Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday November 16 Ag News


For the week ending November 15, 2020, there were 4.4 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Topsoil moisture supplies rated 22% very short, 42% short, 36% adequate, and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 29% very short, 41% short, 29% adequate, and 1% surplus.

Field Crops Report:

Corn harvested was 96%, ahead of 82% last year and 88% for the five-year average.

Winter wheat condition rated 5% very poor, 19% poor, 37% fair, 36% good, and 3% excellent. Winter wheat emerged was 95%, behind 100% last year, and near 98% average.

Pasture and Range Report:  

Pasture and range conditions rated 22% very poor, 27% poor, 28% fair, 22% good, and 1% excellent.

Iowa Crop Progress & Condition Report

Above normal rainfall, snow in Northwest Iowa and cooler temperatures only allowed Iowa farmers 4.6 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending November 15, 2020, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Fieldwork activities again included harvesting corn and soybeans, baling corn stalks, applying fertilizer and manure, and tillage.

Topsoil moisture condition rated 13% very short, 29% short, 57% adequate and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture condition rated 21% very short, 34% short, 45% adequate and 0% surplus.

Only 3% of Iowa’s corn for grain crop remains to be harvested, almost 4 weeks ahead of last year and just over 2 weeks ahead of the 5-year average. Statewide, the moisture content of field corn being harvested for grain remained at 15%. Farmers in northwest, north central and west central Iowa have less than 1% of their corn for grain remaining to be harvested while farmers in south central Iowa still have 10% to be harvested.

Only 1% of Iowa’s soybean crop remains to be harvested, over 2 weeks ahead of last year and 8 days ahead of average. Only scattered fields are left to be harvested.

Livestock producers continue to allow cattle to graze on corn stalks.

USDA: 5% of Corn, 4% of Soybeans Left to Harvest

Winter wheat conditions improved slightly and the percentage of corn and soybeans remaining to be harvested moved to the single digits last week, according to the USDA NASS weekly Crop Progress report released on Monday.

Corn harvest moved ahead 4 percentage points last week to reach 95% complete as of Sunday, Nov. 15, 8 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 87%.

Soybean harvest also moved ahead 4 percentage points to reach 96% complete as of Sunday, 3 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 93%.

Winter wheat planting gained 3 percentage points to reach 96% as of Sunday. That is 2 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 94%. An estimated 85% of winter wheat had emerged, 1 percentage point ahead of the five-year average of 84%. The condition of the winter wheat crop was estimated at 46% good to excellent, up 1 percentage point from 45% the previous week but still below 52% at the same time a year ago.


Extension webinar to cover evaluation of risk management alternatives

A Nebraska Extension webinar on Thursday at noon will explore risk management tools available for ag producers, highlighting those from the RightRisk Education Team that assist managers in sifting through information and alternative management strategies.

Presenters include John Hewlett, ranch and farm management specialist at the University of Wyoming, and Jay Parsons, professor and farm and ranch management specialist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics. Both are members of the national RightRisk Education Team, which has worked for nearly 20 years to develop tools to assist agricultural managers in their decision-making.

The webinar will explore the tools currently available and the general approach followed for each. Specific decision examples will be demonstrated, including a look at the effect that Livestock Risk Protection insurance can have on projected revenue.

It is presented as part of the Agricultural Economics Extension Farm and Ranch Management weekly series.

Registration is free at


NeFB Annual Meeting Moves to One-Day Voting Delegate Session, Other Events Held Virtually

Steve Nelson - Nebraska Farm Bureau President

In response to the increasing number of Coronavirus cases in the state, the Nebraska Farm Bureau 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention will be limited to a one-day, in-person, voting delegate session. The voting delegate session will be held Tuesday, December 8. There will not be a Member Benefit trade show, nor will there be informational breakout sessions this year. Other activities such as the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Grower’s Gala will be held as virtual events.

Please know these decisions are not easy. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors recognizes there are wide-ranging thoughts and opinions amongst our members as it relates to the coronavirus. We respect them all. With that said, our obligation to protect the health and safety of our members and staff in these unprecedented times is a top priority.

Electing leadership and developing policy are critical functions of our delegate body. As such, the board and I felt it important these functions continue be held in person, if allowed by health directives. We are committed to operating the delegate session in a physically distanced fashion and will strongly encourage the wearing of masks for all in attendance during the time they are not seated and properly distanced at their delegate table. All Nebraska Farm Bureau staff will be required to wear masks during times in which they are not distanced. Please note, participation during the one-day session will be limited to county Farm Bureau delegates, the State Board of Directors, State Legislative Policy Committee members, and staff.

As noted, other components of the 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention will now be held virtually including the Nebraska Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet to be held Friday, December 4. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Grower’s Gala will also be held virtually, Monday, December 7.

Please click on the button below to learn more about the ways in which you can engage in the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention  Any future changes in the Annual Meeting resulting from increased state or local restrictions will be posted on the 2020 Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Meeting and Convention web page.  


– Jerry Volesky, NE Extension Forage & Pasture Specialist

Fall rain and snow are good for wheat and next year’s crops, but it does have its drawbacks.   One challenge is its impact on corn stalk feed quality.
While this fall has been quite dry, there has and will continue to be areas that receive some rain or snow events.  Rain reduces corn stalk quality several ways.  Most easily noticed is how fast stalks can get soiled or trampled into the ground if the fields become muddy.
Less noticeable are nutritional changes.  Rain or melting snow soaks into dry corn stalk residue and leaches out some of the soluble nutrients.  Most serious is the loss of sugars and other energy-dense nutrients, which lowers the TDN or energy value of the stalks.  These same nutrients also disappear if stalks begin to mold or rot in the field or especially in the bale.  Then palatability and intake also decline.
Another factor that affects cornstalk grazing is wind.  Throughout the fall, there always seems to be those days where excessively high winds will easily blow corn leaves and husks off the field.  This of course, can impact the amount of feed, and after grain, those leaves and husks contain the highest nutritional quality.
There is little you can do to prevent these losses.  What you can do, though, is to closely monitor cow and field conditions while adjusting your supplementation program accordingly.  Since weathering by rain reduces TDN more than it reduces protein, consider the energy value of your supplements as well as its protein content.
Weathered corn stalks still are economical feeds.  Just supplement them accordingly.

Caring for Animals When the Power Goes Out

Steve Niemeyer – NE Extension Educator

When temporary power outages hit rural areas of Nebraska, animal caretakers might wonder, “How did we ever raise livestock in the days before electricity?” Electric lights, hot water heaters, and mechanical ventilation are all items that are taken for granted, except when weather events interrupt their supply of “juice.”

For a great number of operations, electricity is surely essential. Modern milking parlors with vacuum pumps and refrigerated bulk tanks can’t do without a generator when the power goes out. The inability to milk cows, even on an intermittent basis, results not only in production losses, but also in more cases of mastitis.

Mechanical ventilation systems aren’t just useful to make modern hog barns comfortable for pigs, they’re essential in regulating gases and temperatures that, allowed to rise, could become a life-or-death proposition for the animal. Generators are standard equipment in those operations as well but aren’t always fail-safe and need to be continually monitored.

Water Considerations

A common use for electricity on farms and ranches during winter months is for supplying water to animals. Electric waterers allow for a consistent supply of water to livestock regardless of the temperature. When they fail, oftentimes there are no other sources for animals to turn to for water, the most important nutrient.  Exceptions are the highly insulated “energy-free” waterers that use ground temperature of the incoming water to keep the water thawed.

Beef Cattle

Most experts agree that for short-term purposes, beef cows can utilize snow, if present, as a temporary water source. A complicating factor is that the ice that brings down power lines can create a crust over the snow that cattle have a hard time breaking through. It takes energy away from the cow’s system to melt consumed snow into water, but cows tend to “graze” on snow throughout the day, rather than take it all in at once. This effectively spreads out their use of calories so that it doesn’t seem to be a significant issue.

Effects of power outages on beef herds depends on their timing relative to cow’s stages of production. Lactating cows have an increased requirement for water; necessary steps should be taken to assure those cows do not have to get by with eating snow. Decreased milk production in beef cows can have a lasting impact on newborn calves. However, power outages can also cause problems for producers wishing to provide colostrum or milk replacers for those calves. These products should be fed as close to the calf’s body temperature (102° F) as possible; a cold dose of milk or colostrum means further chilling of the calf, along with decreased absorption of antibodies from colostrum. Steps should be taken to obtain warm water for their meals, especially in these times of cold outside temperatures.


Sheep seem to be able to utilize snow to a certain degree also, but it’s not enough to meet requirements for ewes in late gestation or the ones that have lambed.


Horses drastically decrease their water intake during cold weather, while increasing their intake of forages. This creates the unfortunate possibility of colic. While case reports indicate that, on an emergency basis, horses can use snow as a water source, supplying them with a source of fresh water during power outages should be a high priority.


An issue with hogs and water outages is that of “salt poisoning.” This is a shift in metabolism due to inadequate water intake. An excessive concentration of sodium builds up in their body fluids, resulting in central nervous system signs such as muscle spasms, seizures, coma and death. The tricky thing is that these signs become worse when the water supply is turned back on and the pigs take in a lot of water rapidly. Following a water outage, water should be supplied gradually back to the group of pigs as they rehydrate themselves. All animals are susceptible to salt poisoning, but pigs are the most sensitive.

Other Health Issues

Other, less obvious animal health issues can arise from power outages. Vaccines and other medications stored in refrigerators should be treated like food items when the power goes out: keep the refrigerator door shut unless absolutely necessary. Medications that have been subject to prolonged warmer temperatures should probably be discarded, depending upon their storage requirements. Likewise, medications that have frozen should also be discarded – many animal vaccines develop toxic compounds once they’re frozen and thawed. In a similar manner, colostrum stored in refrigerators and freezers should be evaluated once the power comes back on.

Frozen colostrum that becomes thawed is still good for up to a week if refrigerator-type temperatures have not been surpassed.

Power outages bring with them a different set of circumstances to every animal operation. Questions about animal care and animal health products in the midst of electricity loss should be directed to your veterinarian.

ISU Crop Marketing Strategies Webinar November 19, 2020 at 7 pm

A live webinar on Thursday, November 19th at 7:00 pm. features speakers Steve Johnson, ISU Farm Management Specialist, along with Ed Kordick, farmer education program manager with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Topics to be discussed:
-    Current corn and soybean supply/demand and price outlook
-    Local basis trends and futures price carry
-    Cost of grain ownership
-    Crop marketing strategies, tools, and market planning

Pre-registration is required.  Click here:

New Opportunities for Agricultural Trade with China

Trade relations with China continue to be one of the biggest issues affecting the agricultural markets, and an economist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach says recent events point toward opportunity for both countries.

Wendong Zhang, assistant professor in economics and extension economist at Iowa State University, has written multiple articles this fall exploring the impacts of strained bilateral relations, COVID-19 and the Phase 1 trade agreement.

“Deteriorating bilateral relations make the Phase 1 trade deal even more important,” said Zhang. “The change of the federal administration and the Phase 1 deal give both countries an opportunity to improve and rebalance their portfolio.”

In a recent article in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Zhang discusses the importance of healthy US-China trade relations and how Phase 1 could possibly lead to a more balanced portfolio of commodities being traded, with increases in protein and retail food products.

According to Zhang, challenges such as COVID-19, the African swine fever and China’s growing economy continue to create demand for US pork, beef and poultry products. He and colleagues Dermot Hayes and Xi He project, in an updated CARD policy brief, that China is on track to import $31.15 billion in ag products from the US in Phase 1, which is still under the $36.5 billion target but substantially higher than the previous estimates.

However, he expects the demand for protein and other agricultural products could fill the gap, setting a strong precedent going forward.

“A more balanced portfolio will allow China to strengthen economic ties with agricultural states outside the US Midwest, such as California and Florida, and also fits China’s diversification objectives of not solely relying on soybeans when buying US agricultural products,” he said.

He has published similar articles in the Ag Decision Maker and The Conversation. Zhang also gave a related presentation through the Ohio State University Ag Policy & Outlook Conference, called China as an Indispensable Trade Partner with US Agriculture.

In the recent CARD Policy Brief, Zhang also notes that China imported a record amount of corn in recent years, with an outstanding 8.56 million metric tons for delivery in the 2020-21 marketing year. He concludes that it’s very likely China will exceed its tariff rate quota of 7.2 MMT, setting up a strong possibility that China will need to expand its 7.2 million tariff rate quota for corn.

New Podcast Compares and Contrasts the 1980s Farm Crisis With Today

AEI Premium, the online community for agricultural decision makers, launched a new podcast to help listeners better understand today's farm economy by learning from the past.
"Escaping 1980" explores the causes, impacts, and lasting effects of one of the most infamous events in American agriculture history, the 1980s farm crisis.
Hosted by rural journalist Sarah Mock, "Escaping 1980" features agricultural economists Brent Gloy and David Widmar as they travel back in time to answer an important question: is today's fretful farm economy showing signs of another crisis ahead?
"The way we remember the '80s informs the way we think about the farm economy today," said AEI Premium co-founder and "Escaping 1980" co-host David Widmar. "But to figure out if today is as bad as the 1980s, we have to start by answering a different question... what, exactly, happened during the 1980s?"
Farmers, agribusiness leaders, farm policy wonks, and students will each glean insights from the series. "Escaping 1980" explores timely, big-picture questions including:
 - Can we head off an economic crisis before it begins?
- Does thinking about the '80s as a single event - a "farm crisis"- even make sense?
- How can we tell when a "boom" period ends and a "bust" begins?
- Is it possible to compare the run-up to the 1980s with what happened in the early    2010s?
- What were the wrong lessons to learn from the '80s?
Episodes are available to stream now at along with additional reading about the topics discussed on the show.

USDA Reminds Dairy Producers of Dec. 11 Deadline for 2021 Safety-Net Enrollment

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds dairy producers that the deadline to enroll in Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) for calendar year 2021 is Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) opened DMC signup in October to help producers manage economic risk brought on by milk price and feed cost disparities.

“2020 has been a challenging year for agricultural producers, and we don't know yet what the next year will bring,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “Dairy producers should definitely consider coverage for 2021 as even the slightest drop in the margin can trigger payments.”

The DMC program, created by the 2018 Farm Bill, offers reasonably priced protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Complete 2021 Enrollment/Evaluate Coverage Options

For DMC enrollment, producers must certify with FSA that the operation is commercially marketing milk, sign all required forms, and pay the $100 administrative fee unless the dairy operation qualifies for a limited resource, beginning, socially disadvantaged, or military veteran farmers and ranchers waiver.

Producers interested in DMC have the option to select a $4.00 catastrophic level of coverage with no premium fee or they can choose to buy-up coverage where the premium is based on margin triggers between $4.50 and $9.50 on 5 to 95 percent of established production history.

To determine the appropriate level of DMC coverage for a specific dairy operation, producers can utilize the recently updated online dairy decision tool. The decision tool is designed to demonstrate the historical performance of DMC and assist producers with calculating total premium costs and administrative fees associated with participation in DMC. An informational video is available, too.

2020 Margin Payments

For producers enrolled in DMC for 2020, the fourth DMC payment of the year triggered in September at $9.40. Including the September payment, dairy producers across the country have received 11 monthly payments for over $472 million through DMC since the program began in January 2019.

USDA Introduces Enhanced Coverage Option Crop Insurance Product

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced that a new Federal Crop Insurance product, the Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO), will be available for 31 spring-planted crops for the 2021 crop year and is expected to be available for additional crops starting in the 2022 crop year.

“We’re happy to introduce the Enhanced Coverage Option starting in crop year 2021,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “ECO provides additional coverage and more flexibility in making risk management decisions.”

ECO allows policyholders to purchase additional area-based coverage for a portion of the deductible for their underlying yield- or revenue-based crop insurance policy. ECO must be purchased as an endorsement to the Yield Protection, Revenue Protection, Revenue Protection with the Harvest Price Exclusion, Actual Production History or Yield-Based Dollar Amount of Insurance policy.

ECO provides coverage in bands from 86% to a choice of either 90 or 95% of expected yield or revenue. ECO pays a loss on an area basis, and an indemnity triggers when the county level yield or revenue drops below 90 or 95% of its expected level. There is an additional premium associated with ECO coverage, and premium subsidies are offered to make the policy more affordable. Unlike the Supplemental Coverage Option, ECO coverage is unaffected by Agriculture Risk Coverage participation for the same crop, on the same acres. You may select ECO regardless of your farm program election.

RMA is authorizing additional flexibilities due to the coronavirus pandemic while continuing to support producers, working through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. RMA staff are working with AIPs and other customers by phone, mail and electronically to continue supporting crop insurance coverage for producers. Farmers with crop insurance questions or needs should continue to contact their insurance agents about conducting business remotely (by telephone or email). More information can be found at

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private insurance agents. A list of insurance agents is available online using the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at

Farm production expenses forecast to decrease in 2020, the sixth year in a row

USDA Economic Research Service

Farm sector production expenses (including expenses associated with operator dwellings) are forecast to decrease by $4.6 billion (1.3 percent) to $344.2 billion in 2020 in nominal terms, i.e. not adjusted for inflation. These expenses represent the costs of all inputs used to produce farm commodities and strongly affect farm profitability.

Although overall production expenses are expected to decrease, changes in specific expenses vary.

Specific expenses forecast to increase in 2020 account for approximately 69 percent of total expenses and are projected to collectively rise by $6.0 billion relative to 2019 before adjusting for inflation. These include the two largest expense categories—feed purchases (1.4 percent increase from 2019) and cash labor (3.1 percent).

In contrast, expenses expected to decrease account for 31 percent of total expenses and are forecast to collectively decline by $10.6 billion from 2019 to 2020. Specifically, livestock and poultry purchases are anticipated to decrease by 7.5 percent, pesticides by 2.1 percent, and oil and fuel spending by 13.9 percent. In addition, interest expenses are forecast to be at their lowest level since 2014 (not adjusted for inflation), dropping by 27.1 percent ($5.6 billion) from 2019 as a result of historically low interest rates.

After adjusting for inflation, total production expenses in 2020 are 19 percent below the record high of $427.1 billion in 2014, continuing a six-year streak of declining expenses.  

Boehringer Ingelheim, Kansas State University partner to invest in future of veterinary medicine

Boehringer Ingelheim, a leading provider of animal health products, and Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine have announced a strategic collaboration that will support a strong pipeline of highly skilled veterinarians and continued innovation in the heart of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.

Boehringer Ingelheim's U.S. Animal Health business will donate $800,000 over the next five years to the KSU Foundation. The funds will support interaction and collaboration between Boehringer Ingelheim and veterinary students at one of the leading animal health schools in the country, K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The collaboration will create opportunities for Boehringer Ingelheim employees to train and present to students, and allow for additional professional development and learning initiatives between Boehringer Ingelheim and the university. As part of the strategic collaboration, K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine built a new auditorium named the Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Auditorium that was completed in August 2020. The building is now open to students for fall 2020 classes.

"The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor and Boehringer Ingelheim share a history dating back more than 100 years," said Randolph Legg, head of the U.S. commercial business for Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. "The collaboration with Kansas State University furthers our commitment to this community, where so many of our dedicated employees live and work, and to the future of veterinary medicine.

"It is critically important that we help veterinary students prepare for the changing and growing role vets play in everything from caring for the animals we cherish, to food safety, public health and protecting the environment," Legg said. "This collaboration will make a meaningful contribution to ensuring no animal suffers from a preventable disease."

The auditorium is a premier space for student lectures, seminars and campuswide events, as well as for national meetings for groups such as the student chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Pre-Vet Symposium. Boehringer Ingelheim will host training sessions, symposiums and events in the auditorium, which will expose students to emerging trends in animal health as well as potential career opportunities.

"Boehringer Ingelheim's belief in preventative care aligns with our commitment to advancing the health of animals through education and research," said Bonnie Rush, dean of College of Veterinary Medicine. "We're thrilled to work with Boehringer Ingelheim to expand our education programs and engagement with the community."

Boehringer Ingelheim's largest global animal health manufacturing site is not far from Kansas State University, in nearby St. Joseph, Missouri, where the company employs nearly 1,000 people. The site makes more than 1 billion doses of vaccine a year for livestock producers in the U.S. and 44 other counties. Boehringer Ingelheim has operated the site in St. Joseph for more than 100 years and has recently invested nearly $50 million to increase manufacturing capacity there.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health is the second-largest animal health business in the world, with net sales of $4.5 billion — or 4 billion euros — in 2019 and a presence in more than 150 countries. It has a significant presence in the U.S., with more than 3,100 employees in places that include Georgia, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

Making new and better medicines for humans and animals is at the heart of what Boehringer Ingelheim  does. Its mission is to create breakthrough therapies that change lives. Since its founding in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim has been independent and family-owned and has the freedom to pursue its long-term vision, looking ahead to identify the health challenges of the future and targeting those areas of need where it can do the most good. As a world-leading, research-driven pharmaceutical company, more than 51,000 employees create value through innovation daily for our three business areas: Human Pharma, Animal Health and Biopharmaceutical Contract Manufacturing.

K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine is committed to a professional degree program with broad training opportunities across a comprehensive range of companion and exotic animals, and livestock species. Its focus is on initiatives that address important societal needs at a local, national and global level. K-State in the animal corridor and is dedicated to the advancement of health and welfare of animals, people, the environment, and the veterinary profession through excellence in teaching, research, service and outreach.  

Biodiesel Board Announces New East-Coast Policy Staff Position

The National Biodiesel Board welcomed Steve Dodge as the organization's new Director of State Regulatory Affairs today. Dodge is a longtime energy industry veteran who will focus primarily on advancing state and regional policy efforts for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and Bioheat® home heating oil on the east coast.

With more than two decades of experience guiding and managing outreach, communication, and lobbying efforts for the American Petroleum Institute, most recently as Executive Director of the Massachusetts/New England Petroleum Council, Dodge is well positioned to take the lead on NBB efforts focused on this important market.

"Carbon reduction goals in the Northeast are driving significant opportunity for biodiesel and renewable diesel, with future potential on par with the West Coast market we see today," said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen. "Key to that opportunity will be Bioheat®, the home heating market. NBB, the soybean industry, and the heating oil community have put millions of dollars into the research, market development, and education needed over the last 15-plus years. To take the next step and reach the industry goals of B50 Bioheat® by 2030 and B100 by 2050, we felt this expanded state and regional policy focus was a critical step to bolster industry efforts."

"NBB has always been a leader in fuels policy work in the northeast and I'm excited to join the team in advancing cleaner, renewable fuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel," said Dodge. "Collaboration and coalition building with our members and key stakeholders in the region, and in close coordination with the home heating oil industry, will be key to securing support in statehouses throughout the region."

NBB's state governmental affairs efforts are led by Floyd Vergara from the organization's Sacramento, California office. Dodge's addition on the East Coast compliments the program along with an already robust contract lobbying and support team strategically positioned across the country.

CommonGround Celebrates 10 Years of Breaking Barriers, Building Trust

CommonGround, a group of women farmers planting seeds of trust through conversations with consumers about the food they grow, celebrates an impressive milestone this month: 10 years of service and impact.

With so many food choices available, the farmers of CommonGround serve as a resource to connect with families about food and farming. The organization’s farmers volunteer their time to share personal experiences, as well as science and research, to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food. What began as a handful of volunteers with a shared goal has flourished, growing into a grassroots movement with more than 200 volunteers across 20 states.

“I’m proud to be part of something so authentic in this crazy world,” said Lauren Biegler, a CommonGround farmer-volunteer from Minnesota. “All the women in the program have such genuine love and pride for their families, farms and the products that come off their farms.”

CommonGround was developed by the National Corn Growers Association, in collaboration with state corn and soy associations. Though 10 years have passed, the mission remains the same: break the barriers between farmers and consumers through direct conversations.

“CommonGround’s continued success shows the real difference farmers can make when they reach out to not only talk but really listen to consumers,” said NCGA Communications Director Cathryn Wojcicki.

The authenticity, passion and openness of the 200-plus women are the center of the past decade of success and impact. Through their work in person, on social media and in media interviews, these farm women make real connections with consumers, many of whom share the experience of motherhood with the farmer-volunteers.

Moms naturally want to feed their families the best, safest food possible. Finding information they trust can be daunting. Research shows that many moms today often experience “mom guilt” about what they feed their kids, often due to a lack of understanding and clarity on whether they’re making the best choices. CommonGround farmer-volunteers are uniquely qualified to empower other moms to feel confident in their food choices.

“Throughout history, women have worked silently in agriculture nurturing their families, caring for their animals and tending their crops,” said longtime farmer-volunteer Joan Ruskamp from Nebraska. “Many of these women have taken on a new role of becoming a voice for their farm and a comfort to urban moms through our volunteer movement in CommonGround.”

This work is often completed conversation by conversation on social media or at local and national events. Recently, CommonGround hosted a virtual cooking class for busy moms that featured chef instruction and open conversation about the meal and a wide array of common food questions surrounding topics such as GMOs, gene editing, pesticides and hormones in meat and milk.

CommonGround’s social media outreach is great for busy moms on the go to grab quick information, such as the “HERspective” video series and timely facts and discussion on the CommonGround Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels. Together, these activations show the program’s grassroots, authentic approach to conversations in action.

“NCGA thanks the women who volunteer as well as the state staff who continually find ways to innovate and improve the program as a whole,” said Wojcicki. “Working with so many creative, enthusiastic, smart women reminds me daily of the importance of our mission — both for agriculture and for happy, healthy, guilt-free families across the country.”

To learn more about CommonGround, visit

Noble Shares 75 Fun Facts About Beef, Grazing Lands, Cattle Production

Beef is a staple of American mealtime. Producing beef requires the dedication of farmers and ranchers across the United States, and proper management of grazing animals can rebuild the health of pastures and rangelands and provides food and essential products for society.

Since 1945, Noble Research Institute has supported farmers and ranchers in fostering land stewardship, improving the soil and producing one of the world's favorite foods. In honor of Noble's 75th anniversary, Noble is sharing 75 fun facts about beef. Below are some of those facts.

Throughout the State and Around the World
Beef cattle are raised in all 50 states. The top five states with the most beef cattle are Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. There are more than 800,000 ranchers and cattle producers in the United States, making it the world's largest beef producer. Those farmers and ranchers produce 18% of the world's beef with only 8% of the world's cattle.

On the Dinner Plate
Every day, 76 million Americans eat beef. Beef is one of the most important dietary sources of iron. One person would have to eat three cups of raw spinach in order to get the same amount of iron in one 3-ounce serving of beef. It is also a source for other nutrients our bodies need, including protein, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin and choline.

The hamburger was popularized at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. A hamburger only cost 5 cents in 1921 and 12 cents in 1950. The first hamburger chain was White Castle, which was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. The most popular beef products include ground beef, ribeye steak, strip steak and T-bone steak.

More Than Steak
More than 98% of a beef animal is used. About 60% of a beef animal goes to make products other than meat, such as medical products like insulin and drugs used to help the body accept organ transplants. One cowhide can make 18 soccer balls or 20 footballs. Gummy bears, marshmallows, candles and paintbrushes, amongst other things, are also made from cattle.

Reducing Environmental Impact
Today's beef producers use 33% fewer cattle to produce the same amount of beef that they did in the 1970s. The industry uses natural resources much more efficiently today and represents only 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon footprint of a unit of beef produced decreased by 16% and water use decreased by 14% from 1997 to 2007. The U.S. beef industry continued to reduce water by 3% from 2005 to 2011.

It takes 2,000 years for natural processes to make 10 centimeters of fertile soil. That's why it's so important to protect the soil from erosion and other degradation. Ranchers are building up - not just conserving - the soil on pastures and rangelands by following five basic soil health principles within the context of a properly managed production system: 1) cover the soil, 2) minimize soil disturbance, 3) practice plant diversity, 4) maintain continuous living plants/roots and 5) integrate livestock.

Healthy soil with high levels of organic matter can store 20 times its weight in water, according to the FAO. Increased water-holding capacity helps reduce the need to use water for irrigation and improves the land's resiliency in drought.

Grazing lands sequester about 30% of Earth's carbon pool, according to Global Change Biology publication. Increasing soil organic matter in pastures and rangelands will help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. By creating natural reservoirs that can hold carbon, we can reduce the greenhouse effect and slow atmospheric warming.

Growing on Grazing Lands
All cattle spend most of their lives eating grasses and other forages on grazing lands acquiring the nutrients needed to produce healthy beef. There are 655 million acres of pasture and rangeland in the United States, making it the single largest land use in the country. About 85% of the grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops.

Rangelands naturally evolved with the presence of fire and grazing, making them processes that the land continues to need today. Cattle and wildlife can be compatible with proper management on native rangelands. More than half of farmers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife.

Check out Noble's 75 Facts About Beef blog article to read the full list. Follow Noble Research Institute on social media and join in on the anniversary celebrations.

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