September 30, 2015

Renewable, Homegrown Fuels Provide Energy Independence

September is Renewable Fuels Month!
Part Four of a Four-Part Series for Renewable Fuels Month

Biodiesel and American Ethanol, two energy sources made from Nebraska soybeans and corn, that are homegrown, locally produced and contribute to our energy independence and security. To wrap-up Renewable Fuels Month this September, Nebraska farmers can celebrate these homegrown renewable fuels and the economic benefits they provide.

Last year, Nebraska farmers raised nearly 289 million bushels of soybeans and 1.6 billion bushels of corn – numbers they expect to grow in coming years. From these two crops, renewable fuel sources and distillers grains co-products are created right here in Nebraska.

These homegrown, renewable fuels and co-products greatly contribute to the economic vitality in Nebraska and across the United States. More than 1,500 people in rural Nebraska and more than 850,000 people nationwide are employed in the renewable fuels industry, according to a 2014 economic impact study released by the Fuels America coalition.

The economic report tells the story of an innovative, advanced biofuels industry that is benefiting America’s economy. Part of the effort contributing towards an expanded biofuels industry is attributed to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “The data is in: The RFS is driving billions of dollars of economic activity across America,” the report concludes. “This is the result of years of investment by the biofuel sector to bring clean, low carbon, renewable fuels to market.”

“There are some rural communities in Nebraska that probably wouldn’t have the opportunities they do today if it wasn’t for renewable fuels,” said David Merrell, farmer from St. Edward, Nebraska and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Renewable fuels support the local farmer and provide as much as $3 million in tax revenue for the state of Nebraska.”

The RFS program was expanded in 2007 to include biodiesel, increasing the amount of fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022, created new categories of renewable fuels including advanced, cellulosic, and conventional.  The program also evaluated the lifecycle of greenhouse gases to ensure each category was meeting a minimum threshold.

With the help of the RFS, renewable fuels now represent more than 10% of America’s fuel supply and have helped reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil to the lowest level in years.

“Each year we continue to produce more renewable fuels in the United States. In 2014, we reduced our imported crude oil by 512 million barrels and 1.75 billion gallons of imported petroleum diesel—that’s a clear sign the RFS is doing exactly what it was intended to do,” added Merrell.

The RFS is reducing our dependency on imported oil, providing a homegrown, locally-produced renewable fuel, creating jobs, providing tax revenue, and more.  Renewable fuels are a win-win situation for the farmers, rural communities and consumers.

September 29, 2015

Seed and High Moisture Corn Harvests Continue

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending September 27, 2015, temperatures averaged six to eight degrees above normal with an inch or more of rain common across a wide swath of central and eastern Nebraska, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Silage cutting was coming to a close. Soybean harvest gained momentum but was slowed due to wet soil conditions. Seed and high moisture corn harvests continued as soils dried. Dry conditions in many western counties allowed winter wheat seeding to progress, as did dry bean and millet harvests. There were 4.5 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 24 short, 63 adequate, and 6 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 25 short, 66 adequate, and 3 surplus.

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Corn condition rated 2 percent very poor, 5 poor, 19 fair, 54 good, and 20 excellent. Corn dented was at 96 percent, near 97 last year and 99 for the five-year average. Mature was at 65 percent, near 61 last year and 69 average. Harvested was at 10 percent, near 6 last year, but behind 16 average.

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables HERE. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

September 28, 2015

Renewable Fuels Are Better for Our Environment

September is Renewable Fuels Month!
Part Three of a Four-Part Series for Renewable Fuels Month

Nebraska’s air is more dangerous than it looks thanks to toxic cancer-causing particles that enter our lungs and bloodstream when we put fuel in our vehicles. The good news is that we have a sustainable, home-grown renewable solution: biofuels.

When consumers pull up to the pump, they may believe they are just filling their tank with fuel—what most don’t realize, however, is that they are also filling the air with dangerous toxics that threaten our health. Oil companies have added a deadly combination of toxic carcinogens known as BTX (benzene, toluene, xylene) to our fuel to enhance octane.  Similar to the now banned octane boosters, lead and MTBE, which oil companies used in the past, the health threats of BTX are growing with every research study. These carcinogens do not completely combust in the engine, and as a result, ultrafine toxic particles leave the tailpipe and enter the air we breathe. These particles are linked to serious health problems such as asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.

Fortunately, Nebraska farmers produce a sustainable, renewable solution that is not only non-toxic, but also a clean burning source of octane. Renewable-biofuels, made from corn and soybeans that are produced right here in Nebraska, burn cleaner and improve air quality compared to conventional fuels. When drivers use American Ethanol and biodiesel, they’re improving air quality and reducing serious health problems not only for themselves, but also their children and grandchildren. These renewable fuels lower the level of toxic, cancer-causing emissions in vehicle exhaust—reducing air pollution, improving human health, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards have been a hot topic over the last few years, which is good news for renewable fuels such as American Ethanol and biodiesel. The ethanol industry is producing fuel that is up to 59% lower in GHG emissions than regular gasoline. While biodiesel reduces lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 86% compared to regular diesel fuel.

“It’s easy to see that home-grown corn and soybeans have a positive impact on our environment, especially when it comes to using them in our vehicles,” said Dennis Gengenbach, farmer from Smithfield, Nebraska and vice chair on the Nebraska Corn Board and vice chair of the National Corn Growers’ Ethanol Committee. “The more we learn about the dangerous effects the exhaust from petroleum has on the environment and our health, the more we need to encourage the use of clean-burning fuels such as American Ethanol and biodiesel.”   
Many consumers are beginning to change their purchasing decisions as they realize the clear-cut benefits of using renewable-biofuels. As a result, automotive manufacturers have recognized the growth in this demand, and have brought several new models of fuel efficient diesel vehicles to the market in recent years. They have also made flex fuel vehicles, which can operate on any blend on American Ethanol and gasoline up to E85, abundant for consumers to purchase.

Everyone can make the individual choice to make our air cleaner and healthier. By making the simple decision to fuel up with American Ethanol or biodiesel, consumers can make a very big difference in our air quality and for the health of our families.

Soil's Preservation is Essential for Food Security

2015 International Year of the Soils

Soil is a finite resource, meaning its loss and degradation is not recoverable within a human lifespan. As a core component of land resources, agricultural development and ecological sustainability, it is the basis for food, feed, fuel, and fiber production and for many critical ecosystem services. It is therefore a highly valuable natural resource, yet it is often overlooked. The natural area of productive soils is limited--it is under increasing pressure of intensification and competing uses for cropping, forestry, pasture/rangeland and urbanization, and to satisfy demands of the growing population for food and energy production and raw materials extraction. Soils need to be recognized and valued for their productive capacities as well as their contribution to food security and the maintenance of key ecosystem services.

Soil degradation is caused by unsustainable land uses and management practices, and climate extremes that result from various social, economic and governance drivers. Today, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils. The current rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity of future generations to meet their most basic needs. Current demographic trends and projected growth in global population (to exceed 9 billion by 2050) are estimated to result in a 60 percent increase in demand for food, feed and fiber by 2050. There is little opportunity for expansion in the agricultural area, except in some parts of Africa and South America. Much of the additional available land is not suitable for agriculture, and the ecological, social and economic costs of bringing it into production will be very high. Sustainable management of the world's agricultural soils and sustainable production have therefore become imperative for reversing the trend of solid degradation and ensuring current and future global food security.

Key Facts:

  • By 2050, agricultural production must increase by 60 percent globally, and by almost 100 percent in developing countries in order to meet food demand alone.
  • 33 percent of soil is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compassion and chemical pollution.
  • A shortage of any one of the 15 nutrients required for plan growth can limit crop yield.
  • In most developing countries, there is little room for expansion of arable land: virtually no spare land is available in South Asia and the Near East/North Africa.
  • Where land is available, in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin American, more than 70 percent suffers from soil and terrain constraints.
  • More efficient use of water, reduced use of pesticides and improvements in soil health can lead to average crop yield increases of 79 percent.

How can we save our soils?

The sustainable use and management of soils is linked to many different areas of sustainable development--poverty reduction, hunger eradication, economic growth and environmental protection. Promoting the sustainable management of soils can contribute to healthy soils and thus to the effort of  eradicating hunger and food insecurity and to stable ecosystems. There is an urgent need to stop land degradation in its various forms and establish frameworks for sustainable soil management systems. The Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils of the Global Soil Partnership recommends the following actions:
  • Provide suitable technologies, sustainable and inclusive policies, effective extension programs and sound education systems so that more is produced with less;
  • Include soil protection and reclamation and sustainable land management projects in the current emerging markets that provide an economic value to those actions that produce ecosystem services;
  • Recognize the increasing need to preserve soils and have governments make corresponding investments;
  • Promote management practices for climate change adaption and mitigation, and resilience to changing weather patterns and extremes;
  • Promote strong regulations and effective control by governments in order to limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established thresholds for human health and eventually to remediate contaminated soils;
  • Increase the area under sustainable soil management practices, enhance the restoration of degraded soils, and promote "sustainable production intensification" through adapted biological resources, increasing soil fertility, water use efficiency, ensuring sustainable use of inputs and recycling of agricultural by-products;
  • Support the development of national soil information systems to assist decision-making on sustainable land and natural resource uses;
  • Increase investment in sustainable soil management by overcoming obstacles including tenure security and user rights, access to knowledge and financial services;
  • Strengthen the implementation of capacity development and education programs on sustainable soil management.

Clean Fuels Omaha Promoting Renewable Fuels

Increasing the use of clean burning renewable fuels such as American Ethanol and biodiesel is the focus of a growing coalition of organizations working to improve air quality in the eight-county Omaha metro area, which includes counties in neighboring Iowa. Clean Fuels Omaha is a public/private coalition focused on the use of alternative fuels as a strategy to improve human health and the quality of the air we breathe. Clean Fuels Omaha involved a wide range of participants including the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Soybean Board, the Urban Air Initiative, Green Plains, Iowa Corn, SIRE, Douglas County Health Department, Omaha Public Power District, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) and other clean air and health-focused organizations and advocacy groups.

The use of renewable fuels such as American Ethanol and biodiesel are part of the "Little Steps, Big Impact" campaign led by MAPA. MAPA brings local government officials of the region together to address mutual and overlapping concerns in the areas of transportation, solid and hazardous waste, community and economic growth and development, air quality, energy, and data. It also works to promote and preserve the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens in the MAPA region. MAPA is promoting the use of American Ethanol through social media an its ozone awareness and education campaign.

So far, the Omaha metro area has been able to avoid what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls "nonattainment status." Nonattainment means that the area does not meet the national air quality standards for any component considered to be a pollutant. If Omaha were to slip into nonattainment status, the consequences would be severe. For example, there would be additional regulations for industry--and serious pollution reduction regulations would be put in place.

MAPA Executive Director Greg Youell said that his organization has incorporated consumer information on renewable fuels in its "Little Steps, Big Impacts" campaign, which helps citizens learn how they can easily make a difference in the quality of life in their city. "The more we learn about the dangerous effects of vehicle exhaust on human health, the more we need to encourage the use of clean-burning fuels such as American Ethanol and biodiesel," Youell said.

September 25, 2015

Nebraska Cattle on Feed up 4 percent

The USDA Cattle on Feed Report is a monthly publication that reports data on the number of cattle in U.S. feedlots, the number of cattle being placed in feedlots, and the number being marketed for slaughter.

Why is this important to corn producers and consumer? 

Livestock is our number one market - and beef being the majority of livestock that is fed corn - so being aware of how many cattle on are feed in Nebraska and across the U.S. helps us know about the market for our corn.

Nebraska Cattle on Feed up 4 percent

Nebraska feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.20 million cattle on feed on September 1, according to the USDAs National Agricultural Statistics Service. This inventory was up 4 percent from last year.

Placements during August totaled 410,000 head, down 4 percent from 2014.

Fed cattle marketings for the month of August totaled 400,000 head, down 9 percent from last year. Other disappearance during August totaled 10,000 head, down 5,000 from last year.

Cattle On Feed Up 3 Percent In The U.S.

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 9.99 million head on September 1, 2015. The inventory was 3 percent above September 1, 2014.

Placements in feedlots during August totaled 1.63 million head, 5 percent below 2014. Net placements were 1.57 million head. During August, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 395,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 215,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 362,000 head, and 800 pounds and greater were 660,000 head. Placements are the lowest for August since the series began in 1996.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.59 million head, 6 percent below 2014. Marketings are the lowest for August since the series began in 1996. Other disappearance totaled 60,000 head during August, 9 percent below 2014.

September 24, 2015

Nebraska Among First to Adopt American Ethanol Labels

If you're a NASCAR fan, the new labels coming to Nebraska fuel pumps will look familiar. For the past four years, American Ethanol has been the fuel of choice for NASCAR in the form of E15. The American Ethanol brand is on the green flag at the start of every race and appears prominently on cars and promotional materials on the NASCAR circuit. Now the American Ethanol brand is making its way to the consumer marketplace through a nationwide pump laving initiative--and Nebraska is one of the first states to implement it.

"The American Ethanol brand labels will help consumers more easily identify this clean-burning, homegrown fuel at the pump," said David Bracht, Director of Nebraska Energy Office. "Once this brand is implemented nationwide, consumers will be able to find American Ethanol virtually anywhere they travel."

The American Ethanol labels will identify higher ethanol blends including E15, E30, and E85. E85 can be used in 2001 and newer vehicles, while ethanol fuels such as E30 and E85 can be used in flex fuel vehicles. Flex fuels vehicles can operate on any combination of ethanol and gasoline up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). About one in seven Nebraskans is driving a flex fuel vehicle.

"For more than seven million miles, NASCAR has proven that American Ethanol is a reliable, high-performance fuel," said Dennis Gengenbach, a Smithfield, Nebraska farmer and Director on the Nebraska Corn Board. "Bringing the American Ethanol brand to your local retailer will provide even further assurance that this is a fuel we can all count on for performance and cleaner air."

September 22, 2015

Corn Harvested at 5%

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending September 20, 2015, Nebraska experienced temperatures two to eight degrees above normal, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Most of the State received up to an inch of rain. The warm conditions helped boost crop maturity and facilitated the dry down process. Preparations for harvest were ongoing, with soybean and high moisture corn harvest underway in some areas. There were 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 29 short, 60 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 27 short, 65 adequate, and 2 surplus.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
 Corn condition rated 2 percent very poor, 5 poor, 19 fair, 54 good, and 20 excellent. Corn dented was at 93 percent, equal to last year, and near 97 for the five-year average. Mature was at 47 percent, equal to last year, and near 48 average. Harvested was at 5 percent, near 3 last year and 9 average.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

September 21, 2015

Ethanol Creates Economic Vitality in Nebraska

Ethanol production has been a boon to Nebraska'a economic vitality, according to a recent economic impact study conducted by University of Nebraska-Lincoln economists. The study, entitled "Economic Impacts of the Ethanol Industry in Nebraska", was published in mid-April. The study examined the economic impact of Nebraska's ethanol industry from 2009 through 2014. During that five-year period, Nebraska's ethanol industry generated products valued between $4 billion and $6.6 billion annually. This value includes not only ethanol but also distillers grains, a livestock feed that is produced at ethanol plants.

"Nebraska has a unique advantage known as the 'Golden Triangle'", said Tim Scheer, a St. Paul, Nebraska, farmer and a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. "The combination of corn, livestock and ethanol production provides significant opportunity to add value at every step along the production chain--and that creates jobs, revenue and economic vitality from border to border in the state." Additionally, Nebraska is rivaling Texas as the top cattle-on-feed state due in large part to Nebraska's readily available supply of corn and distillers grains. Nebraska is in the enviable position of being the westernmost major producer of ethanol. Nebraska is one of the nation's leading bioenergy exporters with 96 percent of its ethanol production leaving the state and is well positioned to serve the fuel demands of the United States. Additionally, 58 percent of the distillers grains is shipped out of the state, primarily to dairies in California and beef producers in Texas.

International demand for ethanol and its co-products also bodes well for Nebraska's economic future. "Canada imports 40 percent of the U.S. ethanol exports and China imports 39 percent of the U.S. distillers grains," said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator. "There is a strong demand throughout the world for ethanol and its co-products, so we continue to look for ways to expand the Nebraska market as well as international markets in an effort to bring more economic prosperity to Nebraska."

While the recent study focused on the past five years, it is interesting to note that Nebraska's ethanol production started in 1985 at 9 million gallons per year. By 1995, the industry was at 200 million gallons. A little over ten years later, that number had grown to 858 million gallons--and grew to over 2 billion gallons by 2011. "The ethanol industry has been a huge economic driver for the entire state," Scheer added. "In just 30 years, ethanol production has changed the landscape in Nebraska and is poised to help our state become a national leader in the production of bioenergy and livestock feed."

Winners of Inaugural Ag Champions Contest Announced

Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska FFA Association announce winners of community “agvocate” program

The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and Nebraska FFA, with the help of Curt Tomasevicz, spokesman for NCB, are pleased to announce that three Nebraska FFA chapters have proven to be “agvocates” (agricultural advocates) in their local communities and have been selected as winners of the 2015 Inaugural Ag Champions Program.

S-E-M FFA chapter
Amherst FFA Chapter
The 2015 Ag Champions Program Grand Champion was awarded to the Amherst and S-E-M (Sumner-Eddyville-Miller) FFA chapters. The two FFA chapters submitted an advocacy plan together, addressing the concerns consumers have about the beef industry. The schools plan to agvocate for the beef industry through cooking demonstrations at large grocery stores in Kearney and Lexington, Nebraska. They plan to create conversations with urban and non-farm consumers that are removed from the production cycle and help them understand the benefits of beef and the safe production practices that are associated with raising it.

“Between the two FFA chapters, we bring everything from strong production agriculture backgrounds, to non-farm backgrounds,” said Marissa Kegley, student from Amherst FFA Chapter. “Together we will be able to offer all perspectives of agriculture, and hope to bridge the gap between producer and consumers, while educating them about the positive aspects of the beef industry.”

“Our FFA chapter has been trained in the Masters of Beef Advocacy program and many of us also have beef SAE (supervised agricultural experience) projects,” said Jason Line, a student from S-E-M FFA Chapter.  “We have a strong understanding for our industry and are excited to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with those consumers that are asking questions and wonder what goes into beef production.” 

“We are excited to be part of the Ag Champions Program and to having Curt Tomasevicz help us carry out our plan,” added Mekenzie Beattie, a student from S-E-M FFA Chapter. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with Curt and share the many positive aspects of the beef industry to consumers, including the nutritional benefits and the proper management practices that beef producers use.”

Tekamah-Herman FFA chapter. 
The 2015 Ag Champions Program Runner-up was awarded to the Tekamah-Herman FFA chapter. The FFA chapter submitted an advocacy plan that will help create a larger understanding of agriculture in the younger demographic of their local communities.  They plan to start a FFA program / agricultural educational program for the 5th and 6th grade students in their school.

“As our chapter worked to identify an agricultural issue in our local communities, it became clear that over the last few years, we have seen a huge decline of involvement in FFA among the incoming freshman classes,” said Katheryn Gregerson, a student from Tekamah-Herman FFA Chapter. “Since there is no agriculture education available to these students until they enter high-school, we think our agvocacy program will be a great way to introduce the topic to them and build excitement and interest about joining FFA as they enter high school.”

“I think our agvocacy program will be a great way to educate younger students about agriculture and eliminate any misconceptions and myths they might have heard about it,” said Thomas Henning, student from Tekamah-Herman FFA Chapter.  “I’m excited to show the 5th and 6th graders that you don’t have to grow up on a farm to be involved in agriculture and FFA and agvocate for the industry.”

“Once our agvocacy plan takes off and we begin to revitalize our FFA program, we will have the ability to get more involved in our school’s “Teach Ag Day” in the elementary. As a bigger chapter, we will have the capability to help expand the elementary Ag Day beyond the classroom to the farm,” added Gregerson.

Based off the budget of their agvocacy plan, Amherst and S-E-M  FFA chapters will be awarded a $500 grant from the Nebraska Corn Board to complete their agvocacy plan, as well as the opportunity to work with Olympic Gold Medalist, Curt Tomasevicz. Tekamah-Herman FFA Chapter will be awarded a $1,000 grant to complete their plan in their community.

“The Nebraska Corn Board is pleased to provide these schools with the monetary resources needed to implement their advocacy plans in their local communities,” said Emily Thornburg, director of communications at the Nebraska Corn Board. “We look forward to helping these students become engaged as advocates for agriculture in their communities and among their peers and are anxious to see the results of their hard work.”

All Nebraska FFA chapters will be receiving information about the 2016 contest details from the Nebraska State FFA Officers during the fall District EDGE Conferences, but more information will be available here. Deadline for the 2016 Ag Champions Program is December 1, 2015.

More photos of the FFA Chapters are available online (Click here).

September 18, 2015

Social Soil: Instagram

*Welcome to Social Soil - a series of social media posts for farmers. Whether you're a seasoned social media veteran or just trying to start, we want to help farmers with their "ag+advocacy" skills ("AGvocacy") so together we can promote Nebraska corn and agriculture.*

Instagram is one of the newer social media platforms that allows people to share their lives, businesses and causes through a series of pictures. And pictures where you can add filters to improve their visual aid. It’s a fun a quirky way to share your life using your mobile phone.

When Instagram came out, it was more of an app to simply edit your photos with filters that made your images look even better. But it has become a competing social media venue that allows people to communicate and share simply through this one site – and they encourage you to post as life happens. The pictures are featured on a chronological newsfeed so you can scroll through to view those you are following and what they are doing.

What is great about Instagram is that the uploading is fast and efficient and you can share your photos on multiple platforms instantly.

Getting Started

To get started is simple. You just need to download the app, create an account and start taking pictures/sharing pictures (and video!) you’ve already taken. To link your Instagram to other platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) you’ll have to give Instagram approval, but it’s pretty fast and easy.

Why share with Instagram?

Why should I share my pictures on Instagram when I can just post them on facebook or Twitter? Well, for one, Instagram makes your photos look really, really cool! Like going from this to this:

But, as someone in agriculture, if you’re going to share your pictures on Facebook or Twitter anyways, why not Instagram? It reaches more (and maybe even different) people than just FB or Twitter, and it gives you a new way to express yourself in agriculture and show what you do and why you do it. (Isn’t that our goal of why ag peeps want to share pictures of life on the farm?)

Who to Follow

Here are a few good aggie-Instagram accounts to follow:

Jay Hill New Mexico farmer. Proudly representing American agriculture with U.S Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. #hillfarmsnm

Janice Person city girl, loves #cotton, biotech & pics, outreach for @MonsantoCo, loves #Memphis Tigers & #travel, #BlogChat fan, #FarmersROCK, views are mine

Zach Hunnicutt Farmer in south-central Nebraska, which means that you're going to mostly see pictures of the farm and the Huskers.

Of course….. necornfarmers.

And just for fun….. uglyfruitandveg.

Read other Social Soil posts here!

September 17, 2015

Nebraska's Golden Triangle Benefits Renewable Fuels

September is Renewable Fuels Month!
Part Two of a Four-Part Series for Renewable Fuels Month

Nebraska’s economic prosperity is deeply rooted in agriculture. Very few states can stake claim to the high rankings and diverse production that Nebraska consistently maintains year after year. Besides taking the top ranking in cattle on feed, in 2014, Nebraska also ranked first in popcorn and Great Northern dry edible bean production.

Last year, Nebraska ranked third in corn production and fifth in soybean production, accounting for nearly 12 percent of the nation’s corn bushels and almost 8 percent of the nation’s soybean bushels. Nebraska’s centralized location, access to water, and fertile soils make it a natural hub for crops, livestock and biofuels production – all of which make up Nebraska’s Golden Triangle.

“No state is better situated with crops, livestock and renewable fuels than Nebraska,” said David Bruntz, farmer from Friend, Nebraska and secretary/treasurer on the Nebraska Corn Board. “Nebraska ranked second nationally in ethanol and distillers grains production in 2014. These production rankings clearly illustrate the interdependent nature of the biofuels and feed industries.”

Farmers have solid, established markets for corn – ethanol and livestock – while the two-dozen ethanol plants across our state then provide renewable fuel and a feed ingredient for the livestock industry, giving cattle feeders in Nebraska more feed options and an advantage over feeders in other states.

Soybean acres in Nebraska are up nearly 13 percent from last year. Not only do soybean farmers expect a large crop, but they also expect to find a market for that large crop as well. Roughly 97 percent of domestic soybean meal goes to feeding poultry, hogs and other livestock.

The majority of the oil from soybeans continues to be used for human consumption, but biodiesel production has increased significantly over the last few years, helping to alleviate a glut of soybean oil that remained on the market. In fact, roughly one quarter of all soybean oil is now used to produce biodiesel.  According to a study conducted by the USDA, the increased usage of biodiesel has returned nearly $0.74 per bushel to soybean farmers while decreasing the price of meal by $21 per ton.

Eugene Goering, a soybean farmer from Platte Center, Nebraska and chairman of the Domestic Marketing Committee for the Nebraska Soybean Board, thinks Nebraska’s Golden Triangle makes perfect sense. “Agricultural production in Nebraska is part of a very dynamic system, a system in which soybeans, corn, and biofuels production can fit in perfectly with livestock production. We can market our crops locally, create jobs locally and keep some of these tax dollars in our communities.”

September 15, 2015

Seed Corn Harvest has Begun

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending September 13, 2015, temperatures averaged near normal with rain confined to the eastern half of the State, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Silage cutting was active in a number of areas. Seed corn harvest had just begun and the first fields of high moisture corn were being taken. The last irrigation activities of the year were underway. Winter wheat seeding was progressing in western counties, as was dry bean and millet harvests. There were 5.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 29 short, 61 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 26 short, 66 adequate, and 2 surplus.
Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 19 fair, 56 good, and 19 excellent. Corn dough was at 96 percent, near 100 for both last year and the five-year average. Dented was at 86 percent, equal to last year, but behind 91 average. Mature was at 27 percent, equal to last year, and near 30 average. Harvested was at 1 percent, near 0 last year and 5 average.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the National publication for Crop Progress and Condition tables HERE. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

September 12, 2015

The Farm Whisperer

A local Nebraska businessman, speaker and University of Nebraska Coordinator of Family Business Programs and lecturer has recently published a book on family farm succession planning.

Dave Specht is an internationally recognized expert in family business management and his new book, The Farm Whisperer, encourages the reader to discover the key pitfalls that families face with generational farm transitions and offers strategies to help you in your own succession process. The Farm Whisperer is an actionable guide to help begin discussions and get your family started on this important journey. While The Farm Whisperer offers no silver bullet guarantees, it does provide questions, processes and a framework to get started on being intentional about, "Preserving Your Family and Perpetuating Your Farm.".

Spect is the founder of Advising Generations LLC, a strategy consulting firm for family-owned businesses. His work was recently featured in The New York Times, Successful Farming Magazine, Drovers Cattle Network and Family Business Magazine. He has gained international attention for his creation of the GenerationalBusiness360© process and a new mobile app called Inspired Questions-For Farmers.

He also offers five reasons farm transition planning in “optional”.

5 Reasons Farm Transition Planning Is Optional

  1. If you don't mind the default plan that the government has already created for you, don't bother with the planning process.
  2. You have confidence that your children will work it out and their relationships won't suffer because of your lack of guidance.
  3. You don't really care if the farm stays in the family or if it gets sold to your neighbor.
  4. If your relationship with your lender is so good that you are 100% confident they will continue lending to the next generation.
  5. If you are willing to have your kids sell the farm should you or your spouse need medical or long-term care.

If any of these five reasons make you uncomfortable, you should take an intentional approach to the planning process. The Farm Whisperer may be just the start that you need to get your family on the road to generational continuity.

Don't leave your farm and family legacy to chance. Thanks to Dave for offering a great resource to farmers about issues that are becoming ever more important.

September 10, 2015

Strategic Research Survey

In an effort to be more strategic in prioritizing the research funded by the Nebraska Corn Checkoff Program, the Nebraska Corn Board is asking for your assistance in identifying the issues that hold the most importance to Nebraska farmers.

As the first step in focusing research funding, the Board would like to ensure that no issues impacting your profitability have been overlooked – including opportunities for increasing demand.  Please take a moment to complete this anonymous survey by selecting the level of importance each issue has in terms of value to your farm and your profitability over the next 10 years.  The survey is only 11 questions and we expect it will take no more than 5 minutes to complete.

While our first priority is to hear from farmers, we welcome feedback from others with valuable input (e.g. crop consultants, extension educators, etc.).  To participate, please click on the following link:  

This survey will be open through Wednesday, September 30. The Nebraska Corn Board appreciates your assistance in helping us capture the greatest value from your checkoff investment in research.

September 9, 2015

Renewable Fuels Offer Consumers Choices at the Pump

September is Renewable Fuels Month!
Part One of a Four-Part Series for Renewable Fuels Month

Nebraskans have the choice of what type of fuel they put in their vehicle when they fill up. These options are available thanks to renewable biofuels such as American Ethanol or biodiesel. In September, Nebraskans can celebrate these choices with the recent proclamation of “September is Renewable Fuels Month” by Gov. Pete Ricketts (see photo on the right).

Biofuels come in many different blends and can be found all over the country. Most vehicles can fill up with E10, vehicles newer than 2001 can use E15, while flex fuel vehicle (FFV) owners can fill up with flex fuel blends from E20 up to E85. Biodiesel blends can usually be found at levels of B5, B10 or B20. Blend rates are identified by the number following the letter, so B20 is comprised of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel fuel, whereas E85 is 85 percent American Ethanol and 15 percent regular unleaded gasoline.

Finding the fuel choice for your vehicle is simple. “The main thing to know is if you have a flex fuel vehicle (FFV) or not. If you do have an FFV, you can fill up with any blend of American Ethanol up to E85. If you don’t have an FFV and it’s newer than 2001, you can fill up with any American Ethanol blend up to E15,” said Tim Scheer, farmer from St. Paul, Nebraska and past chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

When consumers make the choice to put these renewable fuels in their fuel tank, they are choosing their energy future. A future with renewable fuels is less reliant on the oil industry and its negative impacts on our environment. By using renewable fuels, they will also diversify their fuel sources to positively impact America’s economic and national security, which ensures a healthier future for the environment.

“Renewable biofuels offer consumers a wealth of benefits when they fuel up at the pump,” added Scheer. “While there are a lot of options to choose from, the decision to use these renewable blends is an easy one. It is cost-effective, American-made, renewable and better for our environment and consumer health.”

While biofuels are better for the environment, many motorists are also pleased to know it is better for their engines. Evidence shows that ethanol keeps engines clean by preventing build-up in the fuel injection system and reducing tailpipe emissions. Additionally, since it is water-soluble and has a low freezing point, it helps prevent a vehicle’s gas line from freezing up in cold weather. 

Biodiesel also offers many benefits, such as added engine lubricity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Another benefit is that you do not need to modify your engine to run biodiesel, and when using biodiesel motorists won’t be sacrificing fuel economy or performance. Whether you drive a car, truck, semi, or farm equipment, biodiesel is made to work in any diesel engine.

“With today’s innovative engine advancements, biodiesel now has a place for every diesel engine. It has been proven the fuel provides similar fuel economy, horsepower, and torque as regular fuel,” states Ron Pavelka, farmer from Glenvil, Nebraska and chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board. “Whether it be in town, on the interstate, or steering down the rows of a field, renewable fuels are home-grown and here to stay.”

September 8, 2015

Irrigation Winding Down

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending September 6, 2015, above average temperatures and generally dry conditions were experienced throughout Nebraska, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Temperatures averaged up to ten degrees above normal, causing some livestock and dryland crop stress in areas where there was minimal rainfall. Fieldwork activities included cutting silage and winding down irrigation. There were 6.5 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 30 short, 59 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 25 short, 67 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 18 fair, 57 good, and 19 excellent. Corn dough was at 94 percent, near 97 last year and the five-year average of 98. Dented was at 75 percent, near 73 last year and 79 average. Mature was at 12 percent, near 14 last year and 16 average.

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

Nebraska Corn Board Elects New Officers

The NebraskaCorn Board met and elected officers for the 2015-2016 fiscal year at their board meeting on Monday, August 31 at The Embassy Suites Hotel in Lincoln. The board met to conduct regular board business and hold election of officers.

David Merrell, District 7 director from St. Edward, Nebraska, was elected chairman.  Merrell previously served as the vice-chairman of the board and has been a director on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2006. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanized Agriculture (Biological Systems Management). He and his wife, Cyndee, have three children and have been farming for over 20 years around St. Edward, located in Boone County, Nebraska.

Dennis Gengenbach, District 6 director from Smithfield, Nebraska, was elected vice chairman. Gengenbach previously served as the secretary/treasurer and was chair of the board’s biofuels committee.  He has been a director on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2006.

David Bruntz, District 1 director from Friend, Nebraska, was elected secretary/treasurer. Bruntz previously served on the board’s biofuels committee and has been a director on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2013.

Tim Scheer, District 5 director from St. Paul, Nebraska, will now serve as the past-chairman of the board. Scheer has been a director on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2007.

“It’s an honor to be elected chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board,” said Merrell.  “This organization represents an industry that is vitally important to our state and we are fortunate to have farmer leaders and staff members who are extremely dedicated to it. I look forward to working with the board, staff and industry leaders to continue the positive momentum of Nebraska’s corn industry in the areas of market development, research, promotion and education.”

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Tim for his dedication and efforts over the past years of serving as chairman and Alan Tiemann for serving as past-chairman,” added Merrell. “Both of these farmer leaders have contributed substantial time, shown great commitment, and brought innovative ideas to our industry over the last three years.”

September 3, 2015

Talking ag with a vegan

I had an opportunity with CommonGround recently to attend a dinner with media, dietitians, nutritionists and bloggers. It was a great event to reach influencers who have day-to-day interaction with consumers who have questions about food and what farmers and ranchers do.

At my table were three dietitians: one was a pro-GMO spokesperson, one was in administration and one was ---- a vegan. I was really nervous when I first met him hoping that he didn't immediately ram down my throat about modern ag production practices. And I also hoped I could keep my cool and not let him dominate the conversation.

The conversation started well with the table being open to hearing what I do as a farm woman, mom and blogger, as well as learning about what each of them do in their field of practice. It was interesting to me that what we do on our farm was (for the most-part) okay, but when the words "environment", "GMO", "climate change", "economics" and more were brought up, things got a little more heated. In all of the research that my "new friend" had done, I had known of a study that refuted his information and was peer-reviewed and backed by sound-science. He rattled off numbers (I later found out this is what he does in his spare time - research!) and I was pretty impressed by the passion that he had for wanting to change the world to be meat-free and all organic - but he had his facts all wrong because he simply hasn't seen it done, been to a farm or ranch, and had a very naive view of the rest of the world.

We had a healthy debate on how unrealistic it is for the WHOLE world to turn meat-free and all organic. There is a place for these markets and I totally support that (I told him I even supported him being vegan - the sentiment was not returned). The biggest point that I wanted to get across to him was the availability of CHOICE that we have here in the U.S. I was grateful for the GMO-supporter-dietitian that was also at our table because she has done work all over the world and agreed that we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world with the most choices.

While a little disappointed I wasn't able to "change" my vegan-friend's mind about modern agriculture, it was a good reminder that he is in the 10% of the population whose mind cannot be changed on a matter they think they know all about (I'm not saying all vegans are this way). While I came away from the dinner disheartened over what I "should have said" to try to change his mind, I realized that there were two other sets of ears at the table who were more likely in the "move-able middle", 80% of the population that we should really be focusing our efforts on who we can give information to for them to make an educated decision. The remaining 10% are those of us in agriculture and consumers we already have "on board" and supporting our cause.

It is an exciting time in agriculture to be able to share our story with a wide-consumer base of people who are truly interested in how their food is raised. What are you doing to reach out and share your story to the "move-able middle"?

September 2, 2015

A Healthy Soil is a Living Soil


2015 International Year of Soils

Biological diversity or 'biodiversity' is described as "the variability among living organisms from all sources, whether terrestrial, aquatic or marine." It includes the diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (organism diversity) and of ecosystems (ecological diversity). Soil is one of nature's most complex ecosystems and one of the most diverse habitats on earth: it contains a myriad of different organisms, which interact and contribute to the global cycles that make all life possible. Nowhere in nature are species so densely packed as in soil communities; however, this biodiversity is little known as it is underground and largely invisible to the human eye.

Soil Biodiversity and Agriculture
Our agricultural systems exert an important influence on soil organisms, including their activities and their biodiversity. Clearing forested land or grassland for cultivation affects the soil environment and drastically reduces the number and species of soil organisms. A reduction in the number of plant species with different rooting systems, in the quantity and quality of plant residues, or in soil organic matter content limits the range of habitats and foods for soil organisms. While the use of external inputs, particularly inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, can overcome some soil constraints to crop production, the overuse or mis-use of afro-chemicals has resulted in environmental degradation, particularly of soil and water recourses. The quality and health of soils largely determine agricultural production and sustainability, environmental quality and, as a consequence of both, has bearing on plant, animal and human health. Improving soil biodiversity is vital to ensuring soil health and further food and nutrition security. Agricultural systems and afro-ecological practices that dedicate great care to nurturing soil biodiversity, such as organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotation and conservation agriculture, can sustainably increase farm productivity without degrading the soil and water resources.

What do soil microorganisms do?
In both natural and afto-ecosystmes, soil organisms are responsible for performing vital functions in the soil ecosystem which have direct interaction with the biological, atmospheric and hydrological systems. Soil organisms act as the primary agents of nutrient cycling, regulating the dynamics of soil organic matter, soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, modifying soil physical structure and water regimes, enhancing the amount and efficiency of nutrient acquisition by the vegetation through mutualistic relationships, and enhancing plant health. These services are essential to the functioning of natural ecosystems and constitute an important resource for the sustainable management of agricultural systems

The Soil Food Web
When diverse soil organisms interact with one another and with the plants and animals in the ecosystem, they form a complex web of ecological activity called the soil food web. The resilience of the food web in inextricably linked to the biodiversity within the soil.

September 1, 2015

Corn Condition Rates 77% Good/Excellent

For the week ending August 30, 2015, cooler temperatures were noted in eastern counties where significant rainfall occurred, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. However, western dryland crops and pastures were showing stress as producers worked to keep up with demand of irrigated crops. Final hay harvest was active, as was preparation for winter wheat planting in the west. There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 29 short, 61 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 25 short, 67 adequate, and 2 surplus.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 18 fair, 58 good, and 19 excellent. Corn dough was at 91 percent, near 93 last year and the five-year average of 95. Dented was at 59 percent, equal to last year, but behind 64 average. Mature was at 1 percent, behind 7 last year and 8 average.
Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter