Corn Commentary

Hoosiers Mourn Loss of Indiana Corn Leader

indiana-cornHoosiers are mourning the loss of Indiana Corn Marketing Council President Gary Lamie who died unexpectedly on Friday at age 52.

For the past 10 years, Lamie has served in leadership roles for various organizations including president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association and vice chair for research and business development with the National Corn Growers Association. He traveled extensively with these groups, planning strategy and conferring with elected officials in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. He was instrumental in helping establish Indiana’s corn check-off program. Gary was also a strong champion for the Purdue Student New Uses Corn Contest that encourages college students to find innovative new uses for corn, and his farm was a frequent stop for students and international trade teams. In 2008 he was selected to represent Indiana in the Syngenta “Leadership At It’s Best” program.

“He was an exceptional farmer, leader and friend to many, and we will miss him dearly,” said Jane Ade Stevens, Executive Director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Our sincere condolences are with his wife Kathleen and the entire Lamie family.”

Minnesota Corn Growers Court Taiwan

The 2012 drought caused a little shake up in the top four corn producing states that produce more than a billion bushels a year. Normally Iowa and Illinois take the top two spots – sometimes Illinois is first but mostly it’s Iowa. Nebraska takes third and Minnesota usually comes in 4th. Last year, however, Minnesota moved up to second place because they actually increased corn production while the other three states were down due to the drought.

mn-corn-taiwanEncouraged by such a good year, the Minnesota corn growers are aggressively pursuing export markets and recently went on a trade mission to Taiwan. “We just want to emphasize that we had a very good crop this past year,” said Minnesota Corn Growers Association president Tom Haag, who noted that they also stressed the safety of genetically-modified corn. “We’re feeding them to our own livestock, so it’s safe for them to feed.”

Haag says they were able to meet with high level government and industry officials in Taiwan during the trade mission and would like to return the favor. “Every two years Taiwan has a mission to the U.S.,” he said. A delegation goes to Washington, D.C., to sign an agreement regarding corn purchases and then they visit corn producing states. “Two years ago when they came, they missed Minnesota as a state to visit and we were over there to convince them to come this time to show off our state,” said Haag.

Corn is Taiwan’s top agricultural import from the United States, with an annual trade value of $805 million.

Find Kentucky Farmers at a Grocery Store Near You

Today, Corn Commentary shares a post from Kentucky Corn Growers Association Director of Communications Jennifer Elwell. On her new blog Kentucky Food and Farm Files, Elwell discusses a variety of interesting topics, including her work with the CommonGround Kentucky program.

What happens when you place a passionate, smiling farmer in the middle of a grocery store? It opens a door for conversations about food and farming. Many Kentucky farmers are now volunteering their time to talk with food buyers about what the heck is going on at their farms and within their food industry.

Programs such as CommonGround, Operation Main Street, AgChat (#agchat or #foodchat) and many others are providing volunteer farmers for speaking engagements and events, and the feedback has been very positive.

This past weekend, volunteers (including myself) set up at the newest Kroger location in Georgetown, Ky. to talk with shoppers and provide recipes and farm information. We had questions about different types of egg production, a conversation about how a diabetic needs to manage their diet, my nine-year-old daughter encouraged kids to eat lots of fruits and vegetables by trying new dishes, and many just wanted to share their appreciation for what farmers do.

Volunteer Becky Thomas of Elizabethtown talks with a shopper at the Georgetown Kroger.

My daughter and I ready with smiles on our faces. She was so good at sharing the good news about what our Kentucky farmers do and is ready to take on my other blog, Food, Mommy!

I am very thankful that grocery store chains are opening their doors to local farmers to talk with their customers. It puts a face on our food production and puts the notion away that most of our food is produced by “industrial-strength” farms. At least 98% of the farms in Kentucky are still family-owned and operated.

Volunteer Tonya Murphy from Owensboro talks with a customer at a Louisville Kroger this summer about how she cares for the chickens on her farm. Everyone loved seeing her photos.

Volunteer Carly Guinn, a grain and beef cattle farmer who lives in Danville has a long conversation about food myths and shares how she feels they hurt farmers.

Kentucky farmer volunteers Ashley Reding, Carrie Divine and Denise Jones talked with Louisville ValuMarket shoppers in 2011, shortly after the Common Ground program launched nationwide.

Elwell invites both comments and requests from groups looking for speakers on food and farming. Click here to find out more.

CommonGround New York Hits the Airwaves to Share Volunteers’ Stories

CommonGround New York volunteers will be taking to the airwaves tomorrow to share their stories and answer consumer concerns about animal welfare and milk. Through a series of radio spots, listeners in important markets such as Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Watertown get a brief respite from the holiday advertisements while the volunteers’ messages address the issues important to them.

“It’s impossible to talk to every single consumer who has a question or concern about their food,” said CommonGround New York volunteer Nancy Robbins, a dairy farmer who also runs an agri-tourism operation. “This radio campaign gives us, the farmers, an opportunity to talk to thousands of people at one time about where their food comes from and the methods that are used to produce it. With our first round of radio spots, we focused on suburban areas to reach people who live a bit further from the farm and country life.”

The messages will run for two weeks during this first series. To get a sneak preview of what New Yorkers will be hearing soon, click here.

Fund Established for Kansas Corn Exec Jere White

A farmer, friend and colleague of the agriculture industry is in critical condition at a Springfield, Missouri hospital and a fund has now been set up to help his family with related expenses.

Kansas Corn and Sorghum Growers executive director Jere White was involved in a motorcycle accident on September 28 in northwest Arkansas. Jere is an avid motorcyclist and is pictured here at the 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with his son Robert, who is Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association.

Jere was wearing a helmet in the crash but still suffered a head injury and his family has been with him constantly in Springfield since the accident. They have set up a Facebook page for Jere where updates can be found and get well wishes and comments of encouragement can be posted. The link is http://www.facebook.com/GetWellJere.

Jere’s colleagues with the Kansas grains groups are helping out with expenses for the family by setting up a fund for donations.

Donations to the fund can be sent to:
Jere White Fund
c/o Bank of Greeley
PO Box 80
Greeley, KS 66033

Cards for Jere and his family will be collected at the association office and may be mailed to:
Jere White
KCGA/KGSPA
PO Box 446
Garnett, KS 66032

Jere is a wonderful, witty and fun-loving person who is a joy to know. We are all praying for his complete recovery and the strength of his family for support.

Illinois Family Farmers and Kenny Wallace

Last weekend was an Illinois Family Farmer weekend at the Chicagoland speedway for the NASCAR races.

Family Farmers car driver Kenny Wallace stopped by to visit with corn growers attending Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series race, including Illinois Corn Marketing Board chairman Kent Kleinschmidt and his wife Sara. “He’s a real friendly guy and easy to get along with,” Kent said.

This is the second year that Illinois corn has sponsored Kenny’s #99 car in the NASCAR series which Kent says has worked very well for them. “It’s a different type of promotion than corn farmers usually do,” he said. “When NASCAR went to E15 fuel, that was ahead of when the general public could buy it so we thought that was a good tie in.”

Listen to an interview with Kent here: Interview with Kent Kleinschmidt

Getting involved with NASCAR ended up getting the corn growers a great spokesman for both ethanol and agriculture in Kenny Wallace who really loves working with family farmers and getting to meet them at the races. “They’re excited to see what this is all about,” Kenny said. “They’re awesome.”

The Illinois corn growers were at the last Chicagoland NASCAR race in July and Kenny was excited to see some new farmer faces there this time. “I reminded the farmers to be proud,” he said. “Just remember that it’s your fuel out there that I’m burning.”

Listen to an interview with Kenny here: Interview with Kenny Wallace

Watch Kenny talking to Illinois Family Farmers here:

2012 NASCAR Dollar General 300 Race Photos

Hot, Dry and Hungry?

With so many questions surrounding how the drought might affect food prices, CommonGround Nebraska volunteer Diane Becker took to the airwaves at Husker Harvest Days to help consumers understand how food pricing works.

Citing information available at www.usda.gov, she noted that only 14 cents of every dollar spent on groceries actually goes to pay for the commodities that these foods include. Basically, even if the prices on corn and soybeans double, the increase on stores shelves only goes up by pennies.

Offering more insight on food and her unique perspective as a farmer and a mother, Becker talks to the concerns all moms share about how to feed their families a healthy, nutritious diet without breaking the bank.

Catch the clip and see how CommonGround volunteers across the country are stepping up to help start a conversation between the moms who buy food and those who grow it.

Consumers Have a Right to Know

In the California GMO Labeling debate, it seems everyone involved can agree upon one basic premise – consumers have a right to know. The debate occurs around exactly what that right entails.

Arguing to redefine terms such as “natural”, even to the exclusion of foods such as olive oil, proponents of the bill seem to believe consumers have a right to know exactly what their agenda-driven groups says that they do.

On the other hand, farmers believe that consumers have a right to know too. In a recent blog post, farmer Mike Haley carefully explained a side of the story that labeling loonies would prefer to push to the backburner.  Walking readers through the specific actions that this law would require of him, Haley shows the hidden costs of supporting the propositions hidden agenda.

Take a minute to see the true costs of this measure.  If it passes, everyone will pay.

Consumers have a right to know what they eat. They also have a right to know the consequences of their vote.

Olympic Gold Medalist Promotes Corn

While the Summer Olympics were going on in London, a gold medalist from the Winter Olympics was talking corn in Omaha at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference, thanks to the Nebraska Corn Board.

Curt Tomasevicz, a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic 4-man bobsled team, grew up in a small Nebraska farming community and now helps promote corn in the Cornhusker State. “That agricultural-based community got me to the Olympics,” Curt said of his hometown of Shelby, Nebraska, which boasts a population of 690. “I learned those lessons from those corn farmers that work hard every day, knowing that there’s good days and bad days, good years and bad years.”

Listen to Curt’s remarks at ACE here: Curt Tomasevicz at ACE

In an interview with Curt, he told me why he is a spokesperson for the Nebraska Corn Board. “To have that kind of support coming from a farm-based community, the logical thing for me to do is try to give something back to them,” he said. “Farmers are not competing for gold medals but at the same time they’re working hard to produce something, like corn. They work just as hard, if not harder, than Olympians.” Curt does personal appearances for the Nebraska Corn Board around the state at agricultural and civic events, as well as schools.

Listen to my interview with Curt here: Curt Tomasevicz interview

Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, was also at the ACE conference and she not only introduced Curt at the luncheon where he spoke, but she also gave an update on what they are doing to help get more blender pumps out in the state. “The corn board feels blender pumps are really important, especially for the state of Nebraska, since we are the number two producer of ethanol,” she said, noting that they set aside $750,000 this year to help promote installation of pumps. There are nearly 20 in the state now and about 30 new pumps are expected to be installed within the next year.

One of their challenges is getting into the larger cities of Nebraska, like Omaha, where there are currently no blender pumps available. “With the new grant program of $40,000 per location, that has gotten a lot more retailers interested,” she said.

Listen to my interview with Kim here: NE Corn Board's Kim Clark

E15 is On Sale in Kansas

Consumers now have another choice at the fuel pump, at least in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Zarco 66 “Oasis” station in Lawrence began offering 15% ethanol blended fuel, E15, in a blender pump last week for two cents a gallon less than E10.

Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco 66 stations, is pleased to be the first to offer consumers real choice at the pump in the form of E15 ethanol fuel. “We just whole-heartedly believe that alternatives are what we need to be moving toward to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and also being able to have cleaner burning product,” said Zaremba.

Zaremba, the incoming President of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, is offering the E15 as one of the choices at the station’s blender pump, which was one of the first installed in the state in 2008 and he also plans to offer E15 at a second Zarco 66 in Ottawa. Zarco overcame the hurdles required to offer the fuel with the help of the Kansas Corn Commission, East Kansas Agri-Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association.

Listen to interview with Zaremba here: Zarco CEO Scott Zaremba



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