Corn Commentary

Fun Facts in Historical Ag Data

Did you know?

In 1933, hybrid corn seeds made up only one-tenth of 1 percent of the national crop. Within ten years, that proportion reached 50 percent, and by 1956, more than 90 percent of the national corn crop was from hybrid seeds.

Iowa harvested 2.36 billion bushels of corn in 2011, more than the entire U.S. corn harvest of 1935.

That’s just a couple of the fun agricultural facts uncovered in 77 years of historical data now available online from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The agency has just completed the digital compilation of data since 1936 which is now easily accessible to anyone with internet access. In the past, this information, published in the annual bulletin Agricultural Statistics, was available in print form only.

“U.S. agriculture continues to progress by learning from our past, which is why it is imperative to have historic data easily available,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, NASS Administrator. “By publishing this information online we are simplifying the research process and further enhancing access to this important and interesting information.”

NASS and its predecessors at USDA have published Agricultural Statistics since 1936. The bulletins are a compilation of data produced by multiple agencies within USDA. Each volume is a one-stop location for annual production, consumption, trade, and price data for all sorts of crops and livestock, as well as farm economics, spending for government programs, and lots of other statistics important to our country’s agricultural system. These volumes detail U.S. farming for much of the 20th century, including the Dust Bowl and World War II.

Check it out!

Cellulosic Ethanol From Corn

quad-county-1Despite what the critics have to say, commercial cellulosic ethanol is already a reality and the fastest pathway is by getting more from traditional corn ethanol.

The latest achievement is the groundbreaking of a new cellulosic “bolt-on” ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. Quad County Corn Processors Cooperative general manager Delayne Johnson says the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project will increase their production capacity by utilizing more of the corn kernel. “We get six percent of additional cellulosic ethanol out of a kernel of corn,” said Johnson of the new technology, which equates to another two million gallons of ethanol per year from the 13-year-old farmer-owned facility.

The technology has the potential to be adopted by other corn ethanol plants. “If implemented industry-wide, ACE will be able to create an additional two Billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol on an annual basis,” Johnson said. Delayne Johnson, Groundbreaking Remarks

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was on hand for the groundbreaking event. “I have consistently said we should work to add value as close to the corn stalk as possible and that is exactly what is happening in Galva,” said King. “They have found new ways to squeeze even more out of a bushel of corn and this is paving the way for new technology both here in Iowa and across the country.”

Visit the Quad County Corn Processors “ACE” Groundbreaking photo album here.

More audio and video on

Know It All

Everyone may be entitled to an opinion, but the trend toward steadfastly believing completely unsubstantiated claims about food has hit a new high. According to a New York Times poll discussed in an article last Saturday, 93 percent of Americans felt food containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients should be identified with a label, but most went on to affirm their belief in false facts about GMOs disseminated through agenda-driven propaganda.

Applying the thirst for knowledge a bit more liberally might benefit many Americans.

With sizeable portions of those responding to the survey expressing worry over the safety of GMOs, claiming the foods might cause cancer, allergies or were toxic, the desire among these persons for more information about the science behind their food seems lacking. Scientific studies conducted by credible researchers following established protocols continually show that there is no added risk associated with foods containing GMOs. Yet, in spite of a formidable and ever-growing body of evidence, they cling to their irrational fears.

The battle may continue over whether or not labeling should reflect if a product includes foods grown through the use of biotechnology but, as the war of words winds up, let’s not forget that simply knowing if a product contains a GMO food or not does not mean much on its own. The real key is knowing about the scientific study and regulatory procedures that ensure we have a safe, affordable variety of foods from which Americans can choose.

To learn more, click here.

Japan Ready to Beef Up Again

neb-corn-japanA group of Nebraska corn farmers and cattlemen are convinced after a recent trade mission that Japan will soon return to its traditional spot as the number one export customer for U.S. beef.

The Nebraska Corn Board funded the participation of five Nebraska producers on the Japan mission, which centered on Tokyo and the Sendai region. They are pictured here next to an ad for U.S. beef in Tokyo Station, one of the city’s busiest metro stops. Left to right, the team consisted of Tim Scheer of St. Paul (Nebraska Corn Board), Dale Spencer of Brewster (Nebraska Cattlemen), Doug Parde of Sterling (Nebraska Cattlemen), Kyle Cantrell of Anselmo (Nebraska Corn Growers Association) and Mark Jagels of Davenport (Nebraska Corn Board and chair-elect of the U.S. Meat Export Federation).

Earlier this year, Japan finally agreed to ease up on import restrictions on U.S. beef implemented after an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003. “During that time, Australia and New Zealand have been very aggressive in promoting their product into Japan with considerable success,” Jagels said. “We need to reintroduce Japanese consumers to the robust flavor of American corn-fed beef—and teach them ways to prepare and enjoy convenient and delicious dishes featuring U.S. beef.”

Already, sales of U.S. beef into Japan are on track to exceed $1 billion in value this year, up from virtually zero in 2006.

Read more from the Nebraska Corn Board and be sure to check out the mission blog for more insights and photos.

New Campaign to Defend Fuel Choice

Allowing America to be pro-choice when it comes to fuel is what the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is all about and a new ad campaign directed at Washington policy makers is making that point as the oil industry ramps up its anti-choice effort to repeal the law which has helped increase the use of biofuels at the pump.

rfs-ad-choiceFuels America coalition launched the new ad campaign this week.

“We’re talking about the fundamental choice America is facing when it comes to our fuel mix – do we want alternatives to oil or not?” asked Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We’re about choice, we’re about market access.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis stressed the importance of energy supply diversity. “Just as you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket in any business, we shouldn’t do it as a nation in our fuel choice,” he said. “Oil has tried everything they can …and now this desperate attempt to change the (RFS) because they’re afraid of competition.”

Watch one of the new TV ads below:

Catch Up with CommonGround

VideoMembers of the National Corn Growers Association understand that, with so many important, productive programs underway, it can be difficult to keep up with the successes achieved by the farmer-funded, farmer-led association. From the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR to the development of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center, members interested in tracking how NCGA puts their dollars to good use face a myriad of information.

And let’s remember- these men and women have a full-time gig running their farms and caring for their families too.

Keeping updates short and sweet plays a key role in ensuring the grassroots that provide NCGA its strength and character know that every day efforts are underway to create and maintain opportunities that benefit them- America’s corn farmers.

So in the spirit of brevity, roll this clip. In a few short minutes, catch up on what CommonGround, a program formed by NCGA, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates, is doing to foster dialogue between the women who grow America’s food and those who buy it.

Corn Growers Support Conservation in Action

“Without soil, we’re out of business.”

ctic-13-5That is the simple reason why corn growers support cutting edge conservation practices, according to Illinois farmer Dan Cole, a member of the National Corn Growers Association Production & Stewardship Action Team (PSAT) who took part in last week’s Conservation Technology Information Center 2013 Conservation in Action Tour. “PSAT is in charge of water quality and sustainability,” he said. “We also do the corn grower contest, river transportation, but today we’re focused more on soil health.”

“This is cutting edge,” Dan told Chuck Zimmerman during the event. “We went from the mold board plow to the chisel plow, now we’re looking at more sustainable cover crops, no-till, strip till. Everything is to make that organic matter cycle quicker in production agriculture.” Interview with Illinois farmer Dan Cole

ctic-12-wellerConservation is no longer an option for farmers. “It’s really become part of the business plan” for farmers, said USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service acting chief Jason Weller. That’s why it is so critical to get a five year farm bill in place. “It’s really important for us to have that farm bill in place so that our customers, the farmers and ranchers of America, know what the programs are” to put a long term plan in place for land stewardship.

Weller says conservation programs help ensure the wise use of resources and allows farmers to be more successful. “Conservation can help them better manage the soil resources, be more efficient with nutrient application, be more energy efficient, be more water efficient, and ultimately more productive,” he said. Interview with Jason Weller, USDA-NRCS

Silking is Slow but Corn Still Looks Good

corn-silkingCorn silking made progress last week but is still way less than the five year average at just 16% nationwide, less than half what it normally should be at this point according to the latest crop progress report.

“It’s well behind the five year average of 35 percent and last year’s 67 percent,” said USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey, who expects a lot more corn moving into the reproductive stage of development in the next week or so. “Just in the last week we’ve seen silking advance more than 20 percentage points in Indiana, and also in Kansas and Kentucky.” In Illinois, where this photo was taken, just 21% of the crop was silking as of Sunday, compared to the 50% average for this time of year.

Meanwhile, the corn condition is still rated 68% good to excellent, which is a slight drop from the previous week, but way better than last year at this time when the drought was in full swing and barely 30% of the corn was looking good or better. Rippey says the worst states are in the western part of the corn belt.

corn-field“Corn is now more than one-fifth rated poor to very poor in Colorado at 24%, Kansas 22 percent,” with both Missouri and Iowa also creeping up into double digits for poor to very poor ratings as well. That is being attributed to short term dryness on top of heavy moisture earlier in the season. Corn is in the best shape right now in Kentucky and Indiana with over 80% good to excellent. Most of the rest of the states are in the seventies with Illinois, where we found this field, is rated just under 70% good or better.

Let the Public Convince Themselves of Farmer’s Value

In the maelstrom that is modern society, with a hyperactive media and a beleaguered work force,  I think many of us rarely have the time to do research or critical thinking related to the issues of the day. I place myself firmly in that ilk.

Today a very simple question set the wheels turning. The question came from a farmer who asked how  we can explain complex farm programs and support programs designed to keep family farmers producing food and raw materials to a well fed public.

Several thoughts immediately came to mind. First, farm programs have changed and today policy is moving toward a new paradigm, one that focuses on a safety net approach. At a fundamental level this insurance kicks in to assist growers only when developments beyond their control – such as a wide spread drought – put farm survival at risk.

This well considered and analyzed approach recognizes the intrinsic value of the small slice of our population that feed us and much of the world today. This small group is the receptacle of generations of irreplaceable farming knowledge that have made American agriculture the envy of the world. They have allowed generations of us to take food for granted, and miss a very simple fact…once a farmer calls it quits they don’t return.

Unlike a factory layoff, when a farmer moves on so does the complex storehouse of diversified skills that make farmers a productive juggernaut. There are no recalls when things get better. Likewise there is little incentive for another generation to return to the farm given the entry level investment and associated risk.

So I suggested rather than try to give someone a crash course in agriculture, we speak to the public with the goal of giving this issue a perspective that is undeniably powerful  and defies flippant responses and  misinformation.

So here goes. The next time you speak to a group or an individual ask them to name the industries that are the top contributors to the Gross Domestic product. Then add agriculture to the list if it isn’t already there. Now tell them they can only save one. In my experience, nearly without fail, they will universally select agriculture. This simple exercise puts the incredible necessity of a safe and abundant food supply under the bright light of reason.

Now take the next step in your thinking and consider the important role an agricultural safety net, and the stability it brings, plays in allowing us to spend less of our disposable income on food than any other nation. (About 10% in recent years).  Suddenly, that agricultural safety net, becomes an investment in consumers number one need…sustenance. Not a “farm subsidy.”

If you are wondering, the hottest industries in terms of contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Department of Commerce:

  • Durable Goods/Manufacturing
  • Finance/Insurance
  • Wholesale Trade – raw and intermediate materials used to produce non-durable goods

Top Industries in terms of job creation:

Interestingly, five of the top ten industries in terms of job creation are social media and internet related. But when the rubber meets the road, social networks feed nobody, video games are not nutritious, and wires and processors have little to do with our immediate survival.


TTIP Could be Tipping Point for Biotech in EU

ttipAssuming they get past the National Security Agency spying issue, negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) may ultimately hinge on agricultural issues – and they are big ones.

“It is important that we get it right,” President Obama said about the proposed trade agreement last month in Ireland. “That means resisting the temptation to downsize our ambitions or avoid tough issues just for the sake of getting a deal.”

Congressman Steve King of Iowa is hopeful that means access to the European market for genetically-modified crops will be addressed head on. “I think we have to just keep pushing the GMOs and push the sound science that we have … then eventually the trade component of this thing will wash over that continent and we’ll get it done,” said King.

US Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight believes the trade negotiations may provide an educational opportunity to bring the science on biotech crops forward. “I think it’s a great time for us to engage in a very positive discussion on the role of biotechnology not only in the European market but also in the United States and meeting the food and energy needs for the world,” he says.

During a recent hearing
, National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson expressed some optimism about the possibilities of Europe being more open to biotech crops. “Once in a while you hear something optimistic about maybe the EU should take a different look at biotech. We’re still very hopeful that will happen,” she said.

In other words, TTIP could be the tipping point that finally brings Europe into the 21st century in acceptance of the important role biotechnology can play in feeding a growing global population.

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