Corn Commentary

Farmland Coming to a Theater Near You

FarmlandThe latest screening of the feature length film documentary Farmland was a star-studded event this week in Washington D.C. While the movie has been previewed at several events this year, including the Commodity Classic, this one not only helped celebrate National Agriculture Day, it also marked the official announcement of its upcoming theatrical release.

On the red carpet here at the Ronald Reagan Amphitheater are Randy Krotz, CEO of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), one of the film’s major supporters; director James Moll, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman, chairman of the USFRA.

farmlandThe movie provides an up close and personal look into the lives of six very different types of young farmers who talk about the challenges of becoming farm owners/managers. The story is told completely by the farmers and the imagery of them at work with no narration. “I don’t use a narrator,” said director Moll. “I’m delving into a world that I know nothing about … they can tell the story better than I can.”

Farmland has a deal with D&E Entertainment for the film to first be distributed to 60 major market theaters beginning May 1. “I hope that people watch it, relate to it, come away from it wanting to learn more about farming and ranching, and feeling like they actually had an opportunity to meet and get to know some of them,” said Moll.

Between now and May 1, Farmland will be competing in several film festivals during the month of April. After the theatrical release, Moll says they plan on the film being released on DVD and through the usual channels for home viewing. Interview with James Moll

classic14-usfra-farmlandThe farmer stars of the film are Leighton Cooley of Georgia, Brad Bellah from Texas, David Loberg of Nebraska, Sutton Morgan of California, Margaret Schlass from Pennsylvania, and Ryan Veldhuizen of Minnesota. A couple were at the premier last night and four of the six were at Commodity Classic where they participated in a press conference with USFRA.

The four pictured here, from left to right (around Randy from USFRA again in the middle) are Loberg, Veldhuizen, Cooley and Bellah. Listen to them talk about themselves and their experiences in making the movie here: Farmland Movie Press Conference

Ag Day Celebrates America’s Family Farmers

ag_dayIt can seem like everyone has a “day.” From margaritas to ravioli, calendars could become a dizzying disaster trying to keep on top of what is being “celebrated” every day of the year. Today is different though. Today, America celebrates the American icons that provide abundant food, feed and fuel. Today, we celebrate farmers.

Officially, Ag Day was created to recognize and celebrate the abundance produced by agriculture. Every year, agricultural associations, universities, companies, government agencies and many others across the country join in a wide variety of activities designed to bring the story of farmers and ranchers to the forefront. In 2014, the achievements of America’s family farmers certainly warrant a celebration.

America’s corn farmers recovered from a massive drought in 2012 to produce a record corn crop in 2013. Growing more than 13.9 billion bushels of corn, they showed the resilience and resolve indicative of our national character.

To learn more about the 2013 corn crop, click here.

In Washington, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, of which NCGA is a founding member, is taking a leadership role in bringing these and other accomplishments to light. This afternoon, USFRA held a panel discussion focusing on the next generation of American farmers and ranchers. Discussing what it means to be a farmer or rancher taking over responsibility for their family business in today’s environment, the participants brought the challenges and opportunities facing the future of ag to light.

On Wednesday evening, USFRA brings this discussion to life by hosting a preview of the new feature-length documentary, Farmland. The film, directed by Oscar and Emmy winner James Moll, takes an intimate look at the lives of six farmers and ranchers in their 20s. These young farmers have all taken responsibility for running their farming operations. Following the film, an intimate Q&A session will allow attendees to dig more deeply into their unique and fascinating situations.

To view a trailer of Farmland, click here.

Ag Day celebrates agriculture and, in doing so, it celebrates the American traditions of individualism and excellence that made our nation what it is today. So, maybe take a moment to hug a farmer as many may suggest. Just ask them first, they will still be hard at work and may need to wash up first.

In World of Polluters Oil Has No Rivals

oil & $100 billThey call it black gold and Texas Tea but I prefer to call it environmental anathema; that rare combination of disgrace and abomination.  Better that than using the words that I would like to use that got my mouth washed out with soap as a child.

Ok, Thanksgiving is almost upon us so I want to purge a little bile so I will enjoy the day a little more. What better target than Big Oil?

You know, those heavily subsidized global scale polluters who control…I mean contribute to every politician to make sure they have their bases covered. Well after an announcement today, I guess we will see how well their “investment” pays off.

It seems gas and oil are almost singlehandedly responsible for the bulk of all the man-made global warming emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Chevron, Exxon and BP are among the companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, according to a new analysis.

The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

I have always been a big fan of irony but this week takes the cake.  It seemed bizarre that earlier this week EPA announced their proposal to significantly weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard, reducing the volume of renewable fuels like ethanol for 2014; thus making us even more dependent on oil.

Odd that an agency with “Environment” in their name would turn away from a program that has cut emissions of greenhouse gas by 110 million metric tons, making it one of the most successful programs in the EPA arsenal. This is the equivalent of taking more than 20 million vehicles off the road.

Now it will get even more interesting to see how this same administration that purports to be on a crusade to fight greenhouse gases will deal with Big Oil now that the emperor has no clothes.

 

 

 

Meaningful Act Tells a Bigger Story

I didn’t know Kyle Hendrix but I wish I had. Nor do I know Jake Moore, the young man who recently set up a moving tribute to his fellow farmer who passed away too young from cancer. Moore recently arranged a fitting recognition for his best friend, Hendrix (31) that lined up dozens of tractors and combines along the route to the cemetery.

The wordless act of placing the steel behemoths along the road spoke volumes about their friendship. It also made a meaningful statement about how rural communities still rally around each other in a time of need. The old fashioned barn-raising of years past may be gone but the spirit lingers.

My guess is that much of the same farm machinery shown in Matt Rubel’s spectacular photos will also be seen harvesting Hendrix’s crop in the days ahead.  So Godspeed  Kyle and a big thanks to Moore for reminding us all of the value of friendship and community, and Rubel for capturing the reminder in an indelible way.

Corn Growers Strong at Farm Progress Show

fps13-ncgaThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is out in full force at the 2013 Farm Progress Show, with both president Pam Johnson of Iowa and First Vice President Martin Barbre in his home state of Illinois on site.

They were doing interviews with all the farm media at the show, talking about a variety of topics. We chatted about the condition of the crop – which Pam says is “coming along” in Iowa and Martin says is “better than we’ve ever seen” in southern Illinois.

The farm bill is still a big concern for the corn growers and Pam says they are “not waiting very patiently anymore” for Congress to get the job done. They are strongly encouraging all members to contact their representatives during this August recess and urge them to make some real progress during the few days they are in session during September.

When it comes to membership, NCGA is now over 40,000 strong, which is a lot of voices that can make a big difference. “Our association has shown membership growth every year for the past 15 years,” Martin said. “Makes us feel like we’re really doing our job, really promoting the policy that the members create and making it happen.”

Pam and Martin also talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard, trade, WRDA and biotechnology in this interview.Interview with Pam Johnson and Martin Barbre

Peterson Farm Brothers Heat Up a Cold Florida Night

Peterson Bros editedCommodity Classic heated up a cold Florida night last week when the Peterson Brothers took center stage during the Evening of Entertainment. The family farmers, whose “I’m Farming and I Grow It” video went viral last spring, accepted honors from event sponsor Monsanto for their work to promote the image of modern agriculture.

The brothers, who have created a series of YouTube videos parodying trendy songs, brought farmers into the tech spotlight, with their version of the party anthem gaining more than eight million views. Combining their youthful, fun-loving spirit with their passion for agriculture, these young men pushed family farmers into the national spotlight.

The air outside may have been unseasonably cold, but the brothers sparked warm enthusiasm in the crowd. Leading by example, the Peterson Brothers showed that farmers can effectively use social media to start a dialogue that gets consumers excited too.

Want to join the movement to get a conversation rolling about farming? Click here to learn about innovative programs offered by the National Corn Growers Association that can help you get started.

Commentary from Former Ag Secretaries

A highlight of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual meeting last week in Kansas City was a panel featuring three former secretaries of agriculture – Bob Bergland of Minnesota who served under President Carter from 1977-81; John Block of Illinois who served President Reagan from 1981-86; and Clayton Yeutter of Nebraska who was agriculture secretary for George H.W. Bush from 1989-91 and also was U.S. Trade Representative for Reagan from 1985-89.

It was nearly two hours with these three outspoken gentlemen who took a variety of questions from farm broadcasters, so I’ll break it down into a few bite-sized pieces.

The former secretaries first took the opportunity to reflect on their time running USDA and tell a few “war stories.” Interestingly, all three talked about how much more bipartisan government was during their times. This was the longest segment of the program at 30 minutes, but that’s really only 10 minutes for each one to sum up some very interesting years they spent as agriculture secretary. Ag Secretaries opening comments

With the panel happening the day after the election, that question was number one and the three had answers that reflected their party affiliations – Bergland being the Democrat of the three. As to when a farm bill might be complete – Bergland said he had no idea, Yeutter expects a temporary fix and Block said the fiscal issues are more important. Ag Secretaries on election and farm bill

How about government regulations impacting agriculture? Block predicts the next four years will bring more regulations, and Yeutter again agreed while Bergland made the case that some regulations are necessary. Ag Secretaries on government regulation

A broad question encompassed the long term viability of current high prices, land values and feeding the world. Bergland said the population demands may force us to eat more cereal and less meat in the future, Yeutter believes feeding the nine billion by 2050 won’t be as big a problem as people are making it out to be, and Block talked a bit about food versus fuel. Ag Secretaries on feeding the world

Asked about the RFS and whether it should be considered a subsidy to corn growers, Bergland said he was dead set against all subsidies and thinks the budget will force the government to eliminate all subsides. Yeutter predicted that EPA will keep the RFS intact and Block agreed. Ag Secretaries on RFS

Did the secretaries have any advice about how to defend modern agricultural practices, specifically GMOs? Bergland recalled hysterical reactions in the 1930s when hybrid corn was first introduced, and Yeutter pointed out the international implications of the GMO debate. Ag Secretaries on GMOs

There was lots more, but those were a few highlights. It was an entertaining conversation!

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

USDA Economist on Outlook for Grains

A highlight for the 2012 Export Exchange this week in Minneapolis was a presentation by USDA Chief Economist Dr. Joe Glauber on the supply and demand outlook for coarse grains, both in the United States and globally.

Needless to say, much of his focus was on the impact on this year’s drought in the U.S. “What looked like was going to be a great year, good soil moisture, ideal weather to plant, largest area since the ’30s for corn and what we thought would be record yields, turned out we had one of the worst droughts we’ve seen in many years,” said Glauber, who gave a detailed explanation of how the drought developed over the year all over the country, impacting yields for corn, soybeans and other crops.

Glauber pointed out how while the U.S. corn crop is down this year, global production has done very well. “The rest of the world production actually went up a little this year,” he said, despite declines in the Ukraine due to a drought.

Meanwhile, demand has remained strong, bringing stocks to a very low level. “I do think this is a situation that can turn around pretty rapidly,” Glauber noted. “If we get this sort of area planted next year and more return to trend yields, we should see substantial stock building in the U.S.”

Dr. Glauber also spent several minutes of his presentation discussing how the drought has influenced ethanol production this year, as well as some insight on the blend wall and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Listen to Dr. Glauber’s entire presentation here: Joe Glauber at Export Exchange

You can find photos from this years Export Exchange here: 2012 Export Exchange

Auto Technicians Get Ethanol Message

The ethanol industry reached out to auto mechanics and technicians from around the country last week at events held as part of Automotive Service and Repair Week (ASRW) in New Orleans.

The Renewable Fuels Association, Bobby Likis Car Clinic Network and Ricardo Engineering teamed up to bring that message on the trade show floor of the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) and during a Myth Busters panel at the National Automotive Service Task Force meeting.

RFA Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis, Ricardo Chief Engineer for powertrain controls Dr. Matti Vint and automotive talk show host/service center owner Bobby Likis each addressed one myth about ethanol related to the vehicle industry.

Vint busted the myth that ethanol ruins engine performance by detailing the benefits of the fuel’s higher octane rating, which is a measure of its anti-knock properties. “The higher octane, the higher the cylinder pressure you can operate without causing destructive damage to the engine,” he said. “So high octane is good for extracting the maximum performance of the engine and improving the efficiency.” He explained how designing engines like the Ricardo EBDI (Extreme Boost Direct Injection) engine will better utilize ethanol’s higher octane rating.

Likis busted the myth that ethanol poses repair and service problems. “In the 41 years I’ve been in the automotive service business, I’ve never had a single engine fail as a result of ethanol,” he said, noting that engines have been designed to run on E10 for the past 30 years.

Finally, Davis busted the myth that consumers don’t want choice at the pump. “A recent survey complete by American Viewpoint showed 61 percent were in favor of replacing imported fossil fuel dependency with renewable fuels like ethanol,” Davis said, pointing out that the approval of E15 allows more options for model year 2001 and newer vehicles.

Listen to the panel presentations here: Ethanol Myth Busters Panel

Bobby Likis also provided live broadcasts from the trade show floor with representatives from RFA and Ricardo to highlight ethanol. Likis offered a live feed of the event on Watch Bobby Live where he interviewed guests Thursday and Friday last week leading up to his regularly scheduled live program on Saturday from 10 am to noon Eastern. The program on October 13 featured RFA’s Kelly Davis as well as engineers from Ricardo.

I put together a little five minute highlight video of the show below and you can find more on the Watch Bobby Live page. You can also see pictures from the event here:
CARS Event Photo Album

Ethanol Powered NASCAR in Spotlight at FPS 2011

There were quite a few race cars mixed in with the tractors and combines this year at the 2011 Farm Progress Show.

farm progress show 2011NASCAR team owner and former racer Richard Childress, pictured here with National Corn Growers Association vice president Garry Niemeyer of Illinois and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, was at FPS to talk about the partnership between the racing series and American Ethanol.

The agriculture connection is what made Richard want to be a part of the American Ethanol NASCAR partnership when the series started using a 15% ethanol blend this year, since he is a farmer himself. “I’m a huge supporter of everything we do in America, from our farmers to our military,” he said. “This country has to quit depending on so much foreign energy and resources. We gotta do better.”

He says that NASCAR has had no problems making the transition to 15% ethanol fuel and next year they will go to fuel injection. “The fuel injection and the American Ethanol is really going to work out great,” Richard says.

Listen to my interview with Richard here. Richard Childress and American Ethanol

farm progress show 2011Meanwhile, over at the Illinois Corn Growers exhibit, the Illinois Family Farmers NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Kenny Wallace was signing autographs and doing interviews. Kenny was blown away by the Farm Progress Show. “This is like our Daytona 500! I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said in an interview with Chuck Zimmerman.

Kenny is proud to be the Family Farmer American Ethanol spokesperson. “Farmers make me feel good,” he said. “Hundreds of farmers notice me, stop me or they come by booth 250 and they say thank you so much for putting up for us and that really humbles me,” he added.

The next big race for Kenny will be Chicagoland on September 17.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Kenny here. NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace

2011 Farm Progress Show Photo Album



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