranging for hotels and transportation.

On top of all this, I had a great experience being a young (semi)professional living in the nation’s capitol, the world’s center for everything politics. I can’t say enough about the adjustment to move away from all my friends and family and live in a new ciadrian smithty, one that is bigger than any I have ever previously lived in, I might add. The experience of finding your way and making new friends is a skill I am realizing to be extremely vital to an increasingly global and connected world. D.C. gave me a fresh perspective about what makes Nebraska special but what maybe was the most inspiring thing about my D.C. experience from what I gathered from talking with other ag-interns and young professionals in general. I see most people of my \ genuinely want to work together in a more altruistic way in the political and social sphere to enact meaningful change. Everyone seems to be on the same page that our generation will see tremendous change both domestically and internationally. There will be a number of issues that will require people coming together to overcome extreme sources of inertia. The world we live in will look drastically different over the next 50 years and we are the ones who will shape it in the best way possible.

August 27, 2014

Governor Heineman proclaims September as Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska


blenderpump_3The month of September has been declared as Renewable Fuels Awareness month in Nebraska by Governor Dave Heineman. Renewable Fuels Month aims to celebrate Nebraska’s renewable fuels industry and its positive contributions to Nebraska and our citizens.

The proclamation was coordinated through the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board. The two organizations will celebrate the proclamation with a campaign geared at educating Nebraskans about renewable fuels through a four-part series of news releases to be published during September.

“Nebraska is the Golden Triangle.  We grow the corn and soybeans, raise the livestock and produce the renewable fuels,” said Gov. Heineman. “Renewable fuels provide many benefits to our state including developing rural communities, creating jobs, providing a locally produced homegrown fuel for consumers, and more.”

In Nebraska, ethanol is blended with nearly 90% of all fuel and this number continues to increase each year.  There are over 180,000 flex fuel vehicles in the state and one in ten Nebraska motorists drives a flex fuel vehicle.  

Last year, renewable fuels reduced the nation’s need for imported oil by over 462 million barrels of crude oil - and 1.1 billion gallons of imported petroleum diesel. Biodiesel was named America’s first Advanced Biofuel and has continuously exceeded the production benchmarks set forth by the EPA.

DSC_0083One of the co-products from ethanol production is distillers grains, which plays a key role in the Nebraska agricultural economy.  “We are fortunate in Nebraska that livestock producers can use distillers grains co-products from ethanol production as a high-value feed,” said Tim Scheer, a farmer from St. Paul and chair of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Only the starch portion of the kernel is used to make ethanol. The protein, fiber, and fat portions still remain for the livestock.”

Terry Horky, a farmer from Sargent, Nebraska and chair of the Domestic Marketing committee for the Nebraska Soybean Board said as Nebraska farmers head out to harvest this year’s crops, over half will be fueling their equipment with a soy biodiesel blend.

“Farmers use renewable fuels like soy biodiesel because of the many benefits it has for engines,” said Horky. “But also because soy biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced by farmers right here in America.”

The four-part series to be released by the Corn and Soybean Boards during September will focus on: renewable, homegrown energy that can be used in food, fuel and feed; providing a consumer choice that is better for your engines and the environment; the “Golden Triangle”; and blend choices and where consumers can fill up with renewable fuels.

August 25, 2014

Water: Making every drop count


 Corn field and center pivot irrigation in south central Nebraska. July, 2010. Photo by Craig Chandler / University CommunicationsNebraska’s diverse landscape progresses from lush, fertile crop ground in the east to the temperate Sandhills in the west. This change in scenery is attributed in large part to differences in the amount of rainfall and the water available to grow a variety of crops. Thanks to innovative agricultural practices, Nebraska corn and soybean farmers are making every drop of water count.

Since rainfall varies so much across the state, many farmers depend on irrigation during the summer months to help supplement moisture deficiencies. To help put the variation into perspective, the amount of rainfall changes more from Omaha to Scottsbluff than it does from Washington D.C. to Omaha.

Water for Food

Three quarters of the planet is covered by water; but less than one percent of the water on earth is available for human use. Water is critically important to farmers and ranchers. In fact, 70 percent of the water available to humans worldwide is used to produce food. Nebraska farmers irrigate nearly 8.5 million acres, more than any other state in the country. And new tools are allowing farmers to use water more efficiently, ensuring clean water for future generations.

“We know that many consumers have questions about the water it takes to grow crops like corn and soybeans,” said Drew Guiney, consumer relations specialist for the Nebraska Soybean Board. “We want people to know that farmers need water, but they’re also dedicated to continuing to improve their practices to ensure a clean, plentiful supply for generations to come.”


Smart Water

The purpose of irrigation is to supplement rainfall as needed. Many farmers are now adopting technologies that allow them to use less water. By pulling local weather data and installing water sensors in their fields, farmers can know not only when it’s time to irrigate, but also exactly how much water should be applied. Sustainable technologies like these are helping farmers produce more grain while using fewer resources and helping to keep the water supply clean and plentiful for you and your family.

Some of these technologies include the SoyWater and CornWater Irrigation Management Tools released by University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These programs are online, real-time decision support tools that help farmers determine when to irrigate fields in Nebraska. Both programs were developed with the help of the Nebraska Soybean Board and the Nebraska Corn Board.

To make irrigation recommendations, these tools evaluate several situations in the real-time, such as available soil water at different soil depths and possible water stress based on up-to-date weather data. Other factors include user-input crop information (including date of planting, hybrid maturity, plant population), and basic soil properties (including soil texture, soil water status at planting time, soil rooting depth, and soil surface residue coverage rate).

“Just as farmers adopted the use of pivots and sub-surface drip versus flood irrigation to increase efficiencies, they are now taking the next steps in conservation tillage, water mark sensors, and online decision support tools to continue in their quest to maximize the amount of yield per drop”, stated Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board.  “Farmers see this adoption of technology as just a step in their sustainability of producing corn and soybeans for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

Center Pivot irrigation on soybean fields in York and Filmore counties on August 25, 2010.  Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communications

August 21, 2014

Corn progress well ahead of last year


Chase County (3)For the week ending August 17, 2014, rain in the central part of the State helped reduce the need for irrigation, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Dryland crops in areas that did not receive rain were showing stress. Cooler weather in the eastern part of the State slowed crop development, while warmer temperatures in the west helped dry down hay. There were 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 31 short, 61 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 11 percent very short, 32 short, 57 adequate, and 0 surplus.

Corn conditions rated 3 percent very poor, 6 poor, 21 fair, 50 good, and 20 excellent. Corn dough was 78 percent, well ahead of 64 last year, but near 75 for the five-year average. Corn dented was 20 percent, ahead of 10 last year, but behind 29 average.

See more crop progress pictures on our Flickr album. Chase County (6)Chase County (1)Chase County (8)Chase County (10)

August 20, 2014

VIDEO: Kernels of Truth - Beyond Bt


In our previous two GMO videos, we talked about what GMOs are and why they are safe.

In this video we’re going to look at some uncommon, or at least lesser-known uses of biotechnology that can benefit everyone from Indiana to India.

Bt and Roundup Ready hybrids have allowed farmers to use fewer pesticides and herbicides, respectively. But this is not where the environmental benefits of modern biotechnology stop. Scientists in Indiana have inserted a gene into a poplar tree that allows it to clean up soil and groundwater pollution by breaking down and metabolizing the pollutants.

On the human health front, biotechnology also has significant potential to help fight disease in the developing world. Have you heard of “Golden Rice”? Learn how biotechnology can lead to preventing deaths in developing countries and more in the Kernels of Truth – Beyond Bt video.

Watch now!

Watch more videos on GMOs:

Kernels of Truth - What are GMOs?

Kernels of Truth - GMO Safety

August 18, 2014

Nebraska Corn Board welcomes Boone McAfee on staff


The Nebraska Corn Board is pleased to announce that Boone McAfee has joined its staff as Director of Market Development & Research.

In this role, McAfee will work on behalf of Nebraska corn farmers and industry to expand market opportunities for Nebraska corn and value-added products both domestically and internationally. He will co-manage the Board’s research programs and establish a working relationship with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and others conducting research on various aspects of corn and its value-added industries to further the use, efficiency, sustainability and development.  McAfee will also manage a database of Nebraska corn statistics.

"I look forward to Boone joining our team of staff that has a combined 73 years of agricultural experience," said Kelly Brunkhorst, Nebraska Corn Board’s new executive director. “With his diverse Nebraska agriculture background, his education and proven leadership, Boone will be a great addition to our staff.  With market development and research being two of the four key ‘pillars’ of the Nebraska corn checkoff, I look forward to Boone leading and expanding our efforts in these two areas.”

McAfee grew up on his family farm near Leigh, Nebraska. He earned a B.S. in agricultural economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he was involved as a student ambassador for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, a research assistant in the agricultural economics department and a teacher’s assistant in the agronomy department. He also held internships with Farm Credit Serves of America and Dow AgroSciences/Mycogen Seeds.

"I am very excited to be joining the Nebraska Corn Board staff,” said McAfee. “Having grown up on my family's farm in Nebraska, I consider it a huge opportunity to support the agriculture industry through research and promotion of one of the state's most valuable resources.  I look forward to working alongside and learning from the team on staff, the board members, and Nebraska's corn farmers.”

McAfee started his new position on August 11.

August 15, 2014

A Well-Experienced Summer


Abigal Wehrbein, USMEF-DenverBy Abigail Wehrbein, USMEF intern

This summer has been one to remember. I have had one of the best opportunities a college junior could ever experience. I had to grow up fast, but the things I learned living on my own in a bigger city like Denver, will prepare me for the rest of my life.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the projects I worked on this last summer. I was currently setting up a photo shoot at Tyson for the photos I will be using in the export beef poster and cut guidebook I am designing.

My supervisor and I finally traveled to Dakota City, NE with our photographer, Joe Mendoza, to the Tyson Corporate Offices. I had a great experience being a food stylist for the day in preparing the raw beef cuts to be photographed. Who knew meat could be so photogenic? abby

The next week back in Denver, we sat down with our graphic designer and started to plan out how we wanted everything to look. This involved me designing layouts for the cut guidebook and finding pictures of plated cooked beef. Although my internship came to an end, I will keep in touch with my supervisor and the graphic designer until we receive the finished product.

clip_image004Before I made the eight-hour drive back to Nebraska, I did some last minute sight seeing with my boyfriend in Wyoming. We rented an Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport Side-by-Side for the day and raced along the rocky trails in the mountains of Cinnabar Park around Albany and Centennial. It was a great way to wrap up my summer and although we didn’t see many animals, there were several spectacular views.

I met many people through my internship and made countless connections I plan to keep for years to come. I am so thankful for everything that happened and the Nebraska Corn Board for this summer. I encourage anyone to develop more experience and apply for the Nebraska Corn Board internships. Lastly, the mountains may be beautiful, but I am glad to be back surrounded by miles of cornfields again in Nebraska.


August 7, 2014

VIDEO: Kernels of Truth–GMO Safety


Are GMOs really safe for humans and the environment?

The answer is not just yes, but in some cases, more so than non-GMOs. Let’s take a closer look.

There have been over 1,700 reputable studies on GMO safety by organizations like the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and the food regulatory bodies of numerous governments, including the United States and the European Union.

Every one of these studies has shown GMO foods to be just as safe as non-GMOs. The only time a study ever showed a difference in safety, it actually found the GMO to be safer. This is not surprising, considering they go through years of testing by the FDA, USDA, and EPA before being sold, in order to assure they’re absolutely safe for human consumption and our environment.

Watch our short video to learn more about GMO safety.

If you missed the first video, What are GMOs?, watch it now!

August 6, 2014

Irrigating Season Continues


LINCOLN, NE- For the week ending August 3, 2014, cooler temperatures limited moisture demands of non-irrigated crops. However, another week of only scattered rainfall stressed dryland crops and pastures, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Irrigation continued non-stop in many areas.

Wheat harvest was near completion with only
northern Panhandle fields remaining. The dry
conditions also supported hay harvest.

The number of days considered suitable for fieldwork were 6.7. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 10 percent very short, 39 short, 51 adequate, and 0 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 12 percent very short, 31 short, 57 adequate, and 0 surplus.

 Corn conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 6 poor, 20 fair, 52 good, and 20 excellent. Corn silking was 94 percent, near 91 last year and equal to the average. Corn dough was 42 percent, well ahead of 13 last year and 32 average.

 Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and UNL Extension Service.

August 1, 2014

Urge EPA to Revise Proposed WOTUS Rule


The National Corn Growers Association is urging all farmers to contact EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy advocating for a revision of the proposed Waters of the U.S. rulemaking. 

As proposed, this rule would significantly expand the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and would only further muddy the waters for farmers seeking clarity as to what is and what is not subject to federal regulation.

NCGA has many serious concerns regarding the impact the proposed rule could have on U.S. farmers.  NCGA's concerns fall into four main areas:

  1. Farmers will face tremendous uncertainty because of the way the rule defines what is a tributary and what is an adjacent water subject to the Clean Water Act. 
  2. The proposed rule represents a significant expansion of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction relative to anything that has ever been covered in a previous rulemaking and contradicts two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  3. The vast numbers of ditches that would be subject to federal jurisdiction.
  4. Farmers will be required to obtain NPDES permits or face the threat of citizen action suits challenging the use of fertilizers and pesticides on or near drainage features that are made jurisdictional. 

Click here to take action now.

Read more about WOTUS here, here, here and here: Nebraska Ag Groups Say No to EPA's Water Rule.