Corn Commentary

Meet the new NCGA CEO

ncga-novakThe new CEO of the National Corn Growers Association had his first chance to visit with members of the agricultural media during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week in Kansas City.

Chris Novak previously served as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board, but prior to that, he was executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. So he comes to NCGA with plenty of experience.

“I’ve spent 11 years working on behalf of pork farmers, but I’ve spent more than 10 years working with grain farmers, corn and soybeans, across this country,” he said. “Lots of big challenges ahead for us. Looking at a record crop and lower prices than we’d like to see but that’s an opportunity for me as well.”

Novak sees increasing demand as the most important challenge and opportunity for the industry. “How do we ensure that with a second record crop in a row that we’ve got the demand that can keep our farmers profitable?” he said. The primary demand sectors – livestock, ethanol and exports – all offer new growth potential.

“Certainly EPA’s support and implementation of the renewable fuels law as passed by Congress is going to be important to us in the short term,” he added. “Longer term we’re looking to build consumer demand for a renewable fuel that increases our energy independence and helps reduce greenhouse gases.”

Novak also talked about the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, the extended comment period for which just ended on Friday, and what he expects from the lame duck session of Congress and the new Congress in January. Interview with Chris Novak, NCGA CEO


2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Conversations with Consumers Work!

Conversations about food between the women who grow food and the women who buy it are having a real impact as indicated by a recent post authored by Denver blogger Mama Bird. Originally an attendee of CommonGround Colorado’s launch event, Bird has developed a real relationship with the farmer volunteers in her state. What has grown from that initial encounter is a real understanding that she shares with many others in the Denver area.

In her post on GMO labeling bills, Bird shows the incredible importance of having open, honest conversations about what farmers do and why they do it. Focusing on the need for consumers to make informed choices, she empowers readers with real information.

So often, farmers hear the call to share their stories and open the farm gate to Americans interested in food. It can seem overwhelming. Does anyone really care?

The answer shown in Bird’s story is a resounding yes. Whether we grow food or buy it at the store, Americans all benefit when they come together around the table to learn more about one of the most essential parts of their collective experience – the foods that they eat.

From volunteering with a program like CommonGround to helping a Facebook friend off the farm find out more about a food question, farmers can create positive, real change in how America views food. To find out more, click here.

Support the Farmer Veteran Coalition

Farmer Veteran CoalitionToday is Veterans Day and one of the sad facts about the men and women who serve our nation is that they often return from active duty with few job opportunities.

That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition is making a difference. The coalition is helping to mobilize veterans in the fight to feed America by cultivating a new generation of agriculturalists through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.

Homegrown by Heroes“We’ve got veterans returning to small communities all over this country, and based on my experience in the military and interactions with people in the military, I believe that these people possess the skills and the traits that can contribute in a very positive way,” says Coalition board member Charlie Kruse. Those skills include teamwork, dedication and pride in what you do along with willingness to adapt to different situations.

Kruse, who is a Missouri farmer and former president of the Missouri Farm Bureau who also served 26 years in the Army National Guard, is excited about the work the Coalition is doing, including helping veterans through the Homegrown By Heroes label. “I think it’s a tremendous activity that in some small way let’s all of us in this country pay back to those people in uniform who answered the call and served us proudly,” he added.

Find out more about the coalition at farmvetco.org.

Big Export Year for Corn

corn-exportsThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its final total for fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports and they are indeed a new record.

“It’s a big record, too,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber. The final tally was a big $152.5 billion, an increase of $11.5 billion or eight percent from last year’s record $141 billion.

Soybean exports topped the charts for value, at $24 billion, but corn beat out beans in volume with 50 million metric tons – a 156 percent increase over 2013. And value was up significantly as well. “We’re up almost 99 percent over last year at $11.1 billion,” said Glauber. “Corn rebounded dramatically … a lot of that was the huge increase in volume.” The rebound of course was from the 2012 drought which cut exports significantly.

The top destination for U.S. corn exports was Japan, which accounted for almost 25% of the total volume, while number two Mexico took about 20% of the total. South Korea came in third, with Columbia and Egypt rounding out the top five. Egypt imported nearly 2.9 million metric tons of U.S. corn in the last year, up from zero the previous marketing year. China, which was the overall number one destination for agricultural exports in 2013-14, came in sixth on the list for corn.

The Future for Corn Farming

bayer-zylstraWhat does the future hold for corn farmers? That was a question addressed at the Bayer CropScience Corn and Soybean Future Forum in Frankfurt, Germany last week, and some farmers gave their views.

Iowa Corn Growers
chairman Roger Zylstra, who farms in Jasper County, talked about the opportunities and challenges of sustainable corn production. “There are significant challenges right now in corn production because of the rapid drop in prices we’ve seen,” he said. “But I think there are tremendous opportunities in the world.”

The Bayer forum featured farmers from all over the world and Zylstra noted that farmers in different countries do their best when they “get along as neighbors and trading partners.” Interview with Iowa farmer Roger Zylstra

bayer-kip-tomIndiana farmer Kip Tom discussed successful farm management in a future digitalized farming world and the challenges of adopting new technology in agriculture. “A lot of it comes down to the connectivity of our rural areas,” Tom said. “But the other hurdle comes back to education. We’ve got to have a work force that understands how to use these tools if we’re going to get good information from it.”

Tom talked about “social license” when it comes to environmental resources. “We have a license to make sure that at the end of our lifetime, we return it to the next generation in as good as or better condition,” he said. “We’re all tenants. We make think we own the land, but in the end, we are tenants.” Interview with Indiana farmer Kip Tom

Common Sense Prevails in Colorado

Last night, voters spoke across the country on a variety of issues. In Colorado, one point was certainly clear – voters saw through the poorly written propaganda of GMO-labeling Proposition 105.

“Results Wednesday morning indicated voters had rejected the proposal, 66 percent to 34 percent, with 94 percent of the precincts reporting,” according to the Denver Business Journal.

In the same article, DBJ cited Coalition for Safe Affordable Food spokeswoman Claire Parker as saying “By voting down Proposition 105 by a huge margin, Colorado voters delivered a resounding message against a mandatory labeling law that would have led to misinformation, inconsistencies and higher costs for consumers. American consumers deserve a consistent, national labeling standard based on sound science, not scare tactics.”

The voters of Colorado seem to agree. Consumers need solid information on the foods that they eat, not nebulous labels that fail to provide informed, scientific insight into this important subject.

Learn more about the coalition, of which NCGA is a member, by clicking here. For real answers to GMO questions from reliable scientists, not propaganda from anti-tech activists, click here.

Get to know about GMO, because good decisions like the one in Colorado come from a place of knowledge instead of reactionary responses based in fear.

A Corn-y Conversation

Kenney VideoIowa CommonGround volunteer Julie Kenney brought the story of corn to internet viewers everywhere recently during an interview with Iowa Girl Eats blogger Kristin Porter. The video, made possible by the Iowa Food and Family Project, explains both the different types of corn people see in the field driving by as well as what their uses.

Find out more about the incredible story of corn with Julie by clicking here.

Like it? Check out other videos from the series, including one with Julie’s husband, Mark, or one with Iowa Corn Growers Association staffer Janet Wilwerding.

It’s Candy Corn Time!

candy-cornAt the same time of year when combines are running in the corn fields, billions of kernels of candy corn are being popped in mouths around the country.

That’s right, I said billions. According to the National Confectioners Association, 35 million pounds of candy corn are sold around Halloween, which is approximately 9 billion individual kernels of corn. That’s kind of scary!

Candy corn has been around for more than 100 years. George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderlee became the first to produce the candy. The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection in 1900 and still produces candy corn today.

The main ingredient in candy corn actually is corn – corn syrup, that is. And the NCA points out that it was first made when most of America was still farming country. They don’t know if it was the fact that so many Americans had farm experience at that time, if urban dwellers found it charming or if it was some combination that made it so popular, but people went nuts over it.

And today, October 30 is National Candy Corn Day, so enjoy some of the sweet, tri-colored treats to celebrate – but save some for the trick-or-treaters!

Best of Times for Agriculture?

Dr. Lowell CatlettCorn prices may be lower but eternal optimist Dr. Lowell Catlett says it’s still the best of times right now for agriculture.

“Historically, there’s never been a better time to be in agriculture,” said Catlett this week at the Bayer CropScience 2014 Corn and Soybean Future Forum being held in Germany. “The world has never known so much wealth, we’ve gone up 20 fold in the last 20 years.”

And that means more protein, which is good for corn and soybean producers. “We got to double meat protein production because of world wealth in the next 25 years,” said Catlett. “And if we double that, we’ve got to do it with some feed products with animals that are grown intensively – better health, better feed efficiency, and less impact on the environment.”

Listen to a quick interview with Dr. Catlett from Germany here: Interview with Dr. Catlett

Of course, if you have ever seen Dr. Catlett in action, you know he is not only an optimist, but a funny and informative entertainer – listen to an excerpt of his remarks this week here: Dr. Lowell Catlett Remarks

Export Exchange Tours Visit Midwest

badger-visitMany of the international teams visiting the United States last week for the 2014 Export Exchange also participated in tours before and after the event to see ethanol plants and farms across the Midwest.

Badger State Ethanol in Wisconsin had the honor of hosting a team of buyers from the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The KSA/Jordan team included companies representing the major dairy and poultry companies and major importers of feed grains in both countries and have been buyers of DDGS in the last couple of years.

exex-tour-ken-ksThe Kansas Corn Growers hosted a Latin American trade team at two Kansas farms, the BNSF container facility at Edgerton and the East Kansas Agri Energy ethanol plant at Garnett to learn about corn, ethanol and DDGS. One of the farmers they visited with was former National Corn Growers Association president Ken McCauley.

Held every other year by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Export Exchange brings together more than 200 international buyers with U.S. sellers of corn, sorghum, barley, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Over the course of three days of events and the pre- and post-tours, these individuals not only do business directly but also make connections to facilitate future sales.



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