21st Century Agricultural Revolution

In Farming, Sustainability by Cindy

“Growing a 21st Century Agricultural Revolution” is the title of a conference that will be held March 18-20 in Landsdowne, Va.

sponsorsThe event is being sponsored by The Sustainable Food Lab, a global network of business, public sector and civil society leaders working together to accelerate sustainability in mainstream food and agriculture, in conjunction with Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform and Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

The March conference will bring together the world’s leading food providers to develop practical and affordable solutions designed to accelerate the knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices to meet the future needs of global consumers. Players throughout the industry will be better able to align their goals, identify best practices, and measure results.

Among those who will be presenting at the conference are National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman, Matt Kistler with Wal-Mart; Jan-Kees Vis of Unilever; and Jason Clay with the World Wildlife Fund. A number of food and agricultural companies and organizations have joined together to help sponsor the event, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Syngenta, Monsanto, General Mills and American Farm Bureau.

Ethanol Coproduct Good for Piglets

In General by Ken

A research team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has learned something new about dried distillers grains, an ethanol coproduct. The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service this month reported that feeding dried distiller’s grains (DDGS) to piglets can give their immune systems an extra boost.

The USDA reports:

For their research on piglets, the team divided weanling pigs into four groups and fed them either a standard control diet or diets supplemented with DDGS, soybean hulls or citrus pulp. After one week, the researchers observed an increase in cytokine expression in the pigs’ small intestine, which they linked to DDGS consumption. Cytokines are chemical messengers that are essential for proper immune function. This response reinforced findings of previous DDGS studies showing that pigs consuming diets supplemented with DDGS exhibited reduced levels of ileitis, a common inflammation of the small intestine.

Betting Big on US Farmers

In Equipment, General, Machinery by Cindy

John Deere may have cut its profit forecast for this year by 20 percent, but the company is still betting big on the nation’s agriculture industry.

Deere officials said today that they expect the North American agricultural market to be their best this year compared to other areas of the world. During a conference call today, Deere CEO Robert Lane said that demand for large farming machinery has held up well largely due to the financial health of U.S. agriculture.

So well, in fact, that at last week’s National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Deere unveiled the new DB120 – the largest planter in the industry. This bad boy is so big they couldn’t even unfold it all the way in their huge exhibit space!

Rob Rippchen, division marketing manager at John Deere seed in Moline, IL says this 120 foot planter is the next generation planter building off the DB90 introduced five years ago. “This planter will plant somewhere between 90 and 100 acres an hour,” Rob says. “Most growers will remember last spring when it was so wet and one of the easiest ways to improve productivity is to increase your working width.”

Another company betting big on North American agriculture is New Holland, which had on display at the NFMS what they claim is the largest combine in North America – the new CR9080 with 523 maximum horsepower.

Ed Barry with New Holland, told me that it’s not just horsepower that makes it the biggest, “It’s the largest cab, largest threshing area and largest cleaning area.”

Meanwhile, Case IH is also claiming the biggest combine title with its Axial-Flow 9120 at 483 rated hp. Just for good measure, Farm Industry News gave them both one of their 2008 FinOvation awards.

All will be on display at the Commodity Classic in Grapevine next week – you be the judge!

Distillers Grains Exports Nearly Double

In Ethanol, Exports, General, Livestock by Ken

The Renewable Fuels Association this week published a report on the export of distillers grains that demonstrates the growing popularity of this key ethanol coproduct. According to the RFA, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data, U.S. distillers grains exports nearly doubled last year, rising 91 percent — from 2.36 million metric tons (mmt) in 2007 to 4.51 mmt in 2008.

In its report, the RFA maks a good point:

Considering that more than half of all corn is fed to livestock, increasing the use of distillers grains domestically and internationally reduces the need for increased acres for both corn and soybean production. This factor is critically important to the current debate surrounding the land use change impacts of America’s renewable fuels industry. Properly accounting for the use of distillers grains would dramatically lower any calculated land use change impact for grain-based ethanol.

Missouri Corn Celebrates 25 Years

In Ethanol, Food Prices, State Groups by Cindy

MO Corn 25The Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC) is celebrating 25 years of developing market opportunities for corn growers in the state.

MO Corn 25The occasion was marked as part of the Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA) annual meeting Tuesday in Jefferson City. CEO Gary Marshall, who has led the organization for over 23 years, was pleased at the turnout for the event. “We had a number of legislators that came in, I think we had over 50 that were registered, and we had a lot of growers there as well, so it was a great time to celebrate 25 years,” Marshall said.

MO Corn 25MCGA honored 17 members of the Missouri state legislature with Friend of Corn Growers awards, including Representative Brian Munzlinger who served as chairman of the MCMC in 1993-94. That was the year that Missouri really took the lead in promoting ethanol by expanding use to over 16 percent of the state’s fuel, funding two feasibility studies for ethanol plants and introducing an E85 van at the Indianapolis 500.

MO Corn 25Missouri corn growers headed to the state capitol after the meeting to present their legislators with breakfast for the next couple of months – four boxes of corn flakes containing a total of 12 cents worth of corn. MCMC Chairman Keith Witt says the idea was to show them the disparity between the corn prices and products containing corn. “The box of corn flakes costs $2.18, so we’re just putting a little visual to that,” said Witt. “It costs more for the transportation of the box of corn flakes than the actual corn.”

MO Corn 25Janet Atkison of KMZU Radio in Carrollton was one of several farm broadcasters who attended the event, which also included a live broadcast of AgriTalk.

Listen to Janet’s report that she filed back to her station while the event was still on-going.


Engine Designed for Ethanol

In General by Ken

Whenever I hear complaints about ethanol fuel efficiency, I have to laugh. Fact is, we are growing more and more efficient every day in how we use corn-based ethanol, and so much of the faulty research attacking ethanol is based on models that seem to have been first written back in 1973.

Newly announced engine technology “optimizes ethanol-fuelled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines,” according to the manufacturer.

Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.  Work on this research project has been carried out at the Detroit Technology Campus of Ricardo Inc.

Another reason to like the new technology … Applications could reach far beyond the automotive and light-truck industry. “Imagine agricultural equipment that, in effect, burns what it harvests – corn, sugar cane or some other renewable substance.  It could mean tremendous cost savings across many industries.” 

More information here.

Mlive.com story here.

Corn Projections Through 2018

In Farming, Food Prices, USDA by Cindy

It is hard enough to forecast the next year, much less the next ten years, but that is what USDA’s Economic Research Service has attempted to do with its latest Long Term Agricultural Projections report released last week. Not surprisingly, they expect prospects for the agricultural sector in the near term to reflect adjustments to the global economic slowdown and the U.S. recession.

USDA ERSAmong the projections for the next decade in corn, the report says “a gradual shift to corn away from other crops reflects the high levels of domestic corn-based ethanol production and gains in exports that keep corn demand and producer returns strong. Following a decline in 2008, corn acreage increases to 90 million acres by 2011 and remains at or above that level over the remainder of the projection period.”

ERS expects net farm income to initially decline from the highs of 2007 and 2008, yet still remain historically strong, rebounding to near-record levels in the latter part of the projections. Retail food prices are expected to continue to increase more than general inflation through 2011 (particularly meats in 2010 and 2011), but then food prices return to the longer term relationship of rising less than the general inflation rate over the remainder of the projection period.

This Texas Meeting Will Be Classic

In Audio, Classic by Chuck

Commodity Classic 2009It’s hard to believe that in just over a week corn growers and other industry leaders will be gathering for the annual Commodity Classic. This year’s event takes place in Grapevine, TX and Cindy and I will be there to provide you with some Corn Commentary.

The Commodity Classic is the combined annual meetings of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers. Now that’s a big show!

Here’s some reasons to attend:

  • Trade Show with more than 200 companies in nearly 930 booths, featuring cutting-edge products and services and technological demonstrations
  • Approximately 25 educational sessions covering issues impacting the agriculture industry, plus more than a dozen Mini What Is New (WIN) sessions presented in two, 90-minute presentations
  • Boundless opportunities to interact with growers and industry professionals
  • Dynamic General Session with the ASA, NCGA, NAWG and NSP presidents and information on issues affecting corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers
  • Evening of Entertainment featuring two Grammy award-winning acts

You are of course invited to attend: [audio:http://www.corncommentary.com/audio/commodity-classic-psa.mp3]

Greenies Prefer Dirty Oil to Ethanol

In Activism, Environmental, Ethanol, Food Prices by Cindy

Some radical environmental organizations held a press conference this week urging the federal government to stop promoting renewable fuels like ethanol and saying they would rather increase the use of imported oil. During the conference, Clean Air Task Force spokesman Jonathan Lewis told a reporter that “burning gasoline is better than increasing the production of corn ethanol.”

Listen to that soundbite here [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/audio/ewp-bite.mp3]

earthThe group representatives made claims that they were unable to back up with any specific facts when questioned and they offered no ideas for moving toward a renewable energy future, although they claim that is their ultimate goal. They simply want the production of corn ethanol halted because they question whether biofuels are capable of making a major contribution to reducing fossil fuel use.

This “policy announcement” by the groups – which also included the Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth – amounted to an unsubstantiated attack on American agriculture’s efforts to help move our nation toward energy independence. Not only did they say we should not produce corn ethanol, they claim that next generation biofuels using cellulose “can cause the same adverse environmental impacts as conventional ones while also presenting new dangers, such as those associated with synthetic biology.”

It reminds me of people who once thought the earth was flat and refused to move forward because they were afraid they would fall off the horizon if they did. To refuse to move toward a more sustainable, renewable energy future with a variety of options is simply irresponsible and proves they are not friends of the earth at all. Friends don’t let friends drill to drive.

No Changes in US Corn Balance Sheet

In Ethanol, Farming, USDA by Cindy

There are no changes this month to the U.S. corn balance sheet in the USDA World Supply Demand report out this morning.

USDA LogoAccording to the report, ethanol blender and producer margins have recently improved and weekly production of gasoline blends with ethanol has risen. The projected season-average farm price range for corn is narrowed 10 cents on each end to $3.65 to $4.15 per bushel.

Globally, USDA reports coarse grain supplies for 2008/09 are lowered 0.9 million tons this month with reductions in corn production for South America and India and world corn production for 2008/09 is lowered by 4.6 million tons.