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AG Mag Good as Gold Central Iowa

As commodity prices continue to rise, so, too, does the value of farmland in Central Iowa

Got cash? It’s been another good harvest and crop prices continue to be high. What does that mean for you? Your outlook: Local farmers look at the 2013 harvest and beyond. ‘Blend Wall’: Ethanol production in the U.S. has leveled off, and no growth is expected. A Publication of Shaw Media

Fall 2013 AG Mag

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AG Mag

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Index

AG Mag Central Iowa

Publisher Dan Goetz Advertising Director Jeff Holschuh Managing Editor Bob Eschliman Magazine Editors Larry Lough, Jeff Rogers

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Page Design Jeff Rogers Reporters & Photographers Derek Barichello, Sarah Brown, Bob Eschliman, David Giuliani, Dave Hon, Kate Malott, Philip Marruffo, Matt Mencarini, Matthew Nosco, Alex T. Paschal, Ty Rushing, and Jake Waddingham Published by Sauk Valley Media 3200 E. Lincolnway Sterling, IL 61081 641-792-3121 Articles and advertisements are the property of Sauk Valley Media. No portion of the Central Iowa Ag Mag may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ad content is not the responsibility of Sauk Valley Media. The information in this magazine is believed to be accurate; however, Sauk Valley Media cannot and does not guarantee its accuracy. Sauk Valley Media cannot and will not be held liable for the quality or performance of goods and services provided by advertisers listed in any portion of this magazine.

4 Fall 2013

COVER STORY

Land values rising But in Iowa, the price of high-quality land is growing faster than the rest. Cash rent forecast For new farmers in Central Iowa, renting land might be more profitable than buying.

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Revenue Protection Beyond Crop Insurance With harvest well underway throughout the country many producers are asking the question, “Should I sell my grain now or store it?”

At the time of this writing, December corn futures are trading roughly $2 per bushel lower than during the same period last year, and November soybean futures are about 50 cents lower. Nobody likes to sell grain in a falling market and this couldn’t be more evident than in 2013. Farmers have reportedly sold a record-low amount of grain ahead of harvest. Following several years of record land and grain prices, huge crop insurance guarantees, and low interest rates the best grain marketing strategy has been to wait and sell at harvest. That strategy hasn’t worked this year… so now what? Crop insurance has become the most widely used (and misused) risk management tool by farmers. The most common policy is the Revenue Protection (RP) plan, which allows a grower to buy “guaranteed revenue” based on their average production and the higher of spring or harvest price.* The grower receives an indemnity payment if actual revenue falls below the guarantee level. If used correctly, this type of policy can help growers take advantage of higher prices before knowing their actual production and can prevent growers from having to sell grain durincentivizes farmers to hold off on sales until the policy expires. Currently, crop insurance policies have expired. A common mistake when policies expire is to store grain and wait for higher prices. One must realize that after policy expiration there is no more “guarantee”. If you decide to store grain and wait for higher prices, you are speculating. Instead, consider putting a price protection package together that will reestablish guaranteed revenue for your crop. There are several ways of accomplishing this, but the following examples demonstrate two concepts that every producer storing grain should understand: 1. If the market is paying a premium at harvest (prices are higher than in deferred months), NEVER store your grain. Storing grain in this environment means you are willing to pay the market to store your own grain! If you believe prices will increase, look to re-own with futures or buy a call in the deferred months with the extra money you will make from selling grain now (cheaper than nearby prices and gives you a lot of time). 2. When deferred prices are higher than current prices it means the market is paying you to store grain. In order to properly capitalize on this you should forward contract the grain when you decide to store in order to lock in those higher prices. If you believe current prices are “too low”, use some of the extra money made by storing the crop to buy a call option. Generally speaking, crop insurance is the most powerful and effective risk management tool on the market. However, utilizing a few additional tools alongside your insurance policy will enable you to realize its full potential. * Unless the grower elects for a harvest price exclusion policy (RP-HPE).

AG Mag

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Index The cost of cattle

Farmers share their outlooks

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Increased commodity prices have driven up costs for cattle farmers in Central Iowa.

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Central Iowa farmers share their expectations for the 2013 harvest and for the year ahead.

Hitting a ‘blend wall’?

Youth is served by FFA

Production of ethanol in the U.S. has leveled off in recent years and actually dropped in 2012.

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Challenges and rewards Wrage the local face of ISU Extension BY TY RUSHING For Central Iowa Ag Mag

When Rich Wrage took over as ISU Extension and Outreach Office Director for Region 8 in August 2009, he knew he would have to step up in a big way. Wrage previously worked in a county role, but when he took the reins in Region 8, he became in charge of Boone, Marshall, Hardin and Story counties. He explained some of the challenges of his position. “My main role is to work with councils and staff,” Wrage said. “There are nine elected [County Extension Council] members in each county. I work with four counties, … so there are 36 people I work with to help bring the programming from Iowa State to the citizens of that region.” While in his current role, Wrage said, he has sought to bring “signature” items to his region. “The regions are different sizes, and it all depends upon their population and tax

Ty Rushing/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

ISU Extension and Outreach Region 8’s director is Rich Wrage, seen here at the Marshall County office. base,” Wrage said. “So the four signature areas that we are focused on are K-12 outreach, [which] is anything that has to do with youth. Our main program there is 4-H. “Health and Well-Being is our second signature item,” he continued. “The third one, not in any particular order, is Economic Development. We work with communities, businesses, and industry to make them more efficient and to better serve their customers and clients. The

last one is Food and the Environment.” Wrage explained that a lot of his region’s agriculture and food safety programs fall under the Food and the Environment branch. He also said all programming of the county offices ties into one of those four areas. Extension regions vary in size. “We have a broader array of needs,” Wrage said. “Different populations, different expectations and different desires by the councils of what they want to see done. For example, Hardin County is very rural, has a very generic population, and the agriculture and farming things tend to come to the surface quicker than they do in Story or Marshall.” Wrage said he works with good people and doesn’t find the disparity between the counties to be a challenge for his job. He also talked about his favorite part of the job. “Working with the staff and the councils and all the clients we run into,” Wrage said. “I don’t run into many clients anymore, but if there’s one thing I miss from the old system, it’s that I don’t have the one-on-one contact with 4-Hers and family like I used to.”

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Central Iowa Ag Mag file photo by Phillip Marruffo

STILL A GOOD INVESTMENT

Land values now closely tied to commodity prices BY MATT MENCARINI For Central Iowa Ag Mag

M

ark Fassler and his brother Tim were finishing up their soybean harvest in early October. The brothers, who took over farming for their father, work 4,100 acres of soybeans and commercial corn between Sterling and Dixon in northwestern Illinois. This year, the Fasslers had a little more land to farm. In December, they bought 145 acres of farmland “right next” 10 Fall 2013

to the land they already worked, a third of which belongs to the brothers, Fassler said. They rent the rest. “We’re farmers, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing,” he said. “We’ve had a few good years growing corn and beans, and we’re lucky enough to have enough equity to purchase some land.” In August, they bought 117 more acres, also near their current land. “I wish we would’ve bought these up 10 years ago,” Fassler said. “But [we] didn’t have the equity needed.”

Between 2006 and 2013, Illinois farmland more than doubled in price, from an average price of $3,640 an acre to an average of $7,900, according to Reuters, which cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Moving into this year, land values in western Illinois and eastern Iowa increased by double digits again, but did so at a slightly lesser amount than in previous years, signaling a tapering off. In Iowa, the gap between high-quality land and medium- and low-quality land is growing, said Kyle Hansen, a real estate agent and auctioneer working out of the Nevada, Iowa, office of Hertz Real Estate Services. CONTINUED ON 11


Alex T. Paschal/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Tim Fassler inspects and greases a combine as he prepares to harvest corn on the farm he and his brother Mark own in northwestern Illinois. The Fasslers have added to their 4,100-acre farm between Sterling and Dixon by buying 145 acres of farmland in December and an additional 117 acres in August. “I wish we would’ve bought these up 10 years ago,” Mark Fassler said. “But [we] didn’t have the equity needed.” CONTINUED FROM 10

Hansen also is the chairman of the Iowa Realtors Land Institute. In its October farmland values survey, it indicated that high-quality land increased this year to $11,661 an acre, up $224 from 6 months earlier. During the same 6 months, medium-quality land increased by $86, to $8,780, and lowquality land increased by $2 an acre, to $5,808. In its 2013 Illinois Land Values and Lease Trends survey, the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers found that while supply is down from a year ago, value is “up modestly.” In Illinois, excellent-quality farmland averaged $13,200 on July 1, up 3 percent, Dale Aupperle, of Heartland Ag Group and the ISPFMRA chairman, reported in a summary of the survey. Additionally, good-quality farmland increased by 2.5 percent to an average of $11,200, and fair-quality land increased by 1.9 percent, up to $9,000. “It’s just like the other stocks,” Han-

sen said. “It’s a cycle. It will go up and come down based on the commodity prices and other factors [like world demand for fuel and food]. ... But it still continues to be a cycle. It will come up and go down. Now it’s leveling off and taking a breath to see where we’re going from here.” Hansen said land values in Iowa are now more connected to commodity prices than they have been in the past. Mike Morris is the chief appraiser with 1st Farm Credit and has been based in the Bloomington-Normal office since 2007. He has been appraising since 1999, he said, and handles appraisals in northern Illinois. “I think if we don’t see much change in crop prices, I would call it a stable to slightly softer market,” he said. “If we see some real increase or decrease, that could affect the market. Right now, no one is really anticipating that. “My gut tells me that we’ll still see some strong sales, but we’re not going to see anything that’s higher than [land value] in December, unless we see significant increases in commodity prices.”

On Oct. 11, December corn was $4.3325 a bushel, down 5 cents from the day before, and November soybeans were $12.6675 a bushel, which was 21.25 cents lower than the market’s Oct. 10 close. Despite the falling commodity prices, in a market that’s been described by some experts as volatile, land values have been increasing by double digits for several consecutive years. Bruce Sherrick, an agriculture professor at the University of Illinois, said that rise follows good recent incomes for farmers and continued use of corn for, among other things, renewable energy that keeps demand for land high, but supply low. “Because so little farmland turns over, it’s really, really hard to get a clear picture of what’s going on,” Sherrick said. “Income in northern Illinois is higher than southern Illinois because you grow more. Because of the slow turnover, it’s hard to get a clear picture.” CONTINUED ON 14 AG Mag

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New to farming? Variable cash rent the way to go BY DAVE HON For Central Iowa Ag Mag

F

or new farmers, renting land might be more profitable than buying. Michael Duffy, a professor of economics at Iowa State Extension, said variable cash-rent lease agreements are great for new farmers. Variable cash-rent lease agreements are essentially leases that have a base rent per acre, which is low, and then a profit-sharing agreement at the end of the year, depending on how the agreement is set up. “So the idea is to try and get into a risk-sharing arrangement but quit the old crop-share arrangement,� Duffy said. Old agreements meant the landlord would take possession of the crop. Under variable cash-rent lease agreements, the farmer of the land keeps the crop then kicks back a percentage of the profit to the landlord. Duffy said variable cashrent agreements are not only great for farmers, but also landowners because at the end of the day, they at least receive some base money from the land. “The majority of these flex leases use both a combination of both price and yield,� Duffy said. Duffy said those leases are very much a growing trend. He estimates that 8 percent of all farmland in Iowa is under a variable cash-rent agreement. He said 19 per-

cent of all leased land in Iowa is under a variable cash-rent agreement. Studies don’t break down the data by county. “What the landlords are doing, they’re saying, ‘OK, if the prices are favorable we want a part of it, but if prices are bad then we won’t make you bear the full cost,’� Duffy said. Variable lease agreements are the best bet for landowners who don’t have time to farm themselves and for farmers who don’t have a lot of capital to start up. “A lot of these landlords don’t want to deal with marketing crop, so on and so forth, and yet they’re willing to recognize the new risk we’re facing,� Duffy said. “I think they’re a good thing. I’m in favor of them.� Essentially, Duffy said, variable cash-rent leases are a way to split the risk of drought and other severe weather between two people. While farmers would be affected more by the loss in crop since they would still have to pay the base rent, the landlord at least gets something. Duffy said the base rents are often so low they don’t break the farmer’s bank. “If there are really bad conditions, then they’re at least protected on the down side,� Duffy said. “Particularly if you’re working with a beginning farmer, this is, I think, a good thing to help them out.� Duffy also speculated that land rental prices for these types of agreements, while popular, will stay realativey the same in the coming years. “They may go up slightly just because of intertia,� he said, “but I think they would remain the same.�

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CONTINUED FROM 11

Todd Slock works for 1st Farm Credit as a real estate appraiser out of the Rock Falls, Ill., office. He’s been an appraiser for 6 years, and previously spent time working near Ottawa, Ill., in LaSalle County. Land sales usually pick up after harvest, when farmers have a better idea of how much they made on the year’s crops, Slock said. By early October, there hadn’t been many listings, which could be the result of commodity prices falling and interest rates “being up slightly.” Hansen said that until the middle of September, the amount of availbale farm land in Iowa was bellow the average, but because of a softening market, landowners are seeing reason to sell now rather than later, especially with medium- and low-quality land. For the most part, high quality land is being held because it has shown greater appreciation, he said. Both pieces of land the

Alex T. Paschal/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Mark Fassler of Sterling, Ill., works on preparing his combine for the harvest season. Mark said he and his brother, Tim, decided to buy more farmland in the past year because “we’ve had a few good years growing corn and beans, and we’re lucky enough to have enough equity to purchase some land.” Fassler brothers bought were from heirs who don’t plan to farm and don’t want to manage the land. For them, like the pension funds or investment groups, the land is a financial investment and not a farming asset. “People look at what their alternative is,” Morris said.

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“And they look at a stock market that’s been volatile and CDs that aren’t going to pay as well. ... I think in a lot of cases, people think they can make something off the land, so they hold on to it.” In Iowa, which has buying rules different from Illinois that make it more likely that

farmers will buy land, some investment groups still are purchasing land, but more is going to farmers. “It just shows that people are interested in it,” Hansen said. “Even without a background in farming, they still see long-term income opportunities there. But again, they’re competing with farmers, and farmers are winning.” Between 75 and 80 percent of land purchased in Iowa recently was done so by a farmer within 10 miles, he said. According to the ISPFMRA survey, the “vast majority” of farms in northwest Illinois were purchased by local farmers, and several counties saw sales of more than $12,000 an acre for excellent productivity tracts, and three counties had sales match or exceed $14,000 an acre. “I don’t think there’s a big surprising story in any of this,” Sherrick said from his office at the University of Illinois. “It’s kind of the new normal – higher priced input and higher priced output. ... It adds to the amount of capital [needed] to get into the industry.”

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PAYING A PRICE Commodity prices drive up overhead on cattle farms BY DAVE HON For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Dave Hon/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Two of Kevin Van Manen’s cattle eat some debris on the floor of the pen of his farm in Jasper County.

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Roger Zylstra, a farmer in Jasper County, knows how commodity prices have affected his business. For most farmers, everything is connected. Changes in the weather can lead to higher feed prices, which drive up overhead for livestock. “I’m a contract finisher, so I’m not directly affected by the price of the feed on the hog side,” Zylstra said, “although the profitability in the pork industry is critical.” CONTINUED ON 25

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It’s not just ‘crop dusting’ anymore Kubal Aerial Spraying is on leading edge of technology BY BOB ESCHLIMAN For Central Iowa Ag Mag

T

Bob Eschliman/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Dan Kubal parks his fleet of four aerial spraying planes at the former Maytag Corp. hangar at Newton Municipal Airport. The oldest plane in his fleet is less than five years old.

‘‘

We’re more into total plant health now. There’s a misconception out there that all we’re doing is spraying for some pest – whether it be bugs or weeds – and while that’s still part of what we do, the bigger focus is on plant health. Dan Kubal, owner and operator of Kubal Aerial Spraying in Newton

’’

he first time Dan Kubal, a native of southeastern South Dakota, saw an airplane was in his youth, when a plane flew over one of his father’s farm fields to apply pesticide. “From that moment on, I was fascinated by aviation,� he said. “So, I got my pilot’s license – that took about five years, because I was doing it a piece at a time — and started flying in 1986. I started aerial spraying in 1991.� The background that led him to aviation also led him to a career in aerial spraying. His love for everything agriculture, coupled with his passion for airplanes, made it a perfect fit. CONTINUED ON 17

  

     

        

    

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Dan started out with a small business in his native state, but saw the potential for a larger operation when he traveled to Texas for some contract work. Today, he operates Kubal Aerial Spraying out of the former Maytag Corp. hangar at Newton Municipal Airport. “Our core area is southern and central Iowa,” he said. “But we work from as far south as Texas to as far north as the Canadian border, basically the center section of the country.” A lot has changed over the years, particularly with regard to technology used in aerial spraying. Dan said his company uses the most state-of-the-art technology, including global positioning systems, which have created whole new areas of capability for his aircraft, all of which are five years old or newer. “We’re more into total plant health now,” he said. “There’s a misconception out there that all we’re doing is spraying for some pest –

Bob Eschliman/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

The cockpit of an aerial spraying plane is a bit more complicated than those of early “crop dusters.” The center of the main console is a global positioning system, which allows for precision application while also charting the application that was made for the customer. whether it be bugs or weeds – and while that’s still part of what we do, the bigger focus is on plant health.” A recent change, Dan said, was the move to dry applications within the industry. He has made substantial invest-

ments in new equipment to meet that new need for farmers. New technology has improved the efficiency of aerial spraying, as well. Much like planting, which is now done with 24- and

36-row attachments instead of six- and eight-row implements, aerial spraying has seen substantial improvements in the equipment used to do the job. “With GPS, you can see exactly where we applied, and at what rate we applied,” Dan said. “You know what you’re getting. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and the results from our applications speak for themselves.” For farmers who have tried aerial spraying in the past with disappointing results, and to those who still are skeptical about the impact it can have on overall crop yield, Dan said he encourages them to take another look. He often hosts farmers at his hangar, so they can see the hard work and quality that goes into what his company does. “We’re working every day to do a better job,” he said. “When a farmer tells me what we’re doing is working, and they want to do more next year, that really makes my day. That’s what fuels what I’m doing.”

Look for our next edition of

AG Mag Central Iowa

February 2014 Featuring additional coverage in Jasper, Poweshiek, Marshall, Tama, Benton, Marion, Mahaska, Iowa & Keokuk Counties.

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BY DAVID GIULIANI For Central Iowa Ag Mag

W

hen it comes to ethanol mandates, an Iowa professor says, there are winners and losers. Corn farmers in Iowa and Illinois are the big winners. So is the environment. But livestock producers, who have to pay more for feed because of higher demand for corn – not so much. “Any state that exports corn is going to benefit from an increase in demand for the product,” said Dermot Hayes, an agribusiness professor at Iowa State University.” If we didn’t have a mandate, the price for a bushDermot Hayes el of corn would Agribusiness professor at Iowa be a dollar lower. State University Demand for corn would be less.” In early October, the price of a bushel of corn was $4.43. The United States is the world’s top ethanol producer, with Brazil coming in second. Since 1980, U.S. ethanol production has skyrocketed, increasing from 175 million gallons a year to 13.3 billion gallons – a 76-fold jump. The number of U.S. ethanol plants has grown from 50 in 1999 in 211 this year, with more than 40 in Iowa, which produces more ethanol than any other state. Production of ethanol has leveled off in recent years after seeing huge spikes from 2005 to 2009. It fell slightly in 2012. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the lowering of its ethanol fuel mandate for 2014 because the demand for gasoline is lower than expected. The decision comes as proposals in Congress are circulating to change the mandate, which was first set in 2007. “There is absolutely no growth expected for the ethanol industry,” said Rich Nelson, a chief strategist with Allendale. “We are hitting the blend wall.” 20 Fall 2013

TOPPING OFF ETHANOL?

Industry might be hitting a ‘blend wall’

Phillip Marruffo/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Don Temple empties the corn from his combine into a chaser bin on his land in western Whiteside County in Illinois. For the past two years, Temple’s corn crop has gone to an ADM ethanol plant in Clinton, Iowa. He farms about 500 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans. “Before, we had surplus corn. When you have more corn than what is being used, you don’t get paid really well. The ethanol market has been a very good thing for corn growers.”

Anti-ethanol groups say that ethanol consumes about 40 percent of the nation’s crop, but ethanol supporters counter that it’s nearer 28 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rich Nelson uses the 40 percent Chief strategist number, noting that with Allendale Inc. about that much corn ends up at ethanol plants. But a third of the corn at the plants ends up as byproduct, which is used as feed for livestock, supporters say. Allendale Inc., a McHenry, Ill.-based research company and broker, surveys corn farmers monthly about their expectations. Last year, U.S. corn farmers produced 10.8 billion bushels, a number that is expected to rise to 13.6 billion bushels – a 25 percent increase, according to Allendale’s September numbers. A total of 97.4 million acres are devoted to corn this year – the highest number since 1936, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. The increase in demand for ethanol has led to the rising number of acres under corn production, supporters say. Monte Shaw “We grow a lot more Executive corn in the world director of the today than we used Iowa Renewable to because of the Fuels Association demand for renewable energy,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “Ethanol is cheaper, ethanol is cleaner, and it’s high-octane,” he said. “The majority of Iowa corn gets processed by ethanol plants. A third of all of that goes back to feed markets in the form of distillers grains.” As for 2014, he said: “I’m optimistic about next year. The economics will drive 2014, but it depends on what the White House and EPA will do.” To meet the federal renewable fuel standard, gasoline companies have blended ethanol into gasoline at 10 percent, known as E10. The ethanol industry wants greater availability of E15 and E85. E85, which requires 85 percent ethanol, can be used in “flexible fuel” cars, while E15 is for cars built in 2001 or later. CONTINUED ON 22 AG Mag

21


Sarah Brown/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

The Farmers Cooperative Co. service station in Creston began selling E85 ethanol in August. Here, cars line up for a special sale of the E85 for 85 cents per gallon at the station. On an early October day, E85 was selling for $2.59 a gallon, compared to $3.29 for regular unleaded (E10) gasoline. CONTINUED FROM 21

In Creston, the Farmers Cooperative Co. service station started selling E85 ethanol in August – among more than 2,000 across the country that do. On an early October day, regular unleaded (E10) gasoline sold for $3.29. E15 went for $3.24, E30 for $3.06, and E85 for $2.59. The E85 has been good for business, with the Creston station seeing more customers, said Darin Schlapia, Creston branch manager for the Farmers Cooperative. That’s a story heard from many stations that are selling E85, Shaw said. “The consumers are picking a good chunk of higher ethanol blends,” he said. “This is a very important fight, giving consumers choice at the pump.” Hayes, the agribusiness professor, said that while the prices are cheaper for higher ethanol blends, they are not as efficient. “It’s 75 percent as good,” he said. “The $2.59 [price of E85 at the Creston station] would amount to $3.45. “The density of the energy in E85 is less,” he said. “You’re miles per gallon are less.” 22 Fall 2013

U.S. ethanol production

Number of U.S. ethanol plants

Production Year (in millions of gallons) 2000 ........................................ 1,622 2001 ........................................ 1,765 2002 ........................................ 2,140 2003 ........................................ 2,810 2004 ........................................ 3,404 2005 ........................................ 3,904 2006 ........................................ 4,884 2007 ........................................ 6,521 2008 ........................................ 9,309 2009 ......................................10,938 2010 ......................................13,298 2011 ...................................... 13,948 2012 ......................................13,300

Year ........................................ Plants 2000 .............................................. 54 2001 ............................................. 56 2002 ............................................. 61 2003 ............................................. 68 2004 ............................................. 72 2005 ............................................. 81 2006 ............................................. 95 2007 ........................................... 110 2008 ........................................... 139 2009 ........................................... 170 2010 ........................................... 189 2011 ........................................... 204 2012 ........................................... 209 2013 ........................................... 211

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Source: Renewable Fuels Association

A $175 million initial investment in the Patriot Renewable Fuels ethanol plant near Annawan, Ill., in 2008 has blossomed into a regional economic impact of $1.1 billion some five years later. The plant, along Interstate 80, each year processes millions of bushels of corn from 220,000 truckloads. From that grain, the plant has produced 120 million gallons of ethanol each year.


ECONOMIC ENERGY Lincoln Way Energy provides bump in local corn prices Matthew Nosco/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Because Lincoln Way Energy LLC in rural Story County takes all of its products by truck, “it’s a local market that we draw from,” said President and CEO Eric Hakmiller. BY MATTHEW NOSCO For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Nestled alongside a small cornfield in rural Story County is Lincoln Way Energy LLC. Lincoln Way Energy was formed in May 2004 to help pool a group of investors interested in building a nameplate ethanol plant. Since the coal-fired dry mill plant, which produces 50 million gallons a year, went into production in May 2006, it’s been a stimulant to the local farm economy. The plant fills a large void in the region east of Des Moines. “We take all of our products in by truck, so it’s a local market that we draw from,” Lincoln Way Energy President and CEO Eric Hakmiller said. “We operate in a circle around us, drawing our sources from local farmers in the area.”

Iowa State University Extension Farm Specialist Ryan Drollette said that draw serves to give a bump to the local markets. “Any new demand in a market, like an ethanol plant, is going to show a local rise in the prices as the demand for that corn increases,” he said. “Because of the local demand, the plant is able to pay less in shipping costs for their product, which allows them to pay out a higher value on the corn.” While an ethanol plant might not have a large impact on the prices of nearby farmland compared to other factors, like national markets, commodity prices and farm policies, a plant is still a valuable customer to many farmers. “You’ll see some farmers who will have exclusive contracts with ethanol plants,” Drollette said. “There is a variety of corn that breaks down under heat

well. … Some plants are contracting farmers to grow it exclusively, since it works better for ethanol production.” The rest are still free to take their corn to the open markets and shop it around, comparing prices and seeing where he can get the best bid for his bounty. While no direct federal subsidies are available for ethanol producers anymore, the Renewable Fuels Standard II still helps to drive the industry forward. It is a government mandate for certain amounts of alternative fuels to be produced in the U.S. “I think a lot of [our future] is going to be determined by the support for the RFS,” Hakmiller said. “If that continues to see support, then the ethanol industry will remain in a good place and we’ll have a strong, stable position in the long-term fuel solution.” AG Mag

23


Grassley receives award for work to develop ethanol For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa received the 2013 Fueling Growth Award Sept. 10 from Growth Energy for his work to develop clean-burning, domestically produced ethanol. The award acknowledges that Grassley’s “hard work in Congress has made a significant contribution to the viability of the biofuels industry,” according to Growth Energy. “I’m honored to receive this award today,” Grassley said. “I’ve long been a supporter of renewable fuels, starting with ethanol. Alternative energy sources reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase national security and create jobs for American workers in addition to extending our fuel supply and lowering prices at the pump.” The award is given annually by Growth Energy to members of Congress who support ethanol advancement and work to craft consistent and fair federal policy for the industry.

Grassley, a Republican, has worked for many years to promote favorable federal policies in order to establish renewable fuels as an alternative to finite fossil fuels. Grassley advocates for U.S. Sen. the maintenance of Chuck Grassley the Renewable Fuel Received 2013 Standard. In August Fueling Growth 2013, Grassley, along Award with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible anti-competitive practices by oil companies that may be limiting the competitiveness of renewable fuels. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every one billion gallons of ethanol produced, 10,000 to 20,000 jobs are added to the

economy. In 2011, more than 400,000 jobs were created and supported by the ethanol industry, and production of ethanol contributed $42.4 billion to the national gross domestic product, according to the Energy Department. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association reported that with 41 ethanol plants and 3.7 billion gallons produced in 2012, Iowa is the largest producer of ethanol in the country. According to the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa’s ethanol industry supports 55,000 jobs and accounts for $5.4 billion of the state’s total economy. Comprising many American ethanol producers and other organizations within the industry, Growth Energy represents producers and promotes ethanol production to “fuel America in ways that achieve energy independence, improve economic well-being and create a healthier environment for all Americans today.”

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CONTINUED FROM 15

Zylstra said there are definitely some difficulties this year, as there were last year, because of high commodity prices that force his overhead to be higher. “Right now, the herd is at a low level. So there’s not a lot of calves that are available,” Zylstra said. “The demand for the cattle outsees the supply. So they’re extremely high to buy. So by the time you have high feed costs, it does make it tough to make a profit off your business.” The high price of cattle and feed relates back to two summers of drought. When passers-by drive by Iowa fields, they often forget that most of the burnt up corn goes to feeding livestock. “I sell all my grain,” Zylstra said. “A lot of that corn,” he said pointing to a field next to his livestock, “probably does come back as feed for

Jake Waddingham/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

A heifer makes its way along the fence line at the Southwestern Community College Agricultural Site in Creston. livestock because a lot of it gets delivered to the mill in Grinnell.” Zylstra said the drought was more severe last year than this year. From July to August this year, not even an inch of rain accumulated. Zylstra said he estimates higher commodity prices and higher overhead for live-

stock farmers. “So our crops have definitely been affected this year,” Zylstra said. Kevin Van Manen, another farmer in Jasper County, said the drought has affected his crops and, in turn, his herd. But he said the drought, both this year and last year, could have been

much worse and had much more impact on his overhead. “I wouldn’t consider this summer a disaster,” he said. Even though Zylstra has a deep well he uses to water his herd, he knows of some farmers in other regions of Iowa that aren’t so lucky and have to buy water to hydrate their herds. “We have not had any issues,” Zylstra said. “I am aware a couple of farmers that can’t put their cattle out to pasture because the water was gone.” Zylstra said that despite the high commodity prices, opportunities have been available to profit in the livestock industry. “All you have to do is look at the balance sheets of the larger feeding operations, and most of them have been profitable,” he said. “So it makes the reality that you have to be a very good manager. You have to be really good with risk management.”

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Big harvest should bring prices down

BY DEREK BARICHELLO For Central Iowa Ag Mag

The harvest of 2013 has been full of surprises. Farmers planted late because of a wet spring and suffered through a flash drought in July and August, yet many yields are high – so high, in fact, this harvest might rank as one of the top three yields per acre. Corn farmers are seeing monitors on their combines hitting 200 bushels regularly. “They’re pretty proud of their numbers,” said Tim Wells, an agricultural lender at

26 Fall 2013

First Midwest Bank in Moline, Ill. “I had a farmer send me a text of a picture of a monitor at 300, so there’s quite a bit of volume out there coming in. I haven’t talked to a farmer yet who isn’t pleased.” What does that mean for a Midwestern farmer sitting with a good yield? A large amount of corn acreage was planted this season, setting up for a glut of corn on the market, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CONTINUED ON 27


CONTINUED FROM 26

Many soybean harvests also turned in a better-thanexpected yields. Unfortunately, harvest totals were being reported late because of the government shutdown. As happens with big yields, prices have dropped since reaching a high of $8.49 a bushel last summer and sat at $4.37 as of mid-October – a new low for the year. “Prices may not be where farmers want them to be, but there is a saying in farming, ‘Give me the bushels and I’ll be fine,’” said Ryan Walsh, a commodities broker for AgPerspective in Dixon, Ill. With 200 bushels of corn, and $4 prices, the farmer generally is making money. Be a seller on the futures market, lock the price in (as it’s expected to continue to slide), and be a storer, Walsh says. “Sell corn for delivery next July, store until then, and truck it in,” Walsh said. Because of the October harvest, corn has been late getting to the eleva-

Philip Marruffo/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

A combine works a corn field off Crosby Road outside Morrison, Ill. This year’s harvest might rank as one of the top three yields per acre. In the Midwest, a large amount of corn acreage was planted this season, setting up for a glut of corn on the market, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. tors, keeping the basis level strong, encouraging storage. Farmers who are putting it in their bins and not selling it face a market risk if they don’t lock it in. Also, once crop insurance floors are set, which are expected to drop off, the farmer won’t have that safety net, either.

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The big forward sellers, who set their prices back in December, are cashing in nicely. “They are really happy right now,” Walsh said. Select farmers didn’t sell their 2011 crops, because they didn’t want the income and didn’t want to pay taxes on it. “Take the income; pay the

taxes,” Wells said. While there’s something to putting corn in the bin, farmers need to take care of their liabilities. “Sell enough grain to make sure obligations are taken care of, then from there the market is the market, and you take whatever risks come with that,” Wells said. “That’s up to each individual farm to make their call. Just make sure the bank is taken care of.” For farmers banking cash, now is a good time to leverage investments and plan for the future. That could mean setting up a retirement plan or acquiring land or equipment. “So long as it’s done with a plan,” Wells advised. “Every farm should have a 5- or 10-year plan, and I’ll say that if they don’t have a plan, they’re risking way too much.” With that said, higher yields don’t always translate to higher profits. Prices are expected to decline as the supply grows. “We don’t anticipate an increase in farmers’ incomes,” said Kurt Downs, an agricultural lender for Sauk Valley Bank.

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WHAT’S YOUR

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A Q&A with five Central Iowa farmers COMPILED BY KATE MALOTT For Central Iowa Ag Mag Ross Langmaid Q: What are your expectations for the fall? A: Our expectations were real low this season because of how dry it was this summer. Q: How does that compare to historical averages? A: We’re on our second year in a row of a drought situation, which is far below our usual average in northern Newton. Q: What surprised you the most about the 2013 growing season? A: I suppose as dry as it was. As wet as it was to begin with, then how dry it got. That was pretty unusual. I was also surprised how nice the crops ended up looking despite the situation. Q: How has that affected your harvest? A: The maturity of the crop has a large range. There was a lot planted early, and then a lot that was planted after the late snow. It made planning difficult. Both corn and beans matured sporadically this year. Q: How did you adapt? A: We ended up having to spread another sprout of nitrogen on the corn this summer because of the wet spring. We don’t usually do that, so there’s another extended cost. Q: Do you plan any land acquisitions or equipment purchases in 2014? A: I would say no. I’m pretty well set up for my operations, and I’ve got everything I need. Q: How do you expect things to be different for you in 2014? A: The only thing we going to do different is that we’re going to put the nitrogen pass into our plans for next year. We’re going to put that into practice for next year because nature taught us a lesson.

Roger Zylstra, Iowa Corn Growers Association Q: What are your expectations for the fall? A: The year started out so very wet, 28 Fall 2013

Ross Langmaid then drier than it has ever been since the ’80s. My expectations were not that great, I guess. I have finished harvesting my soybeans, and it probably ranks as the worst I’ve harvested since 1982. We didn’t have any rain in July and August. Q: How does that compare to historical averages? A: The rain was very spotty this year. You might get none, and then go down the road and there might be half an

inch. It was well below average. The corn I’ve harvested so far is extremely variable. I’m finding some good corn on the good dirt and some not so top quality on the other. Disappointment. At this point in time, it looks likes corn crop may be close to historical averages. In the last five years, there’s only been one year where it was near the average. CONTINUED ON 29


CONTINUED FROM 28

With the weather, it’s a lot harder to get the good yields. But with soybeans, this is probably the worst. On my best dirt they were probably about 15 percent below a normal year, and on most of the dirt they were about 50 percent below. Q: What surprised you the most about the 2013 growing season? A: The extreme variability. We had record flooding near the North Skunk River in the end of May, and to go from that extreme to less than an inch of rain for both July and August, that’s extreme. Q: How has that affected your harvest? A: We’re running a week to 10 days behind normal because it was so late. We had to wait and plant. Then it was cool in June because crops weren’t adjusting and growing normally. Q: How did you adapt? A: After farming for as many years as I have, you learn that every year is different and you work around whatever unusual circumstances you have to work with. Over the years, you have to have good equipment and be prepared so that when you get the opportunity, you’re ready to get out there. Q: Do you plan any land acquisitions or equipment purchases in 2014?

Roger Zylstra A: I’m probably not going to be doing too much of that. I’m fairly conservative when it comes to that. I haven’t bought any land in a number of years. The big issue, in addition to lower yields, is that the prices are considerably lower. Q: How do you expect things to be different for you in 2014? A: We can’t predict the future, so we

“Farmers selling at Farmer’s Prices”

just have to make decisions on what the circumstances are at the time. You can’t plan for a good crop because then you won’t get a good crop. I look at the people east of us; last year they had it really hard, and this year things were better for them. CONTINUED ON 30

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Calvin Winn Q: What are your expectations for the fall? A: Our expectations were a little smaller than they’re coming out. We’re having better yields than we expected. The drier weather was hard on things, but the genetics today have just made a tremendous improvement on these crops. Q: How does that compare to historical averages? A: The soybeans are a little below average. Our yields were 55 a bushel on early beans and 45 on the late-planted beans. Normally, we run a little over 65 a bushel. They are definitely down. So far, the corn has been real good, maybe a little below expectations for average, but we’re seeing yields of 200 or more in some places. Q: What surprised you the most about the 2013 growing season? A: The extreme weather. The terribly wet spring that lasted forever, and then once it stopped raining it just stopped raining altogether. The weather extremes are getting harder than they’ve ever been in the past. Q: How has that affected your harvest? A: It was a little less than expected, but still very thankful for everything that we got. Q: How did you adapt? A: We used a different product on our corn this year. My agronomist said he thought if it’s going to be hot and dry, he had a special little product we could apply to this corn that lets it aspirate better during the hot, dry weather. So we used it on part of our acres and part of it we didn’t, but it sure made a huge difference on the part we used. The corn is still green, and it’s very good yielding corn. Q: Do you plan any land acquisitions or equipment purchases in 2014? A: Due to a health issue, no. Q: How do you expect things to be different for you in 2014? A: This may be my last active year in farming. So, I can envision a lot of changes coming, some of which I’m not happy with. It will probably be entirely different next year. For now, we’re trying to muddle through harvest and get it done.

Galen Hammerly Q: What are your expectations for the fall? A: With the year we’ve had, I was pleased with the results. They are higher than I expected being we had such a dry year. Yields are down because of lack of moisture, but corn turned out OK. Q: How does that compare to historical averages? A: Corn is probably slightly above average compared to the past, but the 30 Fall 2013

Calvin Winn

Galen Hammerly beans are probably past what they could have been or should have been. It was all about the timing of the heat. I raise some hay, too – alfalfa – but it performed better than I thought; better than last year per acre. It could have done better with more rain. If only we had another inch or so. It did surprising well. I got it all made without any rain. Q: What surprised you the most about the 2013 growing season? A: The range in weather. It went from extremely wet to extremely dry.

Q: How has that affected your harvest? A: Well, the weather’s been perfect for harvest so far. We got enough rain to mature the crop and finish it. We need the rain to drop the leaves, which makes it easier to harvest. I’m still working on corn, but it’s good weather so far. I’m right on schedule right about normal. If I get done by Halloween, I’m doing pretty good. CONTINUED ON 31


CONTINUED FROM 30

Q: How did you adapt? A: I was able to do anything I wanted; just about anything I wanted. We could have used more timely rain. When pollination occurred, if we could have had a rain or two, it would have helped a lot. Q: Do you plan any land acquisitions or equipment purchases in 2014? A: No land acquisition, but I probably will purchase combine equipment by the end of the year; an upgrade. I don’t think I’ll buy a new one; a used machine is what I’m looking for. Q: How do you expect things to be different for you in 2014? A: It would be nice to have a little more normal weather year, less hurdles and less stress in the growing season for the crops. That’s what I hope for. With the genetics they have, the crops perform very well under stressful weather.

Rolland Schnell, Iowa Soybean Association Q: What are your expectations for the fall? A: My expectations are different now than they were three weeks ago. I was hoping for better bean yields and expecting less corn yields, and that’s switched. I’m hoping to average in the 175 bushel an acre on corn and on soybeans I’m

Rolland Schnell hoping to average 45, but I don’t think I will. I’ve harvested too many fields that are in the low- to mid-30s. Q: How does that compare to historical averages? A: The corn is not far off of historical averages around here, but the soybeans are probably 15 bushel less than historical averages. Q: What surprised you the most

about the 2013 growing season? A: It was obscene. A season that started out with monumental, historical rains that didn’t quit and the soil was so waterlogged and our planting season went into the end of June. Then it quit raining. In August, we had extreme temperatures and crops did not have a chance. CONTINUED ON 32

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Horn follows his dreams in ag BY KATE MALLOT For Central Iowa Ag Mag

“I believe in the future of agriculture,” 16-year-old junior Jarret Horn recited, “with a faith born not of words but of deeds. I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life.” The Newton Senior High School junior lives by those words, the FFA Creed, and believes in all they represent about the past and future of agriculture. The Newton FFA vice president recently competed in the National Western Roudup Hippology Contest in Denver. Jarret is the son of his school’s agriculture teacher, James Horn. This summer, Jasper County Iowa State University Extension award-

CONTINUED FROM 31

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Q: How has that affected your harvest? A: One thing it’s doing is making the harvest prolonged. Soybeans in particular are spread out because of the long planting season. I’ve got beans that are way too green to harvest yet. Here I am doing corn, and my beans aren’t even ready. It’s going to be a stretched out harvest season, just like the planting season was and because of the planting season. Q: How did you adapt? A: One thing we’ve had to do is persevere. It’s been a long, grueling season. I remember talking to other farmers earlier this year, and they were really depressed because of the long battle of fighting the elements. As far as adapting to the operations that I do, really no significant change other than being prepared for the long harvest and poor conditions. Because of all the rains, there’s been a lot of

ed Jarret the 2013 Broomfield Outstanding Field Award for his work in promoting agriculture education. “When you look at American agriculture, if the American agriculturists remain true to their way of life, no matter what new technologies, then it will remain a great American icon,” Jarret said. “The challenge is for young people to connect, stand strong to that hardworking spirit, and carry on the same traditions.” As a model agriculture student in his community, Jarret helps to lead other youths through his knowledge, hard work and passion. His value of business also helps him to lead group fundraisers, such as gravel grooming. CONTINUED ON 33

damage that still needs to be repaired this fall and this spring. Q: Do you plan any land acquisitions or equipment purchases in 2014? A: No. I expect the next two or three years, I will not. I’ve been farming long enough to know that things go in cycles. We’ve had some pretty good cycles the last few years, and I will not be surprised if there’s a “3” in front of the corn next fall. I think we better enjoy the good times last year, and even this year the prices are reasonable. I don’t foresee good prices, corn especially, but soybeans also. Q: How do you expect things to be different for you in 2014? A: There’s going to be a lot of effort done to repair the damages the rain has caused. I do think that with the Nutrient Management Plan, the state is going to be getting a lot of additional work done with the coverage of crops and different management practices.


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By Kate Mallot/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Jarret Horn, a junior at Newton Senior High School, said he would like to work toward an agri-business degree. CONTINUED FROM 32

At the National FFA Convention, Jarret met with an Illinois-based company, Gravel Groomers. They partnered to raise money for his local FFA by teaching students how to grade gravel driveways. The money earned is split among the person who makes the sale, the operator, and Newton FFA. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It gives the kids a good idea what sales is,â&#x20AC;? Jarret said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;and it also gives the operator the opportunity to work on responsibility and customer service.â&#x20AC;? To succeed in agri-business, a person must be able to articulate ideas and express a level of professionalism. Horn practiced those career skills at the Iowa State Fair this year, when he participated in the extemporaneous speaker communication competition, calling it a â&#x20AC;&#x153;fun and challenging competition.â&#x20AC;? So, whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s next for Jarret Horn?

Jarret Horn Age: 16 School: Newton Senior High School Highlights: Vice president of Newton FFA, winner of 2013 Broomfield Outstanding Field Award from Jasper County ISU Extension â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the million dollar question,â&#x20AC;? he joked. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My dream job would be farming, but with high startup costs, I know that it is unlikely that I will be able to make a sustainable living and fund farming.â&#x20AC;? Jarret would like to work toward an agri-business degree, but for now, he looks forward to making the most of his current educational opportunities. And although he is unsure where the future will take him, he knows agriculture will remain a prominent fixture in his life.

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Matthew Nosco/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

JP Howard, owner of The Tremont restaurant in Marshalltown, holds a Denver sandwich made with local ingredients, including Brunk Family Farm eggs.

Marshalltown restaurant feeds off local food market BY MATTHEW NOSCO For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Hometown hospitality and local food. That is the motto for The Tremont in Marshalltown, and it’s one the business aptly lives up to. JP Howard and his wife, Jennifer, own and operate The Tremont, a historical inn that includes a grill, a fine-dining restaurant, and a bar that features local brews for young professionals and business travelers. The couple strive to source as much of their food locally as they can, aiming for a 200-mile radius. They must account for the time of the year and the quality of the harvest season, which means their supplies often fluctuate. JP said he is always on the lookout for new farmers in the area, although the couple like to stick with several mainstays. 34 Fall 2013

“We have one business where we always get our eggs,” JP said. “Brunk Family Farm brings in our eggs on a luggage rack every single week.” The locally sourced food makes The Tremont’s menu adaptive and keeps the Howards on their toes as they try new recipes. “My strategy has always been research and development, like with many types of businesses,” JP said. “We like to bring items in as a weekly special or other deal at first to see what the demand is, and then if there is a need for that item, it’ll work its way into the next permanent menu that we set up.” The couple have pushed for fresh and local food since they opened the restaurant in 1999. They realized, almost immediately, that it was cheaper for them to source locally than it was to order in bulk from the coasts, and that

the food was of a much higher quality. Meat in particular took precedence, with JP holding to the credo of “fresh and never frozen” as he looked for suppliers in the region. Some of his cuts come from a custom producer in the Quad Cities, but some come from closer yet. JP makes a point to buy from a pork producer in Marshalltown, whose product he recently featured as part of a German feast. The Howards’ mission to supply local food has grown easier over the years as public demand and attention to the food industry reinvigorated local food markets. “People have gotten smarter when it comes to their food supply in the last few years,” JP said. “They’ve begun to demand more out of us, and we’re happy to do that for them since it has always been a part of our model.”


!$-'RAINs+EYSTONE LAURIE JOHNS Iowa Farm Bureau â&#x20AC;&#x153;Between the Linesâ&#x20AC;?

Iowa farmers talk genetic modified crops

H

undreds of protesters, many who have never been on an Iowa farm, headed to our state recently to protest progress in farming. They donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe in genetically modified crops, and no amount of peer-reviewed science or speeches from Nobel laureates will convince them otherwise. Just as they have the right to voice their opinions and be heard, the Iowa men and women who spend years in the field growing your food also hope you will hear their stories, and let common sense prevail. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because for decades, these thousands of Iowa farmers have seen what progress in farming can do. Paul Vaassen has been growing corn and beans on his Dubuque County farm since 1962. Although heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll proudly admit to being â&#x20AC;&#x153;old fashioned,â&#x20AC;? he says there are some things that nostalgia canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cure, like hunger. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;think thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s any doubt in my mind that the genetic improvements that seed companies have developed have given us the opportunity to see greater yields, despite what Mother Nature can dish out,â&#x20AC;? Vaassen said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t forget

that feeding people is really what this is all about. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Last year, for example, we were very dry, and even though yields were not up to what we considered â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;normalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, they were much better than, say, 10 to 15 years ago when we had the same drought conditions but didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have these great seeds that were more resistant to drought or pests. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Years ago we used planters with seeds in one box and insecticide in another, which meant we were using a lot more insecticide. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m happy that old planter sits idle on my farm now, because our GMO seeds help us defeat pests like rootworm and corn borer,â&#x20AC;? says Vaassen. Roger Zylstra, a longtime corn, soybeans and hog farmer from Jasper County, has seen a lot of changes, too. If he can be more productive and more sustainable, he can also keep farming in the family, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why he favors GMO crops. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The reality is weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re trying to build and grow for the future,â&#x20AC;? Zylstra said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My youngest son just came back full time to the farm. I work hard to build a sustainable farm for his return and only innovation helps us do that.â&#x20AC;? CONTINUED ON 37

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Ty Rushing/For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Josh Pierce, the youngest son of owners John and Joy Pierce, is taking a more active role in his parents’ venture, Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch. The business is located 12 miles south of Knoxville in Marion County, directly off Iowa Highway 14.

Marion County pumpkin patch moves into second generation BY TY RUSHING For Central Iowa Ag Mag

When fall arrives in Marion County, it’s time to pay a visit to Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, which is 12 miles south of Knoxville, just off Iowa Highway 14. John and Joy Pierce have been the owners and operators for 33 years. Their youngest son, Josh, is taking a larger role in the family business this year. This season, they grew 75 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and squash on 25 acres. John talked about the history of their business. “I grew pumpkins when I was a kid growing up,” he said. “After we moved over here on the highway after we got married, I started growing pumpkins [again]. One year they did really well and I had several, 50 or 60, which was a lot at the time, and I put them down by the highway and put up a sign that said 36 Fall 2013

’50 cents.’ “And people stopped and bought them,” he continued. “Some of them were stolen, and so the next year I planted them with the idea of selling them. I remember I had 114, and they sold out two weeks before Halloween. So after that, we started getting serious about it.” The Pierce familydid, indeed, got serious about their growing. In addition to the thousands of pumpkins they now harvest, the family also hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival at their patch. The festival features a large hay bale maze, oat threshing, antique tractors, other vendors and, of course, pumpkins. Their patch has a wide selection besides the traditional orange pumpkins. They have Apple Pumpkins, Cosmic Stars, Green Stripes, Silver Edge, The Wolf, Thick Handle, Giant Pump-

kins, Sugar Pie, Turk’s Turban and many more. John talked about some of his favorites. “I get a kick out of these Knuckleheads; they got the bumps on them,” he said. “They’re pretty good. Gourds, I like the Autumn Wings. They’re real colorful and have really odd shapes. “For picking, I like picking gourds a little better,” he continued. “They get different sizes and shapes, and you don’t know what you’re going into. The little pumpkins, the mini-pumpkins, they are all the same, one after another after another.” People love fall for a variety of reasons, but for John it’s all about the pumpkins. “It’s nice getting up in the morning, walking out the door and seeing all this color,” he said.


â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;

... The bottom line for me is that, as a family farmer with young kids, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not going to put anything in the ground thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not safe for us, or our environment. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re eating this food, too. Colin Johnson, Wapello County farmer

CONTINUED FROM 35

Innovation has brought incredible progress to Iowa farms. Between 1980 and 2010, U.S. farmers nearly doubled corn production, yet thanks to better seeds, better equipment and conservation practices, are using less fertilizer than they put on the ground back when Zylstra and Vaassen first got started farming all those years ago. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), farmers grew 6.64 billion bushels of corn using 3.9 pounds of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) for each bushel in 1980. Just a couple years ago, that yield busted the bins at 12.45 billion bushels, using 1.6 pounds of nutrients per bushel produced. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m no math genius, but by any assessment, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more than an 87 percent increase. How many other industries can claim that? When you look at the science, the numbers, the sustainability that GM crops bring and meet the men and women who grow your food, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to swallow the hysteria that the â&#x20AC;&#x153;antiâ&#x20AC;? crowd is selling. Young farmers just getting started believe itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;disconnectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; that folks may have today with farmers; they just havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t met one.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;

â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

Colin Johnson is a young family farmer from Wapello County who grows corn, soybeans and hay. He says the farmers growing food today have more in common with folks asking the questions than many realize. Knowledge-seeking is a good thing, so long as both sides are sought out. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Of course GMO is safe,â&#x20AC;? Johnson said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Of course itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all about feeding more people. But the bottom line for me is that, as a family farmer with young kids, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not going to put anything in the ground thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not safe for us, or our environment. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re eating this food, too.â&#x20AC;? Progress has brought us safer cars, cellphone coverage in the country, the Internet, and countless improvements in the fields of health care and fitness. Progress also has brought consumers more choices at the grocery store, and that includes healthier choices from GMO food: fortified with calcium, vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals. Providing choices is what keeps farmers moving forward. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The farming practices weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve used, the no-till and everything, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great advance from where we were,â&#x20AC;? Zylstra said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have no doubt we will continue to move forward. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we do.â&#x20AC;?

Years ago we used planters with seeds in one box and insecticide in another, which meant we were using a lot more insecticide. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m happy that old planter sits idle on my farm now, because our GMO seeds help us defeat pests like rootworm and corn borer. Paul Vaassen, Dubuque County farmer

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School lunches with a twist New beef recipes on school menus get students’ approval BY NANCY DEGNER Iowa Beef Industry Council

After participating in a pilot program at schools around the country, many students and school food service directors agree: The Rock and Roll Beef Wrap is delicious and nutritious. The same goes for Spy Thai Beef, Sweet Potato Beef Mash-up, Wrangler’s Beef Chili and Sweet ’n Sloppy Joes. “Awesome” was a common compliment from youngsters who tastetested and named five all-new ground beef recipes created by the Beef Checkoff Program for school lunches. School food service directors noted the “homemade” flavor of the recipes and the use of economical, widely available ingredients. Another selling point for school staff? The meals pair the timeless appeal of ground beef with “generous’ amounts of vegetables that young people might not otherwise consume.

Rock and Roll Beef Wraps Total Recipe Time: 35 to 45 minutes Makes 4 servings INGREDIENTS 1 pound Ground Beef (93% lean or leaner) 1 cup water 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa 2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 2 cups packaged broccoli or coleslaw mix 4 medium whole grain or spinach tortillas (7 to 8-inch diameter) Toppings (optional): Apple slices, red bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, carrot slices, sliced almonds or chow mein noodles INSTRUCTIONS Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add Ground Beef; cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into 1/2-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Remove drippings. Stir in water, quinoa, ranch dressing mix and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in slaw; cook, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes or until slaw is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Divide beef mixture evenly among tortillas; garnish with toppings, as desired. Fold over sides of tortillas and roll up to enclose filling.

CONTINUED ON 39

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Sweet ’n Sloppy Joes Total Recipe Time: 35 to 40 minutes Makes 4 servings INGREDIENTS 1 pound Ground Beef (93% lean or leaner) 1 cup diced bell peppers (red, green, yellow or orange) 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup dark or golden raisins 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split Toppings (optional): Chopped mango, chopped jalapeño, chopped tomato, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onion, shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese INSTRUCTIONS Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add Ground Beef, bell pepper and onion; cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef into 3/4-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Remove drippings. Stir in tomato sauce, water, raisins, ancho chili powder and oregano; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 15 to 18 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. Evenly divide beef mixture on bottom half of each bun. Garnish with toppings, as desired; close sandwiches.

CONTINUED FROM 38

“The Iowa Beef Industry Council has shared the new recipes with school food service directors across the state,” said Scott Niess, of Osage, chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “The recipes were triple-tested in the checkoff’s test kitchen. The national beef checkoff and state beef councils in Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Washington then worked with local school districts to fieldtest the recipes and gather feedback from students and foodservice directors.” Perhaps most important, the recipes help meet new government nutrition guidelines for the national school breakfast/lunch program. The five beef recipes meet all school nutrition guidelines

for fat, calories and sodium and help incorporate a variety of food groups, such as meat, vegetables and grains, into meals. The recipes all contain 10 essential nutrients, including fiber, which was recognized as a nutrition concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “We are providing the quantity recipes through our food service website, www.beeffoodservice.com, to help ensure beef remains on school lunch menus as a nutritious, delicious meal option for our children,” Niess said. Family-size recipes are available at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com. For more information about the school lunch recipes, contact the Iowa Beef Industry Council at (515) 296-2305 or beef@iabeef.org.

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