March 25, 2015

2015 Innovative Youth Corn Challenge


The deadline to enter in the 2015 Nebraska Innovative Youth Corn Challenge is fast approaching.clip_image002

This contest, open to 4-H members (age 10 and older as of Jan. 1) or FFA members (in school), guides participants through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production.

As a team, youth will be challenged to implement a production practice different than normal to determine if it increases yield. Economics and sustainability of the practice also will be considered. Yields, cropping history, and production information will be collected in the Corn Yield Challenge management summary.

Cash prizes and plaques will be given to the first, second, and third place teams. First place will receive $1,000, second place will receive $500, and third place will receive $250.  Sustainability, crop scouting, and "extra mile" awards also will be given, each worth $200.    

To participate, youth must complete and return an entry form by April 1, 2015 to the Fillmore County Extension Office. You can enter online by clicking here.  You can also download an entry form by clicking here and mail to the Fillmore County Extension Office, 972 G  Street, Geneva, 68361-2005.  

The Innovative Youth Corn Challenge is co-sponsored by Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Corn Board.  For more information, contact Extension Educators Brandy VanDeWalle at, Aaron Nygren at or Amy Timmerman at

March 23, 2015

March Madness from the UN on glyphosates

glyphosate-crops_custom-428a3594d783d20539d1da64cade4e31b4b920bb-s1100-c15 While the sports world is wrapped up in the madness of March basketball playoffs, another madness is starting in the UN and it is not positive to farmers.

Late last Friday afternoon, a designation related to Round-Up used on crops was released. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the UN’s World Health Organization that evaluates the likelihood that various chemicals cause cancer, indicated that the agency has now listed glyphosate as a 2A potential carcinogen. You can read the full report here.

For the first time since 1991, the focus of this IARC review was on pesticides. (One important piece of what IARC does is determine which substances in our environment have the potential for causing cancer. IARC does not conduct any original research; it only reviews studies and research already published to determine carcinogen status. ) At this meeting, five pesticides were evaluated and three of them were classified as “probably carcinogenic.”

Probably is not a very scientifically-sound word.

But neither the U.S. EPA nor the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) had previously classified the three active ingredients as being carcinogenic.  Why the discrepancy? No new research had been done, so why did they pull these out?

Henry Miller said in his article in Forbes, “The disparity appears to arise from the fact that IARC bases its conclusion on potential hazard rather than the actual risk of harm. What does that mean to you and me? Well, we regularly participate in hazardous activities that have the potential to harm us–we use knives, drive cars, fly on airplanes and cross busy streets. However, the risk–the probability that we will actually be harmed– associated with each of these activities is low.”

The same applies to the IARC’s analysis of glyphosate. The data (and a selected set of data, at that) were reviewed to determine whether glyphosate is capable of causing cancer. As with common chemicals like sugar, salt and water, and foods like nutmeg and licorice, glyphosate at very high doses is capable of causing harm to humans.

Key words: very high doses.
If you ingest enough of any substance, including water, it has the potential to kill you. When it comes to glyphosate this is even more relevant, because IARC’s conclusions only apply to exposure high enough to meet industrial uses.

As one of the scientists behind IARC’s classification stated:
“I don’t think home use is the issue,” said Kate Guyton of IARC. “It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”
In other words, the people that need to be wary of exposure are the applicators, the people actually applying the herbicide. But applicators have their own set of standards and regulations that they have to meet to become certified to handle these products, so they are well aware of how to safely handle Round-Up.

Even the European Crop Protection Association ( ECPA)  refute this issue in their statement:
The IARC conclusions published in Lancet Oncology contradict the world’s most robust and stringent regulatory systems – namely the European Union and the United States – in which crop protection products have undergone extensive reviews based on multi-year testing and in which active ingredients such as glyphosate and malathion been found not to present a carcinogenic risk to humans.
So really, there has been a lot of fuss in the news (and scare to our consumers) about nothing that should worry them.  In fact, the EPA has concluded:
The U.S. EPA classified glyphosate as Group E, evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans. The U.S. EPA does not consider glyphosate to be a human carcinogen based on studies of laboratory animals that did not produce compelling evidence of carcinogenicity.
Make sure to read about this issue from a farmer herself: Glyphosate as a carcinogen, explained by The Farmer’s Daughter.

March 19, 2015

The Nebraska Corn Checkoff

“You have to be willing to support the industry of your chosen profession,” said Jon Holzfaster, corn farmer from Paxton and director on the Nebraska Corn Board. 

Nebraska has over 23,000 corn farmers, who collectively fund the corn checkoff. When they sell a bushel of corn, ½ cent of each bushel is sent to the corn checkoff program, which is overseen by the Nebraska Corn Board. The Nebraska Corn Board is an organization made up of nine full-time corn farmers that serve on the board of directors. There is also a six person staff in Lincoln whose job is to work on behalf of corn farmers full-time. Now, you may ask what happens to the ½ cent per bushel that combines with all other Nebraska corn farmers’ ½ cent per bushel when it goes to the checkoff fund?

The answer can be grouped into four different categories: market development, research, promotion, and education. For instance, the corn checkoff helps fund the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), which is an organization that works internationally to grow markets for U.S. corn and United State MeatExport Federation (USMEF) to grow red meat markets internationally. Corn checkoff dollars fund the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to conduct corn research and report back to the NCB. Ethanol and distillers grain research has helped increase the value of corn, thus helping fulfill part of the NCB’s mission of enhancing corn farmers’ sustainability and profitability.

Nebraska Corn promotes the corn industry in many ways including ag tours for teachers, support for FFA, ethanol promotions and education and through marketing our Nebraska corn. Lastly, education is the key to keep the public engaged and informed. Over the past several years, education has become increasingly important, and Nebraska corn has taken the lead in a number of consumer and influencer education programs both in-state and in collaboration with other states and national cooperators.

We hope this video about the corn checkoff program helps you understand more about how the Nebraska Corn Board is working on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn farmers. In the words of NCB executive director, Kelly Brunkhorst, “Collectively we can do something we can’t do individually.” 

March 18, 2015

Celebrate your food, while ending food insecurity


Image result for national ag dayWhile we are thankful for our food everyday, today is the one day of the year where agriculture, farmers and ranchers are celebrated for producing what we all!

Agriculture is essential to everyday life. This entire week is dedicated as National Ag Week, with today being Ag Day. As only 2% of our population in the U.S. produces food, some of us may not know a farmer or rancher. However we all can relate to food - which makes this a great day to celebrate sustaining future generations of farmers and eaters.

imageWhy is the future of farming so important?

Why is the future of our children so important?

Both of these issues are mutually important. We need future farmers to raise food and we need future children to be eaters and consume the food we raise. We know that our world population is increasing – which is an important challenge to farmers.

That’s why farmers are dedicated to raising more on less. Growing more food on less land, with less chemicals and more sustainability. That’s what Sustaining Innovation is all about.

However, we know that food insecurity is also a big issue and not everyone gets the food they need or can afford. In 2013, 45.3 million people were in poverty and 14.7 million were children under the age of 18 in poverty. About 20% of children in Nebraska and western Iowa are at-risk for hunger.

BackPack ProgramThat’s why important programs like the Food Bank of Lincoln are aiming to sustain food and eliminate hunger. They are helping with the future of our children by supporting the BackPack Program, which provides food-filled backpacks to students in need of food over the weekend, as well as other programs.

Let’s celebrate being an “eater” today by not only celebrating the individuals who dedicate their lives to feeding the world on Ag Day, but becoming aware of food insecurity issues in your area. Follow more at #agday2015.

March 12, 2015

Nebraska Corn Board Presents Awards of Recognition and Achievement

The Nebraska Corn Board presented its annual awards to five exceptional individuals during its Cooperator and Awards Dinner in Lincoln this week.

DSC_0214 Pictured (L-R): Mark Jagels- Ag Achievement, Mike LaPorte- Media Appreciation, Joan Ruskamp- Livestock Industry Appreciation, Bill Pullen accepting on behalf of Bill's Volume Sales- Agribusiness Achievement, and Duane Kristensen- Ethanol Industry Appreciation.

For twenty-four years, the Nebraska Corn Board has acknowledged incomparable representatives in the livestock and ethanol industries, as well as awarding an individual in the media. The Ag Achievement award is the pinnacle of awards given to an individual who has helped develop Nebraska’s corn industry and agriculture over time. Additionally, the Nebraska Corn Board presented a new award this year in the agribusiness category.

The Livestock Industry Appreciation Award was given to Joan Ruskamp, farmer, blogger, community leader, and CommonGround volunteer from Dodge, Nebraska. Ruskamp was selected for this award based upon her outstanding commitment to Nebraska agriculture and continued enthusiasm to share her story with her urban counter-parts.

DSC_0186“I know that volunteering for CommonGround is a big commitment and we really appreciate her willingness to do this and do it so well,” said Debbie Borg, farmer from Allen, Nebraska and director on the Nebraska Corn Board. “Joan has the wonderful ability to share her story with consumers and help them not only understand, but appreciate the value of the livestock industry in Nebraska.  She was very deserving of this award.”
The Ethanol Industry Appreciation Award recognizes a producer or person in the industry who has worked hard to develop ethanol markets and expand demand for ethanol in the state while appreciating the value of the corn checkoff and its involvement in ethanol market development. The recipient of this year’s award was Duane Kristensen, with Chief Ethanol Fuels, Inc.  Kristensen was selected for his leadership in Nebraska as well as his involvement and engagement in ethanol advocacy groups on a statewide, national, and global basis.
“Duane’s dedication to the ethanol industry and continued efforts to expand the demand of ethanol globally has been influential for the industry,” said Dennis Gengenbach, farmer from Smithfield, Nebraska and secretary-treasurer on the Nebraska Corn Board.  “Duane’s leadership has been powerful around the world.  He’s traveled to over twenty countries promoting Nebraska and the role of ethanol in agriculture.”

The Media Appreciation Award was presented to Mike LaPorte, with KRVN Rural Radio, for his efforts in routinely sharing agriculture’s story and his knowledge and understanding of agriculture’s important role to our state’s economy.  LaPorte has been with KRVN for 25 years and has been a Farm Director for the last 19 years. 

DSC_0190“Mike’s background in agriculture gives him a unique perspective on his reporting and has helped him develop a great format for telling our story,” said David Merrell, farmer from St. Edward, Nebraska and vice chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “He is one of the first media sources that the Nebraska Corn Board reaches out to. We know that Mike will truthfully and openly reveal the facts of not only the corn industry, but all of Nebraska’s agriculture.”

The recipient of this year’s Ag Achievement award was Mark Jagels, farmer from Davenport, Nebraska and past chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and U.S. Meat Export Federation. Jagels was chosen for his outstanding dedication to agriculture and admirable goals in expanding exports and moving the state forward in its agricultural ambitions.

DSC_0211Mark’s leadership and commitment to Nebraska agriculture is evident through his service on a local, state, national, and international level,” said Alan Tiemann, farmer from Seward, Nebraska and past chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. He has played an instrumental role in representing agriculture on the international level by helping expand the opportunities for both corn and livestock.

As the newest award category, the Agribusiness Appreciation Award, identifies a Nebraska agribusiness that recognizes and appreciates the mission of the Nebraska corn checkoff program, shows proven leadership in explaining the benefits of the checkoff and its investments and supports Nebraska agriculture. The recipient of this inaugural award went to Bill’s Volume Sales. Accepting the award on behalf of Bill’s Volume Sales was Bill Pullen, founder and former owner.

DSC_0203“Bill’s Volume Sales is a highly respected company in the agriculture industry and a long-time supporter of the Nebraska corn checkoff,” said Jon Holzfaster, farmer from Paxton, Nebraska and director on the Nebraska Corn Board.  “Bill’s Volume has gone above and beyond to help their customers and keep our Nebraska corn farmers in business. We appreciate the company’s continued support and dedication to Nebraska agriculture.”

March 11, 2015

Where is the corn going?


Yesterday, the WASDE (World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates) report came out and reported that U.S. feed grain ending stocks for 2014/15 are projected lower with reductions for corn. Corn use in ethanol production is projected 50 million bushels lower, yet the reduction in corn use for ethanol is offset by a 50-million-bushel increase in projected feed and residual use. Thus, expected total domestic disappearance is unchanged. Corn exports are projected 50 million bushels higher based on commitments to date and higher projected global demand. Projected ending stocks are lowered 50 million bushels. The season-average farm price for corn is projected at $3.50 to $3.90 per bushel, up 5 cents at the midpoint.

So after learning a little more about the current corn market situation, what markets do we see Nebraska corn going to?

Biobased Products.

With the help of research supported by corn checkoff dollars, corn-based materials like bioplastics and fabrics are a reality today. In fact, they are turning up in more and more places – compostable tableware, food containers, drink cups, gift cards, snack chip bags, bedding, carpet, shirts and more. All of these products are made from renewable corn and directly replace products made from petroleum.

NatureWorks LLC, based in Blair, Nebraska, is one of the companies that makes raw materials for all these products. Others include Mirel Bioplastics (owned by ADM and Metabolix) and DuPont Tate & Lyle BioProducts.


Over the last three decades, ethanol made from corn has become an important fuel in Nebraska and across the country. Biofuels like corn-based ethanol directly replace petroleum-based fuels – and they’re renewable. Ethanol is better for the environment, helps keep fuel dollars here at home and it supports rural communities because that’s where most ethanol is produced.

Nebraska ethanol plants have a capacity of more than 2.0 billion gallons – making Nebraska the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country.  They use about 700 million bushels of corn annually – and directly provide and support thousands of jobs. Since ethanol is made only from the starch in a kernel of corn, these corn ethanol plants also produce more than 6 million tons of distillers grains, a nutritious livestock feed from the remaining parts of the kernel, including protein and fat.



Corn is a very versatile grain – and when processed in ethanol plants, “wet” mills or “dry” mills, its components can be made into many kinds of feed ingredients for livestock, with the corn and livestock industry calls “co-products.”

When ethanol for fuel is made, only the starch portion of the kernel is used. Other co-products include distillers grains, feed-grade corn oil, corn gluten meal, corn gluten feed, corn oil and corn germ meal.


Corn Exports.

Corn exports out of Nebraska are divided into two categories: foreign and domestic. “Foreign exports” involve corn sales to countries around the world. “Domestic exports” includes any corn that is shipped from Nebraska to another state in the U.S., with California being the largest market for Nebraska corn, taking about 145 million bushels of Nebraska corn mostly for livestock and poultry last year. Foreign sales make up about 6 percent of corn usage, with Mexico (via rail) being a top market.


Livestock is one of the corn grower’s most important customers, consuming more than 41 percent of all U.S. corn, including the supply of distillers grains, which are produced by corn ethanol plants.

In Nebraska, livestock production is the engine that powers state’s economy. It is a more than $7.5 billion industry that is fundamental to the well-being of Nebraska – and contributes in some way to the financial health of every Nebraskan.

About 16 percent of the Nebraska’s corn crop is fed to livestock within Nebraska, with the bulk of that (more than 70 percent) going to beef cattle. See complete breakdown.

In total, though, about 40 percent of the corn grown in Nebraska is fed to livestock somewhere in the United States or around the world.

March 6, 2015

Value-based marketing for feeder cattle...what's corn's role?

"Next time you drive by a corn farm, salute the corn farmer!"

I heard this saying from Tom Brink of Top Dollar Angus recently when I attended a symposium for cattlemen that talked about the cattle markets and what the key drivers for 2015 and beyond look like.  2014 was obviously a banner year for cattlemen with unprecedented prices and all segments of the cattle market remaining strong.

 Brink gave four key drivers for 2015 & beyond:
  • Corn
  • Continued tight cattle numbers
  • Relatively strong beef demand
  • Larger competing meat supplies
Corn. We've seen an obvious downturn in corn prices the past year because of large supplies. Cattle feeders are taking advantage of this and feeding Nebraska high-quality corn. This might sound like a disadvantage for corn producers - while some are producing at the cost of production - but without corn, we would not have the markets, quality and prices for cattle and beef, said Brink.

Continued tight cattle numbers. The U.S. cowherd is growing. But slowly, as we've recently seen from the U.S. cattle inventory report. In Nebraska, total cows and calves are up 1% from last year to 6.3 million head. But that doesn't grow overnight. Producers are trying to keep back more replacement heifers, but the cattle prices being high are tempting them to sell.

Relatively strong beef demand. Thanks to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and support from state checkoffs like the Nebraska Corn Board, international beef demand is soaring. Beef demand continues to rise, especially has more countries, like India and China, have a rising middle class. Domestically, beef demand isn't as high with strong competition from poultry and pork. But the beef checkoff continues to promote beef as a healthy protein.

Larger competing meat supplies.  While cattle numbers are growing slowly, pork output this past year increased 5.4% and poultry increased 3.9%. This drives prices for competing meats down.

What are the results of these key drivers? More opportunities for cow-calf producers. Which will hopefully equal expansion, more head of feeders to consume more high-quality Nebraska corn!

March 3, 2015

Major Markets for US Ethanol Exports

Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, submits this post from the recent U.S. Grains Council meeting in Costa Rica:

Recently I attended my first U.S. Grains Council (USGC) meeting as a member of an action team.  Honestly, this was only my second USGC meeting that I have attended since being on staff with the Nebraska Corn Board and I was a bit nervous not knowing what to expect.

The first meeting I attended was in July in Omaha, Nebraska where they announced they would be forming an Ethanol Action Team to review our current ethanol export markets and look at areas to expand ethanol exports.  I was very interested right away in serving on the action team and a couple months later was appointed to serve on the USGC Ethanol Action Team. 

Our first in-person meeting was at this USGC meeting in Costa Rica. The A-team is composed of 22 ethanol plants, corn staff and executives, and ethanol financial groups.  As a first time A-team member on any action team and the first time meeting as an Ethanol Action Team, the agenda was all the information I was armed with.

Let me back up a bit.  Prior to our first in-person meeting, there had been a lot of work done by a steering committee comprised of Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, USGC, and United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Services evaluating foreign markets to expand US ethanol exports. This steering committee has been visiting with key officials in select foreign markets and learning about mandates, hurdles for ethanol imports into those markets, and environmental issues related to low fuel quality for the past year. The USGC Ethanol Action Team was formed to review these evaluations and other potential foreign markets with the goal to expand US ethanol exports worldwide.

We closed a large gap from where the USGC ethanol A-team started discussions in Costa Rica to where we wrapped up our discussions.  In the end, we evaluated key foreign markets for ethanol imports using the following criteria:
  • Current ethanol imports
  • Potential ethanol imports
  • Key changes needed to increase ethanol imports
  • The strategy of the US Grains Council
  • Potential for success
  • Priority ranking
After a couple hours of evaluating each potential foreign market, the Ethanol A-team voted these countries as the major markets for US ethanol imports.  The highest priority is Canada, followed by Japan, Mexico, Philippines, European Union, Colombia, and China.  These recommendations will then be sent to the steering committee. 

There is some work that needs to be done to expand US ethanol export markets, but with a unified effort between the USGC Ethanol Action Team and steering committee, we are sure to expand US ethanol exports.

February 25, 2015

U.S. cattle inventory up slightly from last year


89.9 million head of cattle and calves in the U.S. That's up 1 percent from 2014.

As of January 1, the semiannual cattle report published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that this is the first increase in U.S. herd inventory since 2007.

Other key findings in the report were:

1cattle inventory
To obtain an accurate measurement of the current state of the U.S. cattle industry, NASS surveyed more than 38,200 operators across the nation during the first half of January. NASS interviewers collected the data by mail, telephone, internet, and through face-to-face personal interviews. NASS asked all participating producers to report their cattle inventories as of January 1, 2015.

February 23, 2015

"Take a Second for Safety" is the Message During Grain Bin Safety Week


Record Number of Grain Entrapment Deaths in 2014

With on-farm grain storage on the rise—and a record number of grain engulfment deaths across the nation last year—agricultural leaders in Nebraska are placing special emphasis on grain handling safety during Grain Bin Safety Week, February 22-28, 2015. In observance of the week, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association are encouraging farmers, grain elevators and other grain handlers to slow down — and take a second for safety while working with grain.

“We feel it is increasingly important to promote grain bin safety awareness and remind all grain handlers of the hazards of working around grain,” said Larry Mussack, farmer from Decatur and president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “With just one misstep or just a moment of distraction, you could find yourself or someone you know in a grain entrapment emergency.”

National statistics show that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. Over the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported—and the fatality rate is 62 percent. With a 10-inch auger, it takes just 25 seconds for a 6-foot person to be completely buried in grain.

Now in its second year, Grain Bin Safety Week is an annual observance dedicated to increasing the awareness of grain bin safety on farms and commercial grain-handling facilities. The goal of this event is to educate the agricultural community on safe work practices and procedures to help reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage.

Here are a few grain bin safety tips to keep in mind when you are working with stored grain:

  • Use inspection holes or grain level markers to understand what's happening inside the bin. Use a pole from outside the bin to break up grain bridges.
  • You should enter a grain bin only if absolutely necessary. If you must get into the bin, use a body harness secured to the outside of the bin. Have at least two people watching over you as you enter and work inside the bin.
  • Use hand signals to communicate—and make sure everyone you're working with knows what those signals are.

These safety tips and more will be emphasized not only during Grain Bin Safety Week, but throughout the year by the Nebraska Corn organizations.  A record high yield, combined with an upward trend in on-farm grain storage capacity has experts projecting an even larger number of grain engulfment accidents in 2015.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to take the extra second and follow the safety rules when it comes to working with grain stored in bins,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “With on-farm safety being a continued effort at Nebraska Corn, we want both farmers and emergency responders to understand how to avoid grain bin accidents—and how to help someone who does end up in trouble in a grain bin. There is no better time than the present to work together as an agricultural community and help prevent these tragic accidents from occurring.”