As corn stocks ballooned and prices tanked during the 1980s farm crisis, one gleam of good news came from a new corn product – high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). In 1984, major soft drink companies replaced colas’ sugar with 100% HFCS, and corn use for the sweetener hit 310 million bu. By 1999, HFCS use was above 550 million bu. and almost even with corn use for fuel ethanol. Since then, however, corn use for HFCS has contracted by 16%. This year, USDA ERS forecasts use at just 485 million bushels.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) continues to keep honeybees in the headlines as beekeepers lose on average one-third of their hives annually. But CCD is not the only problem that affects bees. Bee populations in general, including bumblebees and ground-nesting solitary bees, are declining.
Steve Bemis has a bridge problem that is all too common for rural areas: He has to drive “the long way around” to move equipment or haul crops in DeKalb County, Ill., because a local bridge is closed. “It’s been four years and the bridge is still out,” he says. “There’s not a crossroad handy so it takes us up to four miles out of the way, depending on where we’re going.
Argentina and Brazil now supply export markets that traditionally bought American. The U.S. is no longer the dominant corn supplier for countries like Colombia, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic. Millions of untapped arable acres and low production costs make Brazil a formidable competitor. But the story is different in Argentina, where most cropland is already under cultivation and corn competes with wheat and soybeans for acres.
Ukraine’s black soil is what everyone talks about. “It looks like Iowa,” says Cary Sifferath, a Midwesterner who monitors Ukraine for the U.S. Grains Council. Tim Burrack, an Arlington, Iowa, farmer, is almost poetic about it: “It’s a black, deep, beautiful soil with good drainage, and after perestroika and the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was just lying there idle.”
A soybean powerhouse, Brazil is also a growing force in corn, as demonstrated last year when it increased corn production by 31% to almost 2.9 billion bushels. With that record crop, Brazil’s exports also jumped. Now the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service expects Brazilian farmers to set another planting record for both corn and soybeans this year.
A growing wave of soybean imports appears to make China increasingly dependent on U.S. supplies. Last market year, one out of every four rows harvested was bound for China. In the new market year, nearly two out of every three bushels of soybeans sold by U.S. exporters has a Chinese destination.
EGT’s brand-new export terminal at Longview, Wash., sets new standards for efficiency, according to CEO Larry Clarke: “With grain so valuable, no one wants to leave it sitting in the field at risk, so the speed with which you can move it from field, to storage, to its destination is important.
The power of teamwork is at the heart of Jim Sutter’s approach as CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Teamwork is evident, too, in his personal style, which can quickly make you feel you’re working with him on a project.
As Corn Belt farmers face challenges to reduce nitrate loss in surface and groundwater by 40-45%, Iowa State University (ISU) research confirms what many growers fear: “The right application of nitrogen (N) is [just] the first step,” says Matt Helmers, ISU associate professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering.
In the drive to manage nitrogen (N) more effectively, active crop-canopy sensors may become an option in your toolbox. But John Sawyer, Iowa State University agronomy professor, warns that they still have limitations, and more research is needed.
After 17 years at the United Soybean Board (USB), John Becherer’s job as chief executive officer continues to get more challenging. “The most critical aspect of the job is being trusted with the dollars of fellow farmers who pay into the checkoff,” says Becherer. “Then the challenge is to invest them wisely.”
A list of cover crop benefits came easily for more than 50 farmers at the Iowa Crop Advantage workshop: erosion control, weed control, improved soil organic matter, nutrient retention, better water infiltration and reduced nitrogen losses.
Hardly more than a year since Russia and Ukraine shook the world grain trade by halting grain exports, both nations are back competing for sales. And not just in traditional export markets for wheat and barley; Black Sea grain is beating out U.S. corn with some customers.
When Stephen Censky became CEO of the American Soybean Association in 1996, ASA was emerging from an unsettled sequence of chief executives who came and went quickly. “Steve was a welcome solution,” remembers Ron Heck, an Iowa soybean grower who has worked with Censky almost from the start.