A weakened Renewable Fuel Standard helps these 10 people

Big Oil makes the list of big winners with a weakened RFS.

High rollin’ Big Oil executives, the Koch Brothers, and asthma inhaler manufacturers make a list of the top 10 people who benefit from a weakened Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compiled by Fuels America.

Minnesota corn farmers have been waiting…and waiting…and waiting…for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue final numbers on the 2014 RFS, which sets targets for the amount of homegrown ethanol blended into our fuel supply.

EPA proposed drastically slashing the RFS, but has yet to release a final number for 2014. Minnesota corn farmers and renewable fuels supporters sent over 7,000 letters to EPA telling the agency to not mess with the RFS.

Ethanol made my Minnesota corn farmers and a strong RFS means cleaner air, lower gas prices, more rural jobs and less reliance on foreign oil from hostile countries or environmentally sensitive areas.

Weakening the RFS is good for Big Oil and overseas countries looking to attract biofuels investments that would normally be made in the U.S., but it’s not good for the average American.

And with a record corn crop of 14 billion bushels projected by USDA, U.S. corn farmers have proven once again that they can grow enough corn to provide plenty of food, feed, fiber and fuel for the entire world, with some left over.

Unless you made the top 10 list, a weaker RFS is bad news for you.


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Saudi Arabia feed grain buyers visit Minnesota corn farm

Marty Amundson, center, showing a cob of field corn from his farm in Zumbrota, Minn., to two members of a Saudi Arabia feed buyer’s team.

A team of six feed grain buyers traveled from the sands of Saudi Arabia to the farm fields of Southeastern Minnesota on Tuesday, Aug. 19, to get an up-close look at a Minnesota corn farm.

Most people think of Saudi Arabia as a desert, but it has regions where farming is possible. The country is also home to a handful of large dairy operations, including Almarai, the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world.

You can find poultry and beef operations, too, as well as crops such as wheat, barley and sorghum.

So far this marketing year, which ends on Aug. 31, the U.S. has exported 37.4 million bushels of corn to Saudi Arabia.

Cary Siferath from the U.S. Grains Council traveled with the buyer’s team to Minnesota. The team included officials from three large Saudi dairy operations that collectively milk about 250,000 cows. A representative from Saudi Arabia’s largest feed company was also part of the group.

“We’ve seen U.S. corn market share come back up in Saudi Arabia,” Sifferath said. “We want to build on that. It’s important to have these corn importers come to the U.S. and meet with corn producers directly.”

The six-member team visited Marty Amundson’s farm in Zumbrota, Minn. Marty farms with his family and is the former Chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council.

“From the farmer’s perspective, it’s beneficial to meet with foreign buyers to not only learn more about what they want from our product, but also develop relationships that help open additional markets for Minnesota corn,” Amundson said. “The team had a lot of good questions and I was proud to show them what corn farming in Minnesota was all about.”

Sifferath shares more details about the visit and U.S. corn in Saudi Arabia in the below radio interviews:


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Corn here, corn there, corn everywhere at the Minnesota State Fair

MN State Fair

Playing Corn Toss at the Minnesota State Fair.

The Minnesota State Fair opens on Thursday, Aug. 21, and that means plenty of opportunities for fairgoers to learn a little something about food and farming.

Minnesota’s corn farmers will be well represented at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, starting with “A-Maize-Ing” Corn Day on Aug. 22 on the Christensen Farms Stage near the CHS Miracle of Birth Center.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., kids can participate in fun corn-themed activities such as using biodegradable Magic Nuudles made from corn starch to create animals and other designs. There will also be corn-centric giveaways and prizes.

The Minnesota Corn Growers will be helping out in the Moo Booth on Aug. 23. Stop by the historic Cattle Barn to see hand milking demonstrations, the Agrilympics and other info on farming in Minnesota.

Maizey the Minnesota Corn mascot and Radio Disney take over the outdoor stage near Carousel Park on Aug. 25. Maizey and the Radio Disney team will be singing, dancing and teaching kids about corn farming while giving out prizes and having a good time.

And don’t forget to try out some new foods, many of which feature corn as an ingredient. If you search for “corn” in the Minnesota State Fair food finder, you get 126 results. There are plenty of options to enjoy corn at the fair!

Minnesota’s corn farmers hope to see you at the state fair this year!

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The Minnesota Farm Team is having an outstanding season

MN Farm Team

Minnesota’s Farm Team was out in full force inside the Corn Growers Tent at Farmfest in early August.

Are you ready for some football? And some basketball? And hockey, too? The Minnesota Farm Team is.

Soon, it will be time to hang up the baseball glove and either put on shoulder pads, lace up the skates or step into a pair of basketball shorts.

The Minnesota Farm Team will be making the transition as well, and they’ll do it while harvesting crops, raising cattle and providing food, feed, fiber and fuel for a growing world population.

With the Minnesota Twins season winding down, Minnesota’s Farm Team will keep right on playing thanks to a partnership with Gophers football, basketball and hockey. Look for Minnesota Farm Team themed promotions, giveaways and information at Gophers sports events this fall and winter. More details will be coming soon.

However, baseball season isn’t over yet. There’s still time to play T-W-I-N-G-O, sponsored by Minnesota’s Farm Team, at Twins home games and win several great prizes, including free tickets to a Twins game and the opportunity to serve as a special Twins grounds crew assistant for a game at Target Field.

Heck, even if you don’t play T-W-I-N-G-O you still have a chance to win. Head over to the Minnesota Farm Team homepage and find out how.

(Hint: Don’t be shy. Ask for some help if you need it.)

See you on the field!

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Huffington Post blog provides actual insight instead of rhetoric on E15

E15 and E30 in Minnesota

This photo is from a ceremony that opened the first E15 pump in Minnesota. A proposal in Chicago would bring E15 to every fuel station in the city.

The city of Chicago is considering a proposal that would bring E15 — a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — to every fuel station in the city. As this proposal gains momentum, no doubt we’ll see plenty of sensationalized claims and emotional articles pushed by Big Oil companies and parroted by the mainstream media about the “dangers” of E15.

That’s why it was refreshing to read this post on E15 at the Huffington Post blog from researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory. Here’s a snippet:

…our research indicates that, if the City of Chicago makes this higher-ethanol fuel available at gas stations, every person who opts for E15 will be making a small but real contribution toward our long-term goal of a clean energy future.

Isn’t that refreshing to read? A statement on E15 in a mainstream publication based on legitimate research, not rhetoric. A balanced opinion that doesn’t make wild claims. Actual insight that sparks conversation, not more shouting and manufactured debate.

The Argonne researchers are right: E15 isn’t the magical cure to all of our energy problems, but it’s a major step in the right direction. Let’s give consumers the choice of using this cleaner burning, homegrown and less expensive fuel every time they fill up.

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Webinar series will help Minnesota farmers better understand farm bill

If you’re a farmer and you’re not quite sure what to make of the 2014 farm bill, be sure to check out this three-part webinar series hosted by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and co-sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers and Minnesota Wheat Growers.

“These are very complex, long-term decisions farmers have to make on the farm programs,” said commodity advisor and broker Al Kluis, who will be participating in each webinar.

The first webinar was held on Thursday, Aug. 14 and covered updating crop base acres and FSA yields. It can be viewed here. The schedule for the rest of the webinars is as follows:

Aug. 26 – Understanding the ARC and PLC Farm Program Decision
Sept. 11 – Farm Program Decision Basics for Land Owners

Participants must pre-register for the webinars, which you can do here. If you are not able to participate in a webinar as it happens, each webinar should be posted here the day after it’s held.

Kluis talked about the webinar series on a recent edition of Corn Update on the Linder Farm Network. Listen to the interview below.

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Is USDA’s projection for Minnesota’s 2014 corn harvest too high?

The latest USDA report projects a record corn crop of over 14 million bushels in 2014. The report predicts Minnesota corn farmers will harvest 1.34 billion bushels, slightly more than last year but not quite as high as 2012′s record.

After a soggy start to this year’s planting season that prevented many Minnesota corn farmers from getting into fields and washed some crops out entirely, USDA’s projections for Minnesota might seem too optimistic.

However, after such a tough start, it’s nice to hear some optimism about this year’s crop. We’ll see what the numbers show once the combines start harvesting.

Another concern for Minnesota corn farmers is the current price of corn. It takes about $4.50 — $5 to raise a bushel of corn. With current market prices hovering in the $4 range, and lower yields compared to the rest of the country due to a late start, profit margins will be tight for Minnesota corn farmers this year.

For more on the Minnesota corn crop, check out this video from a recent edition of the KSTP evening news.

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Ethanol vs. Gasoline: Video shows how ethanol burns cleaner

The Illinois Corn Growers Association has released a great new video demonstrating how ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline.

Using ethanol instead of gasoline helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 34 percent, even when hypothetical land use emissions are factored in. In 2013, 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol were produced, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles by 38 million metric tons — the equivalent of removing 8 million cars from the road.

Ethanol also reduces tailpipe emissions by as much as 30 percent and cuts down on smog. Minnesota’s metro communities were not in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality standards until blending 10 percent ethanol in all gasoline helped clean the air.

But that’s enough statistics. Check out the video from the Illinois Corn Growers to see for yourself why ethanol is cleaner burning than gasoline.


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A quick summary of the 2014 MN Ag Leadership Conference

Rick Nolan

Congressman Rick Nolan stopped for a picture with MCGA Executive Director Tim Gerlach, MCGA President Ryan Buck and MCGA Government Relations Direct Anna Borroff at the 2014 MN Ag Leadership Conference.

The 2014 MN Ag Leadership Conference (MALC) took place Sunday through Tuesday this week in Brainerd. Over 150 farmers, agribusiness leaders, policy experts and elected officials gathered to talk about important ag topics such as trade, transportation, taxes, regulations and the political landscape.

Highlights included:

Congressman Peterson and Nolan
Congressman Collin Peterson opened the conference by addressing the group on Sunday. Congressman Rick Nolan closed the conference with a lunchtime talk on Tuesday.

Staff from the offices of Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken also attended all three days.

Farm bill
USDA will soon be releasing final rules on the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) portions of the 2014 farm bill. Dr. Joe Outlaw previewed an online tool being developed by Texas A&M University to help farmers with upcoming decisions about crop insurance coverage.

“Farmers will soon have all these decisions to make, and that’s a good thing,” Outlaw said. “The more decisions you have to make, the more you can tailor coverage to fit your operation.”

To learn more about Dr. Outlaw and Texas A&M’s work on helping farmers better navigate the new farm bill, go here.

Political insights
David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report returned to MALC for his always insightful and informative look at today’s polarized political landscape.

“The majority of Minnesotans still live in areas with diverse viewpoints,” he said. “That’s getting more rare these days.”

Minnesota political analyst Blois Olson talked with the group about the Minnesota political happenings, including upcoming races for governor, a senate seat and local elections. He also offered this piece of advice on how the agriculture community can better connect with the non-farming public.

“Don’t stop talking,” he said. “Don’t start screaming, but don’t stop talking to people.”

Taxes, taxes and taxes
Tax attorney Matt Dolan says don’t hold out hope for any type of significant tax reform in the near future.

“Tax reforms are typically taken on during the first term, when presidential political power is maximized,” he said. “There just isn’t enough political capital right now to do anything major with taxes.”

Spending vs. investing
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, shared his insights about the future challenges of transportation in the United States. When thinking about transportation, Steenhoek says we need to change our mindset from a spending mentality to an investing mentality.

“When you invest, you’re taking your dollar and expecting a greater return down the road,” he said. “When you spend, you’re hoping to get some kind of return the next day. We should be investing in transportation.”

Update from USDA
Todd Batta, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations at USDA, says the agency’s budget has been cut by $1 billion since 2009, resulting in staffing challenges. Nonetheless, rollout of the new farm bill continues.

“We have two big things coming up,” Batta said. “ARC/PLC rules and regulations should be out soon and dairy program rules should be out by Sept. 1.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
A farm bill finally got passed, but trade agreements that also impact agriculture are hanging in limbo.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would help the United States maintain a competitive advantage in Asian markets. In addition to traditional industry goods, the agreement would also cover 21st century issues like digital goods and intellectual property.

“An agreement is getting close, but politics his holding it up,” said John Gilliland, a trade attorney at Akin Gump, LLP.

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Anoka County 4-H working to bring a positive message about farming to area youth

Corn bags

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association donated these corn bags and other corn-related items to help Anoka County 4-H provide youth at Northgate Woods apartments with a fun and informative message about food and farming.

There were 615 farms spanning almost 100,000 acres in Anoka County in 1969. Today, there are 396 farms covering fewer than 45,000 acres.

Urban sprawl has turned a lot of that Anoka County farmland into prime residential and business developments. Homes, schools, shopping centers and restaurants now occupy land that used to be cornfields, barns and pastures.

Even though there are fewer farms in Anoka County today than 45 years ago (as is the case in counties throughout the United States), it’s still important for Anoka and similar communities to maintain some type of connection to the farm.

Whether you live in a big city, small town, or a farming community turned metro suburb like Anoka County, everybody eats food that comes from a farm. Farming still plays a major role in your everyday life.

That’s why the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) was more than happy to donate bags made out of corn and other fun corn-related items for a farm-themed summer youth program run by the Anoka County 4-H at Northgate Woods, a low-income housing community in Anoka.

Over seven programs this summer, youth from Northgate Woods learned about animals and plants in agriculture. Specific topics included corn, dairy cows, chickens and soybeans. Project kits were provided by the Anoka County Farm Bureau to aid in lesson planning.

Corn Play Doh

Making corn Play-Doh as part of the corn lesson led by Anoka County 4-H at Northgate Woods.

By using presentations, story books, games, and hands-on activities, youth who have no connection to a farm learn about the science of agriculture in a meaningful way,” said Layne Tralle, 4-H Youth Teaching Youth Coordinator in Anoka County. “For example, an Anoka County 4-H member brought two chickens as part of her presentation to the youth at Northgate Woods. They were able to touch the chickens’ combs, feathers, feet, and beaks. They left 4-H that day understanding what chickens are fed and how they are cared for. They learned how to tell what color eggs each chicken will lay and when they eat eggs at home, they’ll know what kind of chicken they came from. Teaching youth about the science of agriculture helps them build a greater appreciation and connection to the farmers who grow the food they eat. They also have a much greater understanding about how corn and soybean farmers grow the food fed to livestock, which in turn feeds them.” 

Anoka County 4-H also connects with other youth over the entire summer with events like an agriculture scavenger hunt, 4-H Family Farmfest, ag day camps and a visit to the ag campus at the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota’s corn farmers are proud to support organizations like the Anoka County 4-H as they work to deliver a positive and educational message about food and farming in areas that are not as directly connected to the farm as they once were.

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