Corn Commentary

Colorado Corn Celebrates E85 Openings

Colorado Corn Growers are celebrating the grand openings of new E85 fueling stations opening in the Centennial State this month.

The events will take place at the Eagle Travel Stop in Sterling on September 16 and Western Convenience in Montrose on September 23.

The Colorado Corn Growers Association is joining with the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition to help sponsor the events which will feature live remotes, hot dogs, refreshments, flex-fuel vehicles and fuel promotions.

The addition of these two new E85 facilities will bring the total of E85 stations in the state to 70.

New Technique Could Make Corn Ethanol More Efficient

A process used in breweries and wastewater treatment facilities could make corn ethanol more energy efficient.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are exploring the use of oxygen-less vats of microorganisms that naturally feed on organic waste produced from the ethanol fermentation process.

According to a university release, a WUSTL team has tested anaerobic digestion on waste from ethanol plants and found that the process could cut down an ethanol facility’s use of natural gas by 50 percent. They published the results in the recent issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

A complete story on the research is available at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review.

Trendy Corn Trash Cans

This trendy trash can is green in more ways than one.

A winner of numerous design awards , the iconic Garbino garbage can from Umbra is now made with corn-based plastic. According to the Umbra website, “Over the years Umbra has designed products with sustainability in mind. We have taken the “Reuse” mentality and adopted a new approach that includes sustainable items like corn and plantation grown wood. Our new line of eco-friendly products promote our objective to provide contemporary, casual and affordable products that foster a healthy environment.”

The 10-quart Garbino, and it’s smaller desktop cousin the Garbini, were named among BusinessWeek’s “Hot Green Products” earlier this year.

Umbra debuted the Garbino Trash Can in 1996, designed by Karim Rashid. “Known for its swerving rim, flowing curves and negative spaces, the Garbino brought glamour to trash cans. The Garbino, with a 10-quart capacity, remains a key part of Umbra’s line; it is a core product that each year introduces Umbra’s newest colors.”

The trendy trash can does come in a variety of colors, but the eco-version is only available in green or black – and the price is pretty reasonable at around $6, but not real easy to find. I did find black ones in a few places, like here at The Container Store, but the greens are on back order.

Corn at AgNite

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association was one of the top five sponsors for the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council AgNite event on Tuesday, held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.

“The top five platinum sponsors are all Minnesota-based companies or organizations and we were thrilled that they came on board early to sponsor the event,” said council executive director Daryn McBeth. “The food and ag industry is important, it’s Minnesota’s second largest industry, it’s as far away as your next meal and we felt that with this opportunity with so many influencers and media in town for the convention, that in a non-partisan way we could take advantage of that and showcase this important industry.”

The venue and set-up for the event was nothing short of spectacular and extremely well done. The historic Minnesota Depot was skirted on the outside with potted corn stalks and inside the 60,000 square foot area was dotted with comfortable seating around video screens where those attending could just relax and enjoy the food and refreshments while taking in some information about the various agricultural sponsors. Unlike a trade show, it allowed people to take it all in just by the atmosphere. And it showed that agriculture could really throw one heck of a high-class party. There are always multiple outside evening events at political conventions, but the AgNite event was “the go-to” party that evening.

That was a relief to the organizers, who did have some concerns over the weekend when Hurricane Gustav threatened to wash out their plans. But, as it turned out, the attendance for the invitation-only event exceeded all expectations. As someone said, “What if you threw a party and everyone showed up?” Maybe not everybody – I don’t think John McCain made it – but the organizers were still quite pleased with the turnout.

United State for Agriculture

The AgNite event sponsored by the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council on the second night of the Republican National Convention was a model of what agriculture should be nationwide – united.

Agribusiness companies and organizations of all stripes united to showcase the food, fuel and agriculture industries for the delegates and policy makers in the Twin Cities for the convention. The event’s top sponsors included the Minnesota Corn Growers, CHS, Land O’ Lakes, Hormel and AgStar – growers, food processors, co-ops – the meat industry and the grain industry … everyone put their differences aside, both political and policy, for at least one evening to unite for agriculture. Unofficial estimates put the crowd during the night at over 4,000 – a tremendous turnout that exceeded expectations. It was a beautiful thing.

Let’s keep that momentum going.

Corny Politicos

Democratic running mates Barack Obama and Joe Biden engaged in some corny banter during a quick campaign stop for sweet corn in Ohio on Saturday.

The Associated Press reported the exchange between Biden, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Obama, with Senator Sherrod Brown and former senator John Glenn playing backup.

“I used to think the South Jersey corn is … the best corn,” said Biden, a U.S. senator from Delaware. “John Glenn says that’s not true.”

“Ohio is known nationwide,” said Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, standing with the group buying corn from the back of a box truck.

“Illinois has a little corn,” Obama said of his home state. “I just want to make sure you know that.”

“Ah, that’s for hogs,” Strickland chimed in with a chuckle.

“Sherrod Brown tells me the ice cream and the peaches and the corn are the best in Ohio. I didn’t know that,” Biden said, noting the U.S. senator also traveling with the campaign on a bus tour that in coming days will take the pair to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

“Don’t let anybody in South Jersey know I’m buying this corn,” Biden said.

As he was departing, Biden reportedly got very possessive of his ears – which were the last dozen the stand had to offer. According to ABC’s Political Punch:

Before he left, Biden — brandishing his plastic bag of corn — told the crowd that, “I’m taking the corn and getting the hell out of here. I’m not giving anybody this corn!”

Agriculture Celebration Planned for RNC

AgNiteAgriculture will be in the spotlight for thousands attending the Republican National Convention next week.

The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is hosting AgNite, a celebration of America’s food and agriculture industry, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008, during the second night of the RNC in the Twin Cities. The evening event will showcase the food, agriculture and energy industries in a unique and exciting club atmosphere in the historic Minneapolis Depot’s impressive 60,000-square-foot venue. Guests will also experience some of the best networking, food, drink and entertainment in town.

MN CornAgNite is a non-partisan invitation-only event that will include over 3,000 guests, delegates, policymakers, news media and industry leaders. The event is being made possible by dozens of sponsors from Minnesota and across the country, including the Minnesota Corn Growers.

AgNite is basically taking the place of “The Great American Farm Breakfast,” which is normally held at the RNC but for some reason was canceled this time.

Technology that’s really cutting-edge

Boosting yield — the amount of corn grown per acre — is crucial not just for increasing corn production to meet all needs, but to do it in a sustainable way that uses natural resources more efficiently. And developing new seed technology is one of the most effective ways of boosting yield.

But this can be a slow and daunting process. And that’s why new technology from DuPont may be important. DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International division is using laser technology to help speed up research. The competitive landscape of seed technology has gone far to help feed and fuel the world and should be welcomed by all who are concerned about energy security and world hunger.

Corn Stover for Feed and Energy

If USDA’s corn crop forecast holds true this year, farmers will produce not only 12.3 billion bushels of corn, but also 290 million tons of corn stover.

What if all those leftover stalks, leaves and cobs could be used to feed livestock, generate steam and electricity, and make cellulosic ethanol – in addition to enriching the soil and preventing erosion?

That is the goal of a new collaboration between Monsanto, John Deere and Archer Daniels Midland that was announced this week. The companies are planning to work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover as well as ensure that sufficient stover is left on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for the next season’s crop. And they think they can do it with a combination of improved varieties that yield bigger and better plants in addition to more corn – new machinery that can get it off the ground – and new technologies to process and commercialize the product.

It’s kind of interesting that this announcement was made in a release late Tuesday while all of these companies had representatives at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa with thousands of farmers and all the nation’s major farm media in attendance – but no formal announcement was made at the show. They appear to be targeting a general media audience with this – which is great and it did get some good coverage. However, it seems like it also deserved to be publicized at the biggest farm show in the Midwest among people who actually know what corn stover is. Just a thought.

Corn Growers at Farm Progress Show

Mark Dehner, Marketing Manager Refined and Renewable Fuels for Bob Dickey, First Vice President of the National Corn Growers AssociationCorn growers by the car and truck load are attending the Farm Progress Show in Boone, IA. Helping me do some work here is Laura McNamara, a freelance farm media specialist. She got to sit down with an NCGA leader this morning.

There’s a lot the National Corn Growers Association is looking forward to in the next few months. I caught up with Bob Dickey, First Vice President of the association, at the 2008 Farm Progress Show in Boone, IA today. He says corn growers are counting on good weather, a good harvest and a good relationship with the new Secretary of Agriculture who’ll be named after this year’s Presidential election. In the meantime, Bob says representatives from the 33,000 member organization are on site here at the Farm Progress Show to get out their grassroots message:

“Our mission is to create and increase opportunities for corn growers,” Bob said.

A lot of those opportunities have come from ethanol in recent years. Bob says ethanol technology is continually progressing. Cellulosic technology is proving to be the newest frontier in the industry and Bob says, the National Corn Growers Association is behind cellulosic development 100 percent.

“We get behind the cellulosic industry because that will help enhance the overall industry,” Bob said. “And so we’re very supportive of what’s going on in the cellulosic side of the ethanol industry, whether it be switchgrass, sweet sorghum, alfalfa, wood chips, corn stalks, corn cobs, whatever. We’re excited.”

I interviewed Bob about what he feels are the important issues for corn growers. You can listen to my interview with Bob here:

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