The Need for Future Talent in Ag

In agribusiness, Audio, Education by Cindy

It was over 2,000 years ago that Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” and that is apparently very true today in the agribusiness world.

AgCareers-SMThe HR Roundtable, which included more than 60 agribusiness companies and university representatives, highlighted the need for workers to meet the growing demand for jobs in the industry. According to President Eric Spell, more than one million agribusiness veterans are expected to retire in the next three or so years, while at the same time jobs in the industry are growing and there is a shortage of students who are graduating and taking jobs in the agribusiness field.

Spell says the two hottest career fields in agriculture over the next few years are in plant sciences and agronomy. “It all revolves around yields and how to produce more with less,” he said. “A student will not go wrong choosing that career field. The demand for those occupations has never been higher.”

Spell says they are turning their attention to returning veterans to help fill the demand for agricultural jobs. “We need to look for unconventional sources of talent and the military is a good example of that,” he said. Interview with Eric Spell

AgWarriors logoTo that end, AgCareers has adopted an employment program originally developed by the International Agri-Center called AgWarriors. “A returning military vet can post their resume which will be flagged with the AgWarriors logo so employers can search specific to that category,” said Spell, who noted that 35% of the jobs listed on right now don’t require an agriculture education, such as logistics, accounting, paralegal, attorneys, and even nurses.

AgCareers is also working to let returning vets know what the most common transferable skills and occupations for agriculture. “The agriculture industry has a lot of job opportunities that are a good fit for returning veterans and military men and women,” director of marketing communications Ericka Osmundson says. “Every month there are about 3500 to 4000 jobs posted on AgCareers and about 10,000 applications that pass through the site.” Interview with Erika Osmundson

Just like the military, agriculture is looking for (more than) a few good men and women to sign up for the future of our country and the world.

EPA Head Visits Iowa

In Administration, Audio, Environmental, Ethanol, government by Cindy

mccarty-head-shotThe newly confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the Iowa State Fair last week, where she spoke about her goal of building a better relationship with farmers.

“My commitment to you is that at the end of my term, we will have a stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during her brief remarks.

In an interview with USDA Radio from Iowa, McCarthy also had some encouraging words about renewable fuels. “We’re at a pretty exciting time,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of activity, especially here in Iowa where they have advanced ethanol plants. We’re working closely with the farming community and we’re looking at new feedstocks all the time, new ways of producing biofuels.”

In addition, McCarthy offered her views in support of the RFS. “We see that the Renewable Fuel Standard is operating effectively, that the law gives us plenty of tools and flexibility that we can move this forward,” she said.

McCarthy was just confirmed as the administrator of EPA last month. Listen to her comments about farmers, working with USDA, and renewable fuels here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Corn Farmers Look to Produce Fertilizer from Wind

In State Groups by Cindy

MNwindmillFarmers in Minnesota soon could be turning wind energy into fertilizer. Research funded by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association is developing a way to have the wind turbines put up in corn fields produce the very nitrogen fertilizer that helps those same crops grow.

“We take water, and we separate the hydrogen and oxygen. We pull nitrogen from the air and combine the hydrogen and nitrogen to form anhydrous ammonia, the predominant nitrogen fertilizer source farmers use,” explains Mike Reese, the Renewable Energy Director for the University of Minnesota at the school’s West Central Research Station in Morris, Minn.

This first-in-the-world research project still uses the tried-and-true process of producing ammonia for fertilizer… but hopefully more locally and efficiently. Reese says they need to figure out how to make this wind-powered process commercially scalable.

“Right now, anhydrous ammonia and nitrogen fertilizer is produced on a massive scale in central locations. What we’re trying to do is make this so we could have community production or co-op facilities to produce the nitrogen fertilizer locally,” he said.

Reese added that there are enough resources in Minnesota to make all the fertilizer needed for the state’s entire corn crop, a possible $400 million industry that is now done completely out of the state.

In a Deluge of Details, Seek Out the Substance of the Story

In Farming, Food, Media by Cathryn

Menus at many of the hottest restaurants in cities from Portland to Princeton read like a carefully crafted tome of local one-upmanship. The Smith family loving raised the joyful cow who willingly ended its sunny, grass-fed existence to bring you the finest six-ounce filet that money can buy. The Swiss chard accompanying it actually comes from the Jones family down the lane and three houses to the left. Chefs and aspiring novelists have teamed up to tell the entire backstory of your meal. With so much focus on the farmers behind one’s brunch, diners continue to coo overly-emotive praise at the resourcefulness of the establishment capable of finding family farmers to provide their posh plates.

The underlying assumption is that the ingredients listed with the pinpoint precision honestly required only by a logistics manager are unique because they come from a family farm. As everyone seems to know, there are hardly any of those left.

The Washington Post boldly lifted the starched tablecloth off of the hidden truth this week explaining that, in all reality, 96.4 percent of America’s farms are family farms. The article that exposed the farming industry for what it really is, one made up of family-owned and operated businesses, explained how America’s family farmers have grown the amount of land they cultivate or increased the number of chickens in their flock through hard work and modern technology. Recognizing the ability of family farmers to adapt a rapidly-changing world, the Post provided a peak behind the farm gate many haven’t seen for generations.

For many, the term family farm comes wrapped in a gauzy haze of sepia-toned associations. Family farms may be larger than the nostalgia-fueled diners notions may dictate suit their idyllic fantasy farm, but words have specific meanings even if one chooses surround them in clouds of self- created implications and associations.

Take a moment to find out what real family farmers are like today by clicking here. Family farms may have grown, but the farmers themselves still strive to feed every American as if they were part of their own family. Enjoy this bounty knowing that, even if it doesn’t come accompanied by a novella of names, it probably does come from a family farm.

Ethanol Education for Bikers

In Audio, Ethanol by Cindy

rfs-sturgis-fuel3The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) motored on up to the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for the fifth year in a row last week to provide an ethanol education for bikers.

“This year we’ve had a lot of push back from the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) and it’s really focused around E15 and it has gotten really confusing to a lot of people, said RFA director of market development and motorcycle enthusiast Robert White. “We want folks to use the right fuel; to know what type of fuel they can use.” Interview with Robert White

rfs-sturgis-fuel4To that end, RFA treated bikers to a “Free Fuel Happy Hour” with a special blend of 93 octane E10 for three days of the event at the legendary Buffalo Chip Campground. First in line for the free fuel was Buffalo Chip Campground founder and President Rod Woodruff, who says ethanol is a good product that gets a bad rap. “I use it in all my cars and I’ve got 69 vehicles here at the Chip … we use it in all of them. I’ve used it in my motorcycles for 8 or 10 years now,” he said. ““We’re very pleased to have the Renewable Fuels Association at the Chip and offer our campers some education and free ethanol-blended fuel.” Interview with Rod Woodruff

In addition to the free fuel, RFA sponsored ethanol promotional video messages on jumbotrons that aired 144 times each day, as well as educational materials, banners and merchandise including koozies and t-shirts.

2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Corn Crop Lowered but Record Still Expected

In General, USDA by Cindy

Despite a wet spring causing a challenging start to the season, the 2013 corn crop is still looking to break new ground this year, according to the latest USDA production estimate out Monday.

corn-field“This crop should be a record crop,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber. “This is our first objective yield survey of the corn crop, showing a yield of 154.4 bushels per acre, which is way off trend yields but that combined with the real large acreage we saw planted this spring means a very large crop.”

The forecast is 13.8 billion bushels, down slightly from the last estimate, but up 28 percent from 2012. The average yield estimated would be the highest since 2009. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 89.1 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but up 2 percent from 2012.

However, Glauber points out that much can change between now and harvest, especially since crops were planted so late. “Because it’s developing late, we don’t have good ear weights yet,” he said. “These ears are going to have to fill out and right now we’re doing it on what we expect the fill out to be.” Later development also makes the crop more susceptible to early frost.

World Ag Outlook Board Chair Gerald Bange says the latest forecast means tighter supplies and higher prices. “We’ve gone up 10 cents on each end, between 4.50 and 5.30 per bushel for corn,” he said. The new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending stocks for 2013/14 will be 122 million bushels lower.

Exports are projected 25 million bushels lower with reduced domestic supplies and increased foreign competition. “We’re going to see a lot of corn coming out of places such as Ukraine, for example,” Bange said, as well as continued strong competition from Brazil.

However, Bange was quick to note that the overall export forecast for 2013-14 is up over 70%.

USFRA Update

In Audio, USFRA by Cindy

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is nearing its official third birthday and one of the original founding fathers is pleased with the accomplishments of the alliance, which now includes over 80 agricultural organizations and companies.

usfra-doug“I don’t know if you ever really reach your goals but think we’re seeing some real strides in the right direction,” says board member Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Wisconsin. “When we sat down to start, we were trying to sit down everybody in one room and get them all to work together and that’s a tough thing to do – but it’s come to fruition and we’re seeing some real progress.”

Among the new endeavors for USFRA is taking its highly successful national Food Dialogues effort down to a more regional level with their affiliates so they can do more of them. USFRA has identified biotechnology and antibiotic use in livestock as two major issues that they are addressing with the non-farm audience. “Those are always controversial issues,” Doug says. “We’re still going to back the science … but we’re up against some really strong emotional responses … but we sit down and debate and discuss how it works.”

There’s also been some recent changes to the USFRA website, one of which helps to address some of those hot-button issues, including a new section called FoodSource. They have also incorporated some search engine optimization to the website which brings up USFRA information for certain key words relating to agriculture.

Listen to an interview with Doug and USFRA staffer Lisa Cassady at the Ag Media Summit: USFRA update

In the Bitter Battle of the Sweeteners, Sugar Launches a Sneak Attack

In HFCS by Cathryn

Creative naming practices have been an essential tool for many in the marketing field for centuries. The practice of carefully selecting a name that will appeal to consumers has become an art form that heaps lucrative rewards on those truly skilled in this craft. While exaggeration may play a key role (who wants to buy from the company named “second best widgets), blatant deception often irks the public when the word gets out about what really is in a name.

Consider Breitbart a whistleblower in the public health battles over the dietary differences between sweeteners then. August 1, the online news source offered a scathing story blowing the sugar lobby’s cover – specifically their pseudonym “Citizens for Health.”

Cloaked in the disguise of a grassroots consumer movement aimed at improving public health, the sugar lobby has waged a war of deception on high fructose corn syrup. Issuing press releases and conducting a suspiciously professional public relations assault on HFCS, the front for sugar-backed interests fought a strategic campaign to confuse consumers and influence public sentiment.

The most effective tactic? Their name. Anyone reading information released by a group that sounded as if it promoted sugar would automatically view that story with a well-deserved dose of skepticism. By creating the illusion of a source interested only in what is actually best for consumers, they filched the credibility necessary to gain unquestioning acceptance of their pro-sugar propaganda.

What’s the best way to let the sugar-pushers know that consumers see through their self-serving scam?

Enjoy your food free from fear. Buy whatever products you personally see as the best option for your family and feel no shame. The truth – that sugar is the same from a health perspective whether made from corn, cane or beet – does set you free from their bitter war.

To learn more about what real doctors and dieticians are saying about HFCS, click here.

Fun Facts in Historical Ag Data

In USDA by Cindy

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

In Audio, Ethanol, government, Video by Cindy

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