Corn Products at Commodity Classic

In Classic, New Products by Cindy

basf commodity classic exhibitSome exhibitors at the Commodity Classic not only have new products to help corn growers be more productive, they also are showcasing new products made from corn.

Take the BASF booth, for example. They are showcasing a carpet in their exhibit made from corn polymers, and giving away plastic coffee cups made from 100 percent corn plastic, as Dan Westberg and Leon Duschene explain in this YouTube video.

Concern Over Proposed Obama Budget

In Administration, Classic, Policy, Politics by Cindy

The first Obama budget announced today would end direct payments for farms with large sales and incomes that receive a disproportionate amount of the payments, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at USDA’s Annual Ag Outlook Forum. According to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, the president is “proposing to phase out those payments over time for farms with revenue of more than $500,000 a year.”

bob dickeyWith that announcement coming out as the 2009 Commodity Classic was getting underway, it was the first question that came up during a press conference with National Corn Growers Association president Bob Dickey, a grower from Nebraska, who says they are very concerned about that statement but they need to examine the proposal closer.

“I can tell you that we will take a strong stand to defend out corn producers,” Dickey said. “We do have policy on that and we will defend our policy.”

The budget would also support the implementation of a 250-thousand dollar commodity program payment limit and reduce crop insurance subsidies.

On the plus side, Obama’s 3.55 trillion dollar budget for fiscal year 2010 would provide over 20-billion dollars in loans and grants to support and expand rural development activities and make investments to double the nation’s renewable energy capacity.

A Classic Event

In Classic by Cindy

Despite the economy, the farming community has turned out in droves for the 2009 Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas this week.

Commodity ClassicThis is the first Classic to feature four commodities under one roof – corn, soybeans, wheat and now grain sorghum. Pre-registrations were almost the same as last year with more farmers registered than ever before.

The theme of the 14th Annual Commodity Classic is “Discover Bright Horizons” and features educational sessions on topics such as managing risk, energy independence, farm finances and nitrogen strategies.

There are so many events going on at the Classic that it’s hard to keep up. Committee meetings, state caucuses and policy discussions are being held in nearly every room of the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine. The sold-out trade show is the largest in Commodity Classic history, with more than 230 companies in more than 940 booths.

The weather is sunny and the mood is upbeat here in the Lone Star State – no economic crisis here!

Corn Ethanol Land Use Impact is Almost ZERO

In Audio, Ethanol, Land Use by Cindy

Expansion of corn ethanol production to 15 billion gallons per year in 2015 is unlikely to result in the conversion of non-agricultural lands anywhere, according to a new study released today at the National Ethanol Conference by Air Improvement Resource (AIR).

The study found that increasing crop yields and growing supplies of nutrient-dense feed co-products are likely to nullify the need to expand global cropland to meet the corn ethanol requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Thomas DarlingtonAccording to Thomas Darlington with AIR, indirect land-use affects of corn-based ethanol would be smaller than other studies have estimated. Darlington points out that the earlier studies neglect to factor in yield improvements and “land use credits” from the use of distillers grains. His research also lays out a “philosophical” assumption that if the U.S. exports are constant or increasing even with ethanol, no international land use effects should be assigned to corn ethanol.

Read Darlington’s report here.

Listen to his comments at the NEC here.

Obama Picks Deputy Ag Secretary

In General, government, USDA by Cindy

merriganPresident Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Kathleen Merrigan as deputy secretary of the Agriculture Department.

Merrigan is no stranger to USDA, having served as administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service under President Clinton from 1999 to 2001. She is currently Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment MS and PhD Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston MA.

Because Merrigan helped develop USDA’s U.S. organic food labeling rules and has been involved in organic policy on both the national and international levels, her choice is being well received by organizations such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which were disappointed with Obama’s pick of Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture. No reaction yet from agriculture groups on her nomination.

cannonPresident Obama also named his choice for Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a position that will play an important role in implementing the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Jon Cannon is currently a professor of environmental law as well as the director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the University of Virginia. He also served at the Environmental Protection Agency during three previous administrations – Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton – eventually rising to general counsel.

Both still must be confirmed by the Senate before taking on their new roles.

Bullish on Ethanol

In General by Ken

Of course, the Renewable Fuels Association can be expected to be optimistic when it comes to ethanol. That’s part of its job. But our country’s ethanol associations do honest and thorough work when it comes to research, policy and marketing.

Today, the RFA released its 2009 ethanol industry outlook, which provides an optimistic look at the future of corn ethanol. RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen writes in his cover letter:

We will continue to challenge ourselves to reduce our carbon footprint. More efficiently using our natural resources is at the core of this nation’s efforts to secure a more sustainable energy future. America’s ethanol producers are at the forefront of that effort, developing the technologies that are constantly improving its green footprint.

The U.S. ethanol industry remains strong and steadfast in its resolve to provide domestically produced renewable fuels because America’s energy future starts at home.

Also bullish on meeting fuel needs with ethanol is a new study on biomass by Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors that found that plant and forestry waste and dedicated energy crops could sustainably replace nearly a third of gasoline use by the year 2030.

This is just more great news for those of us who are concerned about energy security, economic growth and protecting the environment. The 90 Billion Gallon Study assumes 75 billion gallons would be ethanol made from nonfood cellulosic feedstocks and 15 billion gallons from corn-based ethanol.

Details on the Sandia study are here.

Biotech is Good for You

In General by Ken

Writing at, a history professor from Texas argues in favor of biotech from a sustainability point of view, taking to task organic food activists and others who won’t even give biotech any consideration whatsoever. Author James E. McWilliams looks at the recent history of biotech and some of its positive factors, concluding:

Given the potential of these products to reduce the environmental impact of farming, it’s ironic that traditional advocates for sustainable agriculture have led a successful campaign to blacklist GMOs irrespective of their applications. At the very least, they might treat them as legitimate ethical and scientific matters deserving of a fair public hearing.

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!