Archive for the ‘Kansas’ 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.
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Final Farewell

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Today is the day. After nearly three years, this is my last day in the Kansas Corn & Grain Sorghum office.

It has been a pleasure to work with all our growers and to meet so many genuine folks. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to connect and learn from farmers across the nation—and world. With the U.S. Grains Council I had the opportunity to travel with corn growers to China for the Spring Corn Tour last May. I learned about Chinese corn production and gained more knowledge about exports.

2011 Spring Crop Tour to China with U.S. Grains Council

One of my favorite projects over the past year has been CommonGround Kansas. I’ve met so many strong and talented women who inspire me. Thanks to each of the volunteers who have been a pleasure to work with.

CommonGround Shared Voices Conference

I’m leaving the communications specialist position with a strong social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, a brand new website (if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do), new logos for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers, and branding for Agriland at the Kansas State Fair.

Topeka Farm Show Display

The best compliment I received came from one of our corn growers at Commodity Classic the first year I attended. He asked me to tell him about my family farm back home and was shocked when I informed him that I didn’t grow up on a farm and I didn’t study agriculture in school. I must have blended in well! He asked how I was able to share so much about agriculture though our website and social media platforms and I explained that everything I had learned had come from the research I did or the folks I met.

Wiscombe plants corn near Overbrook, KS

I thank those who answered my e-mails, tweets, and Facebook questions. A special thanks to Pat and Mary Ross and Kirk Wiscombe for letting me visit their farms each time I asked. I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to teach this Iowa girl a few things about Kansas agriculture!

At Ross-Nunemaker Farms in Lawrence, KS

I’m on to new adventures at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO where I’ll be the Communications Manager for the Harriman-Jewell Series. Please continue to keep in touch with me on Facebook and Twitter! It’s been a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Farewell,

DeEtta

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

Kudos to Hy-Vee

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

The agricultural industry plays defense time and time again. Food is often a victim of misunderstandings, as most consumers are generations removed from the food source and the process. Food is an entry point to climate change, employment, health, immigration and the economy; making it a pretty easy target.

The most recent misunderstanding: “pink slime” or “lean, finely textured beef”. This controversy over processed food has been all the rage in the media recently.

“The more people are disconnected with their food supply and the sources of their food, the more questions they will have, and we understand that,” said Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance for South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. But, “We don’t produce ‘pink slime.’ We produce 100 percent quality lean beef. That’s it. That whole thing is a farce. There’s no substance to it.”

Hy-Vee, a Midwestern supermarket chain, ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States, and for good reason. Hy-Vee’s “helpful smile” is seen in the meat counter aisle this week as they listened to their customers and released this statement yesterday regarding lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).

“Hy-Vee takes great pride in listening to the voices of our customers and offering them outstanding values on the quality products they want to buy. Following our recent decision to stop purchasing ground beef containing Lean Finely Textured Beef, we heard from many customers who asked us to continue carrying this product. They’ve sent us a clear message: They want a choice when it comes to ground beef, and they want to support companies that provide thousands of jobs in our Midwest trade area. In response to this feedback, Hy-Vee has made a decision to offer both kinds of ground beef – both with and without Lean Finely Textured Beef. Both products will be identified so customers can determine for themselves which type of ground beef they want to buy. This transition is underway and will be implemented in our retail stores as quickly as possible. We thank our customers for sharing their views on this issue, and encourage them to continue telling us what we can do to improve their shopping experience at Hy-Vee.”

I believe Hy-Vee deserves to be commended for their service to consumers and not buckling under the media hype. Consumers and “agvocates”, thanks for making your voice heard and asking for what you wanted from the grocery-store chain.

There is no reason for lost jobs and hurt families over something that’s a non-issue. 236 families have temporarily lost at least one income at just the Garden City, KS plant alone. Hy-Vee took a risk and stepped out in support. Let’s show them we have their back. Let them know on Facebook or write Hy-Vee to show your appreciation.

Letters can be sent to:
Hy-Vee, Inc.
Attn: Rose Comer, VP
5820 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266-8223

You can also fill out a comment form here.

Hy-Vee continues to show that consumers come first. Please join me in thanking them.

For more information on LFTB:
Get the Facts on Lean Beef Trimmings

Meat-processing company gets chewed up in ‘pink slime’ uproar

NPR: Why ‘Pink Slime’ Isn’t That Different From Other Meat Products

Pink slime push-back: Someone smarter, or more emotional, than me has to figure this out

Grocery Store Tips and Saving Money

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

There are a few stores that I can’t seem to exit without spending a great deal of money. Target, Younkers, The Pink Suitcase and the grocery store, just to name a few. While sometimes I can’t control my desire to shop for the most recent fashions, I have learned a few things about grocery shopping.

#1: Don’t go hungry. Seems easy and we’ve all heard this suggestion but we still do it. I am much better off going to the store AFTER I’ve eaten to avoid impulse purchases.

#2. Plan ahead. Planning out your week or at least a few meals and making a list will save you multiple trips to the grocery store. My trips to the store recently got out of control so I’m focusing my efforts on this one!

#3. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Checking out the weekly store ads and stocking up on things that have a long shelf life can save you money. Though I’m not much of a “coupon-er”, “Extreme Couponing” is one of my favorite shows! (If you haven’t seen it- check it out. It’s truly fascinating!)

#4. Don’t be fooled. Organic, natural, and hormone free foods are generally more expensive. You always “get what you pay for” so these foods must be better for you, right? Wrong. There is no nutritional difference between organic food and non-organic (also known as conventional) food.

#5. Feel good about living in the U.S. where we have abundant, affordable, nutritious food at our fingertips. I often wonder if I’m paying too much for food. However, I must say that we’re fortunate in the United States to have to spend only 10% of our income on food, versus 18-25% around the world. Food in our country remains relatively inexpensive and we’re also fortunate to have a wide array of choices.

Are farmers getting rich when I pay more for food at the grocery store? Actually, the U.S. farmer’s share of the retail food dollar has been declining for more than 60 years. In 1950, farmers received more than40 cents for every food dollar that consumers spent in the store. Today, they only receive 19 cents. Transportation, marketing and distribution account for a substantial portion of food prices.

To learn more about food prices, food and farming check out http://www.findourcommonground.com.

Growers Meet at Kansas Commodity Classic

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Policy, markets and weather were the topics covered by speakers at the 2012 Kansas Commodity Classic this week. Growers gathered at the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport Hotel on Tuesday for the event.

Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman kicked off the day’s program with an update from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. He reported that Kansas agriculture is focused on growth and that he believes that U.S. agriculturists are more attuned to the world markets and are some of the nation’s top entrepreneurs.

Mike Smith, meteorologist and CEO of Wichita-based Weather Data Services reported on near and long-term weather. Though Kansas experienced a mild winter, that was not the case for most parts of the world, as world temperatures in January were slightly colder than normal. Smith informed growers that corn and bean planting should be ahead of schedule this year. Smith predicts an enhanced tornado risk for Eastern Kansas and northern Kansas should above average temperatures this summer.

Senator Jerry Moran, the keynote speaker, addressed issues in Washington, D.C., and how they affect Kansas agriculture. Moran says that constant education about farming is needed in Congress, especially how it pertains to urban growth. “We need to figure out a way to tell an urban world what it is farmers do,” stated Moran. “My colleagues have little appreciation for the place we call home.”

Moran also stressed the importance of keeping families farming and spoke his concerns regarding the Department of Labor’s proposed rules that will prevent children working on a farm or ranch. Moran is in his first term as a U.S. Senator representing Kansas. He serves on several Senate committees including the Banking, Appropriations, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees.

Also on Tuesday, Kansas Soybean, Corn, Grain Sorghum and Wheat took the opportunity to present Aaron Popelka with a Distinguished Service Award for his work as the chief counsel for Senator Jerry Moran. Popelka is now the vice president of legal and government affairs for the Kansas Livestock Association.

Joe Prusacki, USDA’s Director of Statistics and Farm Futures Grain Analyst Arlan Suderman took the stage to speak about USDA crop reports and the markets before the growers enjoyed the Commodity Classic Luncheon. In the afternoon, National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett; National Sorghum Producers Executive Director Tim Lust, and Dan Maltby, Dan Maltby Risk Management Group gave commodity updates for wheat, grain sorghum and corn.

The 2012 Kansas Commodity Classic was sponsored by the Kansas Agriculture Network, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.

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.