Commodity 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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
There were quite a few race cars mixed in with the tractors and combines this year at the 2011 Farm Progress Show.
NASCAR 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Ethanol sometimes gets a bad rap in the boating world, but some high performing race boats are proving that charge is all wet.
Boat racers from coast to coast gathered this past weekend in the ethanol-producing town of Garnett, Kansas to speed around Cedar Valley Reservoir running ten percent ethanol fuel (E10) at the National Boat Racing Association (NBRA) “Garnett Ethanol Hydroplane Nationals.” The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) partnered with NBRA earlier this year to help dispel concerns about the use of ethanol fuel in boat engines. The partnership includes the use of the RFA “Fueled with Pride” logo on signage around the racing events, as well as on all the racing boats and haulers.
“This was an opportunity to tell our story that E10 blends will run in any commercial type of vehicle, whether boats, auto or whatever,” said Steve Gardner, general manager of Garnett’s ethanol plant East Kansas Agri-Energy located in Garnett. “If this will run in racing boats, it will run in any type of boats.”
Garnett is also home to the Kansas Corn Growers Association and they joined with representatives from RFA and East Kansas Agri-Energy at the race where they provided fan bags with information and answered questions about the use of ethanol in marine engines.
All of the boats that race in NBRA competitions around the country this year have to prove they are using 10 percent ethanol fuel in order to be eligible for additional prize money in the race. “We test all the fuel before the race and then the top three entries in any class are tested when they come in to make sure they are running ethanol,” said NBRA president Dan Crummett.
The NBRA races include a number of different classes of hydroplanes and runabouts with stock and modified outboards that run as fast as 96 miles per hour. Crummett says most of the issues that boaters experience when using ethanol-blended fuel can be addressed with better maintenance. “Any fuel will degrade over not a long period of time once the oil is mixed in it,” he says, which is why it’s so important for boaters to avoid leaving fuel set n the tank for an extended time.
“This is the kick off and we’ve been waiting for it to come,” said National Corn Growers Association president Bart Schott of North Dakota about the race on Sunday which featured the American Ethanol paint job on Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevrolet and on the track. “NASCAR has an 80 million fan base that is getting some real positive messages on burning a higher blend of ethanol.” American Ethanol is a partnership between the corn growers, the ethanol industry and NASCAR, and all series events started running this season on a 15 percent ethanol blend.
Listen to an interview with Bart and NCGA chairman Darrin Ihnen of South Dakota here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/ncga/kc-race-ncga.MP3]
About 1200 farmers and ethanol producers from all over the Midwest were at the Kansas Speedway on Sunday to cheer on Bowyer, following his first place win Saturday in the Camping World Truck Series. Bowyer’s team owner Richard Childress visited the American Ethanol hospitality tent to talk about his support for agriculture and the domestically produced fuel.
“I’m a farmer myself and I understand the livelihood of farmers and I think it’s great for America what they are doing to help us not to have to depend on as much foreign energy,” he said. “I hope some day we can run it all on ethanol.”
Childress believes there is a good possibility that NASCAR could go to an even higher ethanol blend than the 15% started this year. “We tested the 30 and it ran really well but I think NASCAR wants to ease into it with fuel injection coming,” he added.
Listen to Childress’ comments here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/ncga/kc-race-childress.MP3]
First, NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace will be driving the American Ethanol #09 car, with sponsorship by corn growers and Marquis Energy, in the Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday. Ethanol plant president Mark Marquis says the partnership between corn growers, the ethanol industry and NASCAR is a great opportunity to get in front of American consumers who will feel more confident about putting higher blends of ethanol in their cars after seeing how well it performs in the race cars. Mark hosted a get-together with Kenny Wallace at the Marquis Energy plant on Thursday.
Then on Sunday afternoon, Clint Bowyer will be driving a special-edition American Ethanol paint scheme on his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. Clint has been talking up ethanol in interviews this week, like this story in the Kansas City Star where he is quoted as saying, “I don’t know if you’ve seen the price of fuel lately, but this whole country needs to be paying attention to this ethanol thing, because it’s a good way to create independence from foreign oil.” How true!
“It’s truly an honor to have American Ethanol on the No. 33 Chevrolet this weekend,” said Bowyer. “Born and raised in Kansas, I support American farmers as they strive to develop energy independence for our country and I look forward to representing American Ethanol both on and off the track this weekend at Kansas Speedway.”
Race fans will also see the American Ethanol logo along the backstretch wall of the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway on Sunday that will draw attention to the partnership between ethanol and NASCAR, which is using Sunoco Green E-15 racing fuel this season. We’ll have lots more from that race for you next week here on Corn Commentary.
When you listen to my interview with Gabriela Cruz, Portugal, below you’ll understand why she was chosen to receive the Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award during the TATT Global Farmer to Farmer Roundtable. The program was sponsored by the NCGA. Gabriela was presented the award by Dean Kleckner, Chairman, Truth About Trade & Technology.
Gabriela Cruz is passionate about many things: the family farm that she and her sisters work and manage on the eastern border of Portugal; the use of soil conservation to combat the erosion that annually tries to steal their land from them; and access to the technology that will allow her to prevail in the future.
Those passions, and Cruz’s drive to change attitudes of European governments that block farmer-access to genetically modified (GM) crops, led to her selection as the 2010 winner of the Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award.
The award, given by Truth about Trade and Technology (TATT), seeks to recognize “strong leadership, vision, and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity, and availability of agricultural products around the world.”
We often hear about friction between the producers of corn and livestock over the growth in the production of ethanol. One Iowa farmer had an idea to diversify his operation and do both! Judging by the tour that the TATT Global Farmer to Farmer Roundtable participants received at his farm, Couser Cattle Company, he’s doing it very successfully.
Our host was Bill Couser. Bill conducted a fascinating presentation about his marriage of row crop farming (corn/soybeans), livestock production and ethanol production! You can see a portion of his explanation in the video below. He used a long table to display all the products he produces starting with an ear of corn and winding up with ethanol (2.81 gal/bushel of corn) as well as by-products like DDGS and ultimately fine quality beef. I loved his description about the whole food vs. fuel debate, “It’s rubbish!”