August 24, 2017

A Time for Reflection

A Time for Reflection As my internship at the U.S. Meat Export Federation comes to an end I have taken the time to reflect on how much this summer has impacted me and how beneficial my experiences at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) will influence my future. I am so grateful that I had this incredible opportunity and I will cherish the memories made, the knowledge gained, and the lessons learned. The last few weeks of my internship have been focused on putting the finishing touches on my projects, asking last minute questions, and unfortunately, saying goodbye.

During my last week in Denver the Executive Committee and Board of Directors conducted a meeting in the Denver office. It was an honor to be a member of the team and help organize and host the meetings, as well as, greet guests as they arrived and give tours of the office. These meetings were planned and organized to discuss budgeting and membership. It was exciting to see the representation from all sectors of USMEF members in action.

The knowledge I have gained this summer while at USMEF is something I will take with me throughout the rest of my college career, graduate school, and when I enter the workforce. The meat and export industry knowledge I learned at USMEF in invaluable to me. I started my internship with the expectation that I would have a lot to learn; that was an understatement, all that I learned and gained during this summer far exceeding my expectations.

My internship gave me many opportunities to learn new skills and refine my abilities and talents. I learned graphic design during my work on my major project, something I never thought I could feel confident doing; I can definitely say I am comfortable using Photoshop and InDesign programs. I also had the opportunity to practice being able to make on-the-spot decisions, being adaptable to changing circumstances, and being innovative in the business setting.

A significant benefit I took away from my internship at USMEF was the important professional contacts I was able to make. The people I met are now some of my close mentors and people I definitely look up to. It was truly an honor to work with people I had read about in industry publications and was familiar with their professional accolades. They helped me build my self-confidence and emphasized that it is necessary to ask questions.

Overall, my summer has been extremely successful and I look forward to the possibility of future opportunities. I appreciate all the generosity and kindness I received at the U.S. Meat Export Federation and I would like to sincerely thank the Nebraska Corn Board for providing me the opportunity to work at the USMEF for the summer. I was sad to leave Denver, but I recognize this summer experience will greatly assist me as I continue to grow. This will be a summer I will always cherish.

Michaela Clowser
U.S. Meat Export Federation
1660 Lincoln Street, Suite 2800
Denver, CO 80254
Office: 303.623.MEAT

Living Abroad

With another wave of news updates in the White House, the country seems to have forgotten about the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. Remaining up-to-date on the negotiations is important, but there are reporters more qualified than myself covering it. Instead, I wanted to take a minute to step back and look at the future of trade for the U.S.

This is an important topic. With increasing rhetoric from US officials and civilians about American nationalism, there is fear that U.S. trade will be thrown to the side. As the U.S. considers its role in the globe, other nations have taken advantage of our vacancy. Floyd Gaibler, the U.S. Grains Council Director of Trade Policy & Biotechnology, cited that U.S. grain trade has already declined 7% pre-NAFTA negotiations this year. This demonstrates that U.S. uncertainty and rhetoric alone has caused some trade partners to look elsewhere for trade. I saw this in Mexico where there is an increase in vessels bearing Brazilian corn. Furthermore, the European Union is making strides with a trade agreement between the them and Japan following the Trans-Pacific Partnership fallout.

In an increasingly global economy, it is clear the United States is not the only source of trade anymore. And there is an interesting juxtaposition in the agriculture world to make matters more perilous. The U.S. has seen significant strides in agriculture production due to innovations in research and technology. Driven by the mission to feed the world and with the promise of expanding markets, U.S. farmers have worked hard to push production to its highest levels yet. But all these successes lead to the potential of one huge crash. If the U.S. lost access to or competitiveness in foreign markets, domestic farmers would be left with a gross oversupply of goods. This could lead to defaults on loans, significant debt, and strife for many of our nations hardest workers. U.S. consumption is simply not large enough for world-leading production.

On the other hand, we must acknowledge that some U.S. jobs have suffered due to global trade. Florida fruit and vegetable farmers struggle to compete with Mexican counterparts. The sugar producers in the same state face similar challenges. Certain manufacturing industries have declined. Despite this, the U.S. economy continues to grow. That is not to say that the U.S. government should not look to help and support these people. But we also live in a free market where U.S. consumers are often price sensitive and enjoy the benefits of cheaper goods from free trade.

In a sense, the United States let the cat out of the bag when it comes to FTAs and global trade when we pioneered NAFTA in 1994. Now, many nations have adopted their FTAs modeled after our own. If the U.S. is to withdraw from global trade, we can expect fiercer competition from nations eager to improve their own economic and political standing in the world.

I believe in our nation and our standing in the world. Living abroad helped me realize how amazing our country truly is. It is good to come together and consider our role moving forward. But let’s not take too long nor forget about the consequences of our actions.

 Stephen Enke
 U.S Grains Council
Jaime Balmes No. 8-602 "C" Col.
 Los Morales Polanco Mexico, D.F., Mexico 11510
 Office: 011-52-55-5282-0244

August 23, 2017

At what point are there too many internship blogs?

You’ll have to forgive me for adding another one to the pile, but the point of how invaluable internships are cannot go missed. I was in Washington, D.C. for ten weeks this summer with the National Corn Growers Association, and the first three weeks were a major adjustment. I didn’t express that sentiment in my first two blog posts—I’ve always been outgoing, curious, and adaptable; overall, these feelings were a first.

Despite the unease of acclimating myself to D.C., the culture, transportation, verbiage, and even the swampy weather, I knew with confidence that this internship was something I wanted, and needed. Following dreams of being an artist and a fashion designer (circa 2001), working in public policy in the agriculture industry has long been an interest of mine. I interned with a risk management firm last summer, and can’t say enough good things about my experience with the firm and the producers we worked for—I received invaluable mentorship that summer and learned more about risk, hedging tools, and relationships than the classroom could ever teach me. However, I still had a yearning for policy work. I knew that if I didn’t get policy experience under my belt I would be holding myself back, and letting myself down. Lucky for me, I had another summer left before graduation (December 2017) to pursue policy. Some may find my sentiment exaggerated, and sure, I could jump into a full-time position in public policy when I graduate and figure it out then, but an internship first provides a few advantages.

Internships are a low risk, high reward, environment. You are able to immerse yourself into a company, their culture, and daily operations, without a long-term commitment. Eight to twelve weeks, that’s your only obligation. While that is a simplified notion, and there are many more pieces to an internship, such proving that you are an asset to a team, you can use it as a time to explore if the company and the field is right for you. If not, no harm, no foul. You can follow through on your commitment and leave on strong terms, whereas if you jumped into a job straight out of college that wasn’t the right fit, leaving may be a little more awkward, and you may be faced with thoughts of unease and uncertainty, between fight or flight.

Secondly, you are getting paid to learn. For most new positions, it takes time to operate in autonomy with confidence. In my experience from the two internships I have held during undergrad, I didn’t feel like things truly “clicked” until my last two-three weeks. The majority of the summer is an exciting, fun, and yet huge, learning curve. You have to ask a few more questions, tasks take you a little bit longer to navigate, and you’re still sorting out what exactly your role is. Most companies recognize the return from having interns, that’s why they continue to recruit, and then support them through the learning-curve each summer. However, I want to reiterate this point to parents that are hesitant to support their son or daughter through an internship, students who don’t really have interning as a priority, and any business owner that has entertained the idea of developing an internship program. The personal and professional growth that can be achieved by interning is invaluable and irreplaceable.

Third, internships are an opportunity to see how you handle adversity. This adversity can come in a variety of forms. Perhaps it is a series of challenges that come with moving 1,400 miles away from home. Perhaps it is the challenge of micromanagement, or on the flipside, navigating autonomy. Maybe you have to recognize your own abilities, and ask for more responsibility. Are your daily tasks not lining up with the job description? Or, maybe you are trying to succeed but the company’s structure and communication habits are restricting that. Some of these points are my own, others come from the experiences that peers have had. Bottom line, these are challenging waters to navigate, and I know that I will be able to hit the ground running much faster, in my first full-time position, than if I had never interned during my undergrad years.

Interning has helped me reflect on my interests, identify what I value in a company, and also to develop expectations for myself and what I am able to contribute to a cause. Culture, engagement, and autonomy are priorities of mine when considering future employers. From one internship to the next, I was able to reflect and identify what I think I did really well, but also set new standards for myself and identify how I thought I could perform better round-two (this summer with NCGA).

I by no means have it all figured out, and don’t think that I ever will, but I assure you that because of internships I am more excited than nervous, or unsure, to graduate in December. So, thank you Nebraska corn farmers, Nebraska Corn Board and National Corn Growers Association, for supporting internships and taking the time and resources to invest in me this summer. Your support helped me to intern, and knowing I had the support of family, friends, and advisors, I was able to take advantage of a summer of growth.

P.S. I included some weekend fun in my last two blog posts and wanted to share a few photos from hikes that I went on the last two weeks I was in D.C. It was so refreshing to get out and visit some local gems. The pictures shared here are from Harpers Ferry, WV, and Great Falls, VA/MD.

Jacy Spencer
National Corn Growers Association, Washington D.C. Office
20 F Street NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20001
Office: 202-628-7001

August 17, 2017

Stages of Growth: Growing

"Knee high by the Fourth of July"

A saying that is often heard in Nebraska as state residents talk about the beautiful green corn fields they drive past on a daily basis. While we are celebrating the Fourth of July and enjoying our summers, corn is busy growing.

Rapid Growth and Dry Matter Accumulation (V10 to V17)

After corn has surpassed the emergence stages they move on to the rapid growth and dry matter accumulation. This includes V10 to V17. During these stages it is vital that plant stress is reduced. Management and climate both effect the growth of a corn plant. Ideally, adequate nutrient levels and a proper climate will help maximize the potential yield grades.

  • V10 Stage
    • This stage can be identified by 10 leaves, elongated stalk and the tassel begins to rapidly grow.
  • V11-V15 Stage
    • These stages are bringing the corn plant closer to pollination. This means that soil moisture and nutrient availability are extremely important. Also during this time kernel row determination is almost complete. 
Pollination (V18 to R1)

Finally, nine to 10 weeks after corn emergence the corn plant begins pollination. Again, in this stage it is important to monitor moisture and heat stress. If these stressors occur this could led to loss of entire ears or barren tips, decreasing yields. 
  • VT Stage
    • Stage VT is all about the tassel. This begins when the last branch of the tassel is visible, but the silks have not emerged. Tassels normally appear two to three days before silk emergence. 
  • R1 Stage
    • Stage R1 is all about the silks. This stage begins when the silk is visible outside the husk. This helps with pollination. 
Grain Fill (R2 to R6)

We have finally reached the last stages of growth. The intentions of growth shift from vegetative growth to reproductive growth. We have already determine the number of kernels by this point, so at this time we determine the size of the kernels. At this point we are also not out of the woods. Corn can still be killed or yields damaged. 
  • R2 Stage
    • The kernel is white and shaped like a blister. 
  • R3 Stage
    • The silks are brown, the kernel is yellow and the dry matter accumulation occurs very quickly. 
  • R4 Stage
    • This is 24 to 28 days after silking and the starch levels of the kernel begin to increase. The kernel has accumulated half of its total dry weight. 
  • R5 Stage
    • The kernels begin to dry down from the top of the kernel toward the cob. This less to a dent on the top of the kernel. 
  • R6 Stage
    • This is it, this is the last stage of growth. The kernel continues to gain weight until maturity occurs. Kernel moisture ideally ends at 30 to 35 percent. 

August 11, 2017

10 Things on “Interning”

Corn is at full growth. Calves are about to be weaned. And everyone is starting to say the words, “Are you ready for your senior year?” I’m only making observations (through telephone calls and snapchats because being surrounded by the city of D.C. doesn’t yield those things I might add), but I think my summer internship is ending...

We, as interns in every aspect, are wrapping up our summers reflecting and thinking about our experience these past couple months, and even more about our future. Working for the U.S. Grains Council this summer was a totally different summer I have been used to, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. To wrap it up, I’m compelled to make a straightforward guide to what are great things to know and learn from in any internship, tailored to students who may not have had an internship before and may want some expectations. They rest of us can relate:

1. Don’t make assumptions
Sure, we all read up on the company, or talk to past interns. But when the rubber meets the road, the internship programming is changing on the company's end to tailor the needs of that specific moment. Be ready for changes and open to any experience we get exposed to.

2. We are there to learn
Believe me, coming from a man that is used to being outside all day with ranching responsibilities, it’s expected to be a learning curve when taking an internship that is completely different than what we are used to. Plus, we wouldn’t apply for college credits for the internship if this wasn’t the case.

3. Show up to work (as a verb)
Want a job? A reference? Or work that is more meaningful? Prove that you deserve those things.

4. It’s okay to ask for time off...for experiences
I was new to this one. Understand that the employers probably have made an internship position at their place of work because they believe in the learning objective. This is more inclusive to DC internships, as I can’t express enough on how many lunches and social networking events there are for interns in the Capitol City.

5. Take advantage of new locations
There is no better time to travel than when we are young. Experiencing another culture and geographic location, while having the time and energy to explore is perfect. The Nebraska Corn Board is a great example of a way to make this happen with their internships they facilitate in places like Central America, Mexico, Colorado, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.!

6. With involved socially
Yes, I know Netflix just bolstered their series lineup, but it will still be there when we return. How often in our lives do we get the opportunity to start a new original friend group that can allow our minds to think differently and grow our network of friends across the country? Take advantage of that ability.

7. Be ready to eat a lot of ham sandwiches
Nothing is more appetizing than eating a sandwich you made early that same morning, knowing it cost you about 50 cents for the whole thing. Especially when you are living in the district that is known for any prepared meal costing an arm and a leg.

8. Don’t get caught going through the motions
If we find ourselves in a stage of being comfortable or not learning anything, what is the credit? It’s good to settle in and be productive, but we shouldn’t settle for the “past” to be only place we learn.

9. Quality over Quantity on professional relationships 
Jack of all trades, master of none. Finding those meaningful and genuine relationships that we can lean on for our careers and advice goes a long ways. Yes, it’s good to broaden the scope of choices, but when it comes down to it, and if we know what path we want to take in our lives and careers, appreciate the quality of a few.

10. Be thankful 
Think about it. A majority of companies, when supplying an internship experience, put time and effort in training for the experience. In return, they get an employee they invested in leaving after ten weeks. Let’s say the internship was good, they would hope that we will return later down the road or give a return in some aspect on the investment. Being thankful for the opportunity, working hard on the job, and providing some sort of return on their investment is the least we can do.

I have an immense appreciation for the company and staff of the U.S. Grains Council. They gave this Rancher their trust, insights, and friendship, while allowing me to work alongside the global programs staff in planning and marketing U.S. Commodities. Planning and escorting the Japanese trade team through my home state of Nebraska may of been a highlight (and once in a lifetime internship experience), but it was only one of the many neat things I was able to be a part of, here at the world headquarters.

And to Nebraska Corn, I can’t think of another opportunity that is as genuine or perfect for an agriculturalist wanting to explore and grow themselves. Thank you. If you have interest in international agricultural policy and trade, and want to spend the summer in our nation’s capitol. Contact Nebraska Corn this coming fall!

David Schuler
Global Programs Intern
U.S. Grains Council
(202) 789-0789 Ext. 711

August 8, 2017


As I wrapped up the last few weeks of my internship and moved back to Lincoln, I reflected on how quickly this summer has gone. There has been so many things to learn here at NCGA. There is no way I could learn about everything the organization does in just 10 weeks. The last few weeks of my internship have been filled with wrapping up projects in the office and traveling to Corn Congress in Washington D.C.

I had the opportunity to visit communication organizations outside of the office to learn about different aspects of the communications industry. While still in St. Louis I visited the Osborne Barr office, an agricultural communications agency. They have many clients including NCGA, the National Soybean Board, Monsanto, Morton Buildings, and many others. I learned about different projects they do for these organizations. In Washington D.C., I continued my learning by going on a tour of the Washington Post. This was a great experience to learn how WP is incorporating new technology into the way they share news to keep it relevant even as print newspapers become a thing of the past in a tech savvy world.

Corn Congress was an amazing way for me to expand my understanding of the organizational structure of NCGA and my knowledge of corn. I spent time in meetings with the Freedom to Operate Action team. This team focuses on government policy and other items that affect farmer’s access to new biotechnology, pesticides, and other technology that makes corn operations more profitable and sustainable. I learned about the development process for new biotechnology products and the regulation process after it is developed, both in the Untied States and abroad. I also enjoyed attending Corn Congress sessions where delegates voted on resolutions to add to the policy book and attended to other business. It was interesting for me to learn about the priorities of corn farmers and what they think is important to include as a national policy. While in D.C. I also got to visit some Nebraska Congressmen, meet staff from some national ethanol organizations, and listen to a speech from the Ambassador of Mexico to the Untied States on his opinion and work on NAFTA renegotiations.

While wrapping up my time in St. Louis I attended a Cardinals baseball game, enjoyed a giant Fourth of July celebration in Forest Park, and visited some beautiful state parks south of the city including my favorite, Elephant Rocks State Park. While in D.C. I did some sightseeing including some stops on the National Mall and a stop outside the White House to watch some street performers. The White House was only a few blocks from our hotel!

This summer has been a truly wonderful experience for me to learn how a national organization works and experience living in a big city for the first time. It has helped me to determine what I want to do after graduation from college and to discover some things I don’t want to do as a career. I am thankful for the caring individuals I worked with and the passionate farmers I met during my time at NCGA.

Renae Sieck
National Corn Growers Association,
National Office 632 Cepi Drive
Chesterfield, MO 63005
Office: 636.733.9004

August 7, 2017

Busy in the Nebraska Corn Growers Office

This past month has been extremely busy in the Nebraska Corn Growers office. It started off with our last American Ethanol Promo at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood. Austin Dillon, an American Professional Stock Car driver even had one of his show cars at the race! This race also included a money grab and a Bill Wrich Tribute which brought in a lot of fans. This allowed for more opportunities to talk with consumers about Ethanol and how people are already using it every time they fill up at the pump!

After the race promos ended for the season, we started right back up again but this time at the ball park. In the middle of July, Catherine, Nikki, and I went to Ag Night at Werner Park. We had a booth where we set up the spinning wheel, asked fun trivia questions and gave away prizes. I am pretty sure it was on the warmest day of the year, but it was also bark in the park so the dogs made the heat a little more tolerable. While at Ag Night I had the opportunity to speak with adults about Nebraska Corn. It was neat to see how interested some people were. Many consumers think Nebraska producers only grow sweet corn for consumers for farmers markets and grocery stores. Although that is true to some extent the majority of corn produced in Nebraska is field corn, which is used for livestock, ethanol, and other byproducts. In fact, sweet corn production remains quite small, less than 1% of acres in Nebraska produce sweet corn. I also talked with farm families from Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Corn Grower Open was this past week in Kearney at Meadowlark Hills Golf Course. We had a great turnout with 111 golfers and many different sponsors. We started in May contacting agriculture businesses to sponsor the 7th annual Corn Grower Open. I was excited to see all of our hard work finally come together. While at the tournament I had the opportunity to meet several corn growers and get to know our sponsors a little bit more.

It has been a busy summer here in the office, however I have been able to do other things as well. At the end of June, I took a week off to volunteer at the National 4-H Shooting Sports that is held annually in Grand Island, NE. There were over 700 4-H competitors from 36 different states. This was my 6th year volunteering. Each year is like a big “family reunion” with the volunteers and range officers that I’ve met over the years, so I couldn’t miss it. I have had the opportunity to spend a few days on the lake and river with my friends and family. This past weekend I went to Lake Okoboji for the first time. It was as great as promised! Also coming up is the Seward County Fair (my home town). The saying “once a 4-Her, always a volunteer” is very true to me. Now that I am a 4-H alumni I was asked to come back as the photography superintendent. So I will be spending a few days at my county fair but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am looking forward to the coming fall events including Frog Fest, August 19th and Husker Harvest Days, September 12-14th.

This Isn’t Ketchup…

I was mortified the day I first tried ketchup in Mexico. The moment the “catsup” landed on my very American burger, I knew something was wrong. There was a translucent (possibly glowing) liquid running over the edge. The mixture tasted sweet, even sweeter than the ketchup back home… and it wasn’t very tomato-y. What I was tasting seemed more like a sweet and sour sauce from a Chinese restaurant than my beloved American ketchup. I began questioning a society that would alter my beloved condiment.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I’m spending time with Mexican and Spanish friends. One of my amigos from Mexico grew very serious and requested permission to ask a question. I, of course, said go for it expecting some inquiry about American politics or why so many of us are “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. Instead, he asked bluntly “Do you like Taco Bell?”. I laughed at this as I recalled late-night Taco Bell trips during high school. So, I responded to my friend “Yes, I try not to eat it all the time, but I think it’s delicious” (and better than Amigos, sorry Lincoln friends). He looked at me appalled and went on a rant about how terrible and far-off Taco Bell was from Mexican food. And he’s right. It is a delicious abomination of Mexican food. It’s wrong, but it’s right.

I’ve thought about the parallels between my ketchup and his Taco Bell experience. All cultures have their unique aspects, whether it’s differences in taste pallets, religious beliefs, age at when people get married (or if they choose to at all). When living in or working with another culture, it’s important to note these … almost with a scientific lens. But to abhor every difference makes for a miserable life and complicates business negotiations. The happiest I’ve been in Mexico is when I’ve changed my mindset from thinking “This is not how we do it in America” to looking for what is great about the Mexican way of life. And as my time here winds down, I’m beginning to realize there

is a lot I’ll miss about Mexican culture: the abundance of mom and pop shops, the importance of family, siestas and fiestas, and most of all, salsas. I already asked for recipes in-advance because Nebraska’s selection of salsas is a sad excuse for the magical manna here.

When I return to the U.S., I plan to make homemade salsa. I’ll likely keep some Mexican phrases like “Que fresa” and prefer larger lunches. These pieces of Mexican life will mix with my already established norms and create my own cultural stew. In a way, this is rather American - we are the “melting pot” nation after all.

 Stephen Enke
 U.S Grains Council
Jaime Balmes No. 8-602 "C" Col.
 Los Morales Polanco Mexico, D.F., Mexico 11510
 Office: 011-52-55-5282-0244