December 31, 2014

Nebraska Corn Board’s Best of 2014


final 2014

After a few years of record corn prices, this year we saw the markets pull back to prices that are very close to the cost of production. It's times such as these that your corn checkoff matters most. When it gets cold outside, you don't turn down the furnace. You keep the heat on—and that's what your corn checkoff investment is doing. We're staying the course with research, market development, promotion and educational initiatives focused on building demand for the corn you grow.

With 2014 coming to an end and the new year upon us, there is no better time to reflect on a few highlights of Nebraska Corn Board activity over the last year… 

CaptureStanding up for the RFS: Part of our job is keeping you apprised of the opportunity and necessity to make your voice heard. At the beginning of 2014, some 6,000 Nebraska farmers and ethanol advocates submitted comment on the EPA's proposed changes in the Renewable Fuel Standard—and, while the EPA has currently decided to not decide on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) until 2015, it's pretty clear that they are reconsidering their position. Similar comment has been solicited for EPA's proposed Waters of the U.S rule (WOTUS).

Education and Outreach: The Nebraska Corn Board was the first group to step up with funding for the Raising Nebraska experience at the Nebraska State Fair. Raising Nebraska is an interactive experience like no other. From science and innovation, to community and RRN_RaisingNebraskaculture, and even the global economy, Nebraska’s agricultural experience touches everyone. Through this incredible 25,000-foot interactive exhibit, you actually become part of it – in ways you never imagined and that you’ll never forget. Recently, this outstanding consumer education exhibit took top honors in two categories at the International Association of Fairs & Exhibits awards competition. We've also funded ethanol pump promotions, published our consumer-focused Cornstalk insert in Nebraska newspapers, and helped Nebraskans understand the value of flex fuel vehicles.

ianr_4cCorn Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: The Nebraska Corn Board has made a $2.0 million commitment to the University of Nebraska Foundation to establish the permanently endowed Nebraska Corn Checkoff Presidential Chair faculty position. The endowment will provide annual support to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) for research and development related to enhancing the value of Nebraska corn. This is a significant investment focused on the long-term future for Nebraska corn farmers.

Nebraska Corn: We have done a lot of work this last year to strengthen and better align the two organizations that represent Nebraska Corn Farmers. Leaders from the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) and the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB ) have been working together to bring even greater strength, efficiency and effectiveness to benefit Nebraska's leading grain commodity and the farmers who grow it. Improved imagecommunication, collaboration and joint coordination are expected outcomes as we work to bring the two corn organizations even closer together. It's important to note, however, that each organization has a distinct mission and purpose and those will remain intact. We expect that this collaboration will make both organizations stronger and increase their positive impact on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn farmers. Looking forward, NeCGA and NCB leadership will continue to explore new opportunities to join forces for the betterment of Nebraska’s corn industry.

Joint Collaboration: The Nebraska Corn Board collaborated with a number of state and national organizations to amplify the impact of its efforts. In Nebraska, we work closely with the Nebraska Soybean Board, A-FAN, and other livestock and commodity groups to create consumer education programs and improve the position of agriculture in our state.  Outside the state, your corn checkoff dollars are supporting the American Ethanol initiative with NASCAR, CommonGround, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, the Corn Farmers Coalition and other consumer outreach efforts. You're also helping fund the international market development activities of the U.S. Grains Council and U.S. Meat Export Federation to promote Nebraska corn, ethanol, distillers grains, beef and pork around the world.


Thank you again to all the Nebraska Corn Kernel Readers for your continued support of the Nebraska corn industry. We hope you will join us in 2015 as we continue in our efforts to educate and inform everyone about important agriculture-related news, events and issues taking place in our state, nation and world.

Have a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

See you in 2015!

12 Nebraska Corn Kernels blogs in the spotlight from 2014

On this last day of the year, we want to thank our Nebraska Corn Kernels readers for their continued support for coming back month after month to follow what we're doing, reading stories and learning about issues affecting Nebraska's corn industry as well as all of agriculture.

Here are the Top 12 posts of 2014 - if you missed one, now's your time to check it out!

January - January 15 by Curt Tomasevicz
February - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: A GMO story
March - Brazil Biofuels Mission – Every gallon of gas includes ethanol.
April - FARMLAND Documentary in theaters May 1
May - Geography of U.S. Agriculture
June - 10 reasons to use ethanol-blended fuel this summer
July - U.S. Grains meets in Nebraska this week; still covering issues with China, DDGS
August - Water: Making every drop count
September - What are the uses of corn?
October - FARMLAND film available for digital download
November - What's with this 'Factory Farm' business?
December - 95 reasons to support U.S. grain & red meat exports
Happy New Year and cheers to new "seeds" of opportunity in 2015!

December 30, 2014

2014's top 20 key events affecting agriculture

The last few days of the year are always a good time to reflect on the past year and prepare for what is ahead in the upcoming. Many people are in high-spirits coming off of the Christmas holiday (or maybe just a sugar-high!) and it gets us excited to know what the next year will bring.

Looking back on year 2014, there are many highlights, extremes and moments that will go down as a big year with shifting winds for U.S. agriculture. Changing economics for both crop and livestock producers, a new farm bill and policy shifts, and the growth of big data are a few to mention.

Brent Gloy, a well-known ag economist formerly with Purdue University who became a full-time Nebraska farmer this year, provided his list to AgWeb of 20 key events impacting agriculture in 2014.

Farmers Begin the Year Flush. Producers in early 2014 were still riding a wave of very high profits, with the financial condition of the U.S. farm sector the strongest in decades. Farmland values stood values stood at all-time highs in almost every region.

Lower Incomes in 2014. USDA called for a 25% decline in net farm income. Reports began suggesting that the great farm boom was over and times were rapidly changing. While some talked of a bubble that might burst and the income hit was notable, others noted that the farm sector remained in relatively good condition.

Farmland Values and Cash Rents Stop Rising. This year may be recalled as the year that land values and cash rents stopped shooting higher. While USDA and some other surveys reported that prices were going up, other surveys observed that prices were flat to lower. The confusion was due to the timing of the surveys and values/rents being measured. Overall, it appears values did peak and began to head lower. Some are saying a major correction could be in the works.

EPA Delays RFS Decision. Ethanol demand mandated by the renewable fuel standard (RFS) has been a big driver of the great agricultural boom. The RFS has come under repeated scrutiny since its implementation, but the EPA’s late 2013 decision to reconsider aspects of the RFS was big news in 2014. After initially proposing to reduce the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline, the EPA postponed its decision until 2015. Many analysts are suggesting that big changes in the RFS are now unlikely. Keep watch in 2015 as big changes would be a surprise to the market.

Ethanol Profits Climb. With lower corn prices and strong domestic and export demand, 2014 was a great year for ethanol producers, but the crash in oil prices raises questions for 2015.

Ideal Weather, Great Crops. Near perfect growing conditions led to speculation that the U.S. was on the verge of a record corn crop. While the actual totals were a bit lower than mid-season estimates, the crop was substantial. Stockpiles of most row crops are now comfortable and indeed large, but the U.S. is not quite to the point of being ridiculously oversupplied.

California Drought. As California felt the grip of a powerful drought, the impacts have been staggering, with some estimates pointing to losses in excess of $2 billion. Even today, 99% of California remains in drought and 55% in the most severe category.

The El Nino That Never Came. In early June, forecasts called for an El Nino to occur, with 70% estimates for summer arrival, 80% by fall. But El Nino never came. Today, the forecast places odds at 65%.

Crop Price Free Fall. From June 30 to October 1, the December 2014 corn contract lost $1.23 per bushel, pushing prices below the cost of production for most farmers.

Transport and Basis Issues Hammer Northern Plains and Corn Belt. No question but that the development of shale oil resources in the Northern Plains contributed to transportation challenges, but the amount of grain production also has grown substantially in recent years. Corn plantings in this region will be under pressure in 2015.

Concern Over Margin Squeeze. The cost/price squeeze won’t likely be alleviated until fixed costs, such as land prices, cash rents, equipment costs, labor costs, family living expenses adjust, prices rebound, or some combination of these.

Early 2015 Budgets Show Big Losses. In late fall, universities started putting out 2015 crop budgets and the numbers weren’t pretty. Many showed budgeted losses of $100 per acre

Surprise Rally Buoys Spirits. A big surprise caught many off-guard while the biggest corn crop in history was being harvested: Corn markets rallied 54 cents per bushel from October to December. Keep a close eye on the crop insurance price discovery period for clues about next year.

Livestock Profits Surge. While row crop incomes were under pressure in 2014, the livestock sector experienced outstanding levels of profitability, and the outlook for 2015 is bright.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. PEDv rocked the hog and pork markets. PEDv left the industry with fewer hogs to market, thus driving up prices and producers worrying about their herd health and financial losses. A second wave of cases is likely this winter.

Machinery Dealers Start to Feel the Pain. As commodity prices fell, many believed equipment would be one of the first purchases farmers would cut back on. Recent data suggests that combines have experienced the softest sales, with November sales off more than 50% from a year ago.

Ag Manufacturers Cut Jobs. John Deere led the scale-back in August, announcing a cut in its workforce, mainly from the agricultural equipment division. Syngenta announced in late November that it was reducing its global workforce as well.

Farm Bill Passes, and Farmers Are Still Scratching their Heads. The new farm bill offers more complicated choices for farmers than any bill in recent memory. ARC-Individual, ARC-County and PLC will be the subject of many discussions and meetings this winter. Even prices used to determine payments under the various programs, or the Market Year Average prices aren’t as simple as they initially seem.

Interest Rates Stay Low. Farmers have benefitted from low interest rates and they stayed very low in 2014. While many have been arguing that rates can’t go much lower, 2015 may be the year that changes that, given recent signals from the Federal Reserve Board.

GMOs on the Ballot. While measures to require labeling of foods containing GMOs failed to pass in Oregon and Colorado this fall, a ban on growing GMO crops passed in one Hawaii county. Attention and focus on GMOs has been growing.

Gloy also mentions other noteworthy issues in 2014, which include: Ebola causes U.S. scare; big data and big ambition; China’s ban on corn and DDG imports over GMOs; the Russia-Ukraine conflict and embargo; and the crash in oil prices.

December 29, 2014

Podcast:Highlights of 2014

 In this podcast, Tim Scheer, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from St. Paul, Nebraska, reflects on a few of highlights of Nebraska Corn Board's activity throughout 2014.  From encouraging some 6,000 Nebraska farmers and ethanol advocates to submit comments to the EPA on their proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, to supporting the development of the "Raising Nebraska" exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair, to funding a new Presidential Chair faculty position at University of Nebraska-Lincoln that will focus on corn research, 2014 has been quite an eventful year for the Nebraska Corn Industry!

Now, click here to listen to the podcast.

Podcasts are also available on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

December 26, 2014

2015 Corn and Soybean Checkoff Tour

invite photo The Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Soybean Board are teaming up and hitting the road for their first ever Checkoff Tour. The tour, which will take place over the course of two days – January 6 and 8 – is meant to give producers and industry personnel the opportunity to learn more about how their checkoff programs are working to help increase yields and build demand.

During the meeting, representatives from both the Corn and Soybean Boards will give updates on how checkoff dollars are being invested in the areas of education, marketing and research. Producers and industry personnel are encouraged to attend this free event to learn more about the programs and initiatives of the corn and soybean checkoffs, ask questions and provide feedback.

Victor Bohuslavsky, executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Board, said these meetings offer valuable information for corn and soybean farmers. “One of the goals of these meetings is to give farmers the opportunity to learn more about the checkoffs firsthand. These meetings are an excellent opportunity to hear from your district checkoff representatives about your investments in research, marketing and promotional activities pertaining to the corn and soybeans you grow.”

The tour will include two stops each day, with one meeting over lunch and the other over dinner. Each two-hour meeting is free to all attendees and will include a meal, presentations and a question and answer session. The schedule and location for each meeting are as follows: 

Tuesday, January 6

  • West Point:       11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Nielsen Community Center
  • Mead:                 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the ARDC

Thursday, January 8
  • Broken Bow:    11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the One Box Convention Center
  • Minden:             5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Minden Opera House

How to Register
If you are interested in attending one of the events, please RSVP by email or phone with your name and which location you plan on attending. To RSVP, simply send an email to or call (402) 480-4971. Registrations will be closed by noon on Friday, January 2.

“The Checkoff Tour is a great opportunity for the corn and soybean board to personally show producers the impact of their checkoff investment,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Their checkoff investment supports an entire portfolio of initiatives—each focused on adding value to every bushel produced in Nebraska.  We look forward to discussing these initiatives as well as answering any questions the producers have about their checkoffs.”

December 24, 2014

December 19, 2014

Meaty-Friday: Meat prices + recipe


Meat Counter

It’s no secret that Americans love their meat. In fact, a recent study by the NPD Group-Chicago, found that more than 60 percent of Americans eat animal protein in a typical day.

Recently, however, many meat-loving Americans have experienced sticker shock when they visit the meat counter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts beef and veal prices to increase by 8-9 percent by the end of 2014, compared with 2013. Pork prices could rise by between 7.5 and 8.5 percent.

So, what’s behind the increase? There are several contributing factors, including:

  • Effects of drought on cattle herds in the plains and western United States. When drought hit many major cattle-producing states in 2011, the grazing space for cattle greatly decreased. This forced many farmers to sell their animals to be processed. The high cost of feed for cattle further contributed to smaller herds. This decreased the supply of beef available, while demand has remained high. Herd sizes have been slow to rebound and are currently at historic lows, similar to those in the 1950s. That’s because it can take 18 months for a calf to reach market weight.
  • Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv). This pig virus is responsible for millions of piglet deaths in the past year. Hog farms in more than 40 states were affected by the illness that is most fatal to newborn pigs. Farmers tried to compensate by raising their animals to heavier weights, but only partially compensated for the losses. Hog supplies are now back on the rise, but pork prices will continue to be higher until supplies get closer to meeting demand. PEDv poses no risk to other animals, humans or food safety.
  • Rising demand for protein from U.S. consumers. The protein power movement is gaining traction here in the U.S. which means greater demand. This can be seen in reports from companies like BB& Capital Markets and NPD Group and in the menus at Taco Bell, McDonald’s, KFC and Panera.
  • Rising middle classes in Asia, Africa and South America. A growing number of people around the world are eating more meat today than in years past. As the global population and individual incomes rise, so, too, does meat demand.

Over on the CommonGround Nebraska blog today is a great, meat-filled recipe that is budget friendly, easy to make and kids love it. Enjoy your weekend and whip up these Kid-Friendly Beefy Spaghetti Cups!

Have additional questions about how meat gets from the farm to your table? Click here to learn more about the farmers who raise beef, pork and turkey.

December 16, 2014

95 reasons to support U.S. grain & red meat exports

95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S.

If that isn’t enough reason to support exports of U.S. products to other countries all over the world, I don’t know what is. Now, with low commodity grain prices this year and expected into next year, our best resources are spent right now supporting exports and international trade, which could lead to fast growing markets and more demand.

The world markets offer momentous growth opportunities for U.S. agriculture. The Nebraska Corn Board and other grain checkoffs in our state and across the U.S. work with the U.S. Grains Council to develop export markets for our American farmers and agribusinesses. With the most modern, innovative and productive agricultural system in the world, the U.S. enjoys a longstanding and significant comparative advantage in agricultural trade.

We also know that corn is value-added when first fed to livestock, then exported as red meat. Another reason the Nebraska Corn Board (and other commodity checkoffs – grains and livestock together along with industry support) supports the U.S. Meat Export Federation. USMEF opens up export markets for U.S. read meat – beef, pork and lamb – and leverages checkoff dollars with federal dollars to influence more markets and prevail on more of the 95% consuming U.S. meat.

Beef exports in October were up 2% from a year ago with variety meat exports increasing 14% in volume. Although pork exports were down 2% in volume they still achieved a 5% increase in value. These results were also bolstered by strong variety meat exports, which were up 24% in volume.

The top export customers for U.S. corn (for Sept-Oct ’14) were Mexico, Japan, Colombia, South Korea and Peru. By establishing good relationship and continuing to produce high quality corn, the U.S. can grow these markets and develop new ones like Egypt and others in the Middle East who see the value of U.S. corn for feeding their livestock.

So the next time someone asks you why we don't keep all of our food here for Americans to eat, tell them there are 95 reasons.

View other Nebraska Corn Kernel blog posts about why we promote exports: 

December 13, 2014

Podcast: 2014 Corn Crop & Challenges Ahead


 In this podcast, Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board, shares information about the 2014 corn crop and the challenges ahead. This year's American corn crop will be the largest on record—with a projected 14.4 billion bushels. Growing more corn means we need to grow demand. The good news is that we have a number of markets for our corn—both domestically and abroad—in exports, livestock and ethanol production that are key to the success and profitability of Nebraska corn farmers. Nevertheless, threats to these industries, especially those to renewable fuels and foreign trade, could pose many challenges for corn farmers moving forward.

Now, click here to listen to the podcast.

Podcasts are also available on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

December 11, 2014

U.S. Senator Johanns bids farewell

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns has forever been a supporter of Nebraska Agriculture.

In his final term as U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Johanns delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor. Below are some excerpts of his remarks:

“From my first day as a county commissioner, throughout my service as a Lincoln City Council Member, as Mayor of our capital city, Lincoln, as the Governor of Nebraska, in President Bush’s Cabinet and now as a United States Senator, no doubt about it, if I could turn back the clock I’d just do it again. I am so grateful for the trust placed in me and the support of so many people who have made this service possible…

“In my various roles, I’ve been with world leaders, spiritual heads, cultural icons, presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers, queens and kings – all memorable experiences, to be sure. But I will say… that’s not the extraordinary people about that I speak about today. My real inspiration comes from ordinary people who I’ve observed and watched do remarkable, extraordinary things…

“There were victories won during my time here and I am pleased to have led some of those charges. Yet, I have to acknowledge, many battles do remain. I would be dishonest if I denied feeling some frustration over the absence of will to address issues of paramount importance to our country. But I know that no issue is powerful enough to shred the fabric of our great nation. Rather, these challenges are overpowered by the ordinary people who do extraordinary things, by the character of our people, and by the wisdom of our Founders.”

Watch the YouTube video for his full remarks:

Thank you, Sen. Johanns for your support of Nebraska agriculture and service to the state!

View other blog posts including Mike Johanns on the Nebraska Corn Kernels blog:

December 2, 2014

Bushels & Bytes: The Data Driven Farm

“I’m hooked on a drug of information and productivity,” said Kip Tom, a seventh-generation family farmer, who harvests the staples of modern agriculture: seed corn, feed corn, soybeans and data, in a recent New York Times article. When Kip isn't found in the field, you can find him sitting in an office filled with computer screens and a whiteboard covered with schematics and plans for his farm’s computer network.

This is not a new image for farmers today. Farmers use technology to make advances in producing more food for a growing world. Through the use of technology, each farmer is able to feed 155 people today, compared to 1940, when one farmer could feed only 19 people.

Farmers use technologies such as motorized equipment, modified housing for animals and biotechnology, which allow for improvement in agriculture. Better technology has allowed farmers to feed more people and requires fewer people to work on farms to feed their families.

So with all of this new technology, comes more data, or "Big Data" as the term as been coined. How do farmers use it? Tom Farms has genetically modified crops, cloud-computing systems and possibly soon drones, if Mr. Tom does not go with lasers on low-orbit satellites. All of these items will be sending their data for analysis on the cloud-computing systems that Tom Farms rented from Monsanto and other companies.

“Farmers still think tech means physical augmentation — more horsepower, more fertilizer,” Mr. Tom said. “They don’t see that technology now is about multiplying information.” With corn prices at almost half the level they have been in the past few years, “my growth is going to come from farmers who don’t embrace technology.”

From a self-driving John Deere combine, Ernie Burbrink, a Tom Farms employee, sorts real-time data about moisture, yields and net bushels per acre on his iPad, sending important information by wireless modem to distant cages of computer servers that begin analyzing the data for next season’s planting.

“It used to be, if you could turn a wrench you’d be good at farming,” Mr. Burbrink said. “Now you need to know screen navigation, and pinpointing what data should go where so people can plan and predict. You need to be in tune with other people: seed consultants, agronomists, the equipment folks.”

Continue reading the NYT article...