Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Corn Farmers Care: Our Environment

Today, April 22nd, is a special day. A day where people across the United States celebrate efforts to protect our environment and encourage discussion about what can be done in years to come. While the calendar carves out just one day each year for this celebration, for America’s corn farmers every day is Earth Day.

"Farm ponds provide wildlife habitat and reduce phosphorus loss in Warren County." #FarmersCoverIowa
Farmers are closely connected with the environment, more so than many other professions. Their ability to cultivate crops and raise livestock largely depends on proper management of natural resources. They need a continuous supply of rich soil, clean water, and fresh air; which is why Iowa farmers work day in and day out to protect these vital resources.
"Cover crops reducing nitrate loss in Jasper County." #FarmersCoverIowa

Curious about what farmers are doing across the country to protect our environment? Check out some of these recent stats:

  • According to the USDA, farmers have reduced cropland soil erosion by 32%. (source)
  • From 1980 to 2010, U.S. farmers increased corn production by 87.5% while using 4% less fertilizer inputs.  (source)
  • Iowa farmers have voluntarily restored more than 377,811 acres of wetlands. (source)
  • 40 demonstration farms from 7 different states are showcased in the Soil Health Partnership, a farmer-led project aimed at researching management practices to improve soil health. (source
  • Organizations, such as the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, have been developed to help educate producers and the public on water quality efforts. (source)
  • Iowa’s agricultural researchers were 1st in the nation to develop a Nutrient Reduction Strategy, providing farmers with the framework they need to help improve Iowa’s water quality. (source)
  • The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award, now in it's 4th year, recognizes the exemplary voluntary efforts of Iowa's farmers committed to environmental stewardship. (source)
"Grass waterways reduce gully erosion in Dallas County." #FarmersCoverIowa

Monday, March 30, 2015

Meet an Iowa Farmer: Kelly Nieuwenhuis

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is proud to serve our more than 8,000 farmer members across the state. These members are the backbone of our organization and each month we are honored to introduce you to a new ICGA member through our "Meet an Iowa Farmer" series. This month we are proud to feature Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a farmer and ICGA member from O'Brien County.

Tell about you, your family, and your background and farm operation
I am Kelly Nieuwenhuis of Primghar IA. I have been married to my wife Luanne for 34 years. We have four grown children, son Jesse 28, daughter Paige 25,daughter Andrea 23 and daughter Perri 20.

Why did you decide to be a farmer? 
From a very young age I wanted to be a farmer. My father has four sons who all farm today, and proud to say at 80 years of age he still farms all his acres as well. When you have four sons who all want to farm it is difficult to help them get started. When we were in our 20’s we all wanted to get started farming, my Dad was in his late 40’s and did not operate a lot of acres so he said he could let us use his equipment for a few years but we would need to find our own land. So we did. I started farming in 1983, did something risky by going to a land auction and buying 75 acres. Luanne and I both had full time jobs, and were able to use that income for living expenses. All income from the farm went back into the farming operation. Over the years we expanded our acres, had four children, Luanne then became a stay at home Mom and I continued to work off farm full time and farm. In 2003 two of my brothers and I decided to sell our three lines of machinery and buy one larger and newer line of equipment. That worked out well, today we have a corn, soybean grain farm operation, my brothers have a trucking business and I have a Channel Seed business.

What else do you dedicate time to outside of farming?
I am also busy with being on our church council, am a director at Farmers Cooperative Company of Paullina, Granville and Hospers. Also, I serve as a director at SEC, an Ethanol plant in Sioux Center IA, and am on Iowa Corn UP committee.  I strongly feel as a farmer we need to represent our occupation and fight for what we do and produce. It is a constant battle but necessary to stay involved. In our free time we go to visit our kids, who are all in Iowa! We also like to do some traveling to different parts of the world, and I like hunting and fishing. 

Any farming advice or life lessons you'd share with new farmers? 
It is a tough uphill battle that takes a lot of patience, hard work, nerves of steel and management skills. I am glad today that I  put in the effort to remain in farming, and you really do have to be totally devoted to farming to make it.

During the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk game who do you root for?
I have to say I am neutral on this. We have a house divided, like many other households in the state of Iowa. If I could buy a sweatshirt with Iowa, Iowa State and UNI on it I would!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Agriculture is… a profession to be proud of!

Put on your party hats (or that seed corn hat works too) and throw out some confetti (or maybe just a few bales of hay), because today is National Ag Day. A day dedicated to the farmers and ranchers that provide the feed, fuel, and fiber for this great nation. Here are a few reasons to celebrate agriculture:

  • Agriculture is… critical to the state of Iowa, as Iowa farmers lead the nation in corn, soybean, hog, and egg production. –Nat’l Ag in the Classroom
  • Agriculture is… the nation’s largest employer, responsible for 1 in 12 U.S. jobs. –Tom Vilsack
  • Agriculture is… more productive than ever, having doubled U.S. farm output since 1948. –USDA-ERS
  • Agriculture is… developing new markets, with U.S. farm exports growing from $85 billion to $144 billion in the last two decades. –USDA-ERS
  • Agriculture is… providing a food supply that is abundant, affordable, and among the world’s safest. –Farm and Dairy
  • Agriculture is… more than a part of life, it a passion, a lifestyle, a resilient community that works hard to feed the world. –Agriculture Proud
  • Agriculture is… our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness. –Thomas Jefferson 
  • Agriculture is… the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man. –George Washington

Monday, February 23, 2015

Farm Bill Programs: Study Up, Sign Up

Photo Credit: USDA

Last fall the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began to roll out the new crop protection programs under the 2014 Farm Bill. Over the past few months resources have been developed and informational meetings have been conducted to help farmers and land owners understand these new programs. We are now quickly approaching those deadlines in which decisions will need to be made. 

Sept. 29, 2014 thru Feb. 27, 2015
Reallocate Base Acres and Update Yields
Nov. 17, 2014 thru Mar. 31, 2015
Program Election
Mid Apr. 2015 thru Summer 2015
Program Enrollment
October 2015
Payments Issued

We encourage producers to go visit their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, sooner rather than later, to make the necessary record updates and program elections for their farm(s). If you’re still unsure about these programs, below is a list recommended resources:
Still have unanswered questions? Reach out to your local FSA Office, or contact a member of your Iowa Corn Government Relations team.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Meet an Iowa Farmer: Mark Kenney

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is proud to serve our more than 8,000 farmer members across the state. These members are the backbone of our organization and each month we are honored to introduce you to a new ICGA member through our "Meet an Iowa Farmer" series. This month we are proud to feature Mark Kenney, a farmer and ICGA member from Story County.

Tell about you, your family, and your background and farm operation
I was raised near our family's century farm in northeast Story County.  I am the fifth generation of my family to farm in central Iowa, and proudly work with my father on a daily basis.  Following graduation from Colo Nesco High School, I attended Northwest Missouri State University.  I received a B.S. in agricultural economics in 2002 and a M.S. from Northwest Missouri State in 2007, majoring in agriculture.  Before returning to the farm in 2006, I worked for two years at Agricredit in Johnston, IA.  My wife and I were married in 2005, and we are proud parents of Lauren (6) and Landon (3).  Currently, our farm operation includes corn, production seed corn, soybeans, and oats.  I plan to add a grass straw/hay business in 2015 in addition to drainage tile installation.

Why did you decide to be a farmer?
I chose to return to the farm to carry on our family's heritage.  I am very proud to be part of a century farm--as my daily work gives me a tremendous sense of connection to the generations that have come before me. And even though our modern way of farming is very different from those of previous generations, the end goal remains the same.  

What else do you dedicate time to outside of farming?
I enjoy reading, running, attending sporting events and spending time with family.

Any farming advice or life lessons you'd share with new farmers?
The best advice I could give anyone in farming is to be patient.  The longer I am involved in farming, the more I come to realize the importance of patience.  Farming is not an instant gratification enterprise.  Often it takes months, even years for work to pay off, and it can become frustrating when so much of our bottom line is dictated by forces outside our control.  I often remind myself of the old saying, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

During the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk game who do you root for?
No question here, Hawkeyes—which makes me a bit of a contrarian in Story County.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's Crop Fair Season

Kevin Leibold, ISU Extension, providing a
market outlook during the 2015 Algona Crop Fair.
What season comes between fall and spring… crop fair season of course. Each year Iowa Corn helps coordinate crop fairs across the state, designed to give farmers access to timely information to help make their operations more profitable. We bring leading industry experts into your local community to provide information on everything from market outlooks to succession planning, policy updates to weather forecasts.

Crop fairs are scheduled throughout February and March. While these events are free for ICGA members, pre-registration is encouraged. Click the link below to find information on the crop fair nearest you. We hope to see you there!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Recipe for Leadership in Agriculture

Who doesn't love a good batch of cookies? Making the perfect cookie requires a combination of different ingredients; much like composing an effective team requires individuals from a variety of disciplines. I-LEAD Class 7 is a great example of this, as an interdisciplinary team comprised of young leaders from all different facets of the agriculture industry.

I-LEAD Members (L-R): Brandon Maier,
Jason Schwenneker, Laura Holoubek, and Matthew Eddy
Whether mixing up a batch of cookies or working in a team, it is important for all ingredients (or people) to be in the mix, as each plays an integral role in the success of the final product. Teams can create a challenging work environment, like an oven, but can produce results of great creativity, innovation, and satisfaction.  Challenges can be prevented by following a process similar to a recipe card; mixing ingredients in a certain order matters. Teams also have differences, but this adds flavor, just like chocolate chips in batter. Additionally, as unfortunate as it is, every once in a while a pan of cookies is going to burn. With teams, conflict is almost always inevitable.

Cookies can be made a number of ways, but how does one make the perfect batch? It starts with a solid base, for cookies that is flour but for team success that is communications. It provides a means for conversation, collaboration, and like when adding the egg, an opportunity for connections to be made that holds the group together. A good cookie also needs the perfect balance of both sugar and salt; it is similarly important to utilize communications skills in balance. Being able to convey thoughts, but also listen to what others say, is critical for team success. All of these ingredients may taste great but they rely on baking soda to uphold the cookie’s light and fluffy structure. Just as in a team, members must have the trust and support of one another to be effective in achieving their goals.

Interdisciplinary teams are found everywhere, and I-LEAD Class 7 is just one of many. For many, these teams can be found within homes, businesses, and organizations. I encourage you to try making a perfect batch of cookies with your organizations or business, but remember without the appropriate combination of ingredients the recipe for success can get messy quickly.

My name is Marcie Stevenson, member of I-LEAD Class 7 and author of this post. I'm originally from Wheatland, IA, where my family owns and operates a diversified row crop and livestock farm. I recently graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business, Economics, and International Agriculture. I've since returned to ISU to pursue a master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Agricultural Economics. I also currently serve as a research assistant within the Department of Economics working to identify what causes entrepreneurship within the agricultural industry in Iowa and how that compares to other industries. When not in class or working on research, I enjoy running, reading, and spending time with family and friends.