Corn Commentary

A Visit to Iowa Corn Growers

Had a chance to travel through Iowa this week and saw lots of corn fields close to maturity. I also got a chance to visit the Iowa Corn Growers office near Des Moines and visit with Communications and PR Director Mindy Williamson who told me about some recent and upcoming events.

Just this past weekend, Iowa Corn hosted an annual event at the Iowa/Iowa State game which is a fun way for them to do some important consumer outreach which provided information about the more than 4,000 products made from corn. “We did a consumer tailgate area - “You can’t tailgate without us” - that named products they used that day made from corn,” Mindy told me. They gave away t-shirts and flags and reached some 50,000 to 70,000 fans that day.

Iowa Corn Growers are now preparing for some international visitors who will be coming in to the state soon. “We have a Korean group coming here shortly and we have a Taiwanese group coming,” Mindy said. “The special thing about the Taiwanese group is we’re doing a joint meeting with Iowa Soybean and they’re going to be signing a letter of intent to continue our market relationships there and build more on our trade.”

Mindy says the Iowa corn crop looks very good right now, although it continues to progress behind schedule, which is making growers nervous with a possible frost in the forecast next week.

Listen to my interview with Mindy here:

Japanese Journalists Visit Nebraska Corn Country

A team of journalists from Japan were in Nebraska last week, hosted by the Nebraska Corn Board as part of a U.S. Grains Council trade mission. For some, it was the first time they ever saw corn growing in fields. The group visited Darr Feedlot in Cozad, a corn farm in Seward, the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenberg, Advanced BioEnergy in Fairmont, Bunge Milling in Crete and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, hosted the team on his farm near Lincoln. “They got to see cattle on feed, where distillers grains and corn are fed, and then an ethanol plant where distillers grains is produced,” said Tiemann, pictured here in the blue shirt showing two members of the team a combine. “The new water learning center impressed the team. They found it very educational and it gave them a chance to see a number of seed technologies at one time. The milling operation and stop at the university added to the foundation of U.S. agriculture we provided for the group.”

“Team members were impressed by the high quality of Nebraska corn and the farmers’ use of agronomics and biotechnology to produce an abundant crop more efficiently,” said Tommy Hamamoto, the U.S. Grains Council’s director in Japan, who accompanied the group. “Journalists on the tour have a better understanding as to how U.S. corn is produced and used, which will help them better explain the U.S. grain system in fact-based news articles back home.”

Read more about the visit on the Nebraska corn growers blog.

Missouri Corn Grower Pitches in for Cardinals

The Missouri Corn Growers and the St. Louis Cardinals teamed up for a winning night recently that put corn in the spotlight at Busch Stadium.

Betty Schulze of Troy, Missouri won the honor of tossing out the ceremonial first pitch at the August 29 game against the Washington Nationals. Betty and her husband Jim are grain and livestock farmers and were winners of the Missouri Corn Grand Slam Giveaway, a promotion highlighting the partnership between Missouri Corn and the St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network. The Schulze’s, along with their daughter Paula and her husband Randy Burkemper, were introduced on the field to 40,033 excited fans before Betty threw out the first pitch. The Cards won the game 9-4.

“As big fans of the Cardinals, this was a-once-in-a-lifetime thrill,” said Jim Schulze. “We are grateful to the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and the St. Louis Cardinals for this wonderful opportunity and for their efforts in educating consumers on the great things corn farmers are doing.”

“We were excited to have the Schulze family represent the state’s 16,000 corn farmers and their families at Busch Stadium,” said Missouri Corn Director of Communications Becky Frankenbach. “Not only was it a great opportunity for this farm family, but the game also highlighted Missouri’s growing corn industry and the great strides our farmers are making in producing the nation’s top crop.”

The Missouri Corn Grand Slam Giveaway was held in conjunction with a summer education campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network. Ads featuring the “Food Dude” are being aired on 118 stations during baseball games to inform listeners about the corn farmer’s ability to produce more corn on fewer acres using less fertilizer.

Meat Comes from Corn

Corn growers and meat exporters have teamed up to remind consumers in Asia that the best tasting beef and pork is made from corn.

A campaign sponsored by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation has produced these colorful posters to be used in retail campaigns and special culinary events.

“While consumers in Japan always say that safety is a top priority, we have found that they actually respond more positively to messages that convey quality and wholesomeness,” said USMEF Japan Director Gregory Hanes. “This type of image helps us subtly address consumers’ safety concerns, but do so in a more positive and appealing manner by stressing the quality of corn-fed beef and pork.”

Earlier this summer, a delegation of producers representing the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, the Nebraska Beef Council and the Nebraska Corn Board went to Tokyo on a trade mission organized by USMEF to promote U.S. corn-fed beef in both Japan and South Korea.

Alan Tiemann, a corn and soybean farmer from Seward, Nebraska was on that mission and says that USMEF’s promotional efforts are paying off in Japan. “In the grocery stores, markets and restaurants where USMEF has promotions going on, U.S. beef is very well-received,” he said. “We see a lot of meat going off the shelves where they are doing promotions, and it’s been fun to watch those programs produce results.”

The bad news is that between the overall economy and low prices in key export markets, U.S. beef and pork exports have been down this year. Add in the H1N1 problem and pork exports were down about 30 percent in June of 2009 compared with June 2008.

The National Pork Producers Council today urged the USDA to help U.S. pork producers to help recover from the economic crisis that has caused them to lose an average of more than $21 on each hog marketed for the past two years. Among other things, NPPC wants USDA to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to open export markets to U.S. pork. Several countries, including China, continue to impose unwarranted bans on U.S. pork because of the H1N1 flu.

Rest assured that corn growers will continue to do what they can to help open markets and increase meat exports as well.

Lunch and Learn with MO Corn

Nearly 70 local business and community leaders around Marshall, Missouri learned more about the state’s corn industry during a Lunch and Learn program last week sponsored by most of the ag groups in the Show-Me state.

Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC) board member Billy Thiel hosted the educational luncheon to highlight agriculture’s important contribution to communities.

“Missouri’s farmers are working hard to produce feed, fuel and food for the world,” said Thiel. “Not only are producers meeting today’s global demands, but many don’t realize agriculture is helping sustain our local economies. Farmers and the agribusiness industry are putting dollars back into local businesses and contributing tax revenue to our schools, roads and communities.”

Following the informational luncheon, attendees were invited to tour Mid-Missouri Energy, a farmer-owned ethanol plant located three miles from Thiel Farms. While visiting the local biorefinery, participants were able to see firsthand the process that converts corn to ethanol and distillers grains. This additional market adds value to Missouri’s corn crop and generates a quality feedstock for livestock producers.

“Every 56-pound bushel of corn used in the ethanol process yields 18 pounds of distillers grains, a good source of energy and protein for livestock and poultry,” said Thiel. “Missouri’s farmer-owned ethanol plants depend on a strong livestock industry to utilize ethanol’s valuable co-product. Cattle, hogs and corn are intrinsically linked and programs like today’s Lunch and Learn work to convey that message.”

The Thiel luncheon was one of eight events scheduled this summer that take place on various agricultural operations around Missouri.

Missouri Corn Grower at the United Nations

Missouri corn grower Rob Korff recently had the opportunity to tell United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon about the important strides American farmers have made to produce more abundant, affordable food.

Korff, who is vice chairman of the Missouri Corn Growers and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association Biotechnology Working Group, took part in a United Nations food security meeting and discussion on June 12 in St. Louis.

“Beginning with a description of my family’s farming operation, I explained how technology has made corn production more efficient and stabilized yields,” said Korff. “Technology has reduced the amount of herbicides and pesticides needed, requiring less energy per bushel produced, thus reducing our carbon footprint.”

Korff shared facts and figures about how advances in precision farming and biotechnology have helped U.S. farmers produce more food on less acreage and stressed that it can help other countries do the same. “I believe biotech has been fully tested and is safe for consumption. It is allowing farmers to produce a more secure, abundant and affordable food supply,” he said. “As education and awareness spread, technology, and more specifically, biotechnology will be the answer to feeding our rapidly expanding world population.”

Time for the Iowa Corn 250

Pioneer and the Iowa Corn Growers are teaming up again this year to educate consumers about ethanol by sponsoring the Iowa Corn Indy 250. The race will be held June 21 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa and broadcast live on the ABC television network starting at noon central time.

According to Craig Floss, CEO of the Iowa Corn Growers, the race is an excellent opportunity to inform the general public about the benefits of corn and ethanol. “Our reach has moved well beyond the state of Iowa to a national and even a global audience,” said Floss. “We are able to have the sponsorship opportunities on television this year which is a great way for us to talk about corn, all the places corn goes, and all the products that include corn.”

Pioneer Director of End Use Markets Russ Saunders says sponsorship of the Iowa Corn 250 is a great opportunity to show that support for ethanol and corn growers. “When we look at how fuel prices seem to be headed back up and we have economic challenges all around us, it’s more important than ever that we tell the story of ethanol,” said Saunders.

What makes the Iowa Corn 250 more important this year, ethanol-wise, is that it is the only Indy race that is using corn ethanol produced in the USA. All the rest of the races are using Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, since they took over sponsorship of the races after the US ethanol industry dropped its option last fall. Sad to see such a fantastically successful promotion for a home-grown fuel handed over to another country, but it is pretty pricey and it was hard for the ethanol industry to pony up the cash during our tough economic times.

Seed Tag Action Alert

The Missouri Corn Growers Association is urging farmers in the state to send their seed tags to the governor in support of ethanol.

Reinforce the importance of a strong corn and ethanol industry in Missouri. Grab a seed tag – or five – and use them to write the governor. This is one way to illustrate the economic impact of corn growers and make a strong statement of support for the incentive fund. We need you to do your part in flooding the governor’s office with seed tags. Please fill one out for each member of your operation and family with a stake in ethanol production and strong corn prices.

Missouri’s $381 million economic stimulus bill contains $23 million for the ethanol incentive fund, enough money to completely fulfill the state’s commitment to all Missouri ethanol plants. If signed by the governor, the measure will deliver a significant capital injection in
this struggling economy, solidifying a strong foundation for Missouri’s farmer-owned ethanol plants.

Corn Leads “Doing it Right” Campaign

Corn growers are leading the charge in a new campaign stressing how corn-based ethanol gets biofuels right. This campaign now includes a full-page ad running in Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

The ad stresses important facts about corn and ethanol, such as the increase in yields over the last 20 years, the decrease in the amount of energy used to produce corn and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, and that using ethanol helps cut GHG by up to 59 percent.

Collaborating with the National Corn Growers Association on the advertisement are Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

See the ad here.

Adding Value to Ethanol

Iowa corn growers are investing in a corn oil and animal feed processor plant to add value to corn ethanol.

The investment in Merrill, IA-based Plymouth Oil Company is being made through Iowa Corn Opportunities, an equity fund established by the Iowa Corn Growers Association for investment and business development. “Plymouth Oil Company represents an important step forward for the corn ethanol industry which is currently suffering from depressed margins. Adding value to corn made ethanol is critical right now,” says Pam Johnson, President of ICO and corn grower from Floyd, Iowa. “Plymouth Oil Company is creating high value human food, high value animal feed while demonstrating that both food and fuel can be economically produced from the same kernel of corn.”

Under the agreement, Plymouth will purchase corn germ for further value-added processing in the Merrill facility. The raw germ will be converted into crude corn oil for human consumption and the resulting de-oiled germ will be incorporated into high value livestock feed. The production plant uses proven hexane extraction technology that efficiently extracts corn oil with targets to produce approximately 60 tons per day of crude corn oil and about 240 tons per day of corn germ meal.

“We are able to increase the protein content of the distillers’ grains, making them more useable as a feed source in the poultry, swine and dairy markets,” says Dave Hoffman, President of POC. Hoffman also says that “corn oil is a high value vegetable oil product that is increasing in demand as food processors switch from hydrogenated soybean oil in an effort to reduce trans-fats.”

Iowa Corn Opportunities made the decision to invest in Plymouth Oil Company because it “ultimately represents an important value added opportunity for the ethanol industry, livestock producers, consumers and corn growers alike.” With the investment, Iowa corn growers will also retain a seat on the Board of Managers for Plymouth.

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