Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category

As a farmer, what do you think your calling is? This is something I have not thought. Am I here just to have 40 chances to raise a crop? Am I here just to provide for my family? Do I just want to play with cool new toys whether they be big combines, drones or new seed technologies? OR is my calling a higher calling?

On Thursday we had the opportunity to meet with 3 different groups:
Korea Feed Association (KFA)
-Nonghyup Feed Inc (NOFI)
Sunkwang Co Ltd port grain handling facility at Incheon

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What was interesting with these meetings is that they all had the similar messages and similar concerns. While they really like US corn there have been major issues especially with broken kernels as of late. Trying to reason through this has become a challenge. Does the corn have a lower protein content due to higher yields? Is it due to breeding corn more to ethanol production? Is it because of the specific location that the corn is grown? Or is it due to the fact that 2013 required a lot of corn to be heat dried in many areas that deliver to the Pacific Northwrest (PNW)?

I think everyone in our group would agree this lead to a lot more questions than answers for us. It also lead us to realize that there are many things we cannot control when trying to deliver a product to a specific market. Each hybrid has different qualities when mixed together may have a positive effect on grain going to a specific market or it may have a negative effect. This is something that as the American farmer we may not be able to control.

While I cannot control a lot of these issues, I do understand their frustrations and questions. But even as we heard these issues there was one important statement that stuck with me. It was when we met with NOFI. One of the gentleman we met with, Na Sumin, made the following statement:

The US farmer’s calling is to save the world

We always talk about “feeding the world” but I have never had anyone say we are to “save the world”. This really stuck with me. We are the innovators of the world, whether it is biotechnology or equipment or software, it is who we are. We have the ability to spread that knowledge throughout the world. This knowledge is what will allow other farmers in other areas to become more efficient in their production so their families, neighbors and communities can eat better and have a higher quality of life. This is something I believe each of us as the American farmer needs to take a hard look at. What am I doing to help “save the world?”

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Market place at night

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Farming the world around

Posted: September 9, 2014 in agriculture, corn, farming

One of the most important things we, as the American farmer, need to remember is how important it is to raise a high quality crop that the world wants. Many times we tend to worry about yield, yield, yield. I know I am guilty of this thinking. After spending some time with our ag friends in Japan, I have come to appreciate the need to make sure that the quality of crop I am producing is the highest quality corn crop I can produce.

On Tuesday we met with 3 different groups:
Zen-Noh
Japan Ministry of Ag-Livestock Production Division
Japan Feed Manufactures Association

Every single group was greatly concerned about the size and quality of the 2014 corn crop. While we have heard how gigantic this crop will be, they have heard the same thing and wanted us to verify that this is true. We were able to verify that at this stage it looks to be an exceptional crop.

But the biggest thing that came up was the quality. We heard over and over how the 2012 corn crop’s quality was very bad. It was bad enough it forced them to go and buy South American corn. This is a big deal because the Japanese livestock and miller industries like to have a consistent quality of crop. This includes color, hardiness and protein. When they have to go to South America the color and hardiness is different which affects the quality of meat and eggs they produce.

While this was a major deal of the quality from the 2012 crop, they are also greatly concerned about the protein quality in the crop. Apparently when we raise a big crop the protein amount in the corn goes down. This seems to be an issue we are going to have to work on in American corn production. While there is no one specific factor in causing the low protein there seems to be some theories as to the cause. Whether it is weather related, artificial drying related or the fact that we are breeding more and more for ethanol production, they all seem to play a factor. But with the ability to meet with these groups face to face it allows us to reassure them that we are raising a very good crop.

At the end of the day, most everything we do is built upon relationships. Whether it is the relationship between and farmer and his seed supplier or the relationship between the farmer and the end user, they all help in making sure that the products coming out of America are still the best in the world.

Tokyo Here I Come

Posted: September 8, 2014 in agriculture, farming, seed, technology, water

As many people know, agriculture, especially corn, is near and dear to my heart. Getting to talk to groups about what we do in Nebraska and specifically on our farm is something I love to do. So when the opportunity arose for me to travel with US Grains Council on a trade mission to Japan and Korea I was more than willing to accept the challenge of presenting half way around the world.

One of the great partnerships the Nebraska Corn Board has is with the US Grains Council (USGC). We are proud supporters of them, understanding the importance of foreign markets to the farmers in the United States. With these foreign markets we have many great rewards and many challenges depending on the quality and quantity of the crop produced. Because of this, it is important to get farmers in front of the foreign markets from time to time.

This year I have the privilege to be one of those “faces of the American corn farmer”. As it turns out I also get to be the technology spokesman, which is something that I thoroughly enjoy. And I get to spend this time with 4 other farmers from some of the major corn growing states. They are
– Denny Vennekotter, Ohio Corn Marketing Program
– Dan Cole, Illinois Corn Growers Association
– Kevin Hurst, Missouri Corn Growers Association

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– Carl Jardon, Iowa Corn Growers Association
Also on the trip are
– Sean Broderick, CHS

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– Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey, Director of Industry Relations, USGC
– Manuel Sanchez, Manager of Global Trade, USGC

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– Tetsuo (Tommy) Hamamoto, Director USGC Japan

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After a long day of travel with a couple hour “maintenance” delay in Denver, we hit the ground in Tokyo, made it through customs, changed the dollar to Yen and crashed at the hotel.

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Outside our hotel

On Monday morning we found my home away from home…Starbucks. It did cost me about 50% more than back home but it was worth it. After this we had our briefing meeting at USGC’s Tokyo Office followed by an amazing lunch.

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This all lead up to our first official presentation in the afternoon in front of different Japanese groups and media. This was a great time which allowed me to appreciate the challenges in communication. As I was presenting in English they needed to translate into Japanese. The challenge was speaking mainly in 2 sentence bullet points so as not to get too far ahead of the interpreter. But it was a great and receptive audience which had very good questions.

Kevin Hurst gave a great “farmer” look at the 2014 corn crop followed by an overall look at the corn crop from Manuel Sanchez. After this was a great look from Sean Broderick at DDGs with the pricing, usage worldwide and consistency of the overall product.

The importance of explaining how we do things in America to produce our corn crop should never be forgotten or minimized. We need to continue to spread this message whether to our neighbors down the street or our neighbors across the globe.

Tomorrow is another day of meetings but with more face to face time instead of a seminar format. We will see what tomorrow holds.

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One of the major challenges I face every day is the fact that just over 2 years ago I had a stroke.  It wasn’t a major debilitating stroke nor was it a TIA (transient ischemic attack).  It was just powerful enough to wipe out a  1/4 of my eyesight and the quick recall area of the brain.  This may not necessarily seem like a big issue but when it comes to farming, and life in general,  it can be a challenge.

I have always prided myself on being the right-brained, big picture thinker that can recall just about anything I needed to.   Even though we were keeping records, both written and electronic,  from spraying to planting to irrigating to harvesting on the farm, I could most generally tell you what I had planted in any field, what we had sprayed (names and rates), and then at the end of the year recalled what each field yielded and probably what I approximately made per field.  This worked great as we did research, met with seed dealers, discussed ideas with Extension, and worked with the Technology Association we are involved with because I did not have to carry around a big binder with all the information in it.

But in one 2 minute period on February 3rd, 2011 changed all of that.  No longer do I have the privilege and ability to quickly recall the info I need. It is much like storing a file in the computer and then trying to locate it without remembering the name of the file, the name of the folder or even what drive you stored it in and the search function on the computer glitches out.  The brain then has to compensate for that. How, I am not exactly sure, but brain overload happens a lot more frequently then it did in the past.

What does this have to do with farming or technology?  Is wasn’t that many years ago, if I had a stroke,  I would have been having to write things down and then remember where I left my notebook(s) and which one contained what information or if they all contained part of the information I need.  Of course, it would help if I was naturally organized and left brained but that is another subject for another day.  Now in farming we have so many tools that it keeps the information literally right at my fingertips.  Yes, some of the apps are expensive as are some of the farm programs, but I can easily carry and access all the information that I used to store in my head.  Does it frustrate me that I cannot remember what I want to when I need to or that I may have very unproductive and bad days? Of course it does, but now I am able to record and keep all the information I need at any time.

Even though my brain feels fried more than it should, I am now finally learning how to effectively utilize my iPhone (Informant Pro, Notes, GeoNotes, others), iPad (FieldView, JD Mobile Farm, Evernote, others)  and laptop to make myself much more functional. Each of these apps serves a specific purpose.  In the coming weeks I will look a little deeper at each of these plus others I am utilizing or will be utilizing on the farm. Stay tuned.

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions” —Albert Einstein