Monday, August 27, 2012

Congressional Leader or Lump on a Log

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower                                                     (

--ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkableleadership potential. authoritativeness, influence,command, effectiveness; sway, clout.       (

One of the most frustrating things in life is when you have someone who is supposed to be a leader and it turns out they have absolutely no desire to do it.  They will give lip service to it and "act" like a leader but when it actually comes to making the tough decisions they become a follower or an excuse maker.  This doesn't matter if it is an Elder/Pastor in a church, a coach on a team, a husband or a member of Congress. Those that are truly leaders will lead and those that aren't only get in the way.

In agriculture right now there is a very important bill that is stalled out in the House of Representatives.  Many  of you know I am talking about the Farm Bill.  It is a bill that is not only important to farmers but also to the school lunch program and SNAP (food stamps).  Why, pray tell, is this stalled out?  It is because of the lack of leadership from the Speaker of the House and certain individual Congressmen. They have wasted 80 hours of debate time to vote on the Repeal Obamacare 33 different times knowing full well that the Senate will not take it up.  I have no problem with a symbolic vote but 33 of them borders on insanity.

In Nebraska, especially the 3rd Congressional District, we are blessed with the "Golden Triangle" of corn, ethanol and cattle. If we are not the single largest grower, producer and raiser of each of these then we are a close second.  Anything that affects these three things is a big deal.  Ag is the main driver in this district from actual crop and livestock production to irrigation and equipment manufacturers in addition to all the other industries that are ag related. When something as important as the Farm Bill comes up to the House and Senate, we expect are delegation to lead in the battle. We thank our Senators for doing this.

However, our Congressman Rep. Adrian Smith, is not leading on this.  Oh, he is saying the talking points like:
  -"ag committee only trimmed Nutrition Title by a few percentage points when the spending for it as quadrupled in the last number of years."
  -"Senate recessed without taking up a disaster bill that the House passed" (There is disaster relief in the Senate farm bill)
  -"we are about a year ahead of schedule when compared to the last farm bill" (A failure to lead then is not an excuse to not lead now)
  -"the bill would come to the floor if the Speaker had the votes" (Be a leader and get those votes)

I know he isn't on the Ag Committee and is on the Ways and Means committee but he is constantly making a big deal about the caucuses he chairs like the Congressional Rural Caucus and the Modern Agriculture Caucus but being the chair is not the same as leading the fight in the battle for the Farm Bill.  It is time for Rep. Smith to step up and truly fight for his 3rd District which we elected him to do.  It is time to work for the floor and find the votes to pass the bill so it can get to Conference Committee.  It is time to show the people back here why we elected him and that he does think all of ag is important in his district and he isn't just giving lip service to stay in power.  And, by the way, when invited to speak in front of a bunch of corn farmers, don't find any excuse to not come. (That doesn't show leadership but a lack of testicular fortitude to face your critics)

If our Congressmen are going to refuse to truly lead on these issues that we know are important for agriculture then it is time to flood their offices with phone calls and emails.  It is time for us to demand answers when we have the opportunity to talk to  them one on one. It is time for the editorials asking these key questions of "if not now, then when and if not you, then who?"

Friday, August 24, 2012

The End has Come

The Final Ear of the Year
 It is that time of year when the locusts are out, the nights are cool and we turn our thoughts to important things like football and eventually harvest.  One of the things that is also bittersweet about this time of year is that sweet corn consumption has sadly come to an end.

This summer we had the opportunity to try out some sweet corn from Monsanto call Obsession II.  I discussed it earlier here ( and the advantages it gives anyone who grows sweet corn either as a business or for personal consumption.  The great thing about it, is that we definitely consumed it this summer.

Back when we planted it, we started in late April and finished the last of it in early June.  This allowed us to have about a 6 week period to enjoy the sweet and juicy goodness.  My family was elated with the how excellent the sweet corn was and how relatively free of worms it was as well. Was it 100% free of worms? No but the technology built into the seed allowed it to be very near 100% clean.  Also, our fields stayed clean of weeds which is always a plus for plant health and water consumption also gives us bragging rights when comparing our patches to the neighbors.  (It is always fun to have bragging rights at the local watering hole)

The "cooling" tubs
One of the most enjoyable things we do with out sweet corn is we get together with our neighbor across the section and "put up" sweet corn for the winter.  This is not only the final stages of utilizing our sweet corn but will also determine how well the crop actually did for the year.  What you need to understand is that my family is that research and number oriented group that HAS to determine and figure out everything.  We have a running idea of how many ears it will take to fill a quart sized bag to the predetermined amount of cups of corn we want in them.  Last year it was roughly 7 ears.  This year it was 4.5.  One of the major reasons was that there was very little "wasted" corn and that we did not have to cut off a couple of inches per ear because of bug damage.  This allows us to either end up with a lot more corn to enjoy over the winter or that we do not need as many ears harvested to maintain the number of bags we had last year. (Yes we are nerds)

Shucking the corn
Our process of putting of sweet corn takes a lot of help.  From picking the ears to shucking the ears to cooking and cooling the ears to removing the kernels from the ears and finally bagging.  Start to finish was about a 7 hour process.  It would've been shorter but we had trouble getting the cooking pots we use every year.  I hope some of these pictures will portray what goes on and some of the fun the kids have as well.

After our first year of growing and eating Obsession II sweet corn, I would say it was a success.  I heard from others how sweet it was.  We were able to eat every ear we picked.  This type of technology to keep the ears cleaner and the fields cleaner really shows how beneficial it can be, not only for sweet corn grown in a garden but also for the corn we raise to feed to livestock or that gets processed into corn chips or corn flakes.  The next goal will be to get technologically enhanced popcorn to make your movie theater experience even more enjoyable.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Extend your weed destroying options

Late season pigweed
August is always an interesting of year on the farm.  We are trying to wrap up irrigation for the year and get ready for 2 important things...Huskers and Harvest.  But there is always one sight that will ruin my day and that is weeds in my soybean fields.  Yes, there may only be a few of them but they stick out like a miniature pimple on the prom queen's forehead.

While the actual yield robbing components of the weeds may be gone, they are a potential problem for next year.  Some of these weeds can produce multi-millions of seeds per plant and so making sure they die a painful death is very important to making sure we go into next year with less weed pressure than we had this year.  At this stage in the farming year it may not be economical or even allowable to apply a herbicide to control them.  Plus the soybeans are very hard to walk through and makes removing the weeds via human labor hard and expensive as well.

Even those these weeds may be a problem now, hopefully with some new technology that, in very short order, will be available on the farm.  Technology that will be available to add to our arsenal especially for troublesome weeds. Any time we can utilize technologies on the farm that will allow us to continue to produce a healthy and safe product we will gladly try it out.

In this case I am talking about dicamba tolerant soybeans also know as Roundup Ready Extend.  It will be a soybean that allows farmers to go after those troublesome weeds including those that come up late in the season and can cause problems for the next years to come.  It gives us another weapon in our arsenal to fight weeds, rotate crop protection products, and work at preventing resistance to develop in certain weed species.  And with the new formulation of dicamba it will a low volatility mixture meaning that the drift issues will be lessened protecting vulnerable crops like the neighbors garden. (I would be better off mowing the neighbors sweet corn crop mess with this lady's garden)  

A couple weeks ago I saw an infield trial of this technology and was very impressed with how clean the field was.  It definitely reiterated how important having technologies like this are to the farming community not just now but also in the future.  If you are a farmer I would greatly encourage you to add your voice of support to this great product, which was discovered at the University of Nebraska.  Which is a great reminder of how important our land grant universities continue to be.  To add your voice go to  Just remember that if we want more technologically innovative products in the future it is important to protect the ones we have and voice our support for the ones coming out.