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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vilsack: Farmers Should be OK Despite Price Drops

Photo Courtesy Ag News
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack
In an interview  in Des Moines with The Associated Press, U.S Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave his views on topics ranging from low commodity prices this year to dysfunction in Washington and his future.
Vilsack spoke after touring Iowa Choice Harvest, a Marshalltown company that processes Iowa-grown food.
Crop Prices and Profitability
Q: With corn and soybean prices largely below the cost of production are you concerned about farm profitability?
Vilsack: Many farmers throughout the United States have forward contracts where they're going to get paid maybe $4 or $5 for a bushel of corn, maybe $13 or $14 for a bushel of soybeans so I think you have to be careful not to conclude that because prices have come down that there isn't going to be profitability in agriculture.
You also have to recognize as these prices have come down it has created opportunities for other producers, livestock producers in particular, who have been challenged over the course of the last many years with high feed costs now see their cost of doing business coming down. They're looking at record prices for beef and for pork and we're also seeing an expanded export market.
Also, that's precisely the reason we have a farm bill. It creates the safety net that if the prices come down below the price of doing business we have mechanisms in place to ensure that folks can still stay in business.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Groups advocate recycling incentives on farm

Photo Courtesy Iowa Farmer Today
For farmers interested in recycling more, Joe Hummel, sales manager for City Carton recycling in Cedar Rapids, explains dirty materials are hard to recycle. Quite a few farmers deliver bale wrap to City Carton. Hummel suggests laying it out to let the rain wash it, then bringing it in for recycling.
CEDAR RAPIDS — Time and money are two big factors in the future of recycling ag waste. But, steps to reduce it at the source have already been taken.

Joe Hummel, recovered material sales manager for City Carton Recycling, grew up on a farm.

He said it’s much simpler and cheaper for his dad and other farmers to burn used seed sacks during busy planting time than to bundle and truck them to the nearest recycling drop-off.

Part of his job is finding the environmental and economic incentive for them to do the latter.

“How do you reach those people and how do you make it easy and accessible?” Hummel said.

In the past 25 years, the ag industry’s recycling options have changed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farmers Encouraged to Science in Use Water Quality Practices

Nate Anderson, a Cherokee area farmer, had the perfect spot at the 2014 Farm Progress Show. Between large seed company tents and blocks filled with farm equipment, Anderson joined Iowa State University experts and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to talk about cover crops and no-till planting -- two management tools he uses in his corn-soybean acreage program.

Anderson and Northey, two of the farmers featured in the nutrient management area of the Iowa State University tent, shared their management strategy experiences and listened as farmers talked about management practices for their own farms.

"It's good for farmers to share their experiences and questions, and find out more about management practices they are considering," said Anderson. "We need to keep talking and encouraging each other."