December 19, 2014

Meaty-Friday: Meat prices + recipe


Meat Counter

It’s no secret that Americans love their meat. In fact, a recent study by the NPD Group-Chicago, found that more than 60 percent of Americans eat animal protein in a typical day.

Recently, however, many meat-loving Americans have experienced sticker shock when they visit the meat counter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts beef and veal prices to increase by 8-9 percent by the end of 2014, compared with 2013. Pork prices could rise by between 7.5 and 8.5 percent.

So, what’s behind the increase? There are several contributing factors, including:

  • Effects of drought on cattle herds in the plains and western United States. When drought hit many major cattle-producing states in 2011, the grazing space for cattle greatly decreased. This forced many farmers to sell their animals to be processed. The high cost of feed for cattle further contributed to smaller herds. This decreased the supply of beef available, while demand has remained high. Herd sizes have been slow to rebound and are currently at historic lows, similar to those in the 1950s. That’s because it can take 18 months for a calf to reach market weight.
  • Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv). This pig virus is responsible for millions of piglet deaths in the past year. Hog farms in more than 40 states were affected by the illness that is most fatal to newborn pigs. Farmers tried to compensate by raising their animals to heavier weights, but only partially compensated for the losses. Hog supplies are now back on the rise, but pork prices will continue to be higher until supplies get closer to meeting demand. PEDv poses no risk to other animals, humans or food safety.
  • Rising demand for protein from U.S. consumers. The protein power movement is gaining traction here in the U.S. which means greater demand. This can be seen in reports from companies like BB& Capital Markets and NPD Group and in the menus at Taco Bell, McDonald’s, KFC and Panera.
  • Rising middle classes in Asia, Africa and South America. A growing number of people around the world are eating more meat today than in years past. As the global population and individual incomes rise, so, too, does meat demand.

Over on the CommonGround Nebraska blog today is a great, meat-filled recipe that is budget friendly, easy to make and kids love it. Enjoy your weekend and whip up these Kid-Friendly Beefy Spaghetti Cups!

Have additional questions about how meat gets from the farm to your table? Click here to learn more about the farmers who raise beef, pork and turkey.

December 16, 2014

95 reasons to support U.S. grain & red meat exports

95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S.

If that isn’t enough reason to support exports of U.S. products to other countries all over the world, I don’t know what is. Now, with low commodity grain prices this year and expected into next year, our best resources are spent right now supporting exports and international trade, which could lead to fast growing markets and more demand.

The world markets offer momentous growth opportunities for U.S. agriculture. The Nebraska Corn Board and other grain checkoffs in our state and across the U.S. work with the U.S. Grains Council to develop export markets for our American farmers and agribusinesses. With the most modern, innovative and productive agricultural system in the world, the U.S. enjoys a longstanding and significant comparative advantage in agricultural trade.

We also know that corn is value-added when first fed to livestock, then exported as red meat. Another reason the Nebraska Corn Board (and other commodity checkoffs – grains and livestock together along with industry support) supports the U.S. Meat Export Federation. USMEF opens up export markets for U.S. read meat – beef, pork and lamb – and leverages checkoff dollars with federal dollars to influence more markets and prevail on more of the 95% consuming U.S. meat.

Beef exports in October were up 2% from a year ago with variety meat exports increasing 14% in volume. Although pork exports were down 2% in volume they still achieved a 5% increase in value. These results were also bolstered by strong variety meat exports, which were up 24% in volume.

The top export customers for U.S. corn (for Sept-Oct ’14) were Mexico, Japan, Colombia, South Korea and Peru. By establishing good relationship and continuing to produce high quality corn, the U.S. can grow these markets and develop new ones like Egypt and others in the Middle East who see the value of U.S. corn for feeding their livestock.

So the next time someone asks you why we don't keep all of our food here for Americans to eat, tell them there are 95 reasons.

View other Nebraska Corn Kernel blog posts about why we promote exports: 

December 13, 2014

Podcast: 2014 Corn Crop & Challenges Ahead


 In this podcast, Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director for the Nebraska Corn Board, shares information about the 2014 corn crop and the challenges ahead. This year's American corn crop will be the largest on record—with a projected 14.4 billion bushels. Growing more corn means we need to grow demand. The good news is that we have a number of markets for our corn—both domestically and abroad—in exports, livestock and ethanol production that are key to the success and profitability of Nebraska corn farmers. Nevertheless, threats to these industries, especially those to renewable fuels and foreign trade, could pose many challenges for corn farmers moving forward.

Now, click here to listen to the podcast.

Podcasts are also available on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

December 11, 2014

U.S. Senator Johanns bids farewell

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns has forever been a supporter of Nebraska Agriculture.

In his final term as U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Johanns delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor. Below are some excerpts of his remarks:

“From my first day as a county commissioner, throughout my service as a Lincoln City Council Member, as Mayor of our capital city, Lincoln, as the Governor of Nebraska, in President Bush’s Cabinet and now as a United States Senator, no doubt about it, if I could turn back the clock I’d just do it again. I am so grateful for the trust placed in me and the support of so many people who have made this service possible…

“In my various roles, I’ve been with world leaders, spiritual heads, cultural icons, presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers, queens and kings – all memorable experiences, to be sure. But I will say… that’s not the extraordinary people about that I speak about today. My real inspiration comes from ordinary people who I’ve observed and watched do remarkable, extraordinary things…

“There were victories won during my time here and I am pleased to have led some of those charges. Yet, I have to acknowledge, many battles do remain. I would be dishonest if I denied feeling some frustration over the absence of will to address issues of paramount importance to our country. But I know that no issue is powerful enough to shred the fabric of our great nation. Rather, these challenges are overpowered by the ordinary people who do extraordinary things, by the character of our people, and by the wisdom of our Founders.”

Watch the YouTube video for his full remarks:

Thank you, Sen. Johanns for your support of Nebraska agriculture and service to the state!

View other blog posts including Mike Johanns on the Nebraska Corn Kernels blog:

December 2, 2014

Bushels & Bytes: The Data Driven Farm

“I’m hooked on a drug of information and productivity,” said Kip Tom, a seventh-generation family farmer, who harvests the staples of modern agriculture: seed corn, feed corn, soybeans and data, in a recent New York Times article. When Kip isn't found in the field, you can find him sitting in an office filled with computer screens and a whiteboard covered with schematics and plans for his farm’s computer network.

This is not a new image for farmers today. Farmers use technology to make advances in producing more food for a growing world. Through the use of technology, each farmer is able to feed 155 people today, compared to 1940, when one farmer could feed only 19 people.

Farmers use technologies such as motorized equipment, modified housing for animals and biotechnology, which allow for improvement in agriculture. Better technology has allowed farmers to feed more people and requires fewer people to work on farms to feed their families.

So with all of this new technology, comes more data, or "Big Data" as the term as been coined. How do farmers use it? Tom Farms has genetically modified crops, cloud-computing systems and possibly soon drones, if Mr. Tom does not go with lasers on low-orbit satellites. All of these items will be sending their data for analysis on the cloud-computing systems that Tom Farms rented from Monsanto and other companies.

“Farmers still think tech means physical augmentation — more horsepower, more fertilizer,” Mr. Tom said. “They don’t see that technology now is about multiplying information.” With corn prices at almost half the level they have been in the past few years, “my growth is going to come from farmers who don’t embrace technology.”

From a self-driving John Deere combine, Ernie Burbrink, a Tom Farms employee, sorts real-time data about moisture, yields and net bushels per acre on his iPad, sending important information by wireless modem to distant cages of computer servers that begin analyzing the data for next season’s planting.

“It used to be, if you could turn a wrench you’d be good at farming,” Mr. Burbrink said. “Now you need to know screen navigation, and pinpointing what data should go where so people can plan and predict. You need to be in tune with other people: seed consultants, agronomists, the equipment folks.”

Continue reading the NYT article...

November 21, 2014

Corn harvest conversations

With the use of new technology - on the mobile phone and with GPS-driven combines - farmers are finding new ways to communicate during harvest.
And it's easy to follow the conversations with hashtags like #harvest14 or #cornharvest on Twitter.

By sharing images and short and quips, farmers are sharing more about the FARM TO FOOD story than they might realize. Anyone can find these tweets and by seeing the story from the actual farmer, it makes farming and food production  much more credible.

As of Monday, corn harvest in Nebraska was 91 percent complete, near 90 last year and 87 for the five-year average. Even though we are closing in on the end of November, harvest is still in full swing and near the 5-year average. With snow earlier this week, it slowed harvest some, but it didn't slow farmers too much as they are still persevering.

And when harvest is complete, farmers can use online resources for quick tips.
Good luck to Nebraska farmers finishing up harvest!

November 20, 2014

Big savings on ethanol flex fuels at U-Stop


If you're cool to flex fuel, you can fill up for less—a lot less—this coming Tuesday.

On Tuesday, November 25, flex fuel ethanol blends will be available at deep discounts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the U-Stop location at 84th & Highway 6 in Lincoln.  E85 will be discounted by 85¢ per gallon; E30 will be 30¢ less and E15 will be 15¢ off for the two-hour period.  Customers must be driving a flex fuel vehicle to fill up with these blends. Other restrictions apply. See store for details.

The flex fuel promotion is sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board in partnership with U-Stop. 

There are nearly 200,000 flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska, which can run on any blend of ethanol and ordinary gasoline up to E85, or 85 percent ethanol.  

"About one in seven Nebraskans is driving a flex fuel vehicle and many don't even realize it," said Kim Clark. "You might have a flex fuel insignia on your vehicle or you might have a yellow gas cap.  And you can always check your owner's manual to see if you're driving a flex fuel vehicle."

In addition to the at-the-pump discounts, flex fuel drivers will also receive discount coupons on future flex fuel purchases.  A number of in-store specials will also be available at U-Stop during the two-hour discount period.

November 19, 2014

"New Potatoes" of a GM variety

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals.

The USDA this month gave the Boise, Idaho-based company, J.R. Simplot Co. permission to begin commercial planting of its new spud, called the "Innate" potato. The company altered the potato's DNA so it produces less acrylamide, which is suspected to be a human carcinogen. Potatoes naturally produce the chemical when they're cooked at high temperatures.

The potato is also engineered to resist bruising, which can cause black spots in the potatoes, making them less desirable to buyers.

Simplot is a major supplier of french fries, hash browns and other potato products for restaurant chains like McDonald's Corp. However, McDonald’s didn’t respond positively.

"McDonald's USA does not source GMO potatoes, nor do we have current plans to change our sourcing practices," the company said in a statement.

But Simplot didn't create this GM potato product for McDonald's - or any fast food restaurant for that matter. 

Simplot spokesman Doug Cole didn't address the company's plans to sell to the fast-food industry or the dehydrated potato industry, which both have urged growers against planting GMO potatoes. But Cole said the fresh potato market would embrace Innate.

The potato joins only eight other crops that have been USDA-approved for commercial production in the U.S.: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash. This new option of growing GM potatoes shouldn’t be a scare to consumers. It is worth noting that no commercially available crops in the United States were created by nature alone. Humans, over our history, have altered all of our crops, often for taste or yield or disease resistance.

November 14, 2014

Nebraska Corn Board welcomes Emily Thornburg on staff

The Nebraska Corn Board is pleased to announce its newest team member, Emily Thornburg, who was hired as the Director of Communications on November 10. 

In this role, Thornburg will work on behalf of Nebraska corn farmers to expand marketing opportunities through communications, industry partnerships, program coordination, education and promotion. She will coordinate numerous corn promotion and education activities throughout the year. Thornburg will also manage Nebraska Corn Board’s social media along with various other communication outlets.

"We are excited to welcome Emily to the Corn Board team," said Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Emily has proven to be a committed leader and advocate for Nebraska corn farmers, and is well qualified to lead Nebraska Corns’ communication and outreach efforts. With prior experience at Nebraska Corn Growers Association, in addition to a strong background in Nebraska agriculture, Emily has a thorough understanding of the industry and will be a great addition to our staff.”

Thornburg grew up on her family farm near Geneva, Nebraska. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and marketing. Upon graduation, she worked in marketing at ConAgra Mills. In the fall of 2013, Emily joined the Nebraska Corn team as the Program Director for the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. During her time there, Emily was responsible for the program coordination and membership servicing for the 2,600 member organization.

"I am very excited to be joining the Nebraska Corn Board staff,” said Thornburg. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to work on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn farmers.  I look forward to working closely with the wonderful board and staff as well as the industry partners to communicate the important story of Nebraska’s corn industry.”

November 13, 2014

Nebraska Corn Harvest 79% Complete

For the week ending November 9, 2014, warm conditions coupled with limited rainfall made for excellent harvest conditions, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Precipitation of a half inch or more fell early in the week across portions of the western Panhandle, but was non-existent elsewhere. Temperatures averaged 5 degrees above normal. Fall tillage and fertilizer applications were underway.
There were 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 32 short, 60 adequate, and 1 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 30 short, 61 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Corn harvested was 79 percent, near 80 last year and equal to the five-year average.

Data for this news release were provided at the county level by USDA Farm Service Agency and UNL Extension Service.