February 25, 2015

U.S. cattle inventory up slightly from last year


89.9 million head of cattle and calves in the U.S. That's up 1 percent from 2014.

As of January 1, the semiannual cattle report published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that this is the first increase in U.S. herd inventory since 2007.

Other key findings in the report were:

1cattle inventory
To obtain an accurate measurement of the current state of the U.S. cattle industry, NASS surveyed more than 38,200 operators across the nation during the first half of January. NASS interviewers collected the data by mail, telephone, internet, and through face-to-face personal interviews. NASS asked all participating producers to report their cattle inventories as of January 1, 2015.

February 23, 2015

"Take a Second for Safety" is the Message During Grain Bin Safety Week


Record Number of Grain Entrapment Deaths in 2014

With on-farm grain storage on the rise—and a record number of grain engulfment deaths across the nation last year—agricultural leaders in Nebraska are placing special emphasis on grain handling safety during Grain Bin Safety Week, February 22-28, 2015. In observance of the week, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association are encouraging farmers, grain elevators and other grain handlers to slow down — and take a second for safety while working with grain.

“We feel it is increasingly important to promote grain bin safety awareness and remind all grain handlers of the hazards of working around grain,” said Larry Mussack, farmer from Decatur and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “With just one misstep or just a moment of distraction, you could find yourself or someone you know in a grain entrapment emergency.”

National statistics show that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. Over the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported—and the fatality rate is 62 percent. With a 10-inch auger, it takes just 25 seconds for a 6-foot person to be completely buried in grain.

Now in its second year, Grain Bin Safety Week is an annual observance dedicated to increasing the awareness of grain bin safety on farms and commercial grain-handling facilities. The goal of this event is to educate the agricultural community on safe work practices and procedures to help reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage.

Here are a few grain bin safety tips to keep in mind when you are working with stored grain:

  • Use inspection holes or grain level markers to understand what's happening inside the bin. Use a pole from outside the bin to break up grain bridges.
  • You should enter a grain bin only if absolutely necessary. If you must get into the bin, use a body harness secured to the outside of the bin. Have at least two people watching over you as you enter and work inside the bin.
  • Use hand signals to communicate—and make sure everyone you're working with knows what those signals are.

These safety tips and more will be emphasized not only during Grain Bin Safety Week, but throughout the year by the Nebraska Corn organizations.  A record high yield, combined with an upward trend in on-farm grain storage capacity has experts projecting an even larger number of grain engulfment accidents in 2015.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to take the extra second and follow the safety rules when it comes to working with grain stored in bins,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “With on-farm safety being a continued effort at Nebraska Corn, we want both farmers and emergency responders to understand how to avoid grain bin accidents—and how to help someone who does end up in trouble in a grain bin. There is no better time than the present to work together as an agricultural community and help prevent these tragic accidents from occurring.”

February 18, 2015

Seasons of Farming - Winter

What do corn farmers do in the winter? Most people probably have asked or thought this as it's obvious crops are neither planted or harvested in the cold, winter months.

But that doesn't mean farmers aren't doing anything.

First, farmers have to keep their machinery in great shape, so they work on cleaning and repairs, from combines to tractors to semis, farmers try to do as much preventative maintenance as possible to ensure their busy season goes uninterrupted. The more our equipment is repaired during the winter, the less work to be done in the growing season, where finding time for preventative maintenance and repairs is almost impossible.

Hauling grain is next on the list. In years like the last couple with record crops and large volumes to move, crops were stored on-the-farm in bins, bags, and even on large piles on the ground while some grain was hauled to the local elevator. Farmers try to market their grain to their advantage, so that may mean storing as much as they can on-farm and moving it throughout the following winter and summer, and for some growers, even longer than that. Hauling grain can be a real project during the winter months, with cold, snow, and winds wreaking havoc on moving highway semi trucks around on back roads and in and out of bin yards.

It's also a time to keep up with paperwork and business planning. Winter is the time to crunch numbers; determining the profit (or loss) from the previous year, and compiling a budget for next year’s crop to decide which crops to grow and in what amount. Part of this planning is spent on booking and purchasing inputs. Once they have an idea of what crops to grow, many farmers pre-purchase and book the inputs they need, such as seed, fertilizer, and some chemicals.

They also take time for meeting with others in the industry. For many farmers, winter is "Meeting Season". This is typically when agricultural organizations hold their annual meetings. For farmers, meetings are the place to learn new agronomic, marketing and business trends, upcoming and innovative farming techniques, latest equipment, agricultural policy updates, media training and agvocacy messaging, community involvement, and professional development. Especially for organization and farm policy meetings, it's important for farmers to stay engaged to make sure that policies being decided on are good for them and their farm.

One such upcoming meeting that is important to famers from all across the U.S. is the Commodity Classic, Feb 26-28. It is America's largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show held this year in Phoenix, AZ.

Many corn farmers also have livestock. Breaking ice out of water tanks, adding straw bedding, feeding hay, transporting to new barns/pastures and the start of calving means 24/7 care which keeps farmers very busy in the winter.

Last but certainly not least on corn farmer's mind in the winter is marketing. For the farm to stay in business, this is the most important job of the winter and ties together the other winter tasks.  The more accurate their budget is, the better they know what price to sell at to achieve a profit. They also need to know what their cash flow needs are to ensure they can sell grain at the right times to get the bills paid. Furthermore, they have to be able to actually get the grain moved to get their contracts filled, so keeping an eye on trucking capabilities is vital as well. Finally, after all these needs are met, they try to sell grain at the right times to capture a good price.

As you can see, winter is definitely not a "slow" time of the year for farmers!

February 13, 2015

Top 5 highest paying careers in 2015...is agriculture one of them?

A recent article in USAToday.com shared that as more and more people are earning college degrees, not just "any" degree will suffice.

People are starting to see that if they're going to invest all of that hard-earned money, not to mention time and energy, into obtaining a degree, it should be into one that will likely lead to ample job opportunities and higher earnings power. The Census Bureau reports that a bachelor's degree holder typically earns $2.4 million over his or her lifetime. Some degrees, like those in education, typically result in lower lifetime earnings than this benchmark. Other degrees, however, generally allow graduates to earn more than this lifetime benchmark.

Using Census data, coupled with an employer survey analysis by the National Association of Colleges and Employers(NACE), we've made a list of college majors that will likely lead to the highest earnings for 2015 grads. The list starts with: 1. Engineering, 2. Computer Science, 3. Math and Sciences, 4. Business and.....

5. Agriculture and natural resources

The 2015 projected average starting salary is $51,220 where the average lifetime earnings is $2.6 million.

These grads can earn much more than the average grad, raking in an average starting salary of over $51,000. Again, those who work their way up to management positions generally earn the highest earnings over a lifetime — around $800,000 more than the typical college grad.

This shows the amplitude that agriculture is continuing to make in our society and work culture.  We are seeing the challenges before us to raise more food and resources for our growing population. And agribusiness will pay a pretty penny for a well-educated employee.

Looks like they are putting their money where their mouth is. Now we need more students to enroll in agricultural degrees - start sharing with your friends, children, neighbor's children, and family about ALL of the jobs in agriculture. It's not just plows and cows, folks. Engineering, food science, communications, economics, business, etc. are all facets in agricultural that could lead to some great jobs!

February 11, 2015

Ag Champions contest announced for Nebraska FFA chapters

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Championing for a cause is as important to Olympian Curt Tomasevicz as preparing for a bobsled race.  But this cause is agriculture. The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and Nebraska FFA, with the help of Curt Tomasevicz, spokesman for NCB, are partnering on a new program and contest for Nebraska FFA students called “Ag Champions”.

studio1The purpose of the Ag Champions program is to build up FFA students to become “agvocates” (agricultural advocates) in their communities and amongst their peers. The program will provide a toolbox of resources and a contest to allow FFA chapters to submit a plan which would earn the top three winning chapters grants, based off of the budget in their agvocacy proposal. The Grand Champion winning chapter will earn the opportunity for Tomasevicz to be involved with their program.

“Through this project, we want to engage FFA members by developing a lasting impact through direct community involvement, as well as encouraging grassroots agvocacy,” said Anita Wollenburg, interim Nebraska FFA state advisor. “Through this plan, FFA chapters will determine an issue in their community, the audience they want to reach and expand on an agvocacy plan of defending agriculture along with education and communication.”

While this contest only provides three winning grants, the goal of the Ag Champions program is to create agvocates in the state’s communities and help put a realistic plan in place that can be used by the FFA chapters and students in any situation.

“As issues affecting agriculture appear too often, we are encouraging local FFA chapters to have a plan in place to defend their industry, while also putting agriculture on the offense,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, NCB executive director. “Education is key to important issues and could dispel many issues that arise when the foundation and basic understanding of an issue is in place.”

Tomasevicz is helping to spread the message about the Ag Champions program with a shout-out to FFA students on his YouTube channel, see his video below. All Nebraska FFA chapters will be receiving information about the contest details from the Nebraska State FFA Officers on their chapter visits, but more information can be obtained on www.NebraskaCorn.org.

Deadline for the Ag Champions plans to be submitted to NCB is May 15, 2015.

February 10, 2015

Podcast: Flex Fuels provide options at the pump

 In this podcast, Dennis Gengenbach, director on the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Smithfield, Nebraska, shares about the choices consumers have at the pump. When you drive a flex fuel vehicle - as one in seven Nebraskans do - you have the choice to use flex fuels with ethanol at the pump and will not be held hostage by the oil company monopoly. You can fuel up with E85 when the price is right or you can choose E10, E15 or E30 when it makes sense to do so. In addition to these choices at the pump, flex fuels with ethanol also provide huge health benefits for our nation as they help reduce toxic particles in exhaust that have been linked to many serious respiratory diseases. To learn about the health benefits of ethanol, be sure to watch the new movie PUMP, which is now available for download on iTunes.

Now, click here to listen to the podcast.

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

February 2, 2015

Food trends & maps....where is our food grown?

Could you identify the food you eat just by where it's grown?

Today, there is a fun quiz on the Washington Post Web site. I just may give one answer away....

...which you should get anyway, right?

Click here to take your quiz.

This has me thinking about how our consumer friends would do on this quiz and where our 2015 food trends are going which influences consumers.

An intriguing trend on the Better Homes & Gardens blog was "grocery store changes".  Day-of delivery services offered by mega retailers have quieted grocery stores. But while online shoppers click their way through aisles, superstores are finding ways to lure them back in -- with dine-in restaurants, food demonstrations, and wine tastings. Grocery stores might just be the next hangout by the end of 2015. This is great news for CommonGround and other ag groups who like to talk to consumers in-store.

According to BBC Good Food's Top 2015 Trends, all kinds of burgers are going to be trending. Duck, lobster, pork belly, scallops and squid burgers are just a few to name that could compete with the ever-popular beef burger. But beef producers shouldn't be too worried because the value of ground beef is increasing. It's the economical, delicious and convenient choice for consumers, where we're seeing more demand for high-value and variety meats overseas.

What do you see as Food Trends for this year? And share with us how you did on your quiz!