November 21, 2014

Corn harvest conversations

With the use of new technology - on the mobile phone and with GPS-driven combines - farmers are finding new ways to communicate during harvest.
And it's easy to follow the conversations with hashtags like #harvest14 or #cornharvest on Twitter.

By sharing images and short and quips, farmers are sharing more about the FARM TO FOOD story than they might realize. Anyone can find these tweets and by seeing the story from the actual farmer, it makes farming and food production  much more credible.

As of Monday, corn harvest in Nebraska was 91 percent complete, near 90 last year and 87 for the five-year average. Even though we are closing in on the end of November, harvest is still in full swing and near the 5-year average. With snow earlier this week, it slowed harvest some, but it didn't slow farmers too much as they are still persevering.

And when harvest is complete, farmers can use online resources for quick tips.
Good luck to Nebraska farmers finishing up harvest!

November 20, 2014

Big savings on ethanol flex fuels at U-Stop


If you're cool to flex fuel, you can fill up for less—a lot less—this coming Tuesday.

On Tuesday, November 25, flex fuel ethanol blends will be available at deep discounts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the U-Stop location at 84th & Highway 6 in Lincoln.  E85 will be discounted by 85¢ per gallon; E30 will be 30¢ less and E15 will be 15¢ off for the two-hour period.  Customers must be driving a flex fuel vehicle to fill up with these blends. Other restrictions apply. See store for details.

The flex fuel promotion is sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board in partnership with U-Stop. 

There are nearly 200,000 flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska, which can run on any blend of ethanol and ordinary gasoline up to E85, or 85 percent ethanol.  

"About one in seven Nebraskans is driving a flex fuel vehicle and many don't even realize it," said Kim Clark. "You might have a flex fuel insignia on your vehicle or you might have a yellow gas cap.  And you can always check your owner's manual to see if you're driving a flex fuel vehicle."

In addition to the at-the-pump discounts, flex fuel drivers will also receive discount coupons on future flex fuel purchases.  A number of in-store specials will also be available at U-Stop during the two-hour discount period.

November 19, 2014

"New Potatoes" of a GM variety

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals.

The USDA this month gave the Boise, Idaho-based company, J.R. Simplot Co. permission to begin commercial planting of its new spud, called the "Innate" potato. The company altered the potato's DNA so it produces less acrylamide, which is suspected to be a human carcinogen. Potatoes naturally produce the chemical when they're cooked at high temperatures.

The potato is also engineered to resist bruising, which can cause black spots in the potatoes, making them less desirable to buyers.

Simplot is a major supplier of french fries, hash browns and other potato products for restaurant chains like McDonald's Corp. However, McDonald’s didn’t respond positively.

"McDonald's USA does not source GMO potatoes, nor do we have current plans to change our sourcing practices," the company said in a statement.

But Simplot didn't create this GM potato product for McDonald's - or any fast food restaurant for that matter. 

Simplot spokesman Doug Cole didn't address the company's plans to sell to the fast-food industry or the dehydrated potato industry, which both have urged growers against planting GMO potatoes. But Cole said the fresh potato market would embrace Innate.

The potato joins only eight other crops that have been USDA-approved for commercial production in the U.S.: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash. This new option of growing GM potatoes shouldn’t be a scare to consumers. It is worth noting that no commercially available crops in the United States were created by nature alone. Humans, over our history, have altered all of our crops, often for taste or yield or disease resistance.

November 14, 2014

Nebraska Corn Board welcomes Emily Thornburg on staff

The Nebraska Corn Board is pleased to announce its newest team member, Emily Thornburg, who was hired as the Director of Communications on November 10. 

In this role, Thornburg will work on behalf of Nebraska corn farmers to expand marketing opportunities through communications, industry partnerships, program coordination, education and promotion. She will coordinate numerous corn promotion and education activities throughout the year. Thornburg will also manage Nebraska Corn Board’s social media along with various other communication outlets.

"We are excited to welcome Emily to the Corn Board team," said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Emily has proven to be a committed leader and advocate for Nebraska corn farmers, and is well qualified to lead Nebraska Corns’ communication and outreach efforts. With prior experience at Nebraska Corn Growers Association, in addition to a strong background in Nebraska agriculture, Emily has a thorough understanding of the industry and will be a great addition to our staff.”

Thornburg grew up on her family farm near Geneva, Nebraska. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and marketing. Upon graduation, she worked in marketing at ConAgra Mills. In the fall of 2013, Emily joined the Nebraska Corn team as the Program Director for the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. During her time there, Emily was responsible for the program coordination and membership servicing for the 2,600 member organization.

"I am very excited to be joining the Nebraska Corn Board staff,” said Thornburg. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to work on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn farmers.  I look forward to working closely with the wonderful board and staff as well as the industry partners to communicate the important story of Nebraska’s corn industry.”

November 13, 2014

Nebraska Corn Harvest 79% Complete

For the week ending November 9, 2014, warm conditions coupled with limited rainfall made for excellent harvest conditions, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Precipitation of a half inch or more fell early in the week across portions of the western Panhandle, but was non-existent elsewhere. Temperatures averaged 5 degrees above normal. Fall tillage and fertilizer applications were underway.
There were 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 32 short, 60 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 30 short, 61 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Corn harvested was 79 percent, near 80 last year and equal to the five-year average.

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

November 11, 2014

"PUMP" documentary on renewable fuels comes to Nebraska

Renewable fuels hit the big screen with a one-time screening of the documentary "Pump" at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. The 88-minute film will be shown at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

"Pump," narrated by Jason Bateman, explores America's dependence on oil and its effect on the economy. The documentary demonstrates how biofuels like ethanol offer consumers a cheaper, cleaner alternative to gasoline.

Following the screening, there will be a short panel discussion. Doug Durante, Clean Fuels Development Coalition executive director, and Dan Duncan, Nebraska Innovation Campus executive director, will discuss renewable energy and answer audience questions.

"Consumers aren't always aware of their fuel options at the pump and the impact their choice could have on the environment, economy and public health," said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. "We hope attendees leave the theater with a better understanding of biofuels and renewable energy."

"Pump" is being shown nationwide on a small scale and has received positive entertainment reviews.

"‘Pump' is quite entertaining, drawing together colorful archival footage, interviewed experts and ordinary folk, as well as sojourns to China (in the wake of its economic boom now the world's largest market for cars) and Brazil (whose shift to ethanol production brought prosperous energy dependence), in a lively, professional package," said Variety magazine.

"Pump" and the panel discussion are sponsored by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers and Urban Air Initiative. Admission is free and open to the public. Attendees should RSVP to to receive free popcorn with admittance.

November 10, 2014

Voters see GMO labeling measures on ballots

Last Tuesday was election day and three states had GMO labeling issues on their ballots.

Voters in Colorado and Oregon cast their ballots regarding labeling of genetically modified foods. The measures failed in both states. In Colorado, more than 67 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure, while in Oregon, the ballot measure was defeated by a narrow margin of 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. Most voters who cast a "no" vote cited concerns about higher food costs that labeling may create as their reason.

A measure in Maui County in Hawaii to impose a temporary ban on the cultivation of GMO crops, meanwhile, passed by a margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. The ban will remain in place until the county can fully assess the impact of GMOs on public health and the environment. Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, who both operate in the county, said they will challenge the moratorium.

Consumers took to social media to voice their opinions about the election results . While the majority of online conversations regarding the GMO labeling measures were from consumers based in the U.S., consumers globally joined in the discussions, with posts coming from Indonesia, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and beyond. Read more on the those who tweeted using the hashtag:  #GMOLabel.

This would be a great discussion for the Nebraska Corn Kernels blog readers: what are you views on GMO labeling?

November 4, 2014

Take time to vote for Nebraska agriculture today


What is the best part about Election Day? No more ads!

While the mudslinging may diminish, the issues affecting agriculture are still rolling on through Election Day and after. For this reason, it is very important to vote today – and even more important to vote for candidates who have agendas supportive of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

However, we know a slower harvest will keep some farmers away from the polls and in the fields trying to finish up harvest. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is urging growers to take time today to go to their polling places and think about the many ways decisions made by elected officials impact them on the farm.

“Whether they are based in Washington or your local city hall, those in office or those seeking office need to be held accountable and need to hear from voters,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a Maryland corn farmer. “Especially with this being a mid-term election, we have the chance to elect many fine men and women into Congress who understand our concerns and the importance of supporting farmers with sound policy and regulations that protect or build markets for our products here and abroad.”

Bowling mentioned the fact that farmers are harvesting the second record crop in a row, and its impact on corn prices, as a special cause for concern.

“It’s especially important that our elected leaders recognize the great power Washington has over our lives as farmers,” Bowling said. “With corn prices at their lowest in some time, it’s critical that lawmakers and regulators don’t take any further steps that will reduce demand for corn. When growers step off the farm and cast their ballot, they have a lot of power to send a strong message. Please, don’t neglect your responsibility to vote for a few extra hours in your fields.”

Aren’t sure who to vote for in Nebraska? There are resources online from different farm groups in Nebraska who show “Friends of Agriculture” when it comes to candidates and the issues important to them.

For other voting information and to find your polling place, click here.