FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

The storms that continue to pound Illinois fields added yet another chapter on Wednesday night. Here are the skies over one central Illinois farm, and the rain gauge on Thursday morning.

As the country song says, rain is a good thing, but too much rain literally drowns crops. Farmers are struggling to drain water from the land, as the soil has already soaked up more than it can handle and fertilizer or crop protection applications continue to be delayed because fields are too muddy to drive in.

Three weeks without rain would be a welcome change, giving the fields time to dry out, farmers a chance to work, and a very happy change in mood around the IL Corn office!

CATTLE FEEDLOT: BEHIND THE SCENES

This article reprinted with the author’s permission and was first published at http://www.precisionnutrition.com/.

by Ryan Andrews, June 23rd, 2010.

By now, most PN readers are familiar with Ryan Andrews. Simply put, he’s a nutrition stud.

I’m serious. The guy has earned nearly every nutrition and exercise accreditation available.

• A nationally ranked bodybuilder from 1996-2001, check.
• Registered and Licensed Dietitian, check.
• Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, check.
• A Masters in Nutrition, check.
• A Masters in Exercise Physiology, check.
• John’s Hopkins trained expert coach, check.
• PN Lean Eating coach, check.

Despite this very impressive resume, I’ve gotta level with you.

Ryan’s CV doesn’t tell the whole story. You see, there’s something more you need to know about Ryan.  And that’s his not-so-secret fascination with plant-based foods. In essence, Ryan eats an exclusive plant-based diet. Animal foods are left off his menu. For a variety of reasons.

So, when Ryan called me one day, excitedly announcing an exclusive invitation to visit one of Colorado’s largest cattle farming operations, I was intrigued. A vegan visiting a cattle farm, huh?

Would it be a smooth, fact-finding mission?

Or would I be getting a call to bail the dude outta some local jail?

Well, read on to find out…
________________________________________

My trip to Magnum

My day at the cattle feedlot got off to a rough start. Maybe it’s because I wore my “Have You Hugged A Vegetarian Today Shirt.” Bad move on my part, I guess.

What I didn’t wear to the feedlot.

No, I’m just kidding. I didn’t wear my vegan shirt.

And my day at the Magnum Feedyard in Wiggins, Colorado got off to a great start.

It all began at a restaurant in Hudson, Colorado, called the Pepper Pod. That’s where I met two new friends: an animal science instructor and a student from Colorado State University, who escorted me up to Wiggins to get an exclusive tour of the Magnum Feedyard.

We met at the Pepper Pod, then up to Wiggins.

During the 75-minute drive, a lot was going through my mind.

For starters, this visit had been 6 months, and quite a few emails/phone calls, in the making.

You see, very few people in the nutrition world are ever allowed to visit feedlots. In fact, some of my favorite authors have written entire books about feedlots without ever being granted permission to see one in person. So I had to “work it” pretty hard to get this kind of access. And was really excited.

However, despite my enthusiasm for the opportunity, I was a little worried. I mean, everything I’d read about feedlots suggested that they’re horrible, dismal places where thousands of sick cows are crammed in tiny pens, being force-fed corn while standing in steaming piles of their own feces.

As someone concerned with animal welfare, what would I do if faced with this sight? Would I run for the gates, throw them open, and let those poor cows free? Was I man enough to do that? Would I just go home with my tail between my legs? Or would I see something totally different, totally unexpected?

Arriving at Magnum Feedyard

With all these emotional and philosophical thoughts running through my head, I wasn’t prepared for the first thought that hit me when we arrived at Magnum – one of the 14,000 beef cattle operations in Colorado.

“Oh, god, the smell.”

Yes, the first thing I noticed when I arrived was the smell. And no, it wasn’t fear. I smelled manure. I guess I should have expected it. After all, I was standing among 20,000+ steers and heifers. Duh, welcome to farming, Ryan!

The Magnum Farm

In the U.S. there are 2.2 million farms. 98% of them meet the USDA definition of a “family farm.”

The USDA considers a “family farm” any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and his/her relatives. Steve Gabel, president of the Colorado Livestock Association, owns Magnum, and runs it with his family.

So, Magnum fits this criterion and is thus considered a “family farm”.

This is me and Steve Gabel, owner of Magnum.

So if Steve’s is a “family farm,” what’s a “factory farm”?

Well, the term “factory farm” isn’t actually used in the agricultural community. So, in essence, it’s slang that was coined by skeptics of the cattle industry.

The agricultural community actually calls large animal feeding units “CAFOs.” CAFO means Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. A CAFO has more than 1,000 animal units, and 1 beef cow = 1 animal unit.

For the record, 75% of all beef in the U.S. comes from CAFOs.

And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, CAFOs “congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.”

So, Magnum fits the criterion of a CAFO. When it started in 1993, Magnum had 4,500 cattle. Now they have 22,000. And operations are managed with 8-13 employees (depending on the time of year).

Magnum houses 22,000 cattle

But, wait a minute! Magnum is a family farm. And Magnum is a factory farm. How can it be both?

Well, they were started and are run by a family. But they also congregate more than 22,000 beef cattle. So, they meet the definition for both categories.

Of course, that makes clean and tidy, black and white judgments about cattle operations harder to make. Trust me it’ll get harder in a minute.

What Magnum cattle eat

When animals arrive at Magnum, they are usually 7 – 9 months of age. During their first four days, they receive 100% grass feed to help maintain rumen health.

Wait a second! Don’t all feedlot cattle get 100% corn? With maybe a sprinkling of soy mixed in?

Uh, nope.

There are five different rations used at Magnum, comprised of seven ingredients, including corn, soy, alfalfa, straw, and wet grain distillers (by-products of the ethanol industry). And these feeds range from 0% corn to 50% corn.

Here are a few pics of the different feeds:

A wet distiller, corn-based.

One of the rations is corn-based.

One of the rations is grass-based.

Feed is delivered by a truck three times each day. And, interestingly, as noted above, corn doesn’t comprise more than 50% of any of the feed ration.

Wait, wait. What about all those reports of sick cows being stuffed with corn?

Well, folks, at Magnum anyway, there’s no such thing as an “all grain” cattle diet. In fact, the diet of the cattle at Magnum never exceeds 50% corn. And often, it’s much, much less.

This is the feed truck that makes its rounds three times per day.

This is where all the feed ingredients are mixed in the back of the truck.

As many animal nutrition experts know, too much grain in a cow’s diet can result in rumen acidosis. That is why, at Magnum, the animals’ diets are formulated by nutritionists bi-weekly. This helps them maintain the correct feed for a given pen of animals.

Of course, the goal at Magnum is to feed cattle efficiently. They want the biggest weight gain for the fewest pounds of feed, in the most economical way. And, at Magnum, they do a good job of efficiency. Cattle are normally kept on the feedlot until around 12 to 15 months of age. This means they’re kept for between 150 and 240 days. During this time they gain 500 to 600 pounds.

Per day at Magnum, the cost per head of cattle is $2.10. Grab you pen and paper folks, multiply $2.10 by 22,000 cattle. Lots of money, every day.

Growth-promoting hormones are used in feedlot cattle as it increases efficiency. These are naturally occurring hormones that are regularly metabolized by the body. Most cattle don’t get antibiotics. And if they do, they need it. Further, they won’t be sent to slaughter until 21 days after antibiotic administration, since it takes that long for the antibiotic to clear the system.

Organic feed

According to Magnum, organic feed doesn’t seem to increase meat quality or safety. Research doesn’t really support the idea either. But, organic feed does allow consumers another option (i.e. organic meat vs. non-organic meat). And organic farming practices may have some benefits for the planet.

Of course, in today’s farming climate, less than 1% of American cropland is certified organic. If a lot more was, it would require a lot more composted animal manure. Fortunately, Magnum is on the right track (with composting) if this pattern were to take hold.

Grass-Fed, Free-Range

Sure, some folks think grass-fed, free-range is better. But, as any good PN reader can attest, it’s a heckuva lot more expensive. And, at the end of the day, Magnum is competing for the protein food dollar. Mainstream America is currently buying conventionally fed meat from cattle, so, feedlots keep producing it.

It’s also important to know that if we continue to eat 200+ pounds of meat per person per year in the U.S., grass-fed isn’t really an option. There’s not enough land.

But it would be an option for meat eaters if we reduced overall meat consumption. Is that something our nation is willing to do? Maybe. In time. Right now, however, it doesn’t look like it.

What about E. coli?

E. coli (or Escherichia coli O157:H7) is a natural occurring pathogen in the digestive tract of cattle, but can be minimized through production practices, i.e. clean living conditions.

E. coli serogroups O26, O111, O145, and others have become a public health problem, accounting for 37,000 illnesses and 30 deaths in the U.S. alone.

Among critics of the “factory farm” model, there’s a large concern about E. coli contamination. Many suggest that feeding cattle a high grain-based diet can increase e-coli in the gut. And cross-contamination with meat makes for, not only sick animals, but sick people.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between feed and harmful E. coli contamination. Indeed, studies reveal no difference in E. coli O157:H7 prevalence or numbers between cattle fed grain vs. grass. And there are no studies that show superiority for one system vs. the other.

So it seems like this concern is more of a cleanliness issue, not a feed issue.

Cattle care

Speaking of cleanliness, Magnum wants the cattle to be clean and comfortable.

I know, I know, I can see my animal welfare comrades shaking their heads – – but think about it. From a profit standpoint, if animals aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to eat. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow. If they don’t grow, they won’t be much use to the dude wanting to buy a big steak.

Lots of feedlot cattle were males born on dairy farms. You can tell them by their black and white color.

Also, technology is improving the way cattle are treated. Many cattle are tagged with identification and tracked.This tracking allows farmers to know a host of things like: the length of time the cattle have been there, their health history, their previous feed, their current feed needs, their current health, and any notable health or welfare concerns.

Magnum even has guys riding on horses around pens called, well, “pen riders,” who check cattle for problems. An animal nutritionist even comes on site every couple weeks to check how the cattle are feeding. If anything looks out of the ordinary, a session with the vet is likely. Sick animals are taken to a “hospital” pen and given care.

Newsflash: Let’s face it, most people in North America haven’t been to a doctor since their mom took them before high school graduation. Further, most humans acquire “feed” from the Cocoa Puff and Pop-Tart aisle.

My health care is better than yours.

Yes, what I’m trying to say is that Magnum Feedyard cattle receive better health care than many North Americans. They get regular vet appointments and a simple diet that is nutrient dense.

Ok, I think we can all agree the living conditions are debatable. But before you rag on feedlot health care, how do your habits compare?

Waste at Magnum

Magnum recently started composting manure and mortalities (i.e. cattle that don’t make it). It’s gotten more expensive to send deceased cattle to processing plants that manufacture pet foods, so this was the next best option.

Plus it’s more sustainable. And the cattle don’t end up standing around in piles of their own feces. Whew!

The Holiday Inn

Have you ever been to a Holiday Inn? That’s kind of like Magnum. They are a hotel for cattle. Profit increases as occupancy increases.

But there’s a slight difference. Upon checkout from the Holiday Inn you get a free newspaper, a mint, and a shuttle to the airport. When you checkout from Magnum, you get a one way shuttle to the slaughterhouse.

Nearly every week, a truck picks up cattle and transports them to a meat packing plant. This is where cattle are harvested and the carcasses fabricated. It’s important for the cattle to be transported quickly and calmly. The more stressed the animal, the lower the quality the meat.

95% of the steers and heifers from Magnum are sold to two packers, both in Colorado, JBS Swift in Greeley and Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan. The meat from these cows makes its way nationwide.

Conclusions

I was tired of talking about, reading about, and hearing about feedlots. Especially when many of the accounts were from people who had never been to a feedlot in their lives.

So, when I was given this sort of rare access, I jumped at the chance to check one out for myself.

The sign you see when leaving Magnum.

And, I have to say it. If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

No, I’m not going to start eating meat again.

However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef. Seriously. I can’t imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed. Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle.

Now, to be clear, we don’t require meat in our diet. And I don’t think we should be using cows for food, doesn’t matter if the cattle are kept on a feedlot or chilling in a waterbed listening to John Tesh. But that’s my own value system and I’m well aware that 97% of people in the U.S. eat meat on a regular basis.

However, considering the amount we procreate in the U.S. (there’s a birth every 8 seconds and a death every 12 seconds); and the amount of meat we eat (222 pounds per person, per year – not including marine life); and the small amount of money we’re willing to spend on food (we spend 9.6% of our disposable income on food, the lowest in the world. India spends 53%, Venezuela 34%, Italy 26%, Japan 19%, France 16%); feedlots have it right.

People want meat. And Magnum’s feedlot system is dialed in. They’re producing safe and cost-effective meat in, arguably, the most cattle-conscious way (short of opening up those pens and letting them run free). Rock on Magnum.
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References

Disposable income spend on food: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/table7.htm

EPA (2007). “Animal Feeding Operations-NPDES Frequently Asked Questions.” Retrieved May 2, 2010 from http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/faqs.cfm?program_id=7

USDA ERS (2009). “Farm Household Economics and Well-Being: Glossary.” Retrieved May 2, 2010, from http://www.ers.usda.gov/BRIEFING/WellBeing/glossary.htm

Marler Blog.

Dimitri C & Effland A (2005). Milestones in U.S. Farming and Farm Policy Amber Waves. Washington, D.C., USDA Economic Research Service and USDAERS (2010). Structural Characteristics, for All Farms, by Farm Typology, 2008. Agricultural Resource Management Survey, USDA Economic Research Service.

Mead PS, et al. Food-related illness and death in the United States. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol5no5/mead.htm

USDA-National Ag Statistic
12,098,990 out of 16,098,910 are fed in operations greater than 1,000 head, or 75 %. The remaining balance are either grazed or raised on smaller feedlots with capacity under 1,000 head.
_______________________________________

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Travis Hoffman, Steve Gabel, Julie Moore, and Morgan Gaither. Many people in the nutrition world are never allowed to view a feedlot. Travis, Steve, Julie, and Morgan were all very accommodating, and I was treated with the utmost respect.

BIG OIL AND THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

In response to our Top Ten Enemies of Ethanol post where we reported that Ed Wallace, Robert Rapier, and Mark Perry were among the biggest enemies of ethanol, folks commented against ethanol by the dozens. I can only assume the new readers were driven by the link offered us by Inside Automotive, but all the comments did for me was make me question the American spirit that used to pervade our country and now seems markedly absent.

The news this week is peppered with stories about Thailand’s increasing use of ethanol. In fact, Ford, an American company, wants to become “Thailand’s foremost leader in ethanol technology.” This article mentions that 300,000 E20-compatible vehicles have been sold in Thailand since their introduction in 2006.

In similar fashion, Keith Good made mention in his news summary on Tuesday that “as for performance and durability, Brazilian engineers say local cars that run on E20-E25 gasoline are in no way inferior to their North American counterparts.” This is a direct quote from the Reuter’s article on the US EPA’s delay to approve e15 in the US.

The two articles collectively made me think. If a developed country and an underdeveloped country can pull together and find resources to make domestic, renewable fuels work, why can’t we?

The US used to be a world leader and our entrepreneurship, innovation, and vision were celebrated worldwide. Are we now so dependent on foreign oil that our addiction is clouding the view and inhibiting the exact things that made the US great?

Is the oil addiction so heavy that we are unwilling or unable to change?

I can tell you; it’s not that we’re unable to change. We are changing. US foreign oil imports have gone from 40% to over 60% in the last two decades. Now, the EPA is considering a move from e10 to e15 – a 5% change – and we somehow think that this 5% change towards domestic, renewable fuels is worse than the 20% change in the other direction? I’m not sure I call this progress.

And I’m not sure what we’re fighting. Brazilian engineers are comfortable with the changes to higher ethanol concentrations and notice no difference in performance. Our leaders who have traveled to Brazil and seen and spoken to small engine manufacturers can’t understand why it works so well there and we can’t make it work here. Where’s the battle? Brazilians have been using ethanol for years and if a large problem existed, we’d have heard about it by now.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only solution to our problem. But what it represents is a solution we have available now. We have corn, we have the technology to make corn-based ethanol, and we need domestic, renewable fuel.

No argument in the world changes those facts.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICMB, ICGA Executive Director

FAMILY FARMERS ARE THE FACE OF AGRICULTURE

Recent research and focus groups tell us that the average Joe on the street in Illinois believes that more than half of his food is grown by corporations. Of course, that prompted Illinois Corn and other state corn associations to come up with messaging like this that focuses on the fact of this matter:

Still, this doesn’t prevent critics from simply not believing what is true.

 

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

This weekend, while at a graduation party in a friend’s garage, I had an interesting conversation about corn. It’s the sort of conversation that I know is happening all over our state, at graduation parties and little league games and the local watering hole. The highly educated, extremely intelligent man that I was chatting with, someone that I look up to and listen to, doesn’t really like corn all that much.

He doesn’t like corn-based ethanol because he believes we’re taking food out of people’s mouths to make it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. He didn’t believe me when I said that 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.

His own experience has taught him otherwise. He works for a university who has increasing interest in agriculture because more and more of their endowments are coming via crop land. He sees the farms owned by the University and wrongfully assumes that corporate owned farms are the new face of agriculture.

To him and to anyone else that questions the family farm facts Illinois Corn provides, I say this: even the farms owned by the University are farmed, operated, and managed by family farmers.

Let me make this more clear. The University owns the farm, but they rent it to a family farmer who makes a payment for use of the land and then tries to make a living growing a crop on it. The University doesn’t decide to put more or less chemicals on the ground regardless of environmental impact. The University isn’t dictating tillage methodology that would cause increasing soil erosion. The University isn’t asking that only GMO seed be used on this land to increase profits. The University is only interested in receiving the rent and the farmer is making every decision to raise the best crop he can, to conserve the natural resources that will allow him to raise a crop next year and the next on that land, without corporate oversight.

To say that the University was managing that land poorly with only profit in mind would be similar to saying that the landlord that owns your apartment is managing your household and telling you what groceries to buy or what cleaners to use.

My point? Even land that is not owned by a family farmer, like University endowment land, is still FARMED AND MANAGED by a family farmer. And the family farmers that rent this sort of land are still living nearby, drinking the water and raising their families off that land. They are good stewards of land that they farm, even if it doesn’t belong to them.

Family farms are the face of corn production in America. They are trustworthy men and women who do their very best every day to provide food and fuel for our country in a sustainable manner.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

Many farmers have a steady chant of “Rain makes grain” to utilize when the rains are a little too heavy and they start to stress about the crop. In the past couple of years, this motto seems a little soggy because of the massive amounts of precipitation farmers have had to deal with.

During a series of short crop updates provided by Illinois Corn leadership, former Illinois Corn Growers Association President Rob Elliott pretty much summed it up when he commented, “The arc has sunk” on Sunday.

Len Corzine, Assumption, IL offered that he was sharing Rob’s pain.

We had 4.5 to 5.5 for the week. Most fields are ok, but a few are suffering. Some fields may be the best ever and are tasseling right now. The excess moisture may bring additional diseases, so we will fungicide most fields.

In East Central Illinois, Roger Sy, a former ICGA leader, has literally been drowned out.

In Edgar County on two farms only four miles apart east to west, I have received over 17 inches on one and 12 inches on the other in the last month. The rest of my farms have around eight inches for the same time frame. Getting rain again this morning.
 I got everything planted the first time, but have had no chance for any replant. The crops did look great, but we are now seeing yellow spots and streaks in the corn where water is standing or has been flowing through the fields.

It will easily be a week or more before farmers can get back into the fields to protect their crops from diseases, weeds, or simply replant corn that has been drowned or destroyed from our crazy spring/summer weather. And that’s if the rain stops, which isn’t looking likely if the weathermen are correct.

Farming is risky, WET business.

HONORING THOSE WHO MOBILIZE TO FEED THE WORLD

Farmers feed the world, but growing food is only one part of the hunger equation. Once food is harvested, it must make its way to consumers, whether they shop at the local roadside stand or at grocery stores on the other side of the planet.

Success requires effective channels of distribution–everything from competitive markets to sound infrastructure to free-trade agreements. Yet sometimes it also depends on the heroic efforts of humanitarians.

This year’s World Food Prize recognizes a pair of grassroots warriors who have made it their mission to fight hunger through charity. David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of Heifer International will share a $250,000 award for advances in food production. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over the announcement on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Beckmann and Luck will formally accept their honors this October at an annual conference in Des Moines.

The World Food Prize usually goes to research scientists or more rarely to public officials. As leading members of non-governmental organizations, Beckmann and Luck are different kinds of laureates–but they’re also critically important partners in the ongoing struggle to feed impoverished people. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger.

Nebraska native Beckmann is a Lutheran pastor who has led the Washington, D.C.-based Bread for the World since 1991. His Christian organization mobilizes activists on behalf of the hungry. Under his leadership, more than 72,000 active members who represent 5,000 local church congregations have leveraged the volunteer efforts of more than a million people. They’ve rallied public support behind increasing U.S. efforts to reduce hunger and fund development efforts in poor countries.

“Bread’s army of citizen advocates has engaged an ever-expanding network of concerned people urging support for legislation to change the policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist,” says a statement released by organizers of the World Food Prize.

Jo Luck of Arkansas became CEO of Heifer International in 1992. From its offices in Little Rock, she took a group with about 20,000 supporters and a budget of $7 million and turned it into a $130 million organization with half a million backers as well as a global presence. Last year, Heifer International supplied food to more than 1.5 million needy people around the world. Earlier this year, she stepped down as Heifer’s CEO but will remain president until 2011.

“A strong impact of Jo Luck’s legacy as the leader of Heifer is the binding together of people emotionally and economically, enabling them to envision and create a better life for themselves and their children,” says a World Food Prize release.

In addition to sharing our food and resources with the less fortunate, we must share our knowledge as well. Clinton made this point explicitly at the State Department: “Using science to feed the world is not only an imperative–it is a thrilling opportunity.”

Norman Borlaug certainly understood this sentiment. The “Father of the Green Revolution,” who died last year at the age of 95, founded the World Food Prize in 1986. His efforts to improve crop varieties as well as access to fertilizer and pesticides have allowed farmers to feed untold numbers of people who otherwise would not have had enough to eat.

As we transition from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution, (with Borlaug’s support), we’ll need to share our science and technology with people in developing countries. If we’re to realize the goals of groups such as Bread for Life and Heifer International and truly eradicate hunger, then we’ll have to make sure that farmers in nations with poor food security have the ability to take advantage of the world’s most promising agricultural methods.

One of them is biotechnology. Millions of farmers already make use of it–but millions more could still benefit.

This is the very best kind of humanitarianism: helping people help themselves grow the food they need.

Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer
                        Council of Advisors Emeritus for the World Food Prize Foundation and
                        Chair of Truth About Trade & Technology

ALL THIS HEAD BANGING IS GIVING ME A HEADACHE

No, I’m not hanging out with the 80’s hair bands at the local watering hole, I’m banging my head against the wall. And it’s not a good look for me.

Yesterday it was an email, today it’s a comment on an article in the St Louis Post Dispatch, tomorrow it will be the tweet that is re-tweeted until it twitters out. And then the next day it will be the link on my news feed in facebook. What am I talking about? The never ending variations of the questions/claims that making ethanol from U.S. corn starves children in the poorest nations and converts land that would otherwise grow “food” to corn acreage.

But that’s okay, because one more question, email, tweet or status update is another opportunity to share accurate information regarding ethanol.

In short:

• Is there enough corn? Yes.

• Does making ethanol mean I won’t have corn to eat? No.

• Does growing corn for ethanol mean we won’t grow food? No.

• That’s not what other people say. I know.

There are all kinds of reasons the people will blog, write, say, tweet, youtube or status update that ethanol is bad. The corn industry is often criticized as an information provider about ethanol because we have something to gain. Um, ya, we don’t grow corn for free. But why would we cut off our nose (feeding livestock, exports to other countries, human food uses, industrial applications) to spite our face (ethanol)?

In case that reference didn’t make sense, let me say it more plainly. Does it make sense that corn farmers would forsake one or many market opportunities just to add another? No. Does it make sense that corn farmers are growing more corn using less land, chemicals, fertilizer, water, time and fuel? Yes. So does it make sense that they would continue to look for ways to use corn? Yes.

Well motivation is a two way street, folks. The naysayers have their own personal motivations and opportunities to gain. (Can you say resume padding, book deals, feature films, and speaking engagements?)

And FYI, being against something, in this case ethanol, doesn’t ordain you with some sort of “hall pass” to make claims that are irrelevant, irreverent, and irresponsible.

Here are some facts about ethanol and facts about corn. And before you go criticizing the source or calling me a liar, consider that these numbers come from the United States Department of Agriculture and their National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s USDA NASS for short. Other numbers come from the U.S Energy Information Administration or USEIA.

Tricia Braid Terry
ICGA/ICMBA Communications Director

Discussing New Research At CUTC

David LoosAt the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference our very own David Loos, Technology and Business Development Director, moderated a panel titled, “Life Cycle Analyses Applications to New Technologies.”  One of the issues that takes up a lot of his time is ethanol.  And ethanol was a big part of the conversation at the CUTC as you might imagine.  I spoke with David during a break.

Dave says that new technologies that are increasing production while reducing inputs are proving that corn can be very sustainable.  I asked him what he’s working on that needs to become better known by the public.  He says that science is “on our side” on issues like yield increases, inputs, green house gas emissions from growing corn or producing ethanol.  He says it’s our job to make sure the research gets done, is documented and delivered to audiences like EPA.  He pointed to new research by the University of Illinois-Chicago which found that energy consumption by ethanol plants is down about 30 percent.  I’ll have more on that in another interview with one of Dave’s panelists.  Dave also talks about his goal of having EPA recognize corn ethanol as an advanced biofuel.  The research and science backs it up.  The challenge is getting regulators to recognize it!

You can listen to my interview with David here: download (mp3).

Here’s a link to a bunch of photos from the conference: CUTC Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman
AgWired

TILING OFFERS QUICK RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Two years ago when the a 42 inch natural gass pipeline was installed running across some of my acreage, I had no idea I had a problem. In fact, I watched and watched that field hoping not to notice even a hint of standing water. And I didn’t for a while.

But you may remember that we’ve had three pretty wet seasons – last spring the crop was very late getting into the ground because of rain and we were even later getting it out of the ground because of rain. This year, the past couple of weeks have been filled with one downpour after another.

All that rain revealed a tiling problem. And since the rain still isn’t showing any signs of stopping, I’ve been two years trying to get it fixed. Finally, this month I was able to secure both the tiling company AND a dry enough day to get it done.

We didn’t figure this out until nearly the end of the process, but here is the problem. When the natural gas pipeline was installed, this section of older clay tile was broken and was not reconnected to the tiling system in this field.

So we started in to fix it, essentially digging a trench that would hold the tile to drain water from the field. Next to fertilizer, tiling a field is one of the most profitable things you can do and will quickly earn you complete return on your investment. In fact, the absence of this particular section of tile yielded me two complete acres of drowned crops, five acres that were two wet to apply fertilizer, and reduced yield on about twenty acres surrounding it all because of excess moisture.

We are installing five inch, black plastic tile because it is quicker and cheaper. The alternative is the clay tile that you saw in the picture above and it must be hand placed in the ground as opposed to the black plastic tile that comes on a large roll and just flows right into the trench that we dug. The tile is about three feet deep, and most tiles are set between 75 and 90 feet apart parallel throughout a field depending on soil type.

In the end, this is what I have. I lost a sixteen foot swath of emerging corn through my field that I won’t be able to replace. Typically, farmers don’t tile in the middle of the growing season and disrupt their crops, but the losses I’ve sustained over the past two years made the timing this year necessary.

Bring on the rain!

Garry Niemeyer
former ICGA Board member
current NCGA Board member