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."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Updated Crop Budgets May Call For More Soybeans in 2015

As corn and soybean prices continue to slide lower, it's causing more change in the outlook for ways to help get through the downturn, reaching as far as planting decisions for 2015.

The outlook for crop budgets released in June painted a picture that had costs exceeding crop input for corn and soybeans. But, prices have slid further and now the outlook's more bearish. It's got University of Illinois Extension ag economist Gary Schnitkey calling for specific steps to pare down budgets to make up for the lower forecast grain prices moving through fall.

"The major change has been a reduction in commodity prices. The June version had per bushel prices of $4.20 for corn, $10.50 for soybeans, and $5.50 for wheat. The September version of the budgets have prices of $3.80 for corn (a $.40 per bushel reduction from July budgets), $9.75 of soybeans (a $.75 per bushel reduction), and $5.00 for wheat (a $.50 reduction)," Schnitkey says in a university report. "The revised prices are based on prices on Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) futures prices during middle September 2014. Both corn and soybean prices have decreased since July. The price on the December 2015 corn contract decreased from around $4.30 in July 2014 to roughly $3.90 in mid-September 2014. The price of the September 2015 soybean contract decreased from $11.40 in early July to $9.70 in middle September. A factor causing these decreases are above average yields projected for harvest in 2014.

"These new prices result in very low returns, and indicate the need to conserve cash," he adds.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Skipping Bt Traits to Cut Costs

Economics of corn production are continuing to shift, and many farmers are trying to find ways to cut input costs. One option may be planting corn hybrids without Bt protection from the European corn borer, corn rootworm, or both. While this has the potential to reduce seed costs, it could also reduce crop revenues. Before purchasing those hybrids, make sure you're not cutting corners while cutting costs by considering yield potential and insect populations.

The first thing to consider when selecting a corn hybrid is yield potential. Bt traits only provide a yield benefit when targeted insects are above economic levels, according to a report from University of Minnesota Extension integrated pest management specialist Bruce Potter, and Ken Ostlie, Extension entomologist.

“When insect pressure is low, any potential yield gains of newer, trait-protected hybrids have to be balanced against their higher costs,” the specialists say. “A more important consideration may be limited availability of high-yielding non-Bt or single Bt trait corn hybrids for much of Minnesota.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Women play role in history, future of ag

Women produce half the food consumed by more than 6 billion people in the world, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Photo Courtesy Food & Swine blog
Iowa farmer, Cristen Clark grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa and
raises cattle and owns a hog finishing operation.
While women are commonplace as farmers in less-developed continents like Africa and Asia, women are gradually assuming greater roles as food producers in the more-developed parts of the world, including the United States.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports females were the principal operators of 14 percent of the 2.1 million U.S. farms in 2012, the same percentage as in the 2007 census.

The total number of farms dropped from 2.2 million farms in 2007. There was a slightly larger decline of women than men as principal operators.

However, women-operated farms that earned more than $100,000 yearly increased the most from 2007. As principal operators overall, women tended to manage smaller farms than men in terms of annual sales. Ninety-one percent of farms with females as principal operators earned less than $50,000 in 2012.