Thursday, December 18, 2014

Women Lead the Way in Ag Today

Some might say it’s all about the horsepower, but today, it’s the power of people that  really propels modern agriculture. While farming has historically been viewed as a male-dominated field, the fact is more women are playing a key role in agriculture across the USA today. According to the most recent USDA Agricultural Census, in 2012, approximately 969,672 females in the United States, are running more than 288,264 farms across the country, accounting for about $12.9 billion in agricultural product sales.

Recognizing the continued value that women contribute to the industry, a local group of young professionals fostered that growth of passionate women in agriculture as the Young Professionals in Agriculture (YPIA) hosted USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden this past Tuesday. During her visit to Iowa, Deputy Secretary Harden spoke about the challenges she faced as a Georgia farmer’s daughter helping to shape farm policy on Capitol Hill at a time when there were very few females in her industry. She also shared advice on how to become a better leader for the next generation of agriculturalists, especially for the young women that look up to those professionals in the group.

Iowa Corn supports the Young Professionals in Agriculture (YPIA) organization, and a number of our own team members proudly took part in the event. For more information about YPIA, visit

(Pictured left to right) Iowa Corn staff members Amanda DeJong, Brooke Kerns, Deputy Secretary Harden, Iowa Corn staffer Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, and Pam Johnson, at-large director of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finding Your Way Through Farm Bill Programs

Photo Credit: USDA

With the mid-term elections behind us it’s time to start thinking ahead to the next election. No, I don’t mean Presidential candidates; I’m talking farm program elections. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun rolling out new crop programs from the 2014 Farm Bill, and farmers, as well as land owners, will have some critical decisions to make over the next couple months. Below is a basic timeline that has been released by the Farm Service Agency (FSA):

July/August 2014
Record Review
Sept. 29, 2014 thru Feb. 27, 2015
Base Acre Reallocation and Yield Updates
Nov. 17, 2014 thru Mar. 31, 2015
Program Election
Mid Apr. 2015 thru Summer 2015
Program Enrollment
October 2015
Payments Issued

Now, if you’re unsure whether to update or reallocation, or if all the new acronyms (ARC-CO, ARC-IC, PLC, SCO) make your head spin, you’re in luck. Iowa Corn has put together a website full of resources and tools specifically tailored to help producers navigate through all of these decisions. To access that information, check out our “Farm Bill Resources” webpage.

Looking for even more information? We’ve got you covered there too. Iowa State University Extension has partnered with USDA, Iowa Corn, and Farm Credit Services of America to provide free informational meetings across the state. These meetings will include a discussion of new risk coverage programs, and demonstrations of new tools to aid producers when choosing which program is best for their farm. Check out the ISU Extension webpage to find the informational meeting(s) in your county.

Can’t make it to your local Farm Bill informational meeting? Don’t worry; there are plenty of educational resources that you can access from the comfort of your own home. ISU Extension has put together some great YouTube videos that explain the basic framework of these new programs and what to consider when making farm program decisions for your operation. Additionally, the University of Illinois held webinars every Friday throughout the month of October providing information about these programs. These free hour-long webinar videos are available online for producers to view at their convenience.

Still have unanswered questions? Reach out to your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office, or contact a member of your Iowa Corn Government Relations team. Happy Electing!

My name is Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, Government Relations Manager here at Iowa Corn, and the author of this post. I was born and raised on a diversified family farm in eastern Iowa, where my parents still farm today. My passion for agriculture led me to Iowa State University, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business and International Agriculture. I also hold a Juris Doctorate degree from Drake Law School, specializing in agricultural law and policy. While Iowa has always been home to me, one of my favorite past-times is traveling, and over the years I have had the privilege of observing agricultural production in variety of countries around the world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iowa grower finishes first in Syngenta Drive to Thrive Contest

Syngenta announced that Jim Cuddeback, a corn and soybean grower from Washington, Iowa, is the grand prizewinner of its Drive to Thrive contest. This competition challenged growers and other agricultural industry professionals across America to describe what makes their farms or agribusinesses thrive.

In Cuddeback’s winning essay, he named his family, which includes his wife of 44 years, two sons and five grandchildren, as the driving force behind his farm’s success. His genuine passion for agriculture is another motivator for him. “I entered the Drive to Thrive contest because I enjoy educating people about the role agriculture plays in our economy and the role farmers play in preserving our land and heritage,” he says. “It is a privilege to be honored with this award.”

Photo Courtesy IDALS
Members of Jim Cuddeback's family were present to accept the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award in August at the Iowa State Fair. Cuddeback was recognized for his exemplary commitment to healthy soils and improved water quality.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Are Farmers Rich?

Not surprisingly, it’s one of our highest ranking search terms.  Apparently, tons of people want to know if farmers are rich.

And I think the answer is, no.  They are rich in all the things that matter, but are pretty middle class.  They just deal with a lot of money coming in AND a lot of money going out.  And all that money coming in looks like a lot if you don’t know the whole story.

So here it is … the whole story.  I hope you take the time to read through what sounds confusing and get to the summary at the bottom because it’s worth it!  Promise.


In order to grow a crop, farmers must buy things like seeds, equipment, chemicals and fertilizer (surely one of you has a bag of Miracle Gro around for the garden, right?).  And there are also the costs that you don’t really think of like land, and maybe someone to help you get the crops planted or harvested in the span of a few weeks.

N-Urea fertilizer According to the University of Illinois, those costs – input costs – average to about $600 per acre for corn in Illinois.  And, I should clarify: the $600 includes equipment, labor, seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals.  No land.  And land is expensive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crop sensors improve nitrogen application

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Sensor-guided nitrogen application can save corn producers money and increase yields, says Peter Scharf, University of Missouri Extension soil scientist.

Scharf showed how crop sensors diagnose variable nitrogen needs at a recent farmer technology field day at MU’s Bradford Research Center. In the last decade, on-farm demonstrations have been carried out in more than 100 cornfields and a dozen cotton fields in Missouri.

Nitrogen needs can vary widely from place to place within a field, Scharf said. In multiple field-scale studies, Scharf found that applying nitrogen at the same rate to an entire field often means that more than half the field will receive either far too much or far too little nitrogen.

Photo Courtesy Linda Geist
Crop sensors on tractors can detect varying nitrogen needs within fields to increase yields and reduce costs.
Tractor-drawn light sensors can measure nitrogen levels in plants by detecting the amount of pulsed light that bounces back from plant canopies. A computer in the tractor cab uses the sensor data to automatically adjust fertilizer rates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Agribusiness expert sees big potential in China for U.S. corn, livestock exports

Photo Courtesy K-State Research and ExtensionK-State Risk and Profit Conference keynote speaker
Dermot Hayes said changes in Chinese policies regarding
urbanization and agriculture may be signaling big potential for
U.S. corn and livestock experts. Hayes is an Iowa State University
professor of economics and finance and the Pioneer Hi-Bred
International Chair in Agribusiness at Iowa State.
Dermot Hayes expects urbanization trend in China; most citizens live on the best land.

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Recent government policy changes in China have the potential to boost U.S. agriculture, particularly the corn and livestock sectors, according to Iowa State University economics and finance professor Dermot Hayes.

Speaking at Kansas State University’s 2014 Risk and Profit Conference Aug. 22, Hayes said that most of China’s population density is also where the best agricultural land is and there have been recent signs that citizens in its rural areas are being encouraged to move to urban areas.

China is similar in size to the United States, but has the world’s largest population, estimated at 1.355 billion people as of July, 2014, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. That compares with India at 1.236 billion, the United States at 319 million and Russia at 142 million.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Communications Intern Experience at Iowa Corn

As I sit here debating how to structure my wrap up post on my internship experience, I can’t help but wonder…where to begin? At least some amount of learning is expected of any internship experience; however I am continually amazed by how far I have come in developing my professional skill sets and how much I have learned about the Iowa corn industry in the six months that I have been the Iowa Corn Communications intern. I could make a very long list of the things I have learned during my internship experience, however, here are five suggestions I have for future interns. Being mindful of these following principles completely changed the dynamic of my experience:

1. Ask Questions

I’ve always tried to live by the saying, “You can’t learn if you don’t ask questions.” When I first began my internship, I was terrified that I would ask a “stupid” question and that my co-workers would view me differently if I didn’t know the answer. Instead, I was welcomed by an awesome staff at Iowa Corn that was always attentive and receptive to the questions I asked. I found that it was better to over ask questions I had, than not ask at all.

2. Network, Network, Network
I quickly learned that the agricultural industry is a small world. I was able to make many connections throughout the duration of my internship experience through a variety of events including; the Iowa State Fair, Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series, Corn Congress and much, much more! While I could have stood in the corner and isolated myself from others, I found it to be much more worthwhile (and fun!) to talk to our grower members and consumers alike. I’ve found a new sense of confidence when meeting new people within the industry. By branching out and getting to know others within the industry, I found these connections to be helpful in my pursuit of a full-time job.  
Sarah with the CAT team in Washington D.C. for Corn Congress