October 31, 2016

Nebraska corn harvest on track with the average

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA
For the week ending October 30, 2016, unseasonably warm conditions persisted throughout the week, with temperatures averaging nine degrees above normal, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Precipitation was limited to a few counties in the northeast. Many producers finished soybean harvest and were focusing on corn. There were 6.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 10 percent very short, 32 short, 56 adequate, and 2 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 29 short, 61 adequate, and 2 surplus. 

Field Crops Report: Corn harvested was 69 percent, near 70 both last year and the five-year average.

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

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

October 26, 2016

Fear-Based Food Marketing; Not Only for the Rich & Famous

Recently at a food blogging conference, I conversed with several foodie’s who repeatedly asked me production questions about my farm, how we raise our livestock and what we feed them. Then proceeded to question my family's production decisions, “Are you really telling me the truth?”.

But Whole Foods only has meat that is grass-fed and organic – so that is what you should be raising, right?” said a food blogger.

We proceeded to have a conversation about the “fear-based marketing” that retailers like Whole Foods has, merely to increase prices. It’s their business model. Making money based on fear. I proceeded to tell her that the beef my family raises could likely end up in Whole Foods or Safeway or a local grocery store and each store/chain will label it how they want – even though I raised it all the same here on my ranch.

This idea of fear-based marketing is not new to me, or probably to you. Retailers, restaurants and certain “self-proclaimed” know-it-alls…ahem, Food Babe, have been labeling and marketing their products in a way to make a certain production practices seem more humane or better for your health, while also jacking up the price.

But what I found interesting was that it is not just the upper (or even middle) class who are falling for these marketing ploys anymore. The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research recently performed a research study, surveying 510 low-income shoppers about what types of information influences their shopping decisions regarding fruits and vegetables. The results concluded that in general, participants preferred organic fruits and vegetables; however, cost was a significant barrier to purchase them. Informational statements about organic and conventional fruits and vegetables did not increase participants' likelihood to purchase more.

Here’s the kicker -- in contrast, messages naming specific fruits and vegetables with pesticides shifted participants toward “less likely” to purchase any type of fruits and vegetables regardless whether organically or conventionally grown. The results provide insight about how low-income people view fruits and vegetables and how communications may influence their future purchase intentions.

Another study that focused on low-income consumers was performed at John Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future in January of 2015. The respondents in this study included organic--or common characteristics of organic food--in their definition of healthy food, even though many of them did not have access to organic foods due to poor availability and affordability.

Now, even though this is just fruits and vegetables, I’m pretty confident that a follow-up survey about meats, grains and GMOs would produce similar results. We can’t just claim that the top 10% of consumers – namely Whole Foods customers – are the only ones drinking the Kool-Aid and wanting certain production practices based on fear of that practice because it’s deemed ‘healthier’ for them and they can afford it. It’s all up and down the socio-economic pipeline.

This should be a wake-up call for those of us raising food. We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing. We need to talk about it. And share it. Then share it again. Different people will see what we are doing, why we are raising food that way and start a revolution that should happen when people are making choices about something that is so personal and emotional to them.

To wrap-up my time at the food blog conference, I had several, meaningful conversations with the bloggers about how food is really raised. Most of them had never been on farms and had just relied on their friends, family or ‘Whole Foods’ to tell them how food was - and should - be raised. Just a simple conversation changed their perspective – and likely their friends, family and most importantly, their blog following – about modern food production.

What are you doing today to defend your right to raise food the way you do?

October 24, 2016

Nebraska corn harvest halfway complete!

Photo Courtesy of David City FFA
For the week ending October 23, 2016, temperatures averaging four to six degrees above normal, combined with limited precipitation, improved harvest conditions, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Heavy morning dews continued to limit soybean harvest progress. There were 6.5 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 9 percent very short, 26 short, 62 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 25 short, 65 adequate, and 2 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 21 fair, 57 good, and 16 excellent. Corn harvested was 50 percent, near 52 last year and the five-year average of 54.

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

October 19, 2016

Nebraska Corn 34% Harvested

For the week ending October 16, 2016, temperatures averaged near normal in the east and two to six degrees above normal across western Nebraska, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. However, freezing temperatures at mid-week were reported across a wide area of the State. Rainfall was minimal, but heavy morning dews limited soybean harvest progress. There were 5.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 24 short, 65 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 24 short, 66 adequate, and 3 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 5 poor, 21 fair, 57 good, and 16 excellent. Corn mature was 96 percent, equal to last year, and near the five-year average of 93. Harvested was 34 percent, near 36 last year, and behind 40 average.

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

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

October 17, 2016

Corn Congress Leadership Mission


In July, the Nebraska Corn Board, through our corn farmer’s checkoff investments, supported eight Nebraska agricultural leaders to join corn growers, staff and leaders during the National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) Annual Corn Congress meeting.

The meeting took place in our Nation’s capital from July 18 - July 21. Throughout the three days, the eight Nebraska Corn Leaders were able to interact with nearly 200 farmers and leaders from all across the U.S., Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation and agribusiness leaders from some of the leading agribusiness companies. They were also provided with the opportunity to advance their personal and professional leadership skills, develop an understanding of the role and importance that NCGA plays in agricultural policy and engage in a hands-on tour of agricultural production in the Delmarva Region.

Below is an outline of the agenda:
  • Monday, July 18: flight to Washington DC and Nighttime Tour of City and Monuments 
  • Tuesday, July 19: tour of the Delmarva Region, including tours of: Oyster Recovery Center, Grasonville, MD; Nagel Cucumber Farm, Denton, MD; Kenny Brothers Grading Station, Bridgeville, DE; and an evening activity with leaders from Missouri, Ohio and Iowa 
  • Wednesday, July 20: NCGA’s Corn Congress, Capitol Hill Visits and agribusiness Meetings 
  • Thursday, July 21: NCGA’s Corn Congress, Agribusiness meetings and flights home 

Attendees of the Nebraska's Corn Congress Leadership Mission included: Sam Krueger of Blue Hill, Curtis Stallbaumer of Oconto, Toni Rasmussen of Newman Grove, David Schuler of Bridgeport, Clint Shipman of Red Cloud, Andrea Wach of Wauneta, Emily Puls of Emerson and Amanda Kowalewski of Gothenburg.

Below is a video that Nebraska Corn Leader, Andrea Wach, made about the experience. (or click here to view)

Additionally, below is what Nebraska Corn Leader, Clint Shipman, shared about his experience…

“I had the privilege of attending the National Corn Growers Association Corn Congress in Washington, D.C. The Nebraska Corn Board sponsored me, as a Nebraska Corn Leader. This experience has helped to further develop my leadership skills along with broadening my knowledge of the United States agricultural industry.

The observations I made during this event were very diverse. We had the opportunity to tour Harris Seafood Co., which has an oyster farm in Queensland County, Maryland. The biggest takeaway from this experience was hearing the owner, Jason, talk about his operation. The phrases, “nitrogen and phosphorus management” and “planting this year went smoothly”, are two very familiar statements. He explained one of his biggest concerns was labor along with over-regulation when it pertains to the minimum wage; two issues that also pertain to farm operations here in Nebraska.

While in Queensland County we made a stop at Nagal Farms. Hannah Cowley gave us a tour of the cucumber harvest process in one of her fields. She outlined the growing season of cucumbers. Forty-five days is all that is needed for cucumbers to reach maturity, making it possible for double cropping. Soybeans or cucumbers can be the second crop. 

The cucumbers raised will later become pickles and the farmers use Kenny Brothers Cumber as a distributor to companies such as Clausen, Vlasic, or Allan Pickle, to name a few. Viewing the many steps this unique crop goes through before I get to see it inside of my fridge was intriguing to watch.

At the NCGA Corn Congress Meeting we attended on Wednesday, July 20th, we saw delegates vote on new policy along with new National Corn Board candidates be elected to the Board. The opportunity to witness the process that the association uses to adopt a policy at the national level is something I can share with farmers in my community. When associations talk about grassroots, I now can say I have seen the policy ideas go from the farmer’s field all the way to the state and national level. 

The individuals I was introduced to and able to network with while in Washington, DC made me realize the tight-knit community the agriculture industry is. Large in scope, but also still reflects the relationships that mirror small farm characteristics. Agriculture is one of the most progressive industries in the world, but it has not lost sight that the most powerful tools are to work together as a team. The experience I had during Corn Congress showed me the importance of coming together to find common goals when working to develop sound policy in a government that continues to be over-regulated.”

Interested in applying for the 2017 Corn Congress Leadership Mission? 
Email Emily Thornburg for details: emily.thornburg@nebraska.gov. 

October 12, 2016

Harvest Season – Operation Lifesaver

See Tracks? Think Train!
Did you know the railroad plays an important part in agriculture especially at harvest? More than 3,400 miles of railroad tracks run through Nebraska transporting grain, fertilizer and ethanol for global distribution.

Those same tracks may crisscross your farmland or run parallel to your local co-op and elevator. You probably cross railroad tracks every day without a second thought. Nebraska Operation Lifesaver wants to remind you to avoid complacency at railroad crossings this harvest season.

Pat Leahy, Union Pacific track inspector and Operation Lifesaver presenter, is visiting co-ops in central Nebraska reminding farm crews about the importance of railroad crossing safety.

“Be observant when you approach the tracks,” Leahy said. “It’s a busy time of year, but trying to beat a train or take shortcuts is not worth the risk.”

Leahy urges all farmers, ranchers and their employees who must use farm-rail crossing to remember – Always expect a train! Trains can run on any track, at any time, in either direction.

Never attempt to cross railroad tracks unless you’re certain you can get completely across them, and without risking becoming high-centered. Trains extend at least three feet beyond the width of the rails on each side, so remember your cargo overhang as well.

Remember to pay extra attention where field and farmstead access roads cross the tracks. Be especially cautious at private access farm-rail crossings which are not equipped with warning signs, lights, bells or gates.

If you have an issue or emergency at a railroad crossing looking the blue Emergency Notification System sign on the crossing. Call the 800 number and report the crossing number to notification the dispatcher of your location. Keep emergency information handy for frequently used farm-rail crossings.

Download these useful tools provided by Operation Lifesaver and Union Pacific to keep you safe this harvest season:

About Operation Lifesaver

Operation Lifesaver's mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. A national network of trained volunteers provides free presentations on rail safety. Learn more at www.oli.org; follow OLI on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Nebraska Operation Lifesaver, which is led by State Coordinator Carol Daley, focuses on public education throughout the state. Learn more at www.nebraskaol.org or follow Nebraska OL on Facebook and Twitter. 

This guest blog was written by Megan Grimes. Megan is the public relations coordinator with the Nebraska Ethanol Board and also serves on the board of directors for Nebraska Operation Lifesaver.

October 6, 2016

Ag Champions: Helping students become Advocates for Agriculture


Most will agree, American farmers are in the minority when it comes to our nation’s population. At the same time, the rest of the country is three or four generations removed from the farm. That means the average American lacks the general understanding about where their food comes from and the important role agriculture plays in all of our lives and our country. In many cases, these consumers are unfortunately exposed to an endless flow of misinformation in the media and on the Internet. So our challenge as an agricultural industry, is to give them the information to make educated choices.The Nebraska Corn Board realizes FFA students identify and understand agricultural issues. Our intent, by offering the Ag Champions Program, is to encourage FFA students to “agvocate” (agricultural advocates) for agriculture by sharing their story with consumers and accurately representing agriculture.

 The Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska FFA are partnering to offer the newly revised 3rd Annual Ag Champions Program where FFA students can be champions for agriculture and accurately represent their industry online! The purpose of the Ag Champions Program is to help FFA students find their voice and become agvocates by building their own social media platform online to tell their story. The use of today’s technology and social media has taken the opportunity to share agriculture to a whole new level and as the future of agriculture, we need FFA members to lead this conversation. Our hope is that the platform the students build will become a foundation that they can build on for the rest of their ag-loving life!

How do I get started? 
It is up to the students to make their own unique online presence. They can create an ag-focused website, blog, or vlog (video blog). These platforms must be visible to the public and must feature a minimum of six entries, including the topics outlined in the “contest rules” on page 2. The top six students, judged to have the strongest agvocating platform, will each receive a $500 scholarship.

Click here to download a copy of the complete overview

October 5, 2016

Making “SENSE” of Sustainable Nitrogen Management

In today’s world it could be easy to think that the idea of “sustainability” is a new concept.  After all, it’s been just in the last couple years that we’ve seen an influx in advertisements and product labels carrying such phrases as “Produced Sustainably” or “Sustainably Sourced”.  But what exactly does sustainability mean?  While the exact definition is often up for debate and may vary between groups, commonly referenced principles of sustainability within agriculture include:
  • Maintaining or increasing production using fewer inputs
  • Adopting strategies or developing new practices that lessen environmental impact
  • Seeking continuous improvement in agricultural productivity across the entire supply chain   

These principles are far from being new concepts to Nebraska’s corn farmers who understand that “sustainability” is more than merely a marketing term.  As stewards of the land, sustainability is a necessity for farmers to meet the increasing food, fiber, and fuel needs of a growing world, while preserving resources for all uses and to be enjoyed by future generations.

While principles of sustainability are not new to farmers, there is always room to improve on what is already being done through new and innovative methods.  This is what researchers at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) hope to achieve with Project SENSE.

Project SENSE, or Sensors for Efficient Nitrogen Use and Stewardship of the Environment, is a research project conducted by UNL in partnership with 5 Nebraska Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) and the Nebraska Corn Board.  Project SENSE seeks to increase nitrogen use efficiency in corn production and reduce environmental impact of nitrogen use on groundwater quality by utilizing crop canopy sensors. 

Nitrogen is one of the most important elements for plants, and successful nitrogen management is critically important in optimizing crop yields.  Although nitrogen is naturally found in air and soil, it’s generally in a form that is not directly available to most plants, or not available in the amount that plants need.  Farmers are able to get around this by applying the usable form of nitrogen (nitrate or ammonium) to their fields – an added input expense that doesn’t come without its challenges. 

Two of the biggest challenges a farmer faces are determining the timing of the nitrogen application and the rate to be applied.  Nitrogen applied too early holds the risk of being lost through leaching before the crop takes it up.  Leaching occurs because nitrate is not held well by soil and therefore can be washed below the root zone of plants especially after large rains.  The ideal time to apply nitrogen fertilizer is during the growing season, just before the crop’s maximum demand for nitrogen.  However, waiting too long to apply runs the risk of logistic or weather conditions not allowing application when planned.  In addition, due to nitrogen’s complex behavior of changing between forms and being highly mobile in soil, soil testing for available nitrogen may give a reading that is only valid at the time of testing, leading to application rate recommendations that may be too high or too low for the plant’s needs.    

A key component of Project SENSE is the use of crop canopy sensors to mitigate these challenges.  The sensors are installed on high clearance equipment which allows for application of nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season of corn when nitrogen is most needed and taken up by the plant.  The sensors themselves measure light reflectance off canopy leaves which correlates to the nitrogen status of the crop and is used to generate real-time optimal rates of nitrogen to be applied as the farmer drives through the field.

In terms of sustainability, the ability to apply the optimal amount of nitrogen at the right time clearly has the potential to lessen the environmental impact caused by nitrogen leaching.  However, Project SENSE also demonstrates an often overlooked component of sustainability – economic sustainability.  If a production practice can’t be sustained financially, it won’t be adopted by producers.  The use of sensors to generate the economic optimum rate aims to achieve stable or increased yields while also using less fertilizer, resulting in increased profit.   

In 2015, 17 Nebraska On-Farm Research Network grower sites were implemented as part of the project, and preliminary results are promising.  At each site, the study compared the grower’s normal nitrogen management approach to the Project SENSE nitrogen management approach.  Over all sites combined, Project SENSE resulted in a reduction of nitrogen by 40 lbs/ac compared to the grower’s nitrogen management approach.  Although an average yield loss of 5 bushels per acre was also observed with Project SENSE, the economic savings from the reduced nitrogen application translated to a marginal net return of $7.75 per acre above that achieved using the growers’ standard nitrogen management practices. 

Project SENSE does more than just demonstrate the potential for improved nitrogen use efficiency using sensor-based application, it also challenges farmers to think about nitrogen management differently and encourage the adoption of strategies that are both environmentally and economically beneficial.  In terms of seeking continuous improvement to enhance the sustainability in agriculture production, Project SENSE is one example of how corn checkoff funds are supporting research to meet the challenges faced by Nebraska‘s corn farmers.  

Watch the video below or click here for a 360 experience of Project SENSE from inside the applicator cab...
*Tilt or drag to move around!*

For more on Project SENSE and to see full results, visit Nebraska On-Farm Research Network at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch

October 4, 2016

Nebraska Corn 15% Harvested

For the week ending October 2, 2016, ideal fall harvest conditions occurred with minimal precipitation and near normal temperatures, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The dry conditions allowed grain moisture levels in standing crops to be drawn down and permitted easy access to fields. Soybean harvest was widespread. Winter wheat was being planted in southern counties. There were 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 28 short, 61 adequate, and 3 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 26 short, 65 adequate, and 2 surplus. 

Field Crops Report: Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 6 poor, 20 fair, 56 good, and 17 excellent. Corn mature was 85 percent, ahead of 77 both last year and the five-year average. Harvested was 15 percent, near 14 last year, but behind 21 average.

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

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