Corn Commentary

Corn Growers Have Busy Week in DC

2014-corn-congressMembers of the National Corn Growers Association had a busy week in the nation’s capital last week – hearing from and meeting with administration officials and lawmakers, saying goodbye to retiring industry leaders, and inspiring new young leaders.

I talked with NCGA president Martin Barbre today about what all they did last week and we only scratched the surface. One of the highlights was an update from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe on the proposed Waters of the United States rule. “NCGA is taking the position that yes, we are opposed to the interpretive rule and yes, we think the rule itself needs to be changed immensely, but we want to work with EPA and see if we can’t put our stamp on that to make it better for farmers and still work for the environment,” said Barbre.

NCGA members also wanted to know when they might hear from EPA on a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “The number needs to be out,” Barbre said. “Hopefully it will be good for us when it comes down to it.”

ncga-zimmermanThe week in DC also included updates from NCGA action teams and committees on a variety of topics, such as ethanol, biotechnology, government regulation and trade. Delegates also re-elected four board members and elected one new one last week. Re-elected were Bob Bowman of Iowa, Lynn Chrisp of Nebraska, Kevin Skunes of North Dakota and Paul Taylor of Illinois and new to the board is Jim Zimmerman of Wisconsin. Jim is no relation to this Zimmerman, but I did interview him last October at the Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) Global Farmer Roundtable.

There were quite a few good-byes said to corn industry members who are retiring this year, including Don Hutchens of the Nebraska Corn Board, Marsha Stanton of Monsanto, and Don Borgman with John Deere – as well as NCGA CEO Rick Tolman, who received a special tribute.

NCGA members also spent some time on the Hill talking with their lawmakers about important issues and Barbre presented NCGA’s 2014 President’s Award to Representative John Shimkus (R-IL).

Finally, last week graduated the inaugural class of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program, which Barbre says included some enthusiastic new young people for the future of the industry.

Listen to my interview with Martin here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

Check out pictures from the event in the NCGA Flickr photo album.

Corn Starch Bioplastics and Farm Pest Control

Hamed AbbasMore and more research is being done on biological control of all forms of pests including in the agricultural market. Dr. Hamed Abbas, USDA, talked about “Bioplastics Made from Corn Starch as an Effective Biological Delivery Vehicle for Control of Agricultural Pests” at the recent Corn Utilization Technology Conference. Here’s another example of a new use for corn starch.

Before he got started I asked him to explain how bioplastics play a role and provide examples of the form they take. He says bioplastics make an excellent delivery system for biological controls. The beneficial fungus used in biologicals love bioplastic because it provides them with nutrition and it has longer shelf life.

Listen to my interview with Hamed here: Interview with Hamed Abbas

2014 CUTC Photo Album

EPA Chief Hopes RFS Rule Coming “Soon”

epa-mccarthyA final rule on the volume obligations for this year under the Renewable Fuel Standard is taking longer than expected, but Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy says they want to get it right.

“I’m hoping it will come out soon,” she said during a press conference on agricultural issues this week. Explaining about the delay in releasing the final rule, which was expected by the end of June, McCarthy said it has become clear that there is concern “not only about what the volumes of the fuels are but the way in which we are adjusting those volumes.”

McCarthy stressed that the administration “continues to have a strong commitment to biofuels” and they want to make sure the final rule “clearly reflects that interest.”

“My goal is always to make sure we get it right,” she concluded.

Listen to McCarthy explain here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on RFS rule release

2014 CUTC Receives Rave Reviews

NCGA BoothIt takes a team to have a great CUTC conference. But the man who was actively checking on everything to make sure all was well is Richard Vierling. I talked with Richard at the conclusion of this year’s conference. He says it was a fabulous conference with nothing but rave reviews from attendees. He says the planning committee hit a home run on the topics that are important to farmers and important to the industry.

Richard says they often had to cut off the Q&A sessions after presentations because they were going over their time limits. That’s a sure sign of strong interest. A unique part of CUTC is having researchers interacting with industry representatives as well as farmers. Richard says that helps encourage the free flow of ideas.

Listen to my interview with Richard here for more on this year’s conference: Interview with Richard Vierling

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Biopolymers – Cutting Edge Technology

USDA Joe RichDuring this year’s Corn Utilization Technology Conference biopolymers took the stage first when the program moved into breakout sessions. Leading this session was Joe Rich, research leader of the Renewable Products Technology Group at the National Center of Agricultural Utilization Research.

I first asked him to explain what a biopolymer is. Joe says biopolymers are a wide ranging group of materials that are used in plastic products, clothing and more. A biopolymer is a material made from a renewable resource like corn rather than a petroleum. The presentations in his session focused on different applications for biopolymers and how they can be produced. One of the key take aways Joe wanted attendees to have from the session was a “need for new materials.” Interestingly, some of the biopolymer materials discussed in the presentations don’t even have applications created for them yet. How’s that for cutting edge technology!

Listen to my interview with Joe here: Interview with Joe Rich

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Be Proud to Support American Ethanol

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, many of us will be out on the roads driving to see family, friends and fireworks. But, thanks to upheaval in a little country halfway across the world, gas prices are up again so we are going to be paying more at the pump, a stark reminder that we are not so independent when it comes to our energy sources.

ethanol-prideNational Corn Growers Association president Martin Barbre says that this Independence Day, more than ever before, it’s important for us to remember the great strides our country has made in moving toward energy independence and to keep moving forward, not backward.

“The Environmental Protection Agency wants a 10 percent reduction in corn ethanol this year, and earlier this year nearly 200,000 people around the country demanded the EPA not cut the Renewable Fuel Standard,” says Barbre. “Because it’s produced here in the United States, every gallon of ethanol blended into fuel means a gallon of gas from foreign oil that we don’t need. It provides a cushion in times such as these with Mideast violence and gives drivers a choice that helps clear the air and boost the economy.”

He suggests that all Americans (especially farmers!) do their part to support domestically produced ethanol. Buy a flex fuel vehicle. If you already have an FFV, fill up with E85 whenever possible and if it’s not available at your gas station, tell the manager you want it.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen also reminds us that ethanol saves Americans money at the pump, stretches the fuel supply and is the perfect remedy for skyrocketing gas prices.

In this interview Dinneen talks about that, as well as the new milestone reached this week in cellulosic ethanol production and why the government needs to be expanding the use of biofuels rather than contemplating scaling back our nation’s renewable energy policy and striking a blow for American energy independence. Share it with your friends on social media.

Ethanol Report on Energy Independence

Filling up with domestic, renewable ethanol is a great way to celebrate our great nation’s 238th birthday, and we at NCGA wish everyone a memorable and safe holiday weekend.

Hillary Clinton Favors Biotech Crops

hillary-bioHillary Clinton seems to be everywhere these days and this week she spent over an hour at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in San Diego chatting with BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood, a former congressman from Pennsylvania.

The wide ranging discussion touched on a variety of topics, including agricultural biotechnology. Greenwood asked Mrs. Clinton where she stood on the use of genetically modified crops. “I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record,” said the former first lady, adding that the case needs to be made for those who are skeptical. “There is a big gap between what the facts are and what the perceptions are,” she said, receiving applause from the packed crowd that included as many as possible of the 15,000 attendees at the convention.

Clinton noted that focusing on the benefits in terminology of the crops could help. “Genetically modified sounds ‘Frankensteinish’ – drought resistant sounds really like something you want,” she said.

Hear all of Clinton’s ag biotech comments here. Hillary Clinton at BIO convention

Making Precision Ag Decisions

2014 CUTCOne of the platinum sponsors for this year’s Corn Utilization Technology Conference is Dupont Pioneer. Speaking on “Precision Ag to Decision Ag” was Joe Foresman, Director – Services Americas at DuPont Pioneer. That’s an interesting talk title since we hear a lot of discussion about the volume of data being collected in precision agriculture today and a lot of questions about what to do with it.

Joe was on the program to talk about rolling out Encirca Yield, a new feature from the suite of Encirca Services. He says, ‘We are going to be featuring nitrogen and seed management in this offering. With Encirca, we are going to provide tailored, brand neutral whole-farm solutions with an advisor for farmers. This will allow us to move away from just the maps to actually developing new management zones in the field.”

Encirca is a crop observation tool that a farmer can download from the Apple Store or Android Marketplace.

Listen to my interview with Joe and learn more about Encirca here: Interview with Joe Foresman

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Cellulosic is Real, According to CUTC Panelist

edeniqAt the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Steve Rust with Edeniq talked about new processing technology and products taking ethanol to the next level.

“Cellulosic ethanol is for real now,” says Rust. “People need to know that because this is key right now with discussions on the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

rust-headRust says new technology like Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform is helping to make cellulosic ethanol a reality. “We have a piece of equipment that pre-treats the slurry in a corn ethanol plant and then we add a helper enzyme in it that we co-fermentate cellulosic and corn ethanol in the same fermenter,” he explained. “The nice thing about our technology is that it can be used in any dry mill ethanol plant for them to be able to get cellulosic gallons for a small capitol investment.”

Interview with Steve Rust, Edeniq


2014 CUTC Photo Album

Starting the Conversation on T-TIP

vilsack-usdaAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Europe last week meeting with agricultural and trade officials and about the importance of agriculture’s role in the U.S.-European Union (EU) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). He started the week in Brussels by meeting with 28 agricultural ministers and representatives from the EU.

“I wanted to emphasize the opportunity and the necessity that agriculture has got to be a significant part of whatever the trade discussions ultimately end up being with T-TIP,” said Vilsack. “I was very candid with my colleagues that absent a real commitment to agriculture in this trade agreement it would be very difficult for Congress to get the votes to pass T-TIP.”

Vilsack said among the challenges related to agriculture in the agreement are tariffs, non-tariff barriers, sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues, biotechnology, regulatory simplification, pathogen reduction, and geographic indicators.

Ultimately, Vilsack believes there are more similarities than differences between the United States and Europe. “We have a common goal, which is expanding markets, and we have a common language when it comes to dealing with these difficult issues and that common language is science,” he said.

In addition to Brussels, Vilsack visited with officials in Luxembourg, Paris, and Dublin.

Vilsack press call from Brussels


Page 1 of 3212345...102030...Last »