Farmers in Minnesota soon could be turning wind energy into fertilizer. Research funded by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association is developing a way to have the wind turbines put up in corn fields produce the very nitrogen fertilizer that helps those same crops grow.
“We take water, and we separate the hydrogen and oxygen. We pull nitrogen from the air and combine the hydrogen and nitrogen to form anhydrous ammonia, the predominant nitrogen fertilizer source farmers use,” explains Mike Reese, the Renewable Energy Director for the University of Minnesota at the school’s West Central Research Station in Morris, Minn.
This first-in-the-world research project still uses the tried-and-true process of producing ammonia for fertilizer… but hopefully more locally and efficiently. Reese says they need to figure out how to make this wind-powered process commercially scalable.
“Right now, anhydrous ammonia and nitrogen fertilizer is produced on a massive scale in central locations. What we’re trying to do is make this so we could have community production or co-op facilities to produce the nitrogen fertilizer locally,” he said.
Reese added that there are enough resources in Minnesota to make all the fertilizer needed for the state’s entire corn crop, a possible $400 million industry that is now done completely out of the state.
A group of Nebraska corn farmers and cattlemen are convinced after a recent trade mission that Japan will soon return to its traditional spot as the number one export customer for U.S. beef.
The Nebraska Corn Board funded the participation of five Nebraska producers on the Japan mission, which centered on Tokyo and the Sendai region. They are pictured here next to an ad for U.S. beef in Tokyo Station, one of the city’s busiest metro stops. Left to right, the team consisted of Tim Scheer of St. Paul (Nebraska Corn Board), Dale Spencer of Brewster (Nebraska Cattlemen), Doug Parde of Sterling (Nebraska Cattlemen), Kyle Cantrell of Anselmo (Nebraska Corn Growers Association) and Mark Jagels of Davenport (Nebraska Corn Board and chair-elect of the U.S. Meat Export Federation).
Earlier this year, Japan finally agreed to ease up on import restrictions on U.S. beef implemented after an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003. “During that time, Australia and New Zealand have been very aggressive in promoting their product into Japan with considerable success,” Jagels said. “We need to reintroduce Japanese consumers to the robust flavor of American corn-fed beef—and teach them ways to prepare and enjoy convenient and delicious dishes featuring U.S. beef.”
Already, sales of U.S. beef into Japan are on track to exceed $1 billion in value this year, up from virtually zero in 2006.
Planting progress continues to be slowed by wet and cold weather in most of the major corn producing states, with some states even getting more snow last week.
According to USDA, just 5% of the U.S. corn crop was planted as of Sunday, only a percentage point of difference compared to the previous week. Last year at this time, nearly half the crop was in the ground and normally at least 30% should be planted by now. All 18 major corn producing states are behind the five year average. The only states even close are North Carolina and Texas. Every state should be showing progress in the double digits, but only six are and five have nothing in the ground yet. Another half dozen have less than 3-4% planted.
In Missouri, where both the photos on this page were taken last week, corn planting was 15 percent complete as of Sunday, 24 days behind last year and 15 days behind normal. According to the Missouri Corn Growers Association, farmers in southeast Missouri were starting to see corn emerge last week, while some northern Missouri locations were dealing with snow. The Gary Porter family of Mercer in north central Missouri made a little snowman instead of planting last week.
Jason Mayer of Dexter, sent in this photo of his corn emerging. Johnny Hunter in the same southeast area of the state reported last week that he was finished corn planting and was hopeful the crop would make it through the cold temperatures. “Cold has caused a slow start and corn is only in V1 or V2 stage, which is pretty rare for almost the first of May,” Hunter reported to MCGA. “Cold is costing us bushels right now and corn doesn’t look that great, but we have an even stand so I’m happy with that.”
Just 2% of total U.S. corn has emerged, compared to 14% last year at this time and 6% on average. In Missouri, 9% of the crop has emerged.
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.”
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.
Encouraged 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.