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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meet an Iowa Farmer: Emily Cook

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 Emily Cook, a farmer and ICGA member from Wright County.

Tell about you, your family, and your background and farm operation
I’m a third generation farmer, working alongside my husband, and my family. On our farm we grow mainly corn here in Wright County.  I graduated from Iowa State with a degree in Apparel Merchandising. I started my working career in the apparel side of high end golf courses across the country. In those jobs I learned valuable lessons about myself, and what I really wanted in my life. However, my heart always remained on the farm back in Iowa. I’ve been blessed to have family who is willing to take time to share their knowledge and experiences with me. I’m forever grateful for their patience with me as I continue to learn about agriculture and the farm.    

Why did you decide to be a farmer? 
When my husband and I first got engaged we tried to figure out where we wanted life to take us. We both wanted to have a career which made a difference in the world, one where we could find happiness, and still be close to family. The answer for us was Iowa, and the farm where I grew up.  

What else do you dedicate time to outside of farming?
My husband and I are active in our church where we teach an after school program for the youth in our community. I also enjoy baking, throwing dinner parties, gardening, and reading classic books. 

Any farming advice or life lessons you'd share with new farmers? 
I think it is important to not be afraid to break the mold and the stereotypes which women often face in agriculture. Find what makes you happy, and do everything you can to stay that way.  
During the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk game who do you root for?
My Alma Mater, Go Cyclones! 

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.