SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Since the government began requiring ethanol be added to gasoline, the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska have lost 2.8 million acres of land set aside in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program.
Hunters, who are big business in that part of the country, say they have felt the loss of habitats for ducks, pheasants, grouse and other wildlife as native grasslands that provided shelter to the birds have been overtaken by corn and soy crops, the main feedstock used to produce ethanol.
Pheasant harvests in the region have declined by 44 percent since 2006. The owner of a Nebraska hotel popular among hunters says, “Everything’s against the pheasants right now.”
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A popular deer donation program is starting up again in Iowa. The state Department of Natural Resources says the program, Help Us Stop Hunger, involves hunters bringing in a whole deer that will be processed into packages of ground meat. The Food Bank of Iowa coordinates the distribution of the meat to local food pantries.
Jim Coffey, who coordinates the program, says hunters simultaneously reduce the deer herd and provide needed protein to the food bank. Iowa hunters have donated more than 56,000 deer to the program since it began. More than 5,200 deer were donated last year, resulting in 800,000 meals.
Cass County Naturalist Lora Kanning says a winner has been selected in a contest to guess the arrival date of Trumpeter Swans at the Schildberg Recreation Area. Kanning says the sponsors of the contest have determined the official arrival of the swans as November 12th. On that day, 12 Trumpeter Swans were there and stayed more than twenty-four hours. The winner is Jean Granger, of Atlantic. She will receive a Trumpeter Swan 8×10 print from the Cass County Conservation Board. Cass County Conservation thanks to all who participated.
An ag economist with Iowa State University Extension predicts there will be plenty of demand for this year’s record corn crop. Earlier this month, the USDA predicted U.S. corn growers will produce 14 billion bushels and ISU Ag Economist Chad Hart says the 4.9 billion bushels forecast for ethanol use seems about right. “Things look like they’re stabilizing for the ethanol industry, so I think that 4.9 (billion bushels) number is a pretty good one,” Hart says.
The USDA estimate for corn used for ethanol was raised about 200 million bushels compared to the last report in September. Iowa is expected to lead the nation in corn production with over 2.2 billion bushels. Hart says if there is a bullish argument for corn, it’s in the potential for strong exports. “We’ve already seen some tremendous response there,” Hart says. “In 2012, the corn market export got cut in half. We’ve seen it rebound and the USDA is putting it at 1.4 billion bushels. I think we could get up around 1.6 (billion) because of the pace we’ve seen thus far. We’ve got some customers out there for our corn.”
Hart says there is one country in particular that has a big demand for U.S. corn: China. “China does not like to buy corn. They like to be self-sufficient, but this year, even with a record corn crop domestically in that country, they’re still importing a lot of corn from us,” Hart says. “In fact, during the government shutdown, they were our biggest buyer of corn.”
The USDA’s final crop report for this season, released Monday, shows 97-percent of Iowa’s corn acreage is harvested. Dry conditions continue to threaten the next growing season. Around 55-percent of Iowa’s crop acreage is rated as short to very short of subsoil moisture as the soil freezes.
There are roughly 130 turkey farms in Iowa that have been busy preparing for this week as Thanksgiving Day draws near. Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin says Iowa ranks ninth nationwide in turkey production. “We’ll be raising close to 11 million turkeys in the state of Iowa (this year) and each one of those turkeys is going to add $24 to $25 of economic impact to our economy,” Irwin says.
Iowa ranks fifth in the country for turkey processing as Hillshire Brands in Storm Lake and West Liberty Foods in West Liberty, combined, process over 15.5 million turkeys annually. Irwin says Iowans will find great prices on turkeys as they prepare for the Thanksgiving Day meal. “I’m seeing them at 88-cents a pound or you can buy a ham and get a turkey for free, there are lots of great deals out there,” Irwin says.
The Iowa Turkey Federation’s website was recently revamped and includes a host of tips and ideas for preparing turkeys. “We have a free brochure you can download that shows you how to prepare that turkey,” Irwin says. “It walks you step by step through the process of cooking a frozen turkey, deep fat frying a turkey, grilling a turkey…lots of great ideas in the that brochure.”
Governor Terry Branstad will uphold an annual tradition today (Monday), by pardoning two Iowa-grown turkeys during a ceremony at Terrace Hill. The turkeys, from a farm in Ellsworth, will then be taken to live out their remaining days at Living History Farms in Urbandale.
ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s governor and congressional delegation are trying to shore up political support for ethanol, which is slipping as the nation produces more of its own oil. Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing to reverse the Obama administration’s proposal to cut the required amount of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply. Almost half of Iowa’s corn crop goes to manufacture the grain alcohol, which is blended into gasoline.
Presidential candidates traditionally supported the federal mandate when they campaigned in Iowa, but many now say it is no longer justified. Environmentalists have complained about impact of expanded corn production. But Branstad says the federal mandate is important to Iowa farmers with corn prices low.
An informal, end-of-this-week deadline to get a Farm Bill draft approved by a team of congressional negotiators will not be met, throwing into question whether the Farm Bill can be be passed in the House by year’s end. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says congress can act quickly “when there’s a will and there’s a way.” “We have to have a clear indication from congress that this is going to get done,” Vilsack says. “Obviously there are some who are skeptical about that given the fact that we have already seen one year with inaction.”
A Farm Bill was due to be passed by this time last year, but congress passed a one-year extension. Vilsack says inaction again this year means his agency will begin instituting the federal farm policies of the 1940s — which are far more costly.”No one wants to do that,” Vilsack says, “and the best and simplest way to avoid it having to be done — at whatever point in time — is to have congress finish its work by the end of the year.” After this week, congress will be in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday. In December, the House will be in session for just two weeks and the Senate for slightly longer before adjourning for the year. Without passage of a five-year Farm Bill, Vilsack says farmers and ranchers are delaying key decisions.
“Doesn’t know how to decide whether to expand, to buy an additional piece of equipment because he or she does not know what the programs are going to be,” Vilsack says. “There is no question that farmers have taken a ‘wait and see’ attitude to further decisions that could help spur not only their own operation, but spur the economy generally.” According to a report released Thursday by the White House Council on Economic Advisors, agriculture accounts for nearly five percent of the Gross Domestic Product and one in 12 jobs in the U.S. are in agriculture.
“A compelling report that makes the argument on a multitude of levels why it’s important for the rest of the country and all of America to see congress finish its work (on the Farm Bill),” Vilsack says. The chairman of the House Ag Committee emerged from a meeting on Thursday saying anything is possible, but it “will be challenging” for Farm Bill negotiators to wrap up their work and have a bill ready for a vote in the House by December 13th.
There are no plans for the House-Senate conference commitee working out the details of a hoped-for Farm Bill compromise to meet today (Friday). Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Steve King serve on the committee, but neither was involved in this week’s negotiations between the four top lawmakers on the panel.