Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: Harvest Time!

White corn harvest has arrived!! First, I apologize for not posting my "From a Kernel to a Chip: September Update" blog post. Right when it was about time for me to post my September update, we got super busy with soybean and popcorn harvest as well as drilling wheat. So I figured I would tie it in with my Harvest blog!

In my last blog (August Update) I mentioned that we were starting to wrap up irrigation. This year's irrigation season lasted a little longer than previous years and we didn't stop watering the white corn until the end of August. Most years we usually start wrapping up irrigation on corn around the middle of August. Once we shut down the wells, we began picking up pipe on pivot corners and other gravity farms. We also prepared equipment and bin sites for harvest so once it started, we would be ready to go!

On September 25th we were able to get started on our soybeans as well as started drilling wheat. We do some custom drilling for neighbors, so that kept me busy while my dad and our help stayed busy harvesting the soybeans. Once the soybeans were done we moved on to the popcorn and corn. Then on October 18th we were finally harvesting our white corn! Usually we harvest white corn last as it usually matures slower than regular corn. We always try to harvest our white corn at 17% moisture or below. If it is higher than 17%, we usually wait to let it dry down. So far what we have harvested has been around that moisture or below, so it has allowed us to keep on harvesting. The white corn yields have been decent with a few fields not doing as well as we would have liked them to do. I think some of the cooler weather we encountered back in August could have impacted yields a bit, especially where we saw some tip back. We also had a couple fields that had some wind damage. Unfortunately the hybrid we planted also had a weak stalk, which caused it to lay over and made picking it not so fun. So hopefully the seed company can provide better white corn hybrids in the future that can stand winds a little bit better.

If all continues to go good the next few days, it looks like we should wrap up white corn harvest by the first part of next week. After harvest is completed, we will clean things up and then move into preparing for next year's crop. This usually involves fertilizing and some tillage work. We also will do some dirt work to fix low spots and ditches.

Overall it has been a very different growing year, but thankfully the Lord has looked out for us and allowed us to bring in a crop. I hope all of you who followed my "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog series enjoyed it as well as learned where your chips come from! If you have questions that might not have been answered in this blog, please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks again for following and even though the series has come to an end, I hope you will continue to follow my farm blogs in the future as well as blogs about Agriculture policy, leadership, and faith!

If you would like to see previous "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog posts, click here. 

Below are pictures of the white corn during harvest:

The combine picking through the field of white corn.
An ear of white corn that will soon be harvested.
When the combine picks the corn, it gets shelled off the cob and goes into the grain tank where it gets stored until it gets unloaded on to the grain cart or truck.
When the combine's grain tank is full, the corn gets unloaded into the grain cart which then hauls it to the trucks.
A handful of white corn kernels!
A nice ear of white corn I found out in the field. A farmer can hope that all the ears of corn can look like this.
Corn is being dumped into the pit from the truck, which will then get stored in a bin until we haul it to the elevator later on in the year.
One of the many nice sunsets that we get to see during fall harvest. Makes a person appreciate the sights we get to see in the country.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting the Facts Straight

"Oh those darn factory farms... where chickens and cows are pumped full of junk, the environment is full of pollution, and factory farmers are making the earth look baron." 

That is the image being portrayed by those who don't understand the agriculture industry, such as Chipotle. Most have already heard, if not seen, Chipotle's new "Scarecrow" ad about modern agriculture. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Chipotle has done something like this and they also aren't the only ones out their misrepresenting the ag industry. There are plenty of other groups and people who spread misleading theories and stories about how food is grown and raised in the U.S.

Over the last few years I have noticed two terms that are always used by these groups who misunderstand how food is grown. Those two terms are factory farms and unsustainableHowever, these terms are far from the truth and are opposite of what actually goes on in the agriculture industry, and it is time to get the facts straight!

So lets first talk about these "factory farms". I have yet to see a factory out in the country side where there is a huge building with smoke stacks sticking sky high. Yet, some claim that some farms are so big, they are similar to a factory! That is false as 98% of the farms in the U.S. are family owned and run. I will not disagree that there are some very large farms in the U.S., but that does NOT put them in the same category as a factory. Some farms have grown large due to it being in the family for many generations, which has allowed the farm to grow over time. Other large farms might be in an area where very few people return to farm the land. So then what about all those large buildings housing hogs and chickens, and those humongous feed yards for cattle, how are those not "factory farms"? Many of those are operated by families, or sometimes even a couple of families. Although those places can be quite large, the animals receive the same amount of attention as animals on smaller farms. They are in a temperature controlled environment, safe from predators, get fed a nutritious diet, and are monitored for sicknesses. So the "factory farm" term needs to be put to rest as it misrepresents the many hard working farm families across the U.S.!

The next term that is misleading is when groups pin the modern agriculture industry as "unsustainable". I have a hard time understanding how people can think of the modern agriculture industry being unsustainable, especially with all the technology advancements in recent years. Thanks to many new technologies, farmers are able to prevent the over use of fertilizers and chemicals. They are also able to prevent erosion by using different tillage practices as well as cover crops. New seed traits (GMO's) are reducing the use of pesticides and allow farmers to increase production with fewer resources (fertilizer, chemicals, land, etc). Equipment advancements have lead to farmers reducing their carbon foot print by using cleaner burning and fuel efficient tractors. Yet, this is just the beginning of some of the technology advances..... the future looks to help farmers be even more efficient!

While I know there will be some that disagree with what I said, in my view, these two terms are misleading and opposite of what really goes on in the agriculture industry. It's time to start getting the facts straight, and that begins with doing the research, not just watching videos that groups, like Chipotle, put out. It is also good to have dialogue about these topics, but NOT arguments. Sometimes, on both sides, people get so argumentative that points being made by both sides get completely missed, when in the end we could all be trying to make the same point. So I encourage anyone interested about where their food comes from to do the research and talk to a farmer. Together, we can all make sure that everyone gets the right facts!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: August Update

Nebraska State Fair, Husker Football, Husker Harvest Days.... that must mean fall is upon us! It is hard to believe how fast the summer went and how quick fall is approaching. Before we know it, we will be harvesting our fall crops, which includes popcorn, corn, soybeans, and last but not least WHITE corn! However, the crops must mature and dry down before harvest can take place, which looks to be awhile.

August was a different month for us as we saw cool and cloudy weather the first couple of weeks and then went straight to dry and hot weather to finish off the month. While the cooler temps were a nice break from some of the heat we dealt with in July, we could have used the sunshine. In order for plants to grow and produce, they need an adequate amount of sunlight as that is the energy source for the plant. When plants, corn in this case, don't receive that adequate amount of sunlight, it can cause the ears of corn to not fill out completely. I have heard many farmers say they have seen some "tip back" in their fields, which could be from the lack of sunlight, hybrid trait, or both. Tip back is when kernels don't fill out to the tip of the ear of corn. This can lead reduced yields if it is wide spread throughout the field. We have seen some tip back in our white corn fields and I am guessing it had to do with us having mostly cloudy weather the first part of August.

Other than seeing some tip back, the white corn crop looks to be good! I forgot to mention that even though we had cool and cloudy weather, we were very fortunate to catch a couple of rains the first part of August that allowed us to take a few days off from irrigating. Unfortunately though, with the rain came some wind, which leaned the white corn over. Now a few of the fields look mangled up and will be a little more challenging to harvest.

As we move into September, we will complete our irrigation's on the corn crops and run the pivots a time or two on the soybeans. By the middle of September, we should be all done irrigating for the season! This year's harvest looks to be a week or two behind compared to previous years. Most likely we wont see much harvesting taking place until the end of September unless things really start to mature and dry down quick. Only time will tell but until then, the next couple of weeks look to be busy getting projects wrapped up and harvest equipment ready before we get into the full swing of harvest 2013!

Below of pictures of the white corn during August:

With the corn being over 10ft tall, it looks like a jungle in the field!
A nice big ear of white corn!
When I broke the ear of corn in half, this is what person sees. The corn cob in the middle and then rows of kernels all around the cob.
If you look closely at a kernel, you can see the starch line that signifies that is is maturing. As the kernel continues to dry down, the line will move lower and everything above it will become hard.
An ear of white corn that I picked from one of our fields. Hope the rest will look like that one!
What the inside of a kernel looks like!

Be sure to check back on October 1st for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog!

To see my previous "From a kernel to a Chip" updates, click here!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: July Update

In my last From a Kernel to a Chip update, I said we started off with a wet spring and then went to a dry summer. That was true until the middle of July when things started to cool off and we started seeing rain again! The cooler weather was definitely welcomed as the corn began pollinating. Sometimes, like last summer, when it is too hot and does not cool down during the night it can lead to kernels being aborted and an ear of corn not filling out completely. Thankfully it looks like most of the corn has pollinated well this year.

As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of July started off warm and dry. That meant the pivots were running full bore and irrigating seemed like a never ending job. Right after the fourth of July it felt like we almost couldn't keep up due to it being so dry and hot. While we were fortunate to not have too many breakdowns, we did run into a couple stuck pivots. Trying to get a pivot out that is in corn is not fun, especially when it is hot and humid. Unfortunately though, we can't let the pivot be stuck too long or otherwise we would have gotten behind and stressed the corn. However, by the end of July we started getting much needed rain, which allowed us to turn the wells off for a few days. It also helped out the dryland corn. However, some of the dryland corn ended up burning up because it didn't get rain earlier in July.

So far all of our irrigated white corn looks good and we were fortunate to miss bad weather that crossed South Central Nebraska the last week of July. If we can continue to get rain and have decent temperatures, we should end up having a decent crop this year! Only mother nature knows what will be in store for August, and right now it looks like we are going to be seeing cooler temps with a chance of rain almost everyday! So time will tell!

Below are pictures of the white corn during July:

Tassels are just starting to shoot out of the corn. Within a couple of days, all of the tassels popped out of the corn.
In June I showed/talked about creating a ridge in the corn so that water can flow down it. Here is an example of that. We use furrow irrigation on pivot corners or fields where a pivot doesn't work the best.This involves laying out pipe on the headland an then opening up gates to let the water flow out into the rows.
What an ear of corn looks like before the pollination process begins. In order for kernels of corn to develop the pollen must fall on the white silks, which then leads to the development of a kernel.

Once the pollination process has been completed the silks will turn from white to a purple/brown color.
Once pollen has fallen on the silk, it creates the kernels. This is actually called the "blister" stage because the ear of corn looks like it has blisters but is actually the beginning stages of kernel development.
What I usually saw after an evening of irrigating. You just can't beat Nebraska summer sunsets!
Be sure to check back on September 3rd for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: June Update

Wet Spring - Dry Summer. So far that is how this growing season has gone. It seemed like back in April/May we weren't going to even get a crop in the ground because of how wet it was. Now, it looks like the dryland crops might burn up if we don't get a rain the first part of July. However,  I can't say that has been the case for everyone. Some places around the U.S. are still wet and would be glad to give us some of their moisture. Too bad there isn't a way that we can exchange weather patterns with others!

Since my last "Kernel to a Chip" update, June has ended up being a busy month! The first part of June we cultivated the white corn on the farms that got ridged. The purpose of cultivating is to clean up any weeds that might be growing, which allows us to not have to spray the crop a second time and keeps weeds from using water that could otherwise be used by the corn plants. It also loosens up the soil so that it is easier to ridge the corn for the field that we lay pipe on to furrow irrigate. Due to pivots, we only have to furrow irrigate pivot corners and fields that pivots won't work on due to the lay out of the field. After we ridged the corn (ridging corn creates a ditch for water to flow down), we then laid out the pipe. After the pipe was laid out, irrigation began taking place. We have been irrigating our white corn the last couple of weeks of June due to how dry it has been. We haven't had a good rain for a couple weeks now and the forecast isn't calling for much moisture anytime soon.

As we move into July, we can only hope that Mother Nature will bring us some much needed moisture before our dryland crops shrivel up and start looking like they did last summer! However, not matter what the weather does, we will get through it and hopefully end up having a bountiful fall harvest!

Below are pictures of the white corn during June: 

Cultivating the white corn to remove any weeds that might be developing out in the field.
On the left is what was cultivated and on the right is what was ridged. The purpose of creating a ridge to allow the water to flow to the other end of the fields so that the crops can get water.
The corn has really taken off due to warmer temps!
A sight that is seen almost every evening during irrigation! Gotta love summer time!

Even after the corn has grown and now has many roots, you can still see the seed coat of the seed that was planted back in late April.
It might look like a jungle, but it is only corn plants. As the white corn grows taller, it begins to canopy. This shades off the ground and can prevent weeds from growing while also helping keep the moisture from evaporating so quickly after a rain or irrigation event.
In a couple more weeks we will see this come out the top of the corn plant! This is the tassel which will pollinate the corn plants!

This year we are using a water probe that measures the soil water content and salinity. It will help us schedule our irrigating and tell us how much water is in the soil profile. It is also a tool that is helping us increase our water efficiency.
Be sure to check back on August 6th for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" blog! 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: May Update

Who would have thought that we would go from a drought in 2012 to seeing almost too much moisture in the spring of 2013?! Over the last few weeks, we have received over 5 inches of rain, way more than what we saw between July and November of last year! However, the moisture we have received has been a blessing and much needed as our soils were bone dry due to the drought last summer. Pasture ponds are starting to fill back up and the grass that we have our cattle out on is looking much better. However, due to the large amount of rain that we have received the last couple of weeks, there has been some fields that have had some flooding issues. This has lead to the drowning out of some crops. Overall, we will take the moisture and I hope that mother nature wont shut it off!

The white corn is looking good and is starting to grow. It started off sluggish and took a little longer to sprout than normal, but that is due to the colder temps that we experienced in late April and early May. However, the white corn has emerged and is looking good; it just needs some more sunshine and warmer days, which corn thrives on. We will soon be cultivating and ridging some of our white corn to get rid of weeds and also create a ditch so that we can irrigate the places that the pivot doesn't reach. Overall, the white corn crop is starting out good and hopefully will turn out good come next fall!

Below are pictures of the white corn during May:

After a week, the white corn seed began to sprout. The root is the first thing to emerge, which is shown in the picture.
Once the root has emerged, then the shoot emerges. Basically the shoot looks like a green spike sticking out of the ground when the corn is emerging.

A few days later the corn plant's leaf's started to show and the root started to grow deeper into the soil.

Thanks to GPS, we can have nice straight rows of white corn! In a few more weeks, this corn will be much taller and will be a darker color of green.
One of my favorite pictures I have taken! I was lucky to be able to catch a double rainbow and put my favorite brand of equipment in the picture! This was actually taken while I drilled soybeans, but I had to share!
Be sure to check back on July 2nd for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" update!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Getting a New Farm Bill Completed!

Like everyone else involved in the Ag industry, I was starting to wonder if our politicians were ever going to work on a new Farm Bill. However, it seems like we have finally gotten our answer, and it looks like our Senators and Representatives are now serious about getting a Farm Bill passed after letting the previous Farm Bill expire, which led to an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.
When we hear the word “Farm Bill”, a lot of the time people will think that it is a bill that is just for farmers and the farming community. While the first Farm Bill may have started off that way, it has transpired into a much broader bill that now includes nutrition, trade, commodities, conservation, and more. Because the Farm Bill includes so many different things these days, it makes it much more complicated to get a Farm Bill passed that addresses the issues that our country currently faces. In 2012, over 80% of the Farm Bill spending went to nutrition while the rest of the Farm Bill spending went towards the agriculture industry and rural America.
So then what should a new Farm Bill look like? Well that is a tough question to answer and it actually depends on who you talk to. Some might say that a new Farm Bill will not make any cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and will reform how farmers are assisted when disasters strike. Another person might say that the SNAP portion of the Farm Bill needs to be reformed and the farmer assistance programs left alone. Like I said before, it just depends on who a person talks to and what they believe in. The way it sounds, the next Farm Bill will definitely have cuts made to different programs, however, at this point no one knows how big those cuts could be.
While I could go on and on about the Farm Bill and what could be cut and what might not be cut, one of the biggest concerns for me in the next Farm Bill will be how our Senators and Representatives handle crop insurance. Crop insurance has become one of the greatest risk management tools for farmers, and can provide assurance that when a farmer has a bad growing year; they can still keep their family farm going and hopefully be able to recover in the following year. The best example of this so far is the drought of 2012. Even though there was a large crop insurance payout in 2012, it should be remembered that this isn’t a year to year thing and the reason for such a large payout was due to the drought in 2012 that devastated America’s crops. Another key point that should be remembered is that due to the crop insurance program, there was no need for a disaster assistance bill, something that could have cost more than what crop insurance paid out in 2012. Also, farmers aren’t getting crop insurance for free. They have to pay a share of the premium as well, and buying crop insurance doesn’t mean they will get a payout every year. It will only be in the years where they struggled to get a crop grown.
As I mentioned before, I could go on and on about a Farm Bill and what could be in it and what might not be in it. But at the same time there is already plenty of that going around. However, I encourage everyone to let their Senator and Representative know the importance of a Farm Bill! A Farm Bill is a bill for jobs, food, feed, energy, fiber, and can be a powerful economic engine for Rural America! A Farm Bill is what can lead to a bright future for not only the agriculture industry, but also our nation!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip: April Update

As most of you probably know, this has definitely been a spring that will be remembered! Actually, I don't even know if we can call it spring because spring doesn't include freezing temps and snow! At the beginning of April last year, we had a good start on corn planting but that was the complete opposite this year. We were lucky to get a few days in the field at the beginning of April, and that only included wrapping up some fertilizing and tillage. Unfortunately, due to very cold temps and snowy/icy/rainy weather, we weren't able to start planting white corn until April 27th. Most years, we try to start a lot sooner than that but that wasn't the case this year. Not only was the weather colder, but so was the soil temperature. Under most circumstances, we want the soil temperature to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit since that is the temperature that corn seed will begin to sprout. However, corn/white corn can get planted in soils that are 41 degrees Fahrenheit or greater but it will slow the emergence of the corn crop. Most of the soil temps in our area were just above the 41 degree temp but not quite to 50 degrees by the time we started planting. Usually our soil temps are a lot warmer by the time planting starts!

While white corn planting may have started late this year, we were able to get a lot done once we did get some better weather. We have finished all of our white corn and also finished our field corn. Now we will move on to planting popcorn and drilling soybeans. The way the forecast sounds, I think spring might finally be arriving with much warmer temps! However, I hope that mother nature won't shut off all of the moisture we have received in the month of April. The moisture we have received has been great for our soils and is helping recharge the moisture in our subsoil which almost was completely depleted last summer due to the drought!

Below are pictures of white corn planting!

This is something that a person really doesn't want to see in the middle of April. While we are thankful for the moisture, we would much rather have rain!

Pioneer is the only seed company that has white corn hybrids. So here is a bag full of seed waiting to be planted!
A box full of seed that will soon be put in the ground! Hopefully each seed will produce a good ear of white corn that will end up yielding well!

The tractor and planter. The front tank on the tractor is where we put our liquid starter, which is a fertilizer. This helps get the seed to emerge quicker.
A view from the cab! It is nice having GPS which makes for nice straight rows of white corn.

The white corn seed is placed roughly two inches deep into the soil.
Once the planter puts the seed in the ground, closing wheels will push dirt on top of the seed.

Be sure to check back on June 4th for the next "From a Kernel to a Chip" update!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From a Kernel to a Chip!

Chips and Salsa! The most common type of snack at a get together along with the most common type of appetizer found on a menu at most restaurants. Yet, have you ever wondered how that chip ended up in that bowl? If I had to take a guess, you probably haven't. Even when I have chips and salsa, I don't even think about how that chip got there. However, chips don't just magically appear in a bag, and a chip's life doesn't begin in a grocery store.

The corn tortilla chips you have with your salsa dips, nachos, or taco salads actually come from kernels of white corn that are grown in fields across the Midwest! In matter of fact, some of those kernels in your chips might have actually come from my family's farm in Nebraska!

 Every year my family's farm grows white corn that eventually gets sold and made into the corn tortilla chips that can be found in your grocery store's chip isle! Now, growing white corn doesn't just mean putting a few seeds in the ground and then waiting until next fall to harvest it. It takes hard work and care to make sure that we produce a high quality crop that will eventually end up in the food supply! We also make sure that we are supplying consumers with a safe product that they will eventually serve at their get togethers with friends and family!

As consumers continue to grow more curious about where their food comes from, I have decided to do a series again this year called "From a Kernel to a Chip" that will show how white corn is grown as well as the different growth stages of a white corn plant. The series will begin with planting and continue through harvest, which will take place next fall! This blog series will be similar to my "From the Field to the Movie Theater" blog series last year that focused on popcorn production. The first Tuesday of each month I will publish a blog that gives an update about the growth stage of the crop along with some other interesting facts. Not only will I be posting an update, but I will also be posting pictures that will show what the white corn plant looks like as well as the development of the ear of white corn! So I hope that you will find the blog series interesting as well as being able to learn about where your food comes from, in this case where your corn chips come from!

So be sure to check back on May 7th as I will post what has all happened in the month of April! Hopefully by that time, spring will have arrived with warmer weather and we will have put the seeds of white corn in the ground!!

If you are interested in popcorn production, click here!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Twelve Pillars to Success

Almost everyone on this planet wants to achieve some type of success in their life, whether it is getting promoted at work or growing their business. However, "success" doesn't happen on its own. It takes hard work, dedication, and self motivation. Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading a book called "Twelve Pillars" that focuses on how a person can become successful in life. The book focuses on a man named Michael who is struggling to understand why he isn't being successful with his life. One day he stumbles upon a mansion that has twelve pillars. He is amazed by this mansion and wishes he could be as successful as the person who owns it. Michael then meets Charlie who tells Michael about how the twelve pillars on the mansion stand for the twelve ways that lead to success. While I don't want to give away the entire book, and would encourage anyone to read it, I do want to highlight a few of the "twelve pillars" that I believe everyone should reflect on.

The Gift of Relationships
Twelve Pillars goes in depth about how we need to value the relationships we have with others. Sometimes we can get so caught up with work or other things in life, and then forget about the relationships we have with our family and friends. When this happens, our relationships begin to fall apart and can eventually lead to relationships ending. If we don't want this to happen, we need to make sure that we put value into the relationships we have with others. This might mean taking some time away from work or the "busy" life. It also might mean taking time out of your day to call up a friend our family member and take interest in what is going on in that persons life. In order to be successful in life, we must first be successful with the relationships we have with others.

Achieve Your Goals
Do you have certain goals you want to achieve in life? If you do, is there a plan for how you are going to achieve that goal? Often, we all have goals in life but unfortunately we don't always achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Most often, it is not because the goal is impossible to achieve, but it is from the lack of effort in trying to achieve that goal. In order to achieve success, a person must be able to set goals and then have a plan on how they are going to achieve that goal. However, goals don't always have to be "BIG".  A person could have a short term goal and a long term goal. For example, if it is a college student, their goal might be to get an A on their next exam. That would be considered a short term goal. Now an example of a long term goal might be a person wanting to build a new house. Whatever goal it is that you set, be sure to have a plan on how you are going to achieve that goal and then be sure to implement that plan. Goals can be achieved as long as a person puts in the effort and dedication!

Be a Leader
When a person thinks of a leader, we often think of someone famous, such as a president. However, a "leader" isn't just a title for someone who holds a powerful office. A leader can be anyone, it could be YOU! If you do something that is selfless, kind, helpful, you could be considered a leader. Anyone can be a leader, and we all know that not only does our nation need more leaders, but our world could use some more as well!

So if you are wanting to be successful in life, be sure to take a look at your relationships, goals, and also how you can be a leader. If you want to learn more about the "Twelve Pillars", be sure to check out the book that was written by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener. It is definitely one that will give you an new perspective on success!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Need for the RFS

Have you fueled up your vehicle lately at the local gas station? You have probably noticed that you aren't paying what you did a month go for the fuel you are putting into your vehicle. According to AAA, the national average for gas a month ago was $3.33 where today the national average is at $3.77. In a month's time frame, gas prices have rose 44 cents. It seems like every time I fill up these days, I always cringe when I see what my total bill is for the gas that I put in my vehicle. Yet, while we might be paying higher prices for regular gasoline, we do have other choices that uses different blends of ethanol, such as E10, E15, and E85.

While we are fortunate to have these other choices, I do wonder how long we will be able to have these choices at the pump in the future. Unfortunately, there are industries who oppose ethanol and would like to see the ethanol industry go away. The biggest opponent of ethanol is the oil industry. They claim that ethanol is to blame for the increase in gas prices and that ethanol is cutting into their profits. However, the food industry is also starting to take a harsher tone against ethanol production blaming the ethanol industry for the rise in food prices. Both industries have been lobbying heavily in Washington D.C. to get congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which has lead to the increased production of ethanol. If these industries were able to get congress to repeal the RFS, it would be devastating to all of America.

Now, you are probably wondering why repealing the RFS would be devastating to America. Well first and foremost, the RFS has allowed us to produce our own green energy right here in America. Unlike oil, we don't import ethanol from countries in the Middle East and we aren't giving money to countries that don't cooperate with the U.S. Instead, our dollars stay right here in the U.S. and goes to our local communities. Another positive thing about the RFS is that it has created jobs. The ethanol industry can be linked to creating over 90,200 jobs directly and 311,400 jobs indirectly. With many industries laying off employees over the past few years, the ethanol industry has actually been adding jobs due to the demand that the RFS has created.

While the RFS is a job creator and helps keep dollars in the U.S. it is also a vital part of rural America. Many of the jobs that the ethanol industry has created are located in rural communities all across America. This then directly impacts businesses in the local communities as well as local school districts. When there are people in rural America, there is spending in local businesses as well as higher enrollment numbers in the local schools. The RFS has also made it possible for children to return to the family farm. Farming has been much better since the RFS has been established allowing farmers to make necessary upgrades to their farms and also has improved the lifestyle of a farmer. This has made it more appealing for younger generations to return to the family farm in rural America. Lastly, the RFS allows drivers to have a choice at the pump. Instead of paying $3.77 a gallon for regular gasoline, a driver can fuel up with E85 at $3.33 (Drivers can only fuel up with E85 if they drive a flex fuel vehicle). 

So as a person can see, the RFS has a major impact on America. It not only gives us a choice at the pump, but also has helped the economy in rural communities. As a driver, farmer, and a person who lives in rural America, I can see the importance of the RFS since I am directly impacted by it. I am able to purchase a cheaper and greener fuel, return and be part of my family's farm, and live in a community that has benefited from ethanol production. So there is a need for the RFS and I hope that those in congress will be able to see and understand how vital the RFS is to America!

To learn more about the Ethanol Industry, visit these organizations: 
Renewable Fuels Association
Growth Energy
Renewable Fuel Standard

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A City With a Mind of its Own

When I think of our nation's capital, the first thing that pops into my mind is Capitol Hill. I then think of the White House followed by the national monument. For the first time ever, I was able to actually see these things up close instead of just seeing them in pictures or hearing people talk about them. However, there is way more to D.C. than just interesting architecture. Unfortunately, there is also the politics.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to participate on the Nebraska Corn Growers Association's leadership trip to Washington D.C. where we met with Nebraska's senators and representatives. We also met with different agriculture organizations, such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance and learned about what they do and also some of the issues they deal with on a daily basis. We also met with the National Corn Growers Association and learned about some of the policy issues they are dealing with and what they are doing to represent America's corn farmers on the "hill". Our group also met with the Renewable Fuels Association as well as the U.S. Grains Council, and even went to the Japanese Embassy and met with the First Secretary of Agriculture. I found all of these visits very interesting, and it amazed me at how many issues there are. Yet, I was also impressed at what these organizations are doing for agriculture, such as solving issues and opening up new markets here in the U.S. as well as overseas. After visiting with all the organizations, I felt like agriculture was being represented well, especially America's corn farmers thanks to the National Corn Growers Association.

Yet, even though we have some great people representing a great industry, it doesn't stop the politics of D.C. Unfortunately, some in D.C. (cough cough... Politicians) think they know what is best for America, and sometimes even think they know what is best for certain industries. A couple of the big topics for us was the farm bill and the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Unfortunately, congress has still failed to pass a farm bill that not only affects farmers and ranchers, but affects ALL of America. The farm bill provides the assurance that food, fuel, fiber, and feed will be produced as well as providing jobs for all sorts of Americans. However, our elected politicians don't seem to understand this and are instead worried about picking fights with the party across the isle. The second issue that is near and dear to agriculture is the Renewable Fuels Standard. Sometimes I don't think people realize how America has benefited from the Renewable Fuels Standard. It has created jobs in rural communities as well as paving the way for clean energy. It has also allowed ranchers and cattle feeders to purchase a different feed source that is the by-product of ethanol production. Unfortunately, some in D.C. don't understand this and want to repeal the RFS. If the RFS is repealed, it could have a major impact on rural America, and not in a good way. Fewer jobs will be created and more people will move away. So it is important that folks in D.C. realize how valuable the RFS is to America, especially rural America! A person told me a great saying that relates well to the RFS "Don't fix something that doesn't need fixed", which I don't think some in D.C. realize.

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) leadership trip was a great experience and showed me how important it is for people involved in agriculture to get involved with grassroots organizations, such as the NeCGA. It also made me realize that D.C. definitely has a mind of its own at times and can lose touch of what is important, such as getting a farm bill passed and leaving the RFS alone. Yet, while D.C. can have a mind of its own, it is still a neat city and one that is definitely full of history!

A special thanks to the Nebraska Corn Growers Association for inviting me to participate and also to the Nebraska Corn Board and Farm Credit Services for sponsoring the trip!