Plymouth Pioneer facility celebrates 25 years

The Pioneer seed corn production facility in Plymouth, Ind. broke ground in 1988.  Production location manager Mark Letzinger says when the plant opened in 1989 it was considered a small operation.

But things have changed a lot since then.  “We had about 35 employees, about 40 growers producing seed on about 14,000 acres,” he says.  “We’ve tripled in size since then.  We have about 90 full-time employees, we have over 115 growers, and 2013 was our largest crop.  We produce over 3 million bushels of seed out of this plant that year.”

AUDIO: Mark Letzinger, Pioneer (2:22mp3)

Governor Mike Pence says Pioneer’s 25 years is a milestone and represents a great partnership between a global company and Indiana’s farmers.  “It’s important to point out that while we’re celebrating 25 years at this facility, DuPont Pioneer employs over 600 Hoosiers in 9 locations around the state,” he says.  “And they are a critical part of an agricultural infrastructure to our state.”

AUDIO: Governor Mike Pence (2:47mp3)

Indiana State Director of Ag Ted McKinney tells Brownfield the event was not only an opportunity to celebrate 25 years in Plymouth, but celebrate the advancements in technology.  “Why?  Because it’s really, really cool,” he says.  “They’ve helped people’s lives with higher yields, better standability, and better crops.  And, I think we’ve just begin to scratch the surface.”

AUDIO: Ted McKinney, ISDA Director (3:00mp3)

Valero celebrates restart of Mt. Vernon facility

Valero Renewable Fuels and the Ports of Indiana celebrated the restart of the Mt. Vernon ethanol plant today.  Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann says the opening of the Valero facility at the Port of Indiana – Mount Vernon is another economic development win for the state of Indiana.

The Mount Vernon plant is the 11th corn plant in Valero Renewables’ system and the second in Indiana.  Its annual production capacity is 110 million gallons.  The plant had been shut down for nearly two years, but production resumed at the site earlier this month and now employs 65 full-time workers.

The location of the plant provides logistical advantages that include ready access to corn suppliers as well as strong rail, truck, and barge transportation.

By adding the Mount Vernon location, Valero’s ethanol production will now total more than 1.3 billion gallons per year.

Nelson receives Farmer of the Year award

Former Illinois Farm Bureau president and Seneca farmer Phil Nelson was honored today with Senator Mark Kirk’s inaugural Farmer of the Year award.  Senator Kirk says Nelson received the award for his countless contributions to Illinois, the economy, and the livelihood of thousands of farmers throughout the state.

Nelson served as Illinois Farm Bureau president from 2003 to 2013 and he and his wife own a fourth-generation farm near Seneca where they grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and run a cow-calf operation.

Indiana corn crop starting to mature

Scattered heavy rainfall provided to some farmers relief while others experienced flooding and crop damage.

According to the Indiana Crop and Weather report, 73 percent of the corn crop is rated good to excellent with 82 percent of the crop in the dough stage, 41 percent dented, and 3 percent mature.  Soybeans that were setting pods received much-needed moisture, but excess water and humidity contributed to increased sudden death syndrome and foliar lesions in some areas.  However, 69 percent of the crop is rated good to excellent, with 94 percent setting pods and 3 percent dropping leaves.

In other crops around the state, 56 percent of the range and pastures are rated good to excellent.  Sixty-nine percent of the alfalfa hay is on its 3rd cutting and one percent on its fourth.

Indiana Farm Bureau sets policy

Indiana Farm Bureau set its policy for the next year over the weekend.  IFB president Don Villwock says two of the big topic this year centered on Big Data and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (or UAVs).

As for data policy he says they want to make sure farmers are protected.  “We want to reassure them that the data is their data and that the companies won’t see that data to third-party vendors,” he says.  “And profit from it without sharing revenues with the farmers.”

As for the use of UAVs, Villwock tells Brownfield there are concerns about privacy.  “Drones in agriculture are a new and growing topic,” he says.  “We think they’re really a positive tool – but we want to make sure personal property is protected and property rights are protected in that process.”

He says this weekend’s policy session is really the grassroots organization at work.  “These policies that we talked about today (Saturday) started out at a county policy meeting or annual meeting that took place and was then forwarded on to the state,” he says.  “Some of them involve local issues, some of them are state issues, and even the bigger ones involve national issues.”

Delegates from the Indiana Farm Bureau will take some of the policy recommendations to the American Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in January in San Diego.

AUDIO: Don Villwock, Indiana Farm Bureau (6:00mp3)

Nestle tightens pledge on animal welfare

The Nestle food and beverage company has announced an animal welfare agreement with World Animal Protection, a non-governmental organization.

The Swiss company says it will require its more than 7-thousand suppliers of animal products, from milk to meat to eggs, to adhere to stricter animal welfare practices.  The company says an independent auditor will conduct on-farm checks and those farms that don’t work to come into compliance “will no longer supply Nestle.”

The agreement is part of Nestle’s Responsible Sourcing program. Nestle is working with World Animal Protection to “tighten and improve the company’s “responsible sourcing guidelines.”  For example, spacing requirements for pigs and cows will be changed “to ensure they are not cramped and can engage in normal animal behavior.”

Some of Nestle’s many brands include Lean Cuisine, Cheerios and Haagen-Dazs.

Take time to take precautions

Marshfield Clinic says they found an estimated 12 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, among 607 people screened at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days last week.

National Farm Medicine Center director Dr. Matthew Keifer says, “Of all the cancers farmers are at risk for, skin cancer is the No. 1 cancer that can be diagnosed quickly and cured.”  The problem is farmers often don’t take the needed precautions and don’t take the time to be screened.

Nationwide, an estimated 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year and an estimated 9,700 people will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

CME leader says youth critical to ag’s future

Terry Duffy, CME Group chairman and president, 2014 Illinois State Fair

Terry Duffy, CME Group chairman and president, 2014 Illinois State Fair

The chairman and president of the CME Group in Chicago came to the Illinois State Fair last week to show his support of county and state fairs and ag youth.  Terry Duffy said, “I’m very passionate about agriculture and the future of it because I don’t see too many businesses out there that have the growth potential that agriculture does.”

Duffy says people take agriculture for granted and that’s troubling to him, “When you look at the average age of a farmer, at 55.9 years of age, and where this industry could be going – it scares me. So, I have 11-year-old twin boys and I want to see them be able to prosper in this great country. And, I think people have kind of lost their way and it’s not their fault or anyone else’s fault about what really is America.”

Duffy says he wants to see more young people get involved in not only production agriculture but in ag financial services.  The CME group donates to 4-H and sponsors the Commodity Carnival at fairs across the country as an ag education tool for young people.

AUDIO: Interview with Terry Duffy thanks to Steve Bridge – WFMB Radio (7:30 mp3)

Ohio Agriculture Women of the Year

Nominations for the 2014 Ohio Agriculture Women of the Year Awards are being accepted. The award program is administered through the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Office of the First Lady.

“Strong women have helped make the food and agriculture industry what it is today,” said Mrs. Kasich. “I am honored to be part of this program that highlights the achievements of several noteworthy, amazing Ohio women.”

In its third year, the award honors women who have made outstanding contributions to Ohio agriculture, through leadership, and advocacy in the agricultural community.

The deadline to submit nominations is September 26.

Nomination information is available here.

Honoring farmers efforts in conservation

Since its creation 14 years ago, over 700 farm families have been recognized for their conservation efforts with the River Friendly Farmer Award.  Jeff Meinders, president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts says these practice benefit the farmer and the land.  “Reduced tillage or no-till practices and cover crops keep the nutrients on the farm, in the soil, and prevents them from migrating into the streams,” he says.

AUDIO: Jeff Meinders (3:30mp3)

Award recipient Dale Dellinger farms in Knox County and has been practicing no-till since 1985.

He says implementing conservation practices is important on his farm.  “You know you’re always concerned about pollution,” he says.  “I am a fourth generation farmer and I’d like to leave it a little bit better for the next generation coming on.”

AUDIO: Dale Dellinger, River Friendly Farmer (1:05mp3)

Over 50 farm families were recognized during the ceremony on Farmer’s Day at the Indiana State Fair.