Corn Commentary

Without You, There Would Be No Us

Today, Corn Commentary joins with the Corn Refiners Association in celebrating their 100th anniversary. In doing so, CRA offers this guest post to America’s corn farmers. A post authored the National Corn Growers Association will be featured on their blog also. Click here to view NCGA’s thoughts offered in celebration of this momentous event.

Without You, There Would Be No Us

100th Anniversary LogoAs the Corn Refiners Association celebrates its 100th anniversary we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the legacy of a prosperous partnership between corn wet millers and corn growers, a partnership that we very much enjoy and couldn’t survive without.  Although the CRA is celebrating 100 years, this partnership actually exceeds that and goes back more than 150 years when corn starch was first manufactured in Jersey City, N.J., by Thomas Kingsford, who most consider to be the founder of the corn refining industry.

Thanks to productivity of corn growers with technological advances in machinery, farming techniques and breeding, and the innovative visionaries in the corn wet milling industry and their commitment to research and development of new products and technologies, the beneficial effect of this partnership is something we wish we could embed in the mind of every American.  The corn that producers grow and that corn wet millers refine is used in millions of households in the form of ingredients, plastics, oils, toothpaste, batteries, carpet and numerous other quality products that provide convenience and choice and are so very embedded in our current way of life.

cornpckgThe success of our partnership shows itself in the economic impact corn has had, as thousands upon thousands have been employed as a producer or a refiner, with our shared commitment to enriching not only the lives of those who have been employed, but also in helping to build stronger communities.

For a glimpse of our accomplishments, we can look back to 1906, when approximately 2.9 billion bushels of corn were produced in the U.S. and of that, corn refiners used 36.4 million bushels.  Now, in 2012 nearly 11 billion bushels of corn were produced in the United States, and the USDA estimates that more than 1.8 billion bushels of corn will be used for corn wet milling over the next year.

Who could have imagined we would be able to achieve productivity gains of this magnitude?  Maybe pioneer Thomas Kingsford knew it all along; from his tiny mill producing only corn starch to a thriving and growing partnership between corn growers and corn wet millers, we have vastly extended the uses of refined corn products. Looking back 150 years, it seems to be an understatement to note that our partnership and the benefits that have come with it have been priceless for all of us.

6harvestSo what does the future hold? I would argue that there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.  American corn farmers will continue to be the most productive in the world, growing 20 percent more corn per acre than any other nation.  They will continue to focus on stewardship of the land and advancements in biotechnology, which has revolutionized agriculture, increasing yields and creating a sustainable crop for generations to come.

On the corn wet milling side, sweeteners and starch will still be fundamental to our industry, but the products that hold promise for creating a carbohydrate-based economy will continue to grow. The opportunity to replace petroleum-based products with corn-based ones has the potential to be very large. Advancements continue in the area of corn-based plastics, fibers, acetates and other products that continue to chip away at our dependency on non-renewable feedstocks. With that said, there is no doubt that innovation and productivity will continue to drive all the gains we produce and undoubtedly there will be more game changers to come, as was the case with the introduction of HFCS in the 70s and ethanol in the 80s.

I think this note from the previous Corn Refiners Association President, Chuck Conner, says it best: “There is something remarkable about an industry that has found thousands of applications for a plant we take for granted. For more than 150 years, corn refiners have been developing and perfecting products made from corn – transforming it into starches, sweeteners, fuel alcohol, oil and chemical feedstocks with a growing range of end uses. Relying on science and imagination, corn refiners have built an impressive line of products all stemming from the demand for starch.”

We thank the NCGA for inviting us to speak to this partnership on their blog.

Corn Growers Chart Policy Course

cc13-pamAs it was last year at this time, getting a new farm bill was the top priority for delegates to the National Corn Growers Association Corn Congress policy meeting at the 2013 Commodity Classic.

NCGA President Pam Johnson says NCGA supports fundamental changes to farm programs that include effective and affordable federal crop insurance to provide assistance only when most needed.

“An effective, affordable federal crop insurance program remains our No. 1 farm policy priority,” Pam said during the NCGA press conference at Classic. “And we have long supported programs that complement growers’ crop insurance protection in those years where prices or yields are significantly reduced. For growers, especially young farmers, managing the potential loss of revenue is critically important.’’

cc13-ncgaAnother big priority for corn farmers is ethanol and Pam says they will continue to fight the attacks on both the Renewable Fuel Standard and the approval of E15 in the marketplace. “We will not let these attacks stand,” she said. “We know our potential to produce is very great and we know that we need to continue to build that demand.”

Pam adds that growers have been hit with demand destruction because of the drought but “we hope to plant a really great corn crop this year and get some of that back.”

Listen to Pam Johnson summarize issues important to corn growers at the 2013 Commodity Classic: NCGA President Pam Johnson

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Getting the Word Out from Classic

2013 Commodity ClassicBy all accounts, the 2013 Commodity Classic was a record setter. The semi-final numbers are amazing at 6,180 attendees, 3,024 of which were growers and 1,024 first time attendees.

“There are more new people interested in coming to Commodity Classic,” said Ken Colombini, Communications Director for the National Corn Growers Association.

classic13-media
But not every farmer can make it to the Classic, which is where the agricultural media comes in to get the word out to everyone back on the farm. That makes the more than 150 reporters who attend the event very important. “We try to have a full service media center here,” Ken said. That includes high speed internet access, audio and video feeds into the news room, and access to commodity group representatives. “Make sure that they are matched up with farmers when they want to do an interview.”

The media room also includes food and beverages for the media and it is all thanks this year to DuPont Crop Protection, who was the sponsor of the Commodity Classic media room. Speaking as a member of the media, we sincerely appreciate the work that goes in to providing a well-equipped and staffed news room. It makes our jobs covering a huge event like this so much easier!

Listen to an interview with Ken from Classic here: Interview with Ken Colombini

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Yard Work Just Got More Green

 

It’s sporty, it’s fuel injected, it’s green and it’s powered by ethanol. If you are thinking NASCAR™ race cars that’s a good guess but you would be wrong. Because in this case the equipment in question is literally green…as in covered in the well know green and yellow paint of John Deere tractors, combines and lawn equipment.

And unlike the 200 mile-per-hour race cars that trade mileage for speed, the new John Deere  ZTrack mower is also efficient.

John Deere recently released their new, ZTrak Z925M, zero-turn, Flex Fuel Commercial Mowers, capable of running on ethanol blends up to E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). When you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense. Ethanol blends are powering nearly every vehicle on the road today with blends of ethanol from 10% to 85%, so it was only a matter of time before we mowed with high octane E85 too.

John Deere tractors and combines have been frequenting the nation’s corn fields for generations as a stalwart contributor to planting and harvesting operations so the ZTrack Flex-Fuel seems…well, logical.

E10 (10% ethanol) has been utilized successfully in small gas engines, boats and mowers for decades  so we applaud John Deere’s decision to go green, utilize a homegrown fuel and support rural America by bringing an E85 capable to the market .  Be sure to try out the new ZTrak Flex Fuel mower next time you visit your dealer and tell the Corn Growers sent you.

(E10 has been approved for use by all small gas engine manufacturers as well as marine engine manufacturers. Let your mouse dJohn Deere Flex Fuelo the walking if you want to know more.)

Peterson Farm Brothers Heat Up a Cold Florida Night

Peterson Bros editedCommodity Classic heated up a cold Florida night last week when the Peterson Brothers took center stage during the Evening of Entertainment. The family farmers, whose “I’m Farming and I Grow It” video went viral last spring, accepted honors from event sponsor Monsanto for their work to promote the image of modern agriculture.

The brothers, who have created a series of YouTube videos parodying trendy songs, brought farmers into the tech spotlight, with their version of the party anthem gaining more than eight million views. Combining their youthful, fun-loving spirit with their passion for agriculture, these young men pushed family farmers into the national spotlight.

The air outside may have been unseasonably cold, but the brothers sparked warm enthusiasm in the crowd. Leading by example, the Peterson Brothers showed that farmers can effectively use social media to start a dialogue that gets consumers excited too.

Want to join the movement to get a conversation rolling about farming? Click here to learn about innovative programs offered by the National Corn Growers Association that can help you get started.

Vilsack Talks Sequester at Commodity Classic

Sec. of Ag Vilsack at Commodity ClassicU.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a sequester day speech at the 2013 Commodity Classic in Orlando on Friday.

“On this day in particular, it’s great to be outside of Washington,” Vilsack said. “Frankly, I have to apologize to all of you. This is crazy what is happening. In a functioning democracy this shouldn’t happen.”

Vilsack told corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers that USDA furlough notices will be sent out next week and there will be some offices where people “simply aren’t there.”

Listen to Sec. Vilsack’s speech here: Sec. Vilsack Speech

Listen to Sec. Vilsack’s press conference here: Sec. Vilsack Press Conference

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Commodity Presidents at 2013 Classic

Commodity Classic PresidentsA highlight of the general session of Commodity Classic is moderator Mark Mayfield’s “visit with the Presidents.” Left to right are Mayfield, Terry Swanson, National Sorghum Producers; Erik Younggren, National Association of Wheat Growers; Pam Johnson, National Corn Growers Association and Danny Murphy, American Soybean Association.

The commodity presidents segment with Mayfield has become a tradition – but it’s the first time a woman has ever shared the stage. Not likely to be the last as Pam has proven to be a strong and outspoken leader for the agriculture industry.

Listen to Pam Johnson’s comments here: NCGA Pam Johnson

Listen to Danny Murphy’s comments here: ASA Danny Murphy

Listen to Erik Younggren’s comments here: NAWG Eric Younggren

Listen to Terry Swanson’s comments here: NSP Terry Swanson

Following the individual remarks Mark then asked each group president to chime in on the relevance of rural America.

Listen to those comments here: Commodity Presidents on Rural Relevance

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Hoosiers Mourn Loss of Indiana Corn Leader

indiana-cornHoosiers are mourning the loss of Indiana Corn Marketing Council President Gary Lamie who died unexpectedly on Friday at age 52.

For the past 10 years, Lamie has served in leadership roles for various organizations including president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association and vice chair for research and business development with the National Corn Growers Association. He traveled extensively with these groups, planning strategy and conferring with elected officials in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. He was instrumental in helping establish Indiana’s corn check-off program. Gary was also a strong champion for the Purdue Student New Uses Corn Contest that encourages college students to find innovative new uses for corn, and his farm was a frequent stop for students and international trade teams. In 2008 he was selected to represent Indiana in the Syngenta “Leadership At It’s Best” program.

“He was an exceptional farmer, leader and friend to many, and we will miss him dearly,” said Jane Ade Stevens, Executive Director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Our sincere condolences are with his wife Kathleen and the entire Lamie family.”

How Drought Hit Trend Yields

Most of us know where the drought hit the hardest last year, but it’s always more interesting to see it in living color.

The University of Illinois’ FarmDoc Daily did just that by comparing state corn yields last year with trend yields, showing how much yields were reduced in the most drought-stricken areas. You can click on the map below to see a larger version.

corn-yields

The map highlights how the lowest yields were in Kentucky (47 percent of trend) and Missouri (53 percent) and Indiana and Illinois came in at about 62 percent of trend. Much of the rest of Corn Belt saw yields around 75 percent of the trend line. Minnesota and North Dakota had yields close to trend, while most states in the Southeast had above trend yields. Georgia was 24% above trend and South Carolina was 31%, which would be great if those states were not generally ranked in the bottom half of corn growing states. New York and Maryland grow more corn than Georgia and South Carolina.

University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey, who did the map, says as bad as it was, the drought could have been worse.

“In some senses, though, the US dodged a bullet with the 2012 drought,” said Schnitkey. “Much lower total supplies would have resulted had the center of the drought occurred in eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. A center here would have impacted all of the corn-belt in a much worse way, potentially causing the western corn-belt to have as low of yields as the eastern corn-belt. As it actually occurred, Iowa and other western corn-belt state were not as badly hit as could have been the case.”

Read his summary here.

The Sequester Monster

axe-sequesterThe impending deadline for “sequestration” has taken on the character of a looming cataclysmic event or awakening of a sleeping monster in a horror movie – a monster with an axe aimed at all government spending.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called sequester one of the “man-made” risks facing agriculture right now. “You all know that March 1 will come, and if it comes before Congress has acted that the sequester will be triggered, and what that will mean for USDA is every line item, virtually every line item, of our budget will have to be reduced by a certain percentage, and that percentage could be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 percent,” Vilsack said during the opening of USDA’s annual Ag Outlook Conference this week. “And that’s an annual percentage, which means we have to implement this reduction in the remaining portion of the fiscal year, which will be approximately 6 months. That means it is really the impact of the effect of a 10-to-12-percent reduction of our remaining resources, and unlike normal circumstances where the Congress will direct you to reduce funding but give you the flexibility to choose where and how, this is a direct prescription from Congress to reduce every line item by the same percentage.”

Vilsack added that the next deadline facing Congress on March 27 also creates a man-made risk for farmers. “If Congress has not continued the budget process and provided a continuation of the Continuing Resolution or passed a budget, theoretically all government activity stops, and that, of course, would impact our trade promotion efforts. It would impact food safety. It would impact the ability to provide credit to farmers right at the time when they have to finalize the credit opportunities to put their crop in the ground. This is another risk that’s manmade and can be avoided,” said Vilsack.

The sequester monster is coming on March 1 – watch for the sequel “Son of Sequester” coming March 27.



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