Corn Commentary

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.

CommonGround Volunteers Show How Farming in the Snow Is No Cake Walk

Most consumers associate the cold, wintery weather that swept the country this week with staying indoors and keeping warm. Envisioning farming as a sunny day, warm weather gig, they often forget that farmers work to care for their land and livestock 365 days a year.

As snow and ice reign down on the roads, keeping kids home from school and adults stuck in traffic, many farmers are also vigilantly protecting their farms and their animals from the dangerous conditions.

Today, Corn Commentary features a guest blog post and a letter to the editor penned by CommonGround volunteers about how they care for cattle when the temperatures drop. Consumers worried about animal welfare can take heart. These farm women are taking action out of concern for their cattle, just like farmers across the country.

First, Sara Ross, a CommonGround Iowa volunteer, walks blog readers through what her and her husband do to prepare for a winter storm.

Preparing the Cattle for the Big Snowstorm

Sara and her husband, Kevin, prepare their cattle for an oncoming snow.

Sara and her husband, Kevin, prepare their cattle for an oncoming snow.

Everyone’s been talking about it all week…the big snow storm.  First it was suppose to start Wednesday night then it got pushed back to Thursday morning then Thursday around noon.  I’ve heard anywhere from 6-18 inches of snow forecasted.  Normally it would be all fun and games to be snowed in, but since we have cattle, we had to get them prepared for the storm.

Kevin wanted to move the cows from across the road, where they were out on cornstalks, to our side of the road where they would have more protection and be easier to feed and water.  We are a few weeks away from calving, but you never know when a big snow storm hits what will happen!

So, first thing this morning Kevin and I headed outside to get the cows moved to our side of the road.

To read the full post, click here.

CommonGround Nebraska volunteer Joan Ruskamp, who is well familiar with many of the questions consumers have about farming in the winter. She penned the editorial piece below To help answer questions she had seen in local papers.

Baby, it’s cold outside…but there’s still plenty to do on the farm

About this time every year, I begin to get surprised looks from people when I talk about all the activities happening on my family’s farm near Dodge, Neb. Together with my husband, we feed cattle and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. While the crops may not require a great deal of attention in the winter months, animal care on our farm is a top priority 365 days a year.

One of my many responsibilities includes walking through the cattle every morning, no matter the weather conditions, to make sure each animal is healthy. If an animal is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics, we always adhere to label use under the supervision of our veterinarian.  We also adhere to strict withdrawal times, or a set number of days that must pass between the last antibiotic treatment and the animal entering the food supply. And even though cattle have hair coats designed to handle living outdoors, in the cold winter months, we take extra care to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.

We provide extra bedding and windbreaks to help block the extreme cold. And in addition to shoveling our driveway during a snowstorm, we must remove or pile snow in the pens so that the cattle have dry places to lie down. We also must make sure that even during a snowstorm; the cattle are fed at their normal times with continuous access to water.

So, even though the winter weather might make you want to stay bundled up inside, know that farmers are braving the elements to make sure the animals are well cared for – because healthy animals equal healthy food for our families.

Sincerely,

Joan Ruskamp, farmer, Dodge, Neb.

Fuel By Any Other Name

It’s been called alcohol, gasohol, and ethanol, among other names – but could a different moniker help improve the image of plant-based fuel?

nec13-divallThe founder of a widely respected public opinion research firm suggests that calling ethanol a “biofuel” more often might be better.

“Biofuel is seen as a more futuristic energy source than saying the word ethanol,” American Viewpoint president Linda DiVall said. “There are very positive images associated with biofuels.”

DiVall presented findings from a poll on consumer views of ethanol commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) at the National Ethanol Conference last week. “The ethanol industry has a compelling narrative to advance to consumers — it significantly reduces greenhouse gases, lowers our dependence on foreign oil, creates quality jobs, reduces fuel costs for Americans, and is serving to advance further innovations in renewable fuels.”

Listen to DiVall explain in this interview: Linda DiVall at NEC 2013

Will Drought Continue in 2013?

The good news is that the overall drought area in the U.S. is continuing to decline from week to week. The bad news is that 2013 may be even drier than 2012 was.

The latest U.S. drought monitor shows less than 56% of the country in drought now, the lowest point since last July. “It’s also a decline of 5.36% since the beginning of the year and we’re down almost 10% from the peak in 2012,” said USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. “It is noticeable change but the problem is we’ve really been struggling to chip away at the drought right at the core.”

pulwarty“The forecast for this season is that in fact, we are predicting drier conditions,” said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing last week.

Pulwarty emphasized that the big problem last year was the heat exacerbating the drought. “The major issue in the Midwest and the Southwest, Colorado Basin in particular, is that we are having back-to-back dry years and a third year of that puts our systems completely under stress,” he said.

hearing-farmerIndiana farmer Anngie Steinbarger was one of four producers on a panel who explained just how bad the drought was last year. “Our average yields are 150 bushels for corn,” she said, explaining that their decision to add an irrigation pivot on 35 acres of really sandy soil is what helped them get a crop last year. “Under the pivot was close to 200 bushels per acre and outside of the pivot was 10 bushels per acre,” said Steinbarger, adding that “The number one barrier to increasing our yields is lack of water.”

Irrigation helped the Steinbargers meet their contracts but it was crop insurance that helped them survive. “We paid a substantial premium for crop insurance and that decision is keeping us in business for the 2013 crop year,” Steinbarger said.



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