September 3, 2015

Talking ag with a vegan

I had an opportunity with CommonGround recently to attend a dinner with media, dietitians, nutritionists and bloggers. It was a great event to reach influencers who have day-to-day interaction with consumers who have questions about food and what farmers and ranchers do.

At my table were three dietitians: one was a pro-GMO spokesperson, one was in administration and one was ---- a vegan. I was really nervous when I first met him hoping that he didn't immediately ram down my throat about modern ag production practices. And I also hoped I could keep my cool and not let him dominate the conversation.

The conversation started well with the table being open to hearing what I do as a farm woman, mom and blogger, as well as learning about what each of them do in their field of practice. It was interesting to me that what we do on our farm was (for the most-part) okay, but when the words "environment", "GMO", "climate change", "economics" and more were brought up, things got a little more heated. In all of the research that my "new friend" had done, I had known of a study that refuted his information and was peer-reviewed and backed by sound-science. He rattled off numbers (I later found out this is what he does in his spare time - research!) and I was pretty impressed by the passion that he had for wanting to change the world to be meat-free and all organic - but he had his facts all wrong because he simply hasn't seen it done, been to a farm or ranch, and had a very naive view of the rest of the world.

We had a healthy debate on how unrealistic it is for the WHOLE world to turn meat-free and all organic. There is a place for these markets and I totally support that (I told him I even supported him being vegan - the sentiment was not returned). The biggest point that I wanted to get across to him was the availability of CHOICE that we have here in the U.S. I was grateful for the GMO-supporter-dietitian that was also at our table because she has done work all over the world and agreed that we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world with the most choices.

While a little disappointed I wasn't able to "change" my vegan-friend's mind about modern agriculture, it was a good reminder that he is in the 10% of the population whose mind cannot be changed on a matter they think they know all about (I'm not saying all vegans are this way). While I came away from the dinner disheartened over what I "should have said" to try to change his mind, I realized that there were two other sets of ears at the table who were more likely in the "move-able middle", 80% of the population that we should really be focusing our efforts on who we can give information to for them to make an educated decision. The remaining 10% are those of us in agriculture and consumers we already have "on board" and supporting our cause.

It is an exciting time in agriculture to be able to share our story with a wide-consumer base of people who are truly interested in how their food is raised. What are you doing to reach out and share your story to the "move-able middle"?

September 2, 2015

A Healthy Soil is a Living Soil


2015 International Year of Soils

Biological diversity or 'biodiversity' is described as "the variability among living organisms from all sources, whether terrestrial, aquatic or marine." It includes the diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (organism diversity) and of ecosystems (ecological diversity). Soil is one of nature's most complex ecosystems and one of the most diverse habitats on earth: it contains a myriad of different organisms, which interact and contribute to the global cycles that make all life possible. Nowhere in nature are species so densely packed as in soil communities; however, this biodiversity is little known as it is underground and largely invisible to the human eye.

Soil Biodiversity and Agriculture
Our agricultural systems exert an important influence on soil organisms, including their activities and their biodiversity. Clearing forested land or grassland for cultivation affects the soil environment and drastically reduces the number and species of soil organisms. A reduction in the number of plant species with different rooting systems, in the quantity and quality of plant residues, or in soil organic matter content limits the range of habitats and foods for soil organisms. While the use of external inputs, particularly inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, can overcome some soil constraints to crop production, the overuse or mis-use of afro-chemicals has resulted in environmental degradation, particularly of soil and water recourses. The quality and health of soils largely determine agricultural production and sustainability, environmental quality and, as a consequence of both, has bearing on plant, animal and human health. Improving soil biodiversity is vital to ensuring soil health and further food and nutrition security. Agricultural systems and afro-ecological practices that dedicate great care to nurturing soil biodiversity, such as organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotation and conservation agriculture, can sustainably increase farm productivity without degrading the soil and water resources.

What do soil microorganisms do?
In both natural and afto-ecosystmes, soil organisms are responsible for performing vital functions in the soil ecosystem which have direct interaction with the biological, atmospheric and hydrological systems. Soil organisms act as the primary agents of nutrient cycling, regulating the dynamics of soil organic matter, soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, modifying soil physical structure and water regimes, enhancing the amount and efficiency of nutrient acquisition by the vegetation through mutualistic relationships, and enhancing plant health. These services are essential to the functioning of natural ecosystems and constitute an important resource for the sustainable management of agricultural systems

The Soil Food Web
When diverse soil organisms interact with one another and with the plants and animals in the ecosystem, they form a complex web of ecological activity called the soil food web. The resilience of the food web in inextricably linked to the biodiversity within the soil.

September 1, 2015

Corn Condition Rates 77% Good/Excellent

For the week ending August 30, 2015, cooler temperatures were noted in eastern counties where significant rainfall occurred, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. However, western dryland crops and pastures were showing stress as producers worked to keep up with demand of irrigated crops. Final hay harvest was active, as was preparation for winter wheat planting in the west. There were 6.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 29 short, 61 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 25 short, 67 adequate, and 2 surplus.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 18 fair, 58 good, and 19 excellent. Corn dough was at 91 percent, near 93 last year and the five-year average of 95. Dented was at 59 percent, equal to last year, but behind 64 average. Mature was at 1 percent, behind 7 last year and 8 average.
Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.
Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter

August 31, 2015

Thank You Nebraska Corn Board!

#FunFactFriday Infographic

Where did the summer go? I can hardly believe that my full-time summer internship with the Nebraska Corn Board has passed, and I have already began my sophomore year at UNL. But, I am so glad that I get to continue this internship throughout this school year. I will be working in the office two days a week. Although I’ll definately miss being in the office surrounded by my outstanding co-workers all week, I am so excited to get another school year going. During my last few weeks in the office this summer I was very busy with several different projects; some that have been ongoing throughout the summer and some new projects.

Frog Fest Concert
My favorite ongoing project has been creating #funfactfriday infographics each week. These give me the chance to bring out my creative side and produce a graphic that can be used for many different promotional purposes, and posted on all social media sites. Another main project that the Nebraska Corn Board has been very focused on lately is supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. We sent out 6,000 comment card mailings to corn growers and I kept track of the responses sent back in, and then recorded the information to be sent on to the Environmental Protection Agency. A new project I have been working on is promoting the 2015 International Year of Soils. I posted a blog featuring "Healthy Soils are the Basis for Healthy Food Production" and also a corresponding infographic for the month of July. I will do the same for the following five months of 2015, with each month featuring a different key fact about the importance of soils. Another ongoing project I have done throughout the summer has been creating a monthly E-Update email to be sent out to our contacts. Each month features a few important stories or blogs, and also either a recipe, video, or infographic. I really enjoy designing these and writing the blogs that coincide. Beginning in September, I will begin also creating an Educational E-Update to be sent out to agriculture teachers across the state. These will feature information that can be taught in classrooms as well as new apps relating to agriculture and students.

Myself, Emily, Susan, and Janet at Frog Fest
It is safe to say that I ended my internship on a high note this summer. The last project I was able to work on was planning our Frog Fest concert sponsorship. Frog Fest is a country concert put on by the Froggy 98 radio station and is held every summer. This year, American Ethanol was one of the sponsors for this great event! To top everything off, the headline was Lee Brice, which happens to be one of my favorite country singers, so that made it even better! Before the event, I worked with Emily on ordering promotional items and getting our booth space details worked out. On the day of the event, I traveled to Blue Stem Farms with Susan and Janet, and we then met up with Emily, and then began setting up our tent area. The event turned out to be a great success, with a record attendance. It was such a great environment to promote American Ethanol. We gave away koozies, bug repellant, head wraps, and meet-and-greet passes with Lee Brice. Not only did I just get to attend this event, but I was also able to go on stage with Emily to photograph the crowd! It was such a fun night spent with the best co-workers, in a super fun atmosphere, while also being able to promote the benefits of American Ethanol. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my full-time internship!

Myself with the Taiwan Trade Team at Green Plains Ethanol
After returning to work for my final week in the office, I was able to attend yet one more amazing experience. The U.S. Grains Council hosted a Taiwan Corn & DDGS Survey Team to tour the U.S, and they actually made a stop in my hometown, Seward, NE! The first day I was with this trade team, we went to Alan Tiemann's farm and showed this trade team all of the equipment he uses and talked with them about specific farming practices in Nebraska. Later that day we took the team to the Seward County Fair. This was exciting for me to be able to show them something I am so passionate about, since I grew up as a 4-H member and have been a part of the Seward County Fair my entire life. The trade team loved watching the hog show and looking at all of the 4-H exhibits. A couple days later I met up with the trade team again, but this time in Lincoln. We toured several different businesses. We went to Lincoln Inspection Service, Brandon Hunnicutt's farm in Giltner, Aurora Cooperative, and Green Plains Ethanol in Central City. The trade team was very engaged at each of our stops and had many great questions about agriculture and corn production in Nebraska.

Trade Team Giving Gift to Hunnicutt's
Overall, my time this summer at the Nebraska Corn Board was  everything I had hoped it to be and more. I can't thank each of my co-workers enough for everything they did for me this summer, and for teaching me not only more about the corn industry, but more about myself as well. I plan to take all of the skills and knowledge I gained this summer into my future coursework at UNL, and also into a future career someday. I am so thankful for each of the experiences I have been able to be apart of. Never did I think I would be backstage at a Lee Brice concert or giving a Taiwain Trade Team a tour of my hometown county fair. But I am so grateful that the NCB allowed me to do so. I can't wait to see where the next nine months take me!

August 28, 2015

Fact Friday: 10 years of Renewable Fuel Progress


Since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the biofuels industry has grown by leaps and bounds. In turn, the United States has seen significant benefits to our economy, environment and national security. 

Here are some renewable fuel facts by the numbers:

August 27, 2015

Corn Condition Rates 20% Excellent

For the week ending August 23, 2015, rainfall of an inch or more occurred during the first half of the week and covered much of the eastern third of Nebraska, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. However, the rain missed much of the southwest as well as south central counties. Temperatures averaged well below normal, lessening stress on livestock and dryland crops.

Photo Courtesy of David City FFA Chapter
There were 5.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 28 short, 63 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 5 percent very short, 24 short, 69 adequate, and 2 surplus. Corn condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 18 fair, 57 good, and 20 excellent. Corn dough was at 85 percent, near 87 last year and the five-year average of 89. Dented was at 37 percent, near 41 last year, but ahead of 23 average.

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and Nebraska Extension. Access the High Plains Region Climate Center for Temperature and Precipitation Maps HERE. Access the U.S. Drought Monitor HERE.

August 26, 2015

From Working on the Farm to Working for Farmers

By Samantha Schneider, Nebraska Corn Growers Association Intern.

Hey everyone! I’m Samantha Schneider, and I’ll be a senior this fall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Agricultural Communications.  I grew up south of Cozad, Nebraska on the family farm where we raise corn, soybeans, popcorn and cattle.  This summer I decided to branch out, and I have an amazing internship with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) where I am the communications intern.

My first day as an intern, was the day Morgan and I started planning our big summer event, the 5th Annual Corn Grower Open.  Corn Grower Open was held at Meadowlark Hills Golf Course in Kearney, Nebraska on July 29th.  I enjoyed getting hands on experience planning an event that reached out to our local corn grower members and members of the agricultural industry as well.  During the Corn Grower Open, we held a silent auction. The proceeds went to support the Food Banks of Lincoln and Kearney. With the help from our sponsors and corn grower members, we were able to raise over $1,000 to donate. I enjoy working with an organization that likes to help people in need.
It was a beautiful day at Meadowlark Hills Golf Course for the 5th Annual Corn Grower Open.

Growing up on a farm you get used to working outside, luckily I got to spend plenty of hours outside promoting the use of American Ethanol.  The NeCGA has a summer tradition of traveling across Nebraska to promote Ethanol Night at the Races.  The first race was held on May 30th at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction. This was a great start to the summer! Morgan and I got to ride in the pace car and hold the American Ethanol flag to wave out the window.  The next race was on June 28th at I-80 Speedway near Greenwood.  Our next stop was at the Dawson County Raceway in Lexington on July 19th.  At both these races, the Biofuels Mobile Education Trailer and American Ethanol Show Car were in attendance.  It was fun to see people taking pictures with the show car and learning more about ethanol.  The last race was held at Beatrice Speedway on August 7th, it was kid’s night so we handed out corn and ethanol coloring books.  At each race we passed out promotional items and during intermission we asked trivia questions about ethanol to educate the crowd.
 Morgan and I getting a ride around the dirt track at Junction Motor Speedway in a Mustang!

I also had the opportunity to help with American Ethanol promotions at Kum and Go gas stations.  Every Thursday throughout the summer, customers could get E85 for 85 cents from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm at the different stations in the Omaha metro area. This was a great opportunity to educate people about ethanol and about the current issues the industry is facing. We would encourage people to leave a comment to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lowered the amount of corn based biofuel used to supply our nation’s renewable fuel, this could have a severe impact on our corn production next year. I was proud to promote ethanol this summer and encourage people to protect this industry. 
Austin Dillon's American Ethanol Show Car
I have had endless opportunities this summer to work with people in the industry I am passionate about.  Through this internship I have made connections and learned new skills that I wouldn’t have known or had otherwise.  I love being a part of an industry that is always changing allowing me to never stop learning. I look forward to continuing my internship with NeCGA through my senior year at the University. 

August 24, 2015

Upcoming Nebraska Corn Grower Events

While summer is slowly winding down, Nebraska Corn Grower events are just getting started! Below is a full list of upcoming events. If there is an event in your area, we encourage you to attend. Don’t miss out on the working the Beef Pit at the Nebraska State Fair - or attending and volunteering at Husker Harvest Days!

Schedule of Events:

Colfax Dodge Summer Meeting
The Colfax Dodge Growers are having their summer meeting on August 25th from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm.

Saunders County Plot Tours
The Saunders County Plot Tours will be on August 26th.

Nebraska State Fair
The Nebraska State Fair is on August 28th - September 7th. The Nebraska Corn Growers will be working in the Beef Pit on September 2nd from 8:45 am-3:15 pm

Hamilton County Field Day
The Hamilton County Field Day is on September 9th from 11:00 am-1:00 pm.

Dawson County Field Day
The Dawson County Field Day is on September 9th from 2:00 pm-6:00 pm.

Husker Harvest Days
Join us at Husker Harvest Days September 15th-17th

Saunders County Bus Tour
The Saunders County Plot Tours will be on December 2nd.

Please visit the Nebraska Corn Growers' website to keep up to date on upcoming events. 

August 20, 2015

U.S. Grains Council Wrap Up

By Amanda Clymer, US Grains Council Intern

Friday, August 14 was my last day in the U.S. Grains Council Washington D.C. office. For those who may have forgotten, I interned in the global programs department planning for international trade teams, consultants and missions that travel overseas. Planning for the Taiwan DDGS survey team was my individual project this summer. This team spent some time in Nebraska visiting corn farms, ethanol plants and local elevators. I worked with the Nebraska Corn Board office to plan this portion of the trip. The Taiwan group also visited the Chicago area and a Seattle export facility.

Taiwan DDGs Survey Team picture
During the summer I communicated often with the Taiwan country director, Clover, as well as the other nine country and regional offices of the U.S. Grains Council. This was meaningful to me because as people in American agriculture we always discuss the goal of feeding the world. I was able to see firsthand work of developing markets that would eventually provide food for people in China, Japan, Tanzania or Southeast Asia. Besides this connection, the opportunity to export corn and other grains matters to farmers. I think the video below from the USGC sums it up.

After my summer at the U.S. Grains Council I have developed a great appreciation for the work done in developing markets and enabling trade to improve lives. Now more than ever, I believe that feeding the world is a collective effort and real work is being done to overcome challenges facing agriculture. I truly appreciate the Nebraska Corn Board for allowing me to represent 26,000 Nebraska corn farmers in Washington D.C. this summer at the U.S. Grains Council.

August 18, 2015

Greetings from Nebraska!

By Kaydee Caldwell, US Meat Export Federation Intern

I have been home for a few days; my last day at USMEF was July 31. I had an amazing summer full of experiences that are simply invaluable. These last few months have been unforgettable. To start off my internship I attended the USMEF Board of Directors meeting in San Antonio, TX. The meetings I attended and speakers I was able to listen to made for a very enlightening experience. The first few weeks of my internship were filled with such a gain of knowledge that I can’t wait to apply to my classes at school, as well as my future career.

My big project for the summer was to put together a pork book showcasing the cuts that we export around the world. To start off the project, I emailed all of our international offices to find out which cuts were most popular in the different regions. The next step was to contact a photographer and packing plant and get everything lined up to get pictures of the cuts. 
Travis and I being meat beauticians at the pork photo shoot.

Once we were done with the photo shoot we contacted the graphic designer and had a meeting about the layout and talked about the time frame of the project.  Once we got all the pictures from the photographer, we found plated shots of poplar meals in each region and created a layout of the book to give the graphic designer an idea of how we wanted the pictures laid out. Before I left, we got our first proof back and I couldn’t be more excited about how this book is going to turn out!! I would like to give a quick shout out to Travis, Cheyenne, Lindsey and Paul for being so helpful when it came to this project. Their knowledge was very much appreciated and I truly enjoyed working with them.

Another project I had was to scout out different nations export associations and figure out exactly what we were competing with on a monetary and advertising basis. I looked up numerous annual reports, advertising campaigns and looked through the different members of their associations to figure out exactly what we are up against. Australia is by far one of our biggest competitors in the beef industry and although we have some of the best beef product in the world, they are able to get their product into way more countries. Their budget just for beef export promotion is $136 Million; our budget isn’t near that. I was just truly shocked, a major difference is while we give $1 to our checkoff program here in America, in Australia where their herd is bigger they give $5 a head, and look at the difference!! I gained some serious insight on competitors and had a great time feeling like a detective of red meat! Once I got done researching I printed out some of the information that was more useful and created a binder of our biggest competitors for future use.

There is a lot of transition going on at the office in Denver so I go to spend a few weeks playing receptionist and pretending to be Pam off “The Office”. I had a great time working with the lovely people of the USMEF Denver office and hope to keep in touch with them. I would like to thank John Hinners for doing a great job of keeping an eye on me and making sure I was well taken care of - he was a great boss and I really appreciated everything he did for me. Janel Domurat was another amazing co-worker of mine that I always enjoyed chatting with, she has an amazing sense of humor and I know that if I would have needed a mother figure during my time there she would have been more than able to take care of me! Joni Costa was also spectacular to work with, right away when I started she made sure I knew where everything was in the office, ensured I had quality housing and did a great job of making me feel needed! Paul Clayton and Dan Halstom are the last two that I want to give a shout out to, they are such champs when it comes to me giving them some good of Husker smack talk! They were also able to dish it right back, along with John, trying to convince me of Iowa State’s superiority.

My last two days at the office I was treated to lunch dates and had a wonderful time with everyone! On Thursday John, Paul, Travis and Cheyenne took me to Hop Daddy, it was very delicious. Then Friday for lunch I went out with Janel, Tammy, Joni and Angela. They took me to a lovely Italian restaurant where we had some excellent conversation. They embarrassed and entertained me as much as my mother does when they said, “Oh, let’s take a selfie!” I honestly couldn’t have turned redder. I really did enjoy my time with everyone in the office and look forward to seeing them all again.

Finally, I would like to thank the Nebraska Corn Board to sending me to Denver and giving me the opportunity to meet all these amazing people this summer. I had a wonderful time and gained so much knowledge of the red meat industry, found a new perspective of the beef and pork sector that as a producer I had not been exposed to before, and also for giving me the ability to form connections further in the industry with people who could be vital to my career success. I really did enjoy my time in Denver, but I was very excited to come home!

Thank you to everyone at the US Meat Export Federation for your hospitality, I hope our paths will cross again!

Here are some pictures from my summer! 
Last day of work lunch date with some of the fabulous
 ladies in the office! Angela, Janel, Joni and Tammy.
This was my first summer of enjoying the pool and not getting a farmers tan!
First day home and I HAD to go and visit my old show heifers!
And my first Monday back I enjoyed spending the day in the office I’m used to!