Monday, August 3, 2015

Iowa State University Researchers Visit the Real “Field”

One of the large problems in modern agriculture is attempting to feed a growing world population. Everybody agrees that we will need more food to feed more people in the future. As such, many branches of agricultural research need to be grounded in reality, working to increase yields in sustainable ways.

On Saturday, July 11, a group of researchers at Iowa State University labs ran by Pat Schnable, agronomy, and Lie Tang, agricultural engineering, toured the farm of Larry and Bonnie Buss in Logan, Iowa. The group discussed a wide range of topics, with the broad goal of increasing awareness of agriculture’s needs, and strengthening relationships between the University and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, who organized the event. The group learned about farming practices, commodity markets, agricultural equipment, and ways in which these aspects of agriculture have changed through the years.

Farm size, yield per acre, and ability to farm sloping fields have all increased in recent decades. Farmers are able to accurately plant rows with partly-automated location-optimized spacing, gather large quantities of relevant data, and numerous other feats which were previously impossible.
Part of the progress can be attributed to the technology seen on this tour. Modern agriculture includes GPS-guided planters, behemoth combines, massive silos, highly-efficient harvesters, and numerous other technological marvels. Seeing the puzzle completely assembled and running smoothly was a welcomed sight and an enriching experience to the visitors, who regularly come together, from diverse intellectual backgrounds, to collaborate on projects intended to improve various aspects of agriculture.

With so many recently advances in agriculture, Larry Buss informed the group of several challenges he still sees emerging. Issues such as water quality, affected by pesticide and herbicide use, need to be addressed. Additionally, many types of weeds are growing resistant to herbicides. Solutions to both include more environmentally-friendly pesticides, mechanical weeders, or improved strains of crops which require fewer chemicals and fertilizers. Most researchers present were working toward at least one of these solutions. As I just learned from, “From 1980 to 2010, U.S. farmers increased corn production by 87.5% while using 4% less fertilizer inputs. (source).” I am proud of those who made this happen, and am sure that together we can go further.

As you can see in the pictures below, the group of roughly 30 people, spanning all ages, came well prepared for the pleasant Iowa morning, and a good time was had by all.

I send thanks to the Iowa Corn Growers Association for helping with this event and the Buss’s for sharing their farm. As usual, Go Cyclones!

-Guest post by Dylan Shah from Iowa State University

Dylan Shah works with Dr. Lie Tang at Iowa State University, focusing on robotics, automation, and image processing. He enjoys helping the world achieve efficiency, so society can focus on improving life in other areas. Since graduating in May 2015 in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State, he has been working on the multidisciplinary Enviratron project through ISU. While not programming, reading journal papers, and studying, he enjoys biking, nature, lively discussions, and reading books on religion and 19th and early 20th century science and economics.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I-LEAD Explores Agriculture in the Bayou State

Cane, crawfish, and some of the most delicious Cajun cooking… just a few things that come to mind when looking back at our I-LEAD Class’ recent visit to Louisiana.

In late June our class spent four days learning first-hand about the diverse agricultural production systems throughout the Bayou State. We kicked off our visit by sitting down with representatives of the Louisiana Farm Bureau and the LSU Ag Center. We learned that while they do plant some corn and soybeans, Louisiana’s four major crops consist of sugarcane, wheat, sweet potatoes, and rice. The group also learned about their Master Farmer Program, which has helped provide education and incentives for farmers to implement conservation practices on their farms. In true Cajun fashion, we ended the day with a delicious home-cooked meal of Etouffee at the home of a local sugarcane farmer.

Our second day was spent in the deep of Cajun country. First stop was an alligator farm, where we learned how they collect the eggs from nests in the marshes, hatch them in large incubators, and sell the young alligators to other farms where they are raised and ultimately sold to tanneries based on their hide quality.  During our next farm visit we learned about how they are able to double crop their fields by harvesting rice in the fall and then harvesting crawfish from the same field later that year.  The class was able to get a first-hand look at the production of sugar cane during our next farm visist, which is harvested just one row at a time, much of it with custom made equipment.  The day ended at Avery Island, where we enjoyed a VIP tour of the Tabasco factory.

Day three began with a tour of the Port of New Orleans, which is almost 300 years old, and the New Orleans Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. This particular cold storage facility handles approximately three million pounds of fresh chicken each day, which is flash frozen and loaded into refrigerated containers to be shipped overseas, with Africa being one of our largest growing markets.  Next stop was Zen-Noh Grain, a facility with a grain holding capacity of 4 million bushels and daily drying capacity of 100,000 bushels.  This facility receives most of its grain by barge, which is unloaded, tested, dried (if needed), and then loaded onto container ships for export. Most barges hold 60,000 bushels, which takes about 45 minutes to unload, whereas a Panamax container ship holds about 2.2 million bushels of grain and takes about 24 hours to load.  It was amazing to see the grain loading/unloading, some of which could have come from an Iowa farm field!

Last stop of the day was a Perque (specialty tobacco known for its strong, fruity armona) tobacco farm. The farmer explained how his family had been raising this tobacco for many generations, and while he has updated his drying barn many of the same labor intensive practices historically used to produce it (handling it at least 18 times from planting to curing) are still used today.

Our last day began with a presentation from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.  The representative shared that their industry provides 200,000 jobs in the state and helps to provide 9.2 million barrels of oil per day throughout the U.S. The group had an engaging discussing about the role of renewable fuels in our nationwide energy policy following the presentation. The final stop of our Louisiana tour was the Bollinger Shipyards.  The group was able to see the construction of U.S. Coast Guard ships from start to finish.  This stop was extra special to our group due to Michael Fritch’s family connection to ship #19, which is still in construction but will be named after a member of his family that died in the line of duty.

The food was delicious, the people were fantastic, the tours were informative, and the experience over all was amazing. On behalf of the entire I-LEAD class, thank you to everyone who had a hand in making this experience possible!

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

What Happens to Iowa's Corn Crop?

In 2014, Iowa farmers produced nearly 2.37 billion bushels of corn!  But what happens to all of that corn?  Who will use it? Where does it go?

Typically, Iowa has three primary markets for its corn: ethanol, exports and livestock. This year, our main markets are ethanol and livestock.

Ethanol is Iowa’s largest user of corn; producing high octane fuel for drivers and high-protein feed for livestock and poultry industries here in Iowa and around the world. This year, Iowa’s 42 ethanol plants are expected to use approximately 1.3 billion bushels of corn, which will produce well over 3.9 billion gallons of renewable ethanol fuel and 9.37 million U.S. tons of the livestock feed, distillers dried grains (DDGs).

The other primary market for Iowa’s corn crop is livestock. Feed and residual use will consume 455 million bushels of this year’s crop. Actual feed use in state will total approximately 296 million bushels. Below is an estimated corn consumption breakdown for 2014/2015 crop from the state’s different livestock sectors:

  1. Hogs – 163 million bushels
  2. Beef Cattle – 61 million bushels
  3. Poultry – 52 million bushels
  4. Dairy – 18 million bushels
  5. Other – 2 million bushels    

Another major livestock-related market for corn is distillers dried grains (DDGs). This often forgotten ethanol co-product has become extremely popular among cattle feeders, hog producers and poultry feeders due to its high protein content compared to whole corn and soybean meal.  2.315 million short tons will be fed to livestock and poultry in the state of Iowa, and another 7.054 million short tons will be exported. The 2.315 million short tons that will be fed in Iowa will displace the need for an additional 118 million bushels of corn. This stat clearly debunks the “food vs. fuel” myth–ethanol produces “FOOD and FUEL.”  

Being able to provide food, feed, clean fuel and fiber to the world’s growing population is something that all Iowans should take great pride in.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Get to Know Natalie Te Grootenhuis, Market Development Intern at Iowa Corn

Hello everyone, my name is Natalie Te Grootenhuis and I am the new Marketing Development Intern here at Iowa Corn.

I grew up on a farm outside of Hospers, Iowa, my dad is a farmer and my mom is a fifth grade teacher at MOC-Floyd Valley. I have one younger brother who will be a sophomore in high school. At a young age I learned to love agriculture, when I was younger we raised baby calves and bottle fed about five hundred of them. This meant while other kids were at the pool swimming I was hanging out with my four legged best friends. My family now raises cattle and pigs along with crop farming corn and soybeans.

I graduated from MOC- Floyd Valley in 2013 where I was involved in FFA, 4H, softball, student council and served on the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Team. Following that I enrolled at Northwestern College (NWC) in Orange City Iowa, where I have an Ag-business and Marketing major. At NWC I serve as the women’s basketball manager as well as work with our local NRCS office doing surveying work. I am a member of the 2014-2015 Collegiate Advisory Team here at Iowa Corn as well. Though this experience I became more aware of what Iowa Corn is allowing me to step into my position here as the marketing intern well. Next spring I will enter “the real world” where I hope to be employed at an agriculture based business doing marketing work.

This summer I will be working a lot with the Iowa Corn 300 race as well as promoting other Iowa Corn events.  I am really excited for my summer at Iowa Corn; I look forward to getting to know my co-workers better and learning a lot from the organization.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meet an Iowa Farmer: Ryan Gallagher

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 Ryan Gallagher, a farmer and ICGA member from Washington County.

Tell about you, your family, and your background and farm operation.
I grew up on a century farm in Washington, IA and now have become the 5th generation to raise corn and soybeans on our family farm.  I work every day with my father and uncle on the farm, which is great because it keeps our family close together and makes us proud of our heritage.  My wife Jessica and I got married about two years ago.   We are both looking forward to raising a family on the farm-with hopefully many more generations to continue farming in the future. 

Why did you decide to be a farmer?
I grew up working on the farm and always loved the work!  In farming you will run into a lot of new obstacles and challenges every year.  I have always been the type of person who enjoys taking on those new challenges.  Having a farm in the family for over 100 years has made me feel proud of my heritage and inspired me to continue on the same path.  I went to college in Arizona and worked in Minneapolis for a while, but I always missed my life on the farm.  Living in Iowa, working on the farm with my family and raising kids on the farm is the American dream for me. 

What else do you dedicate time to outside of farming?
Family and friends, traveling, bicycling, golf, boating and Hawkeye sports.

Any farming advice or life lessons you'd share with new farmers?
When it comes to farming what works strategy wise one year might not work at all the following year or any year after that. It is important to evaluate every year differently than the last and be ready and willing to adapt as needed, without over committing yourself one direction or the other. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leadership and the Political Process

Good things come in threes. Maybe it’s just a trite saying, but maybe there’s something to it. I-LEAD Class 7 gathered for our third session in late March and here are three key takeaways:

1) We connected with other young professionals and senior executives at the annual Young Professional in Ag (YPiA) Executive Breakfast, with a keynote address from National Corn Growers Association CEO, Chris Novak. 

Key takeaway: Life is too short to wake up every day and do something you don’t love. 

2) We teamed up with Iowa Farm Bureau’s Ag Leader participants to meet with Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds at the state Capitol, completed an educational exercise illustrating the decisions folks in Congress have to make, and listened to a water quality and nutrient management update. 

Key takeaway: The issues elected officials have on their plates are typically complicated and interrelated with other matters – it may not be as straight-forward as it appears from my point of view. 

3) After individually reading the book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni prior to our session, we discussed the lessons and application to our work and personal lives. 

Key takeaway: High performing teams start with a foundation of trust. A team can’t develop further unless there is trust among the team. 

Mission to New Orleans
As the weather warms to summer, I-LEAD Class 7 is preparing for our domestic mission to New Orleans in late June. As I think about New Orleans and the significance of its ports to the ag industry, I’m reminded of a speaker I recently listened to at the National Agri-Marketing Association’s annual conference in Kansas City. 
The speaker’s name was Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist, which means he uses geography to understand societies, political environments, economies, etc. One of the ideas Peter talked about was that the United States has more navigable miles of river than the rest of the world combined, and those rivers conveniently overlay some of the most productive soil in the world – the Midwest. He explains that this is one of the factors that help make the U.S. a world superpower.  We are able to efficiently move commodities and goods down the Mississippi to New Orleans (and other ports) and export them around the world. To further clarify why this is an economic advantage, Brazil’s transportation costs are 100 times the U.S. Our transportation cost advantage isn’t entirely due to the Mississippi, but it certainly has played a key role throughout history and remains relevant today. 
While in New Orleans, one of the things we’ll be learning about is the port infrastructure. After listening to Peter speak and downloading the audio version of his book, The Accidental Superpower, I now have an even greater appreciation for the influence partner industries, like transportation, have on agriculture and am excited to learn more. 

My name is Laura Holoubek, current member of I-Lead Class 7 and author of this post. I work in marketing and communications for agribusiness clients at a West Des Moines, IA advertising agency called Meyocks. Originally from a diversified farm in Nebraska, I graduated from the University of Nebraska with an Ag Communications degree. I'm involved in the National Agri-Marketing Association, Young Professionals in Agriculture and helped start a young adults group at my local church. Sometimes I claim to be an 81-year-old woman in a young person’s body as my primary hobbies include quilting, baking and gardening. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ode to Iowa Corn-Fed Beef

Much to some’s disbelief, there’s nothing better than Iowa corn-fed beef.
It’s tender, delicious, and positively nutritious.

Just 3 ounces at each meal, cooked any way you feel.
You’ll have more energy than a machine, because beef’s a great source of protein.

There’s T-bones and tenderloins, cheeseburgers and sirloins
With 29 different lean cuts to choose from, your taste buds will never get tiresome.

Raised right here in the midwest, by the farmers and ranchers we know best.
Who ensure the highest quality product gets from their gate, all the way to your plate.

So fire up the grill, grab a glass of something chilled,
and breathe a sigh of relief, because you’re about to enjoy the best Iowa corn-fed beef.