Archive for the ‘corn’ Category

Random thoughts from Corn Congress and Washington DC

I was in Washington DC last week for the National Corn Growers Corn Congress. I extended my stay to do some sightseeing with my grown son, so I ended up spending 6 days in DC, which is way too long. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I returned home, just happy to be here, somewhere normal! It’s not my first trip to DC, but I did accumulate a lot of random observations.

  • I spent most of my time with farmers from Kansas and many other states. Words that describe my farmer friends include the following: kind, intelligent, polite, funny, sophisticated, outspoken, focused, professional, friendly, well-rounded, honest, informed. Our farmers sat through long committee meetings, two delegate sessions and visited every member of our Congressional Delegation. All the while, they were also using their smart phones and tablets to keep track of the markets, check email, and kept in contact with their families at home who were running the farm in their absence.
    Roberts Visit 7-2014

    With Senator Roberts

    jenkins

    With Congresswoman Jenkins

  • There were many farewell speeches at Corn Congress this year with NCGA Exec Rick Tolman retiring, as well as Nebraska Corn’s Don Hutchens, Monsanto’s Marsha Stanton and John Deere’s Don Borgman. Our own Jere White was honored at the March Corn Congress session for his retirement. New leaders will rise to take their places, but those are some big shoes to fill.
  • Speaking of leaders, I was so impressed with the members of the DuPont New Leaders Program offered through NCGA. Farm couples are encouraged to go through the program together. This cultivated two new leaders from Kansas: Tom and Sandy Tibbits of Minneapolis. The program’s final session was held around the Corn Congress event. We were happy to have them along on our Hill Visits and Tom was able to help Kansas Corn by serving as a delegate. Tom is already on the KCGA board and we have plans to use make use of Sandy’s skills as well as an advocate for agriculture.
  • Speaking of Hill Visits, many of the Congressional offices have offered Russell Stover candies to their visitors for years. With the new Mars candy factory in Topeka, many of our offices have candy bowls with Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars as well! And Cheezits. Did you know all Cheezits are made in Kansas?
  • I serve on the Corn Farmers Coalition steering committee, an image program that aims to educate and inform Washington DC decision makers about corn farmers. This year’s campaign has just begun and I sawourfull page ad in The Hill newspaper, as well as ads online and intheMetro trains. This year’s ads have an innovation and technology theme because the focus groups we used when planning this year’s campaign were fascinated by the use of technology on our farms. I remember one focus group participant saying, “It’s kind of neat to think that those farmers are using the same iPad as me.” It is not always easy to overcome the stereotypes about farmers that many people have. On one hand, they are surprised to learn that 98 percent of all corn farms are family farms–many folks think that our farms are owned by big corporations. On the other hand, they think farmers look and work on the farms just like they did 50 years ago. When we talk to these people about GPS guidance and mapping, precision agriculture, they get really excited.

    metro

    This Metro passenger was extremely interested in our CFC ad!

  • There is some corn planted in front of USDA. And the US Botanic Gardens is featuring a wheat display called Amber Waves of Grain.
  • I saw a lot of advertising in DC. I saw an excellent ad in a Metro train placed by Humane Watch. It explained that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, only gives 1 percent of its funding to local humane shelters and encourages people to donate to local humane society shelters instead.
  • On the Metro, we sat next to a woman holding a takeout bag from Chipotle. Over the years, I’ve discouraged my kids from eating at Chipotle for various reasons (primarily because it’s danged expensive!), but also because of how the corporate burrito company bashes farmers who grow the food. Sitting next to my son, who is a devout capitalist, I pointed to the bag in the woman’s lap and told him to read it. This quote is from Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought” Author Series.
  • Saunders

    If no one must work, who will make the burritos?

    I’m all for love and peace, but just sitting around feeling love for one another might get a little boring after a while.  More importantly, Chipotle, if no one works, where will all that free food come from? Who will make the burritos? I’m for free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and I enjoyed reading the bag that held a nine dollar burrito. But I do have the right to disagree. My capitalist son, who in the past has been disturbed by Chipotle’s anti-farmer statements but still ate the corporate burritos, was even more disturbed by that quote.

  • borlaug

    Norman Borlaug is the new guy in Statuary Hall at the Capitol.

  • We saw the new statue of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, during our tour of the Capitol. That an Iowa plant breeder is honored in this way Statuary Hall in the Capitol is significant. His work which created a high-yielding, disease resistant wheat is credited for saving a billion lives. Borlaug was a strong supporter of the promise of biotechnology and urged people to stand up to the anti-science crowd.
  • corn capital

    A corn capital at the Capitol. (Architect of the Capitol)

  • I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of Greek columns in DC? It made me remember the Architecture Appreciation class I took at K-State where we learned about Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Speaking of art and architecture, if you are a corn grower, look around in DC–there are many depictions of corn in the Capitol and many other places. In fact, the photo here shows a corn capital in the Capitol. A capital is the top of a column. According to the Architect of the Capitol: Carved by Giuseppe Franzoni from Aquia Creek sandstone, these columns were installed in the Hall of Columns of the U.S. Capitol in 1809. The fluting of a conventional shaft was recalled by bundled corn stalks. On the capital, husks were folded back to reveal the cob and kernels of corn.
  • I was struck by the friendliness of the people in DC on this trip. I think this was influenced by the unusually cool weather. One cab driver told us that the cooler weather was a disaster for cabbies because everyone wanted to walk instead of taking a cab. He joked that he would have to charge us double. Judging by his meandering route to our destination, I don’t think he was kidding.

Sustainably Feeding the World

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

How can we best feed the word? Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute talks about how to best protect the environment with regards to agriculture on a new episode of Green State TV.

New research shows that the best way to save the biodiversity of Mother Earth is to produce as much as you can on a given acre. Avery states that we need to use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Avery goes on to say that “if we had to do it organically, you’re talking about the equivalent manure of 6-8 billion additional cows on the Earth, which is five times more cows than exist on the plant today. When we are already pasturing and grazing 26% of the Earth’s total land area, 500% more cows is going to take up all that is left.”

Alex Avery also speaks about pesticides and herbicides which help growers produce more per acre in a sustainable manner. Today, growers are able to produce more with less soil erosion. Farmers have adopted conservation tillage on millions of acres of land – and continue to expand the use of no-till and minimal till practices. The benefits for the environment are significant. No-tilling means remnants from the previous year’s crop are left untouched. Not only does this improve the soil over time, but it significantly reduces soil run-off during snowmelt or heavy rain.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion 44 percent in two decades by using these innovative conservation methods.

Kirk Wiscombe of Overbrook, KS plants corn

Avery gives credit to a popular herbicide, Atrazine which has been used by corn, sorghum, sugarcane and other produce growers since the 1950s.  Atrazine is the cornerstone of sustainable, low erosion, no-till farming which has revolutionized sustainability in agriculture. Conservation tillage is an option for more farmers today because of technological advances. Corn plants that are resistant to safer herbicides means controlling weeds in a no-till field is more efficient and less harmful to the land and people. Seed that resist insect damage mean fewer insecticides are needed to protect the crop, and that means fewer passes across the field. These technologies are made possible through biotechnology.

With advancements in technology, farmers can continue to produce more food with less soil erosion, less fertilizer, less acreage, less water and less fuel. America’s farmers have a moral obligation to care for Mother Earth and produce food for a growing population.

Additional Resources:

Corn Farmers Coalition

Biotechnol0gy

Conservation

Are Vegetarians Happier?

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Beef and chicken gyro with brussels sprouts and fruit salad

I recently saw an article posted on Facebook from The Huffington Post called “Vegetarian Diet Could Make You Happier and Less Stressed, Study Shows”. I consider myself an optimistic, healthy and happy omnivore, so I decided to take a look.

The article states that embracing a vegetarian diet could make you happier and less stressed because of fatty acids in meat and fish. It states that “diets that include meat and fish are higher in arachidonic acid (AA), an animal source of omega-6 fatty acids. Much of the meat Americans eat today is quite high in AA: The average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid profile of modern grain-fed meat is 5 times higher than grass-fed meat.”

Shalene McNeill, who has a Ph.D. in human nutrition and is executive director for human nutrition research at the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, acknowledges that “if you feed (cows) grass, you can slightly increase the omega-3 content, but if you look at it in terms of a whole diet, it’s not a significant advantage to human health.”

Though I experience stress (usually self-inflicted), running has become a great outlet for me. Personally, I would become very grumpy (and stressed) without beef, pork and poultry as a regular part of my diet. I think it’s safe to say as a whole, Americans are increasingly overfed yet undernourished so it’s essential that we get the most nutritional value from the food and beverages we enjoy. I enjoy meat. I’m not turning vegetarian.

What are the benefits of consuming meat? Since meat contains a great deal of protein, it repairs and promotes the building of body tissues and produces antibodies that will protect the body from infections, therefore strengthening the immune system. Since meat contains all the essential amino acids, it ranks as one of the best sources of protein.

Meat is rich in iron, zinc and selenium which results in forming hemoglobin that transports oxygen to different parts of your body, tissue formation and metabolism, and breaking down fat in the body. Meat also contains Vitamin A, B and D which promote good vision, stronger teeth and bones as well as support the central nervous system.

What do I think is the biggest benefit of meat consumption? It tastes excellent. Therefore, it keeps this girl happy, healthy and loving life!

Additional Resources:
Kansas Beef Council
Kansas Pork Association
CommonGround
National Cattleman’s Association
National Pork Producers Council

Kansas Joins CommonGround Program

Farmers Greet Guests with Delicious Food and Genuine Conversations at State Launch

The Kansas State University Lady Wildcats may have shot better hoops than the University of Kansas Lady Jayhawks Saturday night, but the real winners were the farm women who started a conversation about food at Allen Fieldhouse prior to the game.  Teresa Brandenburg, Kara James and LaVell Winsor hosted dinner to launch the Kansas arm of the CommonGround program—a national grassroots movement, designed to bridge the gap between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.

The event brought together members of the media, academics and government officials to discuss modern farming. During the dinner, guests were invited to partake in conversation about farming and food while enjoying delicious food and the company of the new Kansas CommonGround volunteer farmers.

The reason Kansas became a part of the CommonGround movement was clear during dinner as Alton, Kan. CommonGround volunteer, Teresa Brandenburg explained, “many consumers are confronted by a barrage of inaccurate information and rumors about food. All three of us (volunteers) want to share our stories and personal understanding of agriculture and food.” She also noted, “who is better to tell that story than someone like me, a mom, and a farmer?” Throughout the dinner, the volunteers shared anecdotes from their farm and used their agriculture knowledge and expertise to address guest’s concerns about our nation’s food supply.

Many questions were about the locavore movement and organic farming, but LaVell Winsor, a grain farmer from Grantville, Kan. said, “many of the topics we discussed centered around the facts on organics and implications of a shift toward eating locally produced foods.” She enjoyed being able to address misconceptions throughout the evening. “Some of the attendees pulled me into a discussion on the benefits of organics to ask for my thoughts.  I explained that, while farmers in our country do provide a variety of healthy, safe options, there is no evidence that organic production results in a more nutritious, healthier choice. Really, they could rest assured that they were providing their family with the wholesome nourishment they need whether they buy organic or conventionally produced foods. It was great being able to put a face and a name with agriculture so that people knew they can contact a real person about farming and food!”

To close out the evening, guest were encouraged to fill their reusable CommonGround grocery bags with facts about food production and recipes the volunteers shared from their own kitchens. Following the dinner, the entire group was invited to join in the festivities and watch the University of Kansas women’s basketball team take on their rivals from Manhattan.

“As a Kansas CommonGround volunteer, I hope our guests left with a better understanding of how food is grown and that, as farmers, we want to speak with the public about what we do,” said Karra James, CommonGround volunteer from Clay Center, Kan. “When farmers like myself say something about food I think our message comes from a more genuine place because we are connected directly to agriculture.”

The CommonGround program is moving forward in 15 states including Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dokata, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.

Want to join the CommonGround Conversation? Stay tuned for more CommonGround Kansas updates and what you can to help.

Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/FindOurCommonGround

Twitter: www.twitter.com/commongroundks

Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundKansas

Blog: http://commongroundkansas.wordpress.com/

About the volunteers:

Teresa Brandenburg from Alton, Kansas

Teresa was the 2006 American Honey Princess, crown and all.  But that hardly serves as her only contribution to agriculture. Starting out, Teresa grew up in a small town in Iowa where her dad drove a truck hauling farm commodities. Teresa started raising livestock with her family when she was 10.  Now, she and her husband, Luke, are the fourth generation on his family’s farm. Their son, Jacob, represents the fifth generation.  She is currently serving on the Kansas Soybean Association Board of Directors, and enjoys working with her husband to raise cattle, corn, milo, soybeans and wheat.

LaVell Winsor from Grantville, Kansas

LaVell has a unique perspective on agriculture, having worked as a farmer with responsibility for merchandising and managing grain sales while keeping financial records, and outside of the farm with other growers as a business consultant specializing in risk-management.  Coupled with her previous experience in succession and estate planning, LaVell understands the vast array of financial issues facing farmers and agriculture as a whole.

Karra James From Clay Center, Kansas

Karra works with her husband Derek on his parent’s farm to grow grain, raise cattle and, more importantly, their elementary school-aged son and daughter.  Having earned a degree in Food Science and worked in the food safety field, Kara understands the science behind many of the questions consumers have about their food. As she increases her involvement on the farm, she also broadens her perspective on the modern technologies and techniques they use every day.

Lori Deyoe From Ulysses, Kansas

Farming is Lori’s heritage from several generations back on both sides of her family, and her work has always reflected that. She is a farmer’s daughter, the wife of a cattleman and mom to two children. Even her education, a degree in agricultural economics with minors in animal science and women’s studies from Kansas State University, is rooted in agriculture. Before Lori and her husband started a family, she worked as the assistant grain manager at an elevator in town. And currently, Lori coordinates logistics for their small beef feed yard; handles the accounting; and writes on their blog about agriculture. No need to say it – this woman is all about farming.

About CommonGround™

CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. CommonGround was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in an effort to give farm women the opportunity to speak with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA.

Chinese Crop Tour

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

This past week I have been traveling NE China (Beijing, Harbin, Zhaodung, Zhaoyuan, Fuyu, Changchun, Changling, and Shuangliao) with the U.S. Grains Council and corn growers from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska as a part of the Chinese Spring Corn Tour. The purpose of this tour is to survey the crop growing conditions including the weather, planting and germination. By participating on this tour, we better understand the corn market, Chinese government policies, marketing and demand, and the local feed and livestock situation.

I have spent the last three days touring the countryside of NE China and speaking to the farmers out working in their fields. It has to be intimidating for the farmer to see about twelve foreigners walking through their field towards them, but everyone has been willing to speak with us and allowed time for us to ask questions about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Agriculture is their livelihood, just like many of the growers I am traveling with and their love for the land shows.

The average size of land per farmer here is 2 hectors (about 5 acres) and the government owns all the land so farmers rent the area from the government. We have toured several fields (growing corn, rice, peppers, grapes, onions, and others), a grain buying facility, an ethanol plant, a feed mill operation, a fertilizer dealer, an equipment dealer and hog farmer.

We stopped and visited with two farmers that were doing some replanting of the skips on the first day. Corn is as far along here as it is in many areas of the U.S. farmers are having many of the same issues that folks in the United States are having, be it cooler temperatures, high moisture, or delayed planting. There is a vast amount of farm land in the areas we have toured and the soil quality is great. The last two days we have spent time in Jilin Provence. The area consists of 55 million hectors with a population of 27.9 million people. Fourteen million of those people are living in the country.

Currently, there are 3.3 million hectors dedicated to corn, though that number continues to rise. The yield also continues to rise. On average, there

are 52,000 corn plants per hector of land. Recently they have been experiencing lower temperatures during the month of May, but their largest concern is drought during the summer months. The western part of Jilin Provence has been experimenting with irrigation due to drought conditions. The cost for this is 20,000 RMB (about $3,125) per hector of land. 55% of farmers in thisarea use compound fertilizers. There are currently 8,000 seed companies in China but only 100 of them have research behind them.

The group, overall, has been impressed with the corn and soil quality and the amount of work that goes into planting by hand. Needless to say, the potential for Chinese agriculture is huge along with the use of modern agricultural technology.

Check out more photos on the U.S. Grains Council’s Flickr site.

Kansas Corn Gets Firsthand Look at China Spring Crop Progress

Corn Tour Report

On Ethanol, Energy . . . and Dark Parking Lots

The Kansas Corn Car Loves Ethanol!

By Sue Schulte, Director of Communications

On Monday, I drove the Kansas Corn Car to Holcomb to speak at an FFA district banquet—what a great group of young people! After the program, I was energized and inspired, and headed to Garden City to my hotel. On my way, I stopped at the U Pump It Country Corners station in Garden City for fuel. The station features ethanol blender pumps that offer E20, E30, E50 and E85 fuels for flexible fuel vehicles. The price of regular unleaded was $3.66, but I paid just $2.99 for E85. It felt good to purchase fuel for less than $3 a gallon!

It is true that you lose some fuel mileage when using E85 in a flex fuel vehicle, but I have found that the lower price of E85 normally pays for the loss in mileage. I did the math, taking into account the lower fuel price and the decreased mileage, and I easily drove more miles per dollar on E85 than regular unleaded. It normally works out that way with the Corn Car, a Chevy Impala. What makes a bigger difference to me is that I know that at least 85 percent of my fuel dollar is staying in the U.S. and not going to the Middle East.

The Corn Car is pretty visible, and I am accustomed to answering questions about corn and ethanol while driving it. That’s what makes the Corn Car so great, right? When I pulled into the hotel in Garden City a little before 10 p.m. Monday night, a man in the rather dark parking lot hollered at me, “Flex fuel? You’ve gotta be joking!” I responded, “It’s no joke, I just filled up for $2.99.” He proceeded to tell me some myths about ethanol, and I told him were erroneous. Then he said, “I’m not into politics and I hate ethanol!” Judging from the beer cans that littered the parking lot and the slur in his voice, I quickly deduced that this man didn’t hate all ethanol, just the stuff he couldn’t drink. Believe me, I had a lot of things I wanted to say to him, but arguing with a drunk man in a dark, deserted parking lot didn’t seem like a good idea. I scooted into the safety of the hotel lobby.

Things I wanted to say to the parking lot drunk:
• “You hate ethanol? I hate sending my fuel dollars to the Middle East!”
• “Do you think there are no politics involved in importing billions of dollars worth of foreign oil into the United States? And what about the billions of consumer dollars we send out of our country to OPEC every year?”
• “I’ll get more miles per dollar with E85 than I will with regular unleaded.”
• I can’t lie, E85 smells better than regular gas, oh, and it’s less polluting too!

Later, safely tucked away in my hotel room, I thought about my brief conversation with the parking lot drunk. I have run into my fair share of people who say they hate ethanol, and it’s a real hatred. I don’t get it, or maybe they don’t get it. Ethanol does get some subsidies, but look at the billions of taxpayer dollars that go to the oil industry, directly through subsidies and indirectly through protecting foreign sources of oil. No one ever says, “If imported oil is viable, why can’t it survive without government support?”

Ethanol is mostly produced in small communities throughout the U.S., especially in the heart of the nation. When you buy ethanol, that part of your fuel dollar stays in the U.S., and possibly in your own community. It’s the only fuel that substantially offsets the amount of foreign oil we use to power our vehicles. It makes up about 10 percent of our nation’s fuel for gas-powered vehicles. The current fuel price spikes are being blamed on low oil supplies. What would happen to gas prices if ethanol production stopped and ten percent of our fuel disappeared?

Farmers rely on all kinds of energy to produce their crops—ethanol, gasoline, diesel, natural gas and more. I don’t know any farmers who are against oil or other types of energy. We need them all and we need them to be abundant and affordable. And I think a majority of people wish more of our energy was produced here, and not imported from many countries that are either unstable, hostile to the U.S. or both. In parts of Kansas, we’re proud of the oil and natural gas being pumped from deposits beneath fields where our farmers grow corn and other crops. Some of that corn or sorghum may be used to make ethanol. Now that’s an energy farm!

Instead of fighting between ourselves over ethanol, a domestic fuel that works, maybe we should simply support all the energy we can produce here. Domestic energy provides jobs and economic growth, something our country certainly needs today.

Aunt Velma’s Strong Hands and Warm Heart

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Last week I attended my great-aunt Velma’s funeral. Velma passed away at the age of 87 in my hometown in Southwest Iowa.

After graduating from high school, Velma taught in three one-room country schools, Eureka No. 1, Eureka No. 8 and Jackson No. 6 for six years. She later married a farmer and gave birth to six children.

As I sat through the service last Friday listening to Velma’s children and grandchildren speak, I caught onto something each of them mentioned. Velma was not “just a housewife” but a partner in the family farm. She worked side by side with her husband with all the outside chores and kept records of transactions.

Velma, just like many women in agriculture, was a hard worker on and off the farm. Raising children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, growing crops, caring for animals, keeping records, and tending to the garden were all in a day’s work. When time allowed, she would also squeeze in some of her personal interests such as reading, genealogy, local history and sending cards and letters to family and friends. More often than not, we don’t give credit to the women who represent family farms across the U.S.

If you are not familiar with an initiative called CommonGround, I encourage you to check it out the website. CommonGround is a collaborative effort created by the National Corn Growers Association and the United Soybean Board. It was developed to help develop strong grassroots campaigns that provide farm women with the tools and opportunities to speak directly with the public about farming.

Nebraska and Iowa both launched their CommonGround initiatives at Hy-Vee stores in the city, giving consumers an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the CommonGround spokeswomen. Through this direct, open communication, the shoppers learned the true story about agriculture without media filters while the new spokeswomen developed a better understanding of the concerns facing the 98.5 percent of the U.S. population no longer involved in agriculture.

I am certain that Velma’s passion for the land and putting healthy, bountiful food on the table will live on through many. Women like Velma are truly an asset to American agriculture.

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