July 29, 2014

Washington, D.C. & ag community in D.C. is a truly distinct place

By Morgan Nelson, NCGA-DC intern, Masters of Public Service and Administration Candidate at the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M, Legal Studies graduate from Chadron State College
Morgan Nelson, NCGA-DC

Time flies while you’re having fun! The saying may be clichĂ©, but it proves true time and time again.  This is my final week in DC and I can hardly believe it.

A couple of weeks ago, Corn Congress lived up to all of the stories I’ve heard from coworkers, former interns, and friends.  It was fantastic to see a grower-led organization make policy decisions, collect information, and act as a democratic body.  For a government nerd like me, it was a truly fantastic thing to witness.  It was great to meet the group from Nebraska and participate in the Public Policy Action Team.  I also got to meet my St. Louis counterpart (Joe Conrad) and have some great conversations about the summer and politics in general.

Washington D.C. is a truly distinct place, and the same can be said for the Ag Community in D.C.  All summer I’ve kept contact with interns from Ag organizations, between hearings and the intern lunch series we’ve maintained, I’ve experienced firsthand the true camaraderie within the Ag community in D.C.  Most news of D.C. consists of polarity, lack of cooperation, and dissatisfaction. I’m proud to report that while Washington D.C. appears to get nothing done, the organizations interacting with The Hill work tirelessly and put in extensive hours to ensure that things do get accomplished.  Where would we be without industry and shareholder input?

capitol  CornCongress

SmithThe Nebraska Corn Board has a truly fantastic program, one that contributes both to the individuals it hosts and the state as a whole.  Professional experience and gaining a world perspective doesn’t occur for Nebraska’s young professionals without investment and mentorship.  Bryan Brower (USGC intern) and I have had a great summer working together and we even got to meet Senator Johanns and Congressman Smith during our Corn Congress duties.

Flying to Nebraska is great not only because I’ll be headed home, but I’ve got a theory that Nebraska bound flights are consistently the nicest flights I take (in terms of people, airports can be rough!).  Between the red clothes (go big red!) and the friendly folks I always end up sitting by, I’ve concluded that “Midwest Nice” isn’t a myth.

It’s been a truly fantastic summer, one that I couldn’t have accomplished without the NE staff, NCGA DC staff, and last but not least my family.  Look out Nebraska, I’m coming back!

July 28, 2014

U.S. Grains meets in Nebraska this week; still covering issues with China, DDGS


This week, the U.S. Grains Council members are meeting for the 54th Annual Board of Delegates meeting in Omaha. The Council is a cooperative partner of the Nebraska Corn Board.

In Omaha, attendees will focus on emerging opportunities, competitive challenges, and the Council's work to increase U.S. market share. The Advisory Teams will review new developments that affect the Council's strategies and priorities around the world. Top speakers and insight from the Council's global program staff will keep you ahead of the curve on factors affecting export growth. Last but not least, the Council is a member-led organization, and this is the Council's annual business meeting, at which delegates will elect officers and board members, and adopt the budget for FY 2015.

E Energy Adams Distillers 2012 (2)But just because Council staff and Board are in Omaha for meetings, they are still working around the globe on opening up market barriers. One of those issues is China’s approval of new biotech certification requirements for distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS) by the Chinese import inspection authority.

The new requirements effectively call for a certificate from the point of origin - in the case of U.S. shipments, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - guaranteeing that the shipment is free of the biotech trait.

The mandate was made effective immediately, causing serious disruptions with existing DDGS trade and making future DDGS trade hard to achieve.

“China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” said Tom Sleight, USGC’s president and CEO.

“It’s time for China to look at and approve this trait,” Sleight said. “It’s been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it’s been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade.”

Yesterday, Chairman Schaaf sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, urging efforts of the U.S. government to intervene with China to halt this current regulatory sabotage of the DDGS trade with China. Approval has been pending in China for more than four years.

This matter is urgent for U.S. corn producers, DDGS exporters, and the ethanol industry as a whole, which is threatened with severe harm due to China’s action. Until this action, China was importing DDGS at a rate of 20,000 MT per day, which is the equivalent of 750 standard containers. The value of DDGS exports to China exceeded $1.6 billion in 2013 and this year was running well ahead of that pace prior to the current interruption.

The Council is doing all they can to work through this issue with China, and others around the world, to provide more markets for Nebraska and U.S. corn producers.

July 22, 2014

It's irrigation season for many producers

NEBRASKA CROP PROGRESS AND CONDITION LINCOLN, NE, For the week ending July 20, 2014, the State saw unseasonably cool temperatures and only isolated rainfall according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. With the dry conditions, wheat harvest was over one half complete.

Also, producers in many areas started irrigating their row crops last week. The number of days suitable for fieldwork were 6.4. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 4 percent very short, 28 short, 66 adequate, and 2 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 8 percent very short, 26 short, 65 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Corn conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 5 poor, 17 fair, 52 good, and 24 excellent. Corn silking was 62 percent, ahead of 45 last year, but near 60 average. Corn dough was 8 percent, ahead of 0 last year but near 6 average

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

Corn Congress Leadership Mission...From the Intern

The group on the roof of USGC/NCGA building at CornFest
Corn Congress is a semi-annual event where corn industry representatives come together and determine policy for the year, elect new National Corn Board members, recognize achievements, and converse about new industry developments. The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) invests heavily on the youth of today, because they know that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Last year, NCB inaugurated a leadership mission by sending eight delegates to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend Corn Congress, partake in industry tours, and learn about policy and the issues of today. Delegates must be/have been a part of FFA, 4-H, or the LEAD program. They must apply and be chosen for the leadership mission, with expectations of being engaged through asking questions, meeting new people, and filing a final report.

Last year, I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend. My whole outlook on agriculture was changed. I began to realize how much of a cooperative effort it takes to organize so many people with so many views. I also got to meet part of the Corn Board team (and get to know them pretty well as we got stranded in Detroit the day it went bankrupt. Ahh…the joys of travel!)

This past May, I became the communications and outreach intern for the Corn Board. NCB thought that I would be an asset to organizing the second leadership mission, since I knew what to expect from last summer. I helped by lining up meeting rooms in the Capitol Event Center, choosing and corresponding with the new leadership team, setting up the schedule, leading the group around WDC, etc. Even though I had learned a lot in the year prior, I was excited to help give the fresh group of individuals an awesome experience and learn more myself.

This year’s delegates included: Keith Borer, Elgin, Nebraska; Ryan Broderson, Randolph, Nebraska; Nicole D’Angelo, Auburn, California; Kerry McPheeters, Gothenburg, Nebraska; Jolene Messinger, McCook, Nebraska; Andy Method, Decatur, Nebraska; Joel Miller, Hampton, Nebraska; Glen Ready, Scribner, Nebraska; and Courtney Spilker, Beatrice, Nebraska.

Corn Congress was held on July 16th and 17th. However, the group flew out early to participate in industry visits with Iowa representatives. We were able to tour Wye Angus, Arnold Vegetable Farm, Nagel Cucumber Operation, and Kenny Bros Grading Station. The group was especially enthusiastic about Nagel’s Cucumber Operation, because watching cucumbers get combined is not an everyday Nebraska occurrence. We also enjoyed watching them get washed and sorted into different sizes at the grading station. Who knew that so much work goes into the cucumber slices on your salad?
Nebraska and Iowa leadership delegates at Nagel's cucumber farm

Cucumber Harvester
On Wednesday, Corn Congress was finally underway. We got to hear about big issues such as the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), Waters of the United States (WOTUS), GMO labeling, trade, livestock industries, and tax extenders. Another highlight of the morning session was our very own Executive Director, Don Hutchens, being honored for 27 years of dedication to the corn industry by the National Corn Growers Association.

The afternoon was jam-packed with meetings with our Congressmen and women. We met with Senator Fischer, Representative Adrian Smith, Senator Johanns, and a representative from Lee Terry’s office. The delegates embraced this unique opportunity to ask our lawmakers anything that they wanted to and learned a lot more about the political process.
Senator Johanns addresses the group

After that, we were able to mingle with corn industry leaders from across the country at CornFest. This social hour is held in the U.S. Grains Council and National Corn Growers building. CornFest provides an excellent opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and network with a corn grower from a different state where practices can be very different.

To end the evening, leadership mission delegates and NCB/ NeCGA members/staff got the chance to sit down for supper and learn more about each other. This was a refreshing end to the day and provided the opportunity for reflection and good company.

NCB intern, Morgan Zumpfe, and American Farm Bureau (AFBF) intern, Alix Mashino both took part in the leadership mission last year and were able to catch up during tours this year at AFBF
Our last day in Washington D.C. was again filled with lots of information. In the morning, we went to the offices of the Foreign Agricultural Service at the USDA, American Farm Bureau Federation, and the U.S. Grains Council. These three experiences opened delegates eyes to how global our world is, and how important trade is. As leadership delegate and University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Kerry McPheeters said, “For as much depressing news that seems to come out of Washington, it was certainly encouraging to see the number of people that are working tirelessly for the greater good of agriculture.”

The afternoon was spent in the final Corn Congress meetings, where final policy was enacted and ending remarks were made. Despite a few plane delays, all Nebraskan representatives made it back to “The Good Life” safe and energized by Corn Congress.

I think that Nebraska should be really proud of leadership team that was sent out to represent them last week. All delegates gained an insurmountable amount of knowledge that will empower them to become better leaders of tomorrow. The combined experiences helped the delegates understand how important it is to get involved in leadership positions, because if we don’t step up, who will? Leadership delegate and corn farmer Ryan Broderson remarked, “On this leadership trip to WDC, I was inspired to become a NeCGA member. The power of this grassroots organization is outstanding.”

Leadership mission delegates on Capitol Hill

I am so thankful and blessed that I was able to experience Corn Congress twice. I feel better equipped to tackle my classes at UNL and understand how important it is to know the issues and be involved. I am confident that my experiences through the Nebraska Corn Board will pay dividends toward my future.

July 21, 2014

Establishing a network

Bryan Brower, USGC-DCBy Bryan Brower, US Grains Council Intern

With Corn Congress this past week, I got the chance to catch up with some of the folks from the Nebraska Corn Board. During a conversation with Don Hutchens at dinner one night, we got on the topic of making connections and establishing a network for yourself. He reiterated how most of the time all it takes is putting yourself out there, whether that is holding the door open for someone, striking up a conversation on the elevator, or offering to take a picture for a stranger. What I have come to realize is that has been my approach in a nutshell to this entire experience.

I have made it two-thirds the way through my internship here in D.C. and it has been quite a ride. The weeks have flown by and it seems like I was landing at Reagan National just yesterday and now I only have a month left here. The credit (or fault) of this is the U.S. Grains Council, for there hasn’t been a dull day yet. We are less than two weeks away from one of our semi-annual board of delegates meeting which ironically enough is in Omaha, where I call home. It has been increasingly hectic as we get closer and closer to the meeting at the end of July. The good news is I will be going to Omaha to help staff the event, which makes mom happy as you could imagine. I really am looking forward to seeing my parents and my dog while I’m home for those two days.

Aside from all the preparations for the Omaha meeting, I’ve been working on my project which is making the arrangements for a team of nine individuals we are bringing to the United States from Taiwan. The purpose of these trips are to bring in end-users from various areas of the agriculture industry and give them an opportunity to meet with producers and agribusinesses. This team will be attending programs in Nebraska, Iowa, and New Orleans, LA for ten days in the middle of August. It’s been really interesting working with our agribusiness partners, state check-off organizations, hotels, transportation services, and country director in Taiwan to coordinate all the logistics so that the team can have a successful trip. It is definitely easier said than done making all the arrangements for this team but it’s good experience having to plan something down to the minute because it forces you to consider all contingencies.

I can’t begin to fully explain all the ways I have been challenged during my time here, both at the U.S. Grains Council and with living in D.C. I have learned a lot about myself, it seems like I’m thrown into the fire so to speak with every experience yet come out the other side thinking that wasn’t that bad. Aside from the all the experience I am gaining through my work with USGC and all the fun I’m having here, what is most rewarding about this experience is it’s forced me to better understand myself, who I am, and what I want to do in life. Nothing like being in a different time zone from all your friends and family back home to give you perspective on what’s truly important.

July 18, 2014

The power of the weather


 Corn field and center pivot irrigation in south central Nebraska. July, 2010. Photo by Craig Chandler / University CommunicationsIt’s no secret that Nebraska can be home to some crazy weather, and this spring has been no exception. With cool, wintery temperatures lingering, many of us were wondering if it was ever going to warm up. However, spring eventually sprang, but that didn’t mean we were out of the woods by any means.

As we saw earlier this summer, weather in Nebraska can change rapidly and without warning. We went from frost in late May to tornadoes and tennis ball-sized hail in early June. So, it’s no big surprise to see that most folks in the Cornhusker State pay close attention to the weather reports. Farmers are no exception.

As with many folks who live in the city, Mother Nature can be a farmer’s best friend and worst enemy. However, a farmer’s livelihood depends on the weather. This year has been especially challenging and humbling for farmers. Factors like a shifting drought, flooding in areas and a late, cold spring have been a lot to reckon with. So while most might think the farmer just waits until he can get into the field, there is much more behind his story.

Farmers hope for a cooperative April and May. They want the rain to hold off until just after the last field has been planted. Then let the rain come – but not too much, of course. The right amount of rain enables young crops to extend their roots deep into the ground to provide strength for the wind that is sure to come during the tornado season. Farmers want hot and sunny summer days with scattered moisture to limit the need for irrigation with no destructive tornadoes or hail.

Harvest on October, 4, 2010, east of Lincoln in Lancaster and Saunders counties. Photo by Craig Chandler / University CommunicationsStarting in September, farmers want dry weather to help reduce the moisture content of their crops. Drying grain naturally means farmers won’t have to run dryers in the grain bins before they sell their crops. During the winter months, it’s best to have a steady amount of snow – something we clearly lacked this winter – so the ground can retain moisture for a solid planting season next spring.

Nebraska has seen some severe weather this spring that not only brought damage to many people’s homes, growing crops, and irrigation equipment. Those farm families affected are certainly in our thoughts and prayers, and this is a reminder to all of us of the power of the weather and how it can change our lives in an instant.

Despite the frequent challenges presented by Mother Nature, Nebraska farmers and ranchers continue to produce food for a growing population. We want to thank them for their persistence in the face of adversity, and their dedication to preserving the land for future generations.

13CORN-016 FremontTrib_Ad

July 17, 2014

RFS is good for America, folks.


Bob-DinneenBy Bob Dineen, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Fuels Association, article here

Nicolás Gutierrez’s call for an environmentally friendly solution to America’s reliance on foreign oil is easily answered by the very policy he rails against (“EPA should back away from biofuels policy,” June 18).

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has helped lower our nation’s reliance on foreign petroleum to 35 percent since reaching a high of 60 percent in 2005. Ethanol production has reduced finished gasoline imports from 600,000 barrels per day in 2005 to near zero today.

Numerous peer-reviewed analyses show that conventional ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 40 percent compared to gasoline. This has been realized over the past nine years without the conversion of a single acre of new grassland to cropland. Recent increases in corn acres have been achieved through crop switching, not through cultivation of new, non-agricultural lands. The environmental investigation conducted by The Associated Press has since been discredited for relying on muddled data that were attained through flawed methodology.

Contrary to Gutierrez’s assertions, the RFS does not noticeably affect consumer food prices. Food prices increased just 2.1 percent in 2013, lower than the 25-year average of 2.92 percent (1988–2012). Corn is only a minor ingredient in consumer grocery items. When consumers spend $1 on food at the grocery store, only 12 cents pays for the value of the farm products themselves while the other 88 cents pays for processing, energy, transportation, labor, packaging, advertising and other costs. Oil, however, has been proven to have a substantial effect. Last year, the World Bank found that, “Most of the contribution to food price changes from 1997–2004 to 2005–12 comes from the price of crude oil … ” In addition, the RFS contributes to the livestock feed sector through the generation of distillers grains. More than 35 million metric tons of this highly nutritious feed was generated in the 2012–13 marketing year, with 37.8 million expected in 2013–14. That is enough feed to produce six hamburger patties for every one of Earth’s 7.2 billion residents.

Indeed, the EPA must consider the economic benefits of the ethanol industry. The industry directly supports more than 86,000 well-paid jobs as well as 300,000 indirect and induced jobs. Last year, the industry added $44 billion to the nation’s GDP, raised $30.7 billion in household income and displaced 462 million barrels of imported oil — equal to the total amount of crude oil imported from Iraq and Venezuela.

The RFS is a proven success.

More blogs on the Renewable Fuels Standard:

July 16, 2014

All I Do is Farm


The virally-famous Peterson Brothers are back at it with a new song parody, All I Do is Farm (All I Do is Win Parody).

The three brothers are the farm guys behind the farming-themed pop parody music videos like I’m Farming and I Grow It, BALE!, Farmer Style, Chore, A Fresh Breath of Farm Air.

All I Do is Farm shares the message of environmental stewardship and sustainability with comments on no-till farming, precision farming and decreasing water and nutrient erosion. They completely explain the lyrics to their song on their blog.

Besides their farm parody videos, they give virtual farm tours, Life of a Farmer videos, explain production agriculture in short clips and share on their blog.

Wordless Wednesday | Prettiest corn in the U.S.


Pollination time!

 Corn field and center pivot irrigation in south central Nebraska. July, 2010. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communications

Hail, tornadoes and high winds have damaged many fields in Nebraska this year, but likely not enough to have a major impact on the state’s overall harvest, said Don Hutchens, director of the Nebraska Corn Board.

“As you drive across the state you see some of the prettiest corn and soybean fields that the U.S. has,” Hutchens said.

It’s pollination time in the corn world and the weather has a big impact on this. Read more from the Lincoln Journal Star, Weather sets the mood for corn lovin’.

July 15, 2014

SWOT analysis on U.S. corn export markets


By Matt Perlinger, NCB Intern

Matt Perlinger, USGC-PanamaI will be finishing out the remainder of my internship in the Nebraska Corn Board’s headquarters in Lincoln. The transition has been a great learning experience for me.

I have been working for the last few weeks on developing a report about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) for the export markets of U.S. corn and related products. It has been extremely interesting researching the many issues related to agricultural exports and future opportunities such as the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It has also been interesting to learn about the threats to the future of agricultural exports, and the many ripple effects that seemingly unrelated events can have in a global market.

I look forward to presenting the report to the Nebraska Corn Board at the August meeting and advocating for the future of Nebraska’s agricultural exports by bringing important issues to light.