Childress: Ethanol a Winner for Racers & Farmers

childress-testThe Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. One of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.”

Childress, who has also been in the farming business for 30 years, says he knows what it’s like for farmers.

“Ethanol is definitely a great plus for our farmers in America today.”

Listen to all of Childress’ remarks here: NASCAR team owner Richard Childress testifying before Senate Agriculture Committee

Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.”

Hear more of what Stabenow had to say here: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of Senate Agriculture Committee

NCGA Supports Federal GMO Labeling Legislation

ncgaThe National Corn Growers Association announced its support for legislation introduced at a press conference today that would establish a federal standard for the safety and labeling of food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients.

“The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act provides certainty for both consumers and farmers alike by creating a unified, science-based approach to labeling and eliminating potential risks and costs posed by an expensive patchwork of labeling laws,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, a farmer from Carmi, Ill. “NCGA’s more than 40,000 members work tirelessly to provide America’s families with a wide variety of nutritious, quality food choices that are both safe and affordable. A federal GMO labeling solution will allow consumers to feel confident in the safety of American food by affirming the FDA’s sole authority in food safety and labeling decisions. We applaud Reps. Mike Pompeo (R- Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D- N.C.) as well as Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) who introduced this legislation, for their work on behalf of families and farmers.”

The legislation introduced will protect consumers and ensure the safety of food ingredients using solid, science-based information by providing a consistent, informative GMO labeling solution that eliminates confusion and advances food safety.

In setting out a federal labeling system, it reaffirms the FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of GMO food ingredients while providing consumers greater confidence by establishing a required FDA safety review process for all new GMO traits. Notably, the FDA would have the authority to mandate the labeling of any GMO food ingredients it determines would create a health, safety or nutrition issue.

The legislation would also empower the FDA to provide greater consistency in the market by defining the term “natural” for its use on food and beverage products. The clear definition of this commonly used term would offer consumers clarity about products allowing them to base choices on information verified instead of marketing claims.

“America’s corn farmers want the same things as families across the country. We want to keep families safe and protect our nation’s food supply,” said Barbre. “That is why we believe it is imperative important decisions about our safety and how we label what we eat should remain in the hands of experts, the scientists at the FDA. NCGA supports the Congressmen’s effort to ensure America’s food supply remains safe and America’s consumers have access to clear, consistent information based in reputable science.”

For more information about GMOs and the need for a federal labeling standard, visit www.CFSAF.org.

Hick Chick Chat about Norman Borlaug

11326519286_c9a07ae0bf_oBack in early October, I got an email from Cindy asking if I would be available to join her in Des Moines for the World Food Prize. Of course I was available, but what on earth is the World Food Prize. I did some Google research, I had seen our agenda, but I really had NO clue what I was about to learn and hear in downtown Des Moines. I kept telling Cindy that I was totally fascinated by the sheer knowledge I was gaining. At some points I think she wanted to choke me if I said “this is fascinating” one more time. Truth be told, I’d never heard of Norman Borlaug, the Borlaug Dialogue and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Boy, did that all change.

normAs the week went on and I started to learn more about the players and was a bit star struck when Julie Borlaug was on our same elevator on the way to one of our functions. Truth About Trade and Technology had allowed me to meet and interact with farmers from around the globe and learn more about each of them. They truly were a fun group to meet and spend time with. But Dr. Borlaug, his legacy and seeing a man I had interviewed many times in my radio days, Dr. Robb Fraley be honored as one of the laureates; the puzzle pieces all began to come together. I can’t say anything more about Dr. Borlaug than what the folks who were on-hand at the installation in the nation’s capital did.

You can listen to the Hick Chick Chat of the Norman Borlaug statue installation: Hick Chick Chat Dr.Norman Borlaug Statue Installation

Borlaug Statue Unveiling Photo Album

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NCGA Joins REAP Initiative as Founding Partner

ncgaAt the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS), the ATIP Foundation (Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership) has established a public-private partnership to enhance research on sustainable soil health for multiple land uses in agriculture. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has joined USDA and ATIP along with four other founding partners of the Resilient Economic Agricultural Practices (REAP) public-private partnership to support and strengthen soil health research that addresses the needs of U.S. farmers.

“We live in a nation that can easily satisfy all of its food needs thanks to the extraordinary productivity of our farmers and their careful management of our soil resources,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Through this public-private partnership, led by the ATIP Foundation, the agriculture sector has created a model of leveraging public and private resources to address sustainability and economic prosperity by enhancing research on land management practices.”

“NCGA and the other six founding participants of REAP that comprise the Technical Review Council, met recently with ARS scientists to broaden outreach to private, non-governmental and agriculture sectors that would benefit from ARS research,” said Don Glenn, Chair of NCGA’s Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair. “We feel that REAP research will not only identify important soil management practices, but will also contribute to the field work of the Soil Health Partnership launched earlier this year by NCGA with support from Monsanto and the Walton Family Foundation.”

The REAP initiative consists of nine multi-state USDA ARS locations and their university partners who will pair regionally significant soil data sets with local practices. The focus of this research will be to identify the production and sustainable advantages of different soil management strategies.

Land Trusts Converging on Washington

LandLand trust leaders from across the country are converging on Capitol Hill on April 2 to educate and engage Congressional members on key land conservation issues that support the nation in securing local economic sustainability, fresh food, clean water, places to recreate, and keeping family farms in the family, during the third annual Land Trust Advocacy Day sponsored by the Land Trust Alliance.

Land trust leaders will attend issue briefings and networking events before conducting more than 100 individual meetings with staff and members of Congress in the Senate and House from key districts, as well as with members on the tax, agriculture and appropriations committees to promote the economic, social and natural impacts their work has on rural, suburban and urban communities alike. Everyone from sportsmen, farmers, and ranchers, to foresters and recreationists value and seek favorable policies to support land conservation.

Last year’s meetings were instrumental in securing more than one billion dollars for a new conservation program in the Farm Bill. Land trusts have also recently celebrated an enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations that was included both in President Obama’s proposed budget and in the tax reform package proposed by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (MI).

Land trusts are community-based conservation organizations formed by local citizens that acquire and protect land for the benefit of their community. Strong land trusts provide local communities with effective champions and caretakers of their critical land resources.

The Land Trust Alliance is a national conservation group that works on behalf of the nation’s 1,700 land trusts to save the places people love by strengthening conservation nationwide. The Alliance works to increase the pace and quality of conservation by advocating favorable tax policies and training land trusts in best practices, and working to ensure the permanence of conservation in the face of continuing threats.

Hick Chick Chat: Dick Durbin talks Ukraine, Farm Bill

11326519286_c9a07ae0bf_oDriving into town one day last week, I caught most of an interview with Senator Dick Durbin on the radio station where I used to work. Senator Durbin has been a staple on the air with morning show AM Springfield host Sam Madonia and he would often join me when I hosted my own noon show on the same station. Of course he talks a little bit about local topics in this interview as Durbin calls Springfield, Illinois his home. Last weekend, Senator Durbin discussed many of the same topics on Face the Nation that he also discussed on the local morning show.

D000563Senator Durbin is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He and others visited Ukraine last week to see first hand what exactly the situation is there and how he feels the US should be involved.

You can listen to the Hick Chick Chat with Assistant Senate Minority Leader, Dick Durbin here: Hick Chick Chat with US Senator Dick Durbin

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Ag Day Celebration in DC Features Policy

The National Agriculture Day celebration in Washington DC has events spread across three days – and really it should be more because it is officially National Agriculture Week.

ag-day-14-sara-harden1Official events to celebrate agriculture kicked off Monday with the Farm to Fork politics session sponsored by Agri-Pulse. With a live audience of nearly 400, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden sat down with Sara Wyant to discuss what they have been doing to implement the new farm bill. “Congress did give us a long time to plan, I’ll have to say that,” said Harden, who said the process really started when she took over the office last August, and continued as they waited and waited for Congress to finally get the bill passed.

Harden discussed the conservation title of the bill, which she says she is especially excited about. “Our goal is to really make sure that producers know all the opportunities they have as soon as possible,” she said. “I think farmers and ranchers will see it’s a good title with a lot of opportunities there.”

Listen to the conversation here: Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden and Sara Wyant of Agri-Pulse

Agri-Pulse Ag Day Photo Album

Coverage of National Ag Day is sponsored by BCS Communications

Expert Habitat Advice Provided to Land Managers

prairie-chicken copy 2Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Bonnie, announced today a renewed and expanded partnership to provide expert habitat advice to farmers and ranchers managing land within lesser prairie-chicken range.

“Our goal is to deliver a win-win for agricultural producers and wildlife,” said Bonnie. “We want to help farmers and ranchers succeed for the long term while also protecting and improving habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken and protecting the region’s ecosystem. Often, what is good for prairie-chickens is good for ranching.”

As part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), the agency is partnering with Pheasants Forever, a national wildlife conservation organization, to jointly invest $5 million over three years to support technical assistance, including hiring non-federal field conservationists to help farmers and ranchers voluntarily maintain and improve lesser prairie chicken habitat in the Southern Great Plains.

In addition, NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently finalized a plan that can provide regulatory predictability for farmers and ranchers improving lesser prairie-chicken habitat, should the species be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

As agreed to by NRCS and USFWS, farmers and ranchers voluntarily applying lesser prairie-chicken-friendly conservation practices may be protected from additional regulations under the Endangered Species Act for up to 30 years.

“The partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pheasants Forever, state fish and wildlife agencies and others is will provide crucial tools and resources for voluntary conservation on lands that can benefit the lesser prairie-chicken,” Bonnie said. “It’s partnerships like these that can find solutions for some of our country’s most challenging conservation issues.”

Dr. Borlaug Statue Unveiling on Ag Day

borlaug-statueNational Agriculture Day celebrations in Washington DC this year just happen to fall on March 25, the centennial anniversary date of the Father of the Green Revolution. As a fitting tribute, the State of Iowa will install a bronze statue of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol on that very day.

“The unveiling with be a historic event and celebration of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy,” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said. “His agricultural innovations saved an estimated billion people around the world from hunger and starvation.”

Each state is represented by two statues of notable citizens in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol Building. The statue of Borlaug will replace the statue of U.S. Senator James Harlan installed in 1910, which will be relocated to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The second statue representing Iowa is of Governor Samuel Kirkwood, which was installed in 1913.

More information about the statue project is available at www.iowaborlaugstatue.org, including information about related events and activities. People are also encouraged to watch a webcast of the statue unveiling ceremony, which will take place on March 25 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, at www.speaker.gov/live and since Chuck and Cindy will be there at the Capitol for National Ag Day, we should have coverage of the event featured here on AgWired as well.

The statue was unveiled at the World Food Prize in October, where we had the chance to see it up close and personal, and Cindy interviewed World Food Prize president Ambassador Kenneth Quinn about it. Listen to or download his comments about the statue here: WFP President Kenneth Quinn talks about Borlaug statue

Secretary Vilsack Attends 5th Commodity Classic

classic14-vilsack-stageHe’s been a regular fixture at Commodity Classic, with this year his fifth appearance at the annual gathering of corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s message to those gathered in San Antonio at this morning’s general session was how thankful he is for many things.

“It is awfully nice to come here today to talk about the PASSAGE of a Farm Bill, as opposed the need for a Farm Bill,” adding that commodity groups, such as those gathered in front of him, made the new law a reality. Vilsack said we don’t thank farmers enough for the work they do, especially considering how vital they are in the food, energy and economic security America enjoys. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with making sure the implementation of the Farm Bill translates into hope for all farmers, old and new alike. “Our Farm Bill, which you helped pass, for me creates a hopeful set of opportunities and rewards, and will invest in innovation.”

Looking forward, Vilsack said they want to continue the new trend of more young farmers coming back to rural America, especially encouraging minorities, women and returning military veterans to take up what has become again a strong industry. He also outlined how USDA would approach some of the new programs in the Farm Bill and how his agency would provide knowledge and flexibility to producers so they can get the most out of it and manage risks responsibly.

Transcript of speech

Secretary Vilsack at Commodity Classic

Vilsack Classic Press Conference

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Coverage is sponsored by John Deere

Vilsack to Address Commodity Classic

vilsackccThe growers of the Nation’s biggest crops will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”

“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”

The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.

Farm Bill Signed

President Obama traveled to Michigan State University to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Friday, calling it a bill that has “a lot of tools – it multi-tasks.”

fb-signing“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”

The president made note of the conservation efforts funded by the bill. “So that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy places like the Mississippi River Valley and Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “It helps rural communities grow, it gives farmers some certainty, it puts in place some important reforms.”

Listen to some of the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing

Conservation Measures to Help California

USDA-LogoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced USDA is making $20 million available for agricultural water conservation efforts throughout California to combat the effects of drought.

calif-drought“This $20 million will be directed to drought mitigation, focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallow ground and to assist with watering facilities and grazing distribution,” said Vilsack during a press conference Tuesday with Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “We expect this is the first of a number of announcements that will be made this week and in the future to provide assistance.”

“We in California are facing a disaster that has the potential to devastate our economy,” said Costa. “We have not had this dry a time period in all of California’s recorded history, that’s how bad it is.”

Interested landowners and managers have until March 3, 2014 to apply for available funds.USDA media call on California drought

Senate Approves Farm Bill

fb-2014The U.S. Senate today voted 68-32 to approve the Agricultural Act of 2014 – what was supposed to be the 2012 Farm Bill.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, who notes that the legislation includes “one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.”

The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs while strengthening tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife. By streamlining programs, the farm bill provides added flexibility and ensures conservation programs are working for producers in the most effective and efficient way – an approach supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations from all 50 states. These reforms increase resources for top priorities while reducing the deficit by $6 billion.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.

Farm Progress Show Will Reap International Business

FPS14-flagThe nation’s largest outdoor farm show, Farm Progress Show, has been selected to participate in the 2014 International Buyer Program (IBP). This year’s event takes place in Boone, IA, August 26-28.

The IBP is an export program led by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It brings thousands of international buyers to the U.S. for business-to-business matchmaking with U.S. companies exhibiting at major industry trade shows.

“We are honored to be selected to be among this elite group of trade shows,” said Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events manager. “The IBP program will bring a new level of international attention to those companies who participate in the Farm Progress Show.”

The goal of the IBP is to connect U.S. companies with overseas buyers to produce U.S. export sales. The program promotes their approved events to over 170 countries worldwide, to attract international buyers interested in the latest and most advanced agriculture technologies and products.

The IBP also will be offering unique matchmaking services at the Farm Progress Show, matching overseas buyers with U.S. exhibitors. U.S. exhibitors at the Farm Progress Show, through the IBP’s Showtime Program, will have excellent opportunities to meet with U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. State Department delegation leaders and export partners to discuss overseas market-entry strategies and potential markets and sales for their products/services.

For companies new to exporting or even more experienced exporters, seeking to export to additional target markets, the IBP offers export market advice and counseling. The IBP Team can also provide expert strategic advice and guidance to U.S. companies on which overseas trade show to participate in, what market entry strategies to use in their target markets, and how to locate and qualify overseas distributors and sales representatives.

“The U.S. Department of Commerce is committed to assisting U.S. companies at the Farm Progress Show establish export connections that lead to U.S. export sales. Behind every U.S. export, is a job, a family. That’s the heart of why we support U.S. domestic trade shows, like the Farm Progress Show. It doesn’t get any more important than that.” Mark Wells, IBP project officer, U.S. Department of Commerce.