Corn Commentary

Ethanol Education & Promotion at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

It’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally time and bikers are getting a continuing education about ethanol as a fuel option. With the theme, “Ethanol, Fueled with Pride” educational materials and promotional t-shirts are being distributed during the event at the Buffalo Chip Campground which is the hub of the activities and concerts that make up the event schedule. The event is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Providing a helping hand at the event is Jere White, Executive Director, Kansas Corn Growers Association. I sat down with him to get his thoughts on this promotion and what it means to corn growers. Jere says the audience is a little different than might have been considered in the past but when it comes to the E15 issue it was found that some of the push back came from boaters and bikers. The Sturgis event is the largest gathering of bikers in the country and he believes that after several years of promotion and education a difference is being made. Jere rode his own motorcycle to the event which he has converted to run on E85 and it is performing well. I also asked Jere to give us an update on the status of the corn crop in Kansas which, like other parts of the corn belt, has some widely different conditions at this point in the season.

Jere White Interview

You can find a lot of photos from the 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally here: 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Indy Cars Burning Through Iowa on Ethanol

This Saturday, the Iowa Speedway will host the fifth Iowa Corn Indy 250, presented by Pioneer, and ethanol supporters have a chance to show how “green” they really are.  Under green lights, a green flag will drop before cheering fans clad in the same hue.  Combining the excitement of racing with these clear visuals, the Iowa Corn Indy puts both the incredible fuel performance of ethanol and its ecological benefits squarely in the spotlight.

Ethanol has raced into the national racing spotlight already this year as NASCAR switched to a 15 percent ethanol blend for fuel in every car at every race in 2011.  Running on pure ethanol, the Indy cars will reinforce the fuel’s ability to perform in some of the most expensive cars in the world.  With true experts watching for signs of car damage like the hawks of the gear-head world, claims that ethanol damages cars seem questionable at the very best.

The “Green Out” showcases a side of ethanol not as readily apparent as the cars rip through the turns – its environmental benefits.  While racing is certainly exciting, here it is also a vehicle to reach the public with information about this efficient, clean-burning fuel source.

Helping get the word out about ethanol has never been so much fun.  Have some friends over on Saturday, tune into Versus and watch ethanol break away from the pack as consumers see that they can help save the environment without sacrificing performance with domestic, sustainable ethanol.


Fun Competition Promotes Iowa Corn Indy 250

Pedal tractor racing, corn shucking, and corn hole tossing were just a few of the fun team events that the Iowa Corn Growers hosted with Indy car drivers and representatives from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University this week to promote the upcoming Iowa Corn Indy 250 race on June 25 and their Join The Team program.

In the photo, Indy car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay competes on pedal tractors with Dick Gallagher, Iowa Corn Promotion Board Chairman. Waving the green flag to start is Shannon Textor, Iowa Corn Growers Market Development Director. You may remember that Ryan was once the Indy Team Ethanol car driver and he showed some of his race car driving skills by winning this particular race.

Ryan says he loves coming to Iowa and working for the corn growers in this interview that Chuck Zimmerman did with him.

Chuck also spoke with Kevin Rempp, Iowa corn grower and current Secretary/Treasurer for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board who talks about the Iowa Corn Indy 250, the Iowa Corn Fed program and their new commitment to the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.

Check out the video below and more photos in the Iowa Corn “Join The Team” Indy 250 Promotion Photo Album

Texas Corn Pours Out New Water Campaign

No doubt that water use issues are among the biggest challenges facing agricultural producers nationwide, but particularly in states where water is at a premium. That’s why corn growers are getting more pro-active in states like Texas.

texas cornThe Texas Corn Producers rolled out a new public information campaign recently, with the message that water conservation goals can be achieved without severe restrictions on irrigation that would damage the economy of Texas High Plains.

“Agriculture brings billions of dollars into the economy of the Panhandle and South Plains every year and is the main driver of economic growth in the region,” said David Gibson, Executive Director of the Texas Corn Producers Board. “Through research and development of new technology, we are finding ways to grow more crops with less water. This means we can conserve water for future generations without sacrificing economic growth today.”

The campaign includes televised public service announcements, a 10 minute video and a new website,, with the slogan “Water grows our economy; let’s make it last.”

Watch the video here:

Midwest Corn Farmers Impress Japanese Group

Biotech crops and meeting the demand for food and fuel are the main reasons why a group of Japanese reporters and professors was traveling around the Midwest this week, but what really seemed to impress them was family farmers themselves and how they run their operations, according to the Missouri Corn Growers Association.

In Missouri, the media representatives from Japan’s food and livestock industry as well as university professors and a consumer group leader first visited the family farm of Wayne and Scott Boschert in St. Charles.

“I felt a warm reception upon my arrival,” said Mr. Hirofumi Iwata, executive director of Animal Media Co. “I had an image of a farm run by a company and was surprised to find out it is run by a family, still interested in constantly progressing and not just maintaining the status quo in production, but in increasing their yield.”

The Japanese team was very interested in learning more about the history of the Boschert family farm, which stretches back six generations.

“The fact that Wayne Boschert is a fifth generation farmer and his son, Scott, is a sixth generation farmer is non-existent in Japan,” said Dr. Hideaki Karaki, professor emeritus for the University of Tokyo. “The fact that he doesn’t want to retire and is happy to be farming, along with the fact that the family didn’t have to sell off the farm, especially during the Great Depression, is incredible. To hear someone in Japan say, ‘I’m so happy I don’t want to retire’ is not conceivable.”

The group also visited the farm of John Boerding, where they got to ride in a combine and experience harvesting firsthand. After leaving St. Charles, the Japanese team went on to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa as well as an ethanol plant and several other seed producers and elevators along the way. Upon returning to Japan, team members are expected to report on the use of biotechnology and its attributes as well as the agricultural experiences they encountered while visiting the U.S. The visit was coordinated by the U.S. Grains Council.

Remarkable Corn Progress

“Remarkable” is how USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey describes the progress of this year’s corn crop.

“The corn crop, as of August 22, already passing the halfway mark for dented. That’s pretty remarkable for this early in the season,” Rippey says. In fact, 54 percent of the crop is dented, according to USDA’s latest report, compared to 37 percent for the five year average. Eight percent of the crop is mature, which is two points ahead of average and well ahead of last year at this time. USDA is not yet reporting harvest numbers, but states like North Carolina where over 70 percent of the crop is mature have already been combining for a couple of weeks now. Unfortunately, that state’s crop is in the poorest condition of all the states, with just 28 percent rated good to excellent – and most of that is just in the good category.

Nationwide, the crop is rated 70 percent good to excellent, with the Dakotas and Colorado over 80 percent. Even Iowa’s crop is still rated almost 70 percent good to excellent. ”Even though some areas of the State have continued to receive crop damage, the over all crop conditions remain in pretty good shape,” commented Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who is a corn farmer himself. Farmers in the area are optimistic, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Dean Taylor, a corn and soybean farmer from Prairie City, Iowa and president-elect of the Iowa Corn Growers Association has been affected by the floods. “Three weeks ago, our crops looked great. We were looking at 200 bushels per acre corn and above, but now even non-flooded fields that received 10-15 inches of rain in one week might top out at 120 to 130 bushels per acre. I think we’ve learned from 1993, that rain does not always make grain,” explained Taylor.

The weather has been drier over the past week, which has helped out quite a bit, and the crop looks like it could very well be a record as USDA is predicting.

Corn Growers Honored by ACE for Ethanol Efforts

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) honored corn growers for their efforts in promoting ethanol at the 23rd Annual Ethanol Conference and Trade Show in Kansas City this week.

On Wednesday night, staff members of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and Corn Utilization Council received the President’s Award from ACE for “principled dedication and support” of the industry. SD corn executive director Lisa Richardson and legislative director Teddi Mueller received that award. Also, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and 11 corn grower states were recognized with the “Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award” for their support in making the BYOethanol campaign possible.

ace darrin ihnenNCGA president Darrin Ihnen of South Dakota addressed the ACE conference yesterday and talked about some of their efforts to promote ethanol, as well as their partnership with the organization to speak with a unified voice in Washington on issues important to the industry. Darrin sported fluorescent pink fingers at the conference, not as a new fashion statement, but proof that he is a working farmer as they came from vaccinating hogs the day before on his South Dakota farm.

Darrin talked about those big issues facing the ethanol industry right now – the expiration of the blenders tax credit at the end of this year and the delays in approval of E15 – as well as the lack of an energy bill in the Senate that includes provisions for renewable fuels. “We’re disappointed that they’re not going to do anything, but at the same time, the bill that Reid had introduced didn’t have anything in it for ethanol, so it gives us a little more time to get some ethanol provisions in that bill,” Darrin told me. “The downside is that they already don’t get a lot done so by pushing it back to September, that’s even less time before the elections.”

Listen to my interview with Darrin from ACE here:

Download the interview here: Darrin Ihnen at ACE conference

Corn Crop Continues to Look Great

Despite heavy rains and some brutal summer heat, the corn crop nationwide looks great.

illinois corn summer 2010According to the latest USDA report out this week, 72 percent of the crop is rated good to excellent, with a few more percentage points moving over to the excellent side. On the progress side, 84 percent of the crop is silking – compared to 70 percent average and 52 percent last year, and 17 percent is in the dough stage already, which is 10 points ahead of this time last year and a few points ahead of normal.

Only two of the major corn production states – Colorado and South Dakota – have not yet reached the halfway point in silking, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. “If you’re looking for problems with the corn, you’ll have to go to the fringes of the corn belt, well outside the major production zone,” he said. “In North Carolina, where it’s been very hot and dry, for example – 38 percent of the crop rated very poor to poor.”

The good-looking corn pictured here is growing near Bloomington – a photo taken recently by Tricia Braid-Terry of the Illinois Corn Growers’ staff. The good-looking young man in the the photo is her son, Ian. Thanks, Tricia!

MO Corn Growers Help Feed Hungry

Hungry families in the Kansas City region got a sweet donation of fresh produce from Missouri corn growers last week.

Members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Malta Bend FFA and Mid-Missouri Energy, a farmer-owned ethanol plant, donated 3,366 pounds of sweet corn for Missouri families in need. The fresh produce was delivered to Harvesters Community Food Network in Kansas City, Missouri to help feed hungry families in the region.

“While sweet corn isn’t something we normally plant in these fields, we realize there are people in our community and in the city facing tough times,” said Billy Thiel, MCGA board member and corn grower from Marshall, Mo. “This sweet corn is one way Missouri corn growers can show that we care about our neighbors and that we are committed to feeding and fueling a growing population.”

In the top photo, Karen Haren, president and CEO of Harvesters (center), accepts the donation of sweet corn from MCGA board members Mike Moreland and Billy Thiel, and members of the Malta Bend FFA Chapter. The food bank estimates today’s donation will provide nearly 2,600 meals to help combat hunger in the region. (Click on the photos for a bigger view)

During a presentation at the ethanol plant, which provided land for the sweet corn plot, Mid-Missouri Energy President Ryland Utlaut (and former National Corn Growers Association president) thanked the Malta Bend FFA Chapter for their help in harvesting the crop. Congressman Ike Skelton and State Representative Joe Aull (pictured at left) also applauded Missouri Corn, the Malta Bend FFA and MME for the donation. The event helped to educate the media and the general public about the importance of corn and ethanol to the Missouri economy, and the difference between sweet corn and field corn grown in the state.

The donated fresh produce will be distributed through Harvesters vast network, resulting in nearly 2,600 meals for hungry families. Serving a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Read more about the project and see more photos here.

Ethanol Enemies Post Ugly Comments

corn corpsA post on the Illinois Corn Growers blog Corn Corps this week generated a slew of comments about ethanol that are as ugly as the pictures of oil-covered pelicans in the Gulf.

The Corn Corps post was about a story in “The Ethanol Monitor” (not available online) by editor Tom Waterman that listed the top 10 enemies of ethanol, as follows:

#10: Business Week/Ed Wallace (Bloomberg)
#8: “Big Oil”
#7: Grocery Manufacturers Association
#6: David Pimentel
#5: Robert Rapier
#4: Tim Searchinger
#3: Wall Street Journal (editorial board)
#2: California Air Resources Board
#1: Time Magazine (Michael Grunwald)

Robert Bryce of OilPrice found the post and did a story about it, where he seemed a little ticked off that he didn’t make the list. As a result of that story, a couple dozen ethanol-haters posted mostly anonymous comments bashing the alternative domestically-produced fuel.

They are especially fond of calling ethanol a “hoax” – defined as a “deliberate attempt to deceive or trick people into believing or accepting something which the hoaxer (the person or group creating the hoax) knows is false.” I guess that makes Henry Ford the original “hoaxer” then, since he designed the famed Model T Ford to run on alcohol and called it “the fuel of the future.” It could have been, were it not for a growing supply of cheaper petroleum from oil field discoveries and the political power of the oil industry at the time. The ethanol bashers complain about the tax-payer incentives for ethanol, which are in the millions – compared to billions for the petroleum industry.

What really bothers me about the anti-ethanol crusaders is that they offer no other alternative to help us lessen our dependence on oil – either imported from unfriendly countries or our own reserves which are now polluting the Gulf of Mexico. While corn ethanol can only offset about 15 percent of our liquid fuel demand in this country, that is still significant. The production and use of 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol in 2009 reduced demand for imported oil by 364 million barrels, at a savings of $21.3 billion. Corn ethanol is also building the infrastructure and demand for the next generation of ethanol that can reduce our dependence on oil even more.

Instead of ugly comments, offer some constructive alternatives so we can get off the oil and on the road to energy independence.

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