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Articles from 2008 In January

Schafer's first week as ag secretary

For the full article, click on the headline above. 

The Senate unanimously confirmed former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer to the head USDA post Monday just in time for him to sit in on President Bush's State of the Union Address. After only two days in office, Schafer was caught in the middle of USDA's handling of non-ambulatory cattle. And Monday Schafer and his "wing man" Chuck Conner will deliver remarks during the USDA's FY 2009 budget rollout briefing. And from press reports, he's not 100% behind President Bush on stricter payment limits.

Schafer talked to USDA employees Tuesday, saying he wanted to be called simply "Ed." Schafer also met with President George W. Bush Tuesday, indicating later to reporters that the Administration's stance on revenue raisers in the farm bill hasn't changed, though he is interested in further examination of the USDA adjusted gross income proposal. 

Congress is looking to Schafer to ease mounting tensions between the executive and legislative branch over stalled farm bill talks - funding is the main stumbling block.

The administration says subsidies should be cut off to anyone with more than $200,000 in annual income. Schafer hasn't made up his mind yet on what the exact number should be.

"Just saying this number or that number is a simple thing to do, but there is a lot of ramifications deep within that. I need to understand that better and come to my own conclusion," the Des Moines Register reported him saying.

Conner was intimately involved in farm bill negotiations when former Secretary Mike Johanns was in town. And there is no indication that the former Senate staffer will back down from fighting for a "reform" farm bill from Congress. But a statement from President Bush stated Schafer will also be involved in those discussions.

Schafer served as Governor of North Dakota from 1992 until 2000, during which time he advocated for agriculture, diversification of the North Dakota economy and reducing the cost of government. Prior to his Governorship, Schafer served as an executive for the Gold Seal company, a manufacturer of popular brand name products. He was born and raised in Bismark, ND and received a BS from the University of North Dakota and an MBA from the University of Denver.


Grain Commodity Commission Ballots Are in the Mail

Ballots to elect commissioners to the state's five commodity commissions have been mailed to registered voters in districts four, five and six in central Kansas, the Kansas Department of Agriculture announced last week.

District four includes: Clay, Cloud, Jewell, Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa, Phillips, Republic, Rooks, Smith and Washington counties. District five includes Barton, Dickinson, Ellis, Ellsworth, Lincoln, McPherson, Marion, Rice, Rush, Russell and Saline counties. District six includes Barber, Comanche, Edwards, Harper, Harvey, Kingman, Kiowa, Pawnee, Pratt, Reno, Sedgwick, Stafford and Sumner counties.

Candidates for the Commission openings include:

Kansas Corn Commission

District four: Mike Brzon, Republic County, who grows corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat. He currently serves on the Kansas Corn Commission and is a director on the U.S. Grains Council and Farmway Cooperative Inc.
District five: Terry Vinduska, Marion County, who grows corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. He currently serves on the Kansas Corn Commission and is a member of the U.S. Grains Council, Kansas Farmers Union and Kansas Farm Bureau.
District six: Kent Moore, Pratt County, who grows corn, wheat and soybeans. He is a member of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, and he is on the board of directors for the Pratt County 4-H Foundation.

Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission

District four: William Greving, who grows corn, sorghum, wheat and hay in Phillips County. He currently is secretary-treasurer of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission, serves on the board of the National Sorghum Producers and is a member of the Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Corn Growers Association.
District five: Clayton Short, who grows corn, sorghum, wheat and soybeans in Saline County. He currently serves on the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and is a member of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Association and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
District six: Dennis Siefkes, who grows corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat in Stafford County. He is a member of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, the Stafford County Farm Bureau and the Great Bend Cooperative Association, and a past member of the Kansas Corn Commission.
District six: Jay Zimmerman, who grows grain sorghum and wheat in Sumner County. He currently serves on the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and is a member of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Grains Council, National Sorghum Producers and the Lower Arkansas River Basin Advisory Board.

Kansas Soybean Commission

District four: Steve Clanton, who grows corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers and wheat in Ottawa County. He currently serves on the Kansas Soybean Commission. He is past president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and has been involved in the Kansas Soybean Association and local boards.
District five: Harold Kraus, who grows corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat in Ellis County. He has served on the Kansas Soybean Commission since 1999, is a member of Kansas Farm Bureau and is a voting member of the National Biodiesel Board.
District six: Jerry Wyse, who grows wheat, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans in Reno County. He currently serves on the Kansas Soybean Commission and is past president and CEO of Kauffman Seeds Inc.

Kansas Sunflower Commission

No candidates are running for the commissioner position to represent Districts 4, 5 or 6.

Kansas Wheat Commission

District four: Steve Clanton, Ottawa County.
District five: Dean Stoskopf, who grows wheat, grain sorghum and alfalfa and has a cow-calf herd in Barton County. He is finishing his second term on the Kansas Wheat Commission, is a past president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and is a current member of Kansas Farm Bureau.
District six: Scott Van Allen, who grows sorghum and wheat in Sumner County. He is a past-president and current member of the Sumner County Farm Bureau. Van Allen has also been on Kansas Farm Bureau’s wheat advisory board for the past two years.

Voter eligibility

Eligible voters who registered before December 31, 2007, or who voted in the 2005 commission election, will receive a ballot. Eligible voters are Kansas residents who reached age 18 before the election, have grown corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers or wheat during the last three years, and who have properly registered to vote.

Votes must be cast or postmarked by March 1. The names of candidates-elect will be announced in mid-March and the elected will take office April 1. Elected commissioners serve three-year terms.

More information is available from the Kansas Corn Commission at (785) 448-2626 or; the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission at (913) 294-4314; the Kansas Soybean Commission at (785) 271-1030 or; the Kansas Sunflower Commission at (785) 868-3831 or; the Kansas Wheat Commission at (785) 539-0255 or; or, the Kansas Department of Agriculture at (785) 296-3556 or

CountryMark Essay Contest Offers Cash to Kids!

There's still time for your kids or grandkids in grades seven through 12 to tell us what they think about 'Educating the Public about Agriculture.' If they do it better than anyone else that enters the competition, they will receive $200 for their efforts. The cash award is made possible by CountryMark, co-sponsor of this first ever Indiana Prairie Farmer/ CountryMark youth essay contest.

There are also cash awards for second through sixth place in this competition. The second place winner will receive $100, and those who finish in third through sixth place will each receive $50. That's a sizable reward for penning a maximum of 300 words about the need to educate the public about agriculture.

The idea for the contest came from Susan and Terry Hayhurst, a farm couple operating a livestock and grain farm near Terre Haute in Vigo County. Active as Indiana Farm Bureau members and in other ag groups across the state, both noticed a big need for telling agriculture's story to the public in a positive way. Susan also writes Hayhurst's Hayloft and participates as a Focus on Young Farmers panelist in each edition of Indiana Prairie Farmer. You can find the magazine current as of last month on-line at: Susan also contributes free-lance articles from time-to-time, helping capture the heartbeat of west-central Indiana for Indiana Prairie Farmer.
She is heading up details about this youth ag essay contest.

All good ideas need support to make them reality. Belinda Puetz, CountryMark's communications manager, was excited to jump on board and promote the idea. CountryMark will be putting up the cash that will be divided amongst deserving young people who take time to study and write their thoughts about why educating the public is important. Hopefully, some may also offer good ideas about how farmers and the agricultural industry can go about doing a better job of informing the non-farm public about both the importance and challenges of modern agriculture.

Teachers are encouraged to consider making this essay either optional or part of a class project for their students. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15. Each entry should be included by a cover letter that specifies the young writer's name, parent or guardian's name, address, phone number and email address. Send entries to: Susan Hayhurst, 14477 S. Carlisle Street, Terre Haute, IN 47802.

Indiana Prairie Farmer reserve the right to publish any or all essays it deems appropriate in upcoming issues of the magazine, and/or on the Web site. Winners will be announced in the April issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.

An independent panel of judges familiar with both agriculture in Indiana and communications will judge the essays. Decisions of the judges will be final.

So don't miss out on your chance, or your favorite youngster's chance, to cash in on his or her writing skills and thoughts, and perhaps also see their work in print and/or online at the same time. Just don't forget that the clock is ticking on the deadline for entries into this new event.

State Egg Producer Group Gives ISU Big Gift

The Iowa Egg Council has made a $2 million gift commitment to establish an endowed egg industry program in Iowa State University's College of Ag and Life Sciences. The council's gift will support establishment of a proposed egg industry center of excellence at ISU and development of new ideas and technologies to address emerging needs of the egg industry. The proposal for the center will be submitted for approval by the Iowa Board of Regents later this spring.

"The Iowa Egg Council has been a tremendous supporter of Iowa State's research over the years," says Gregory Geoffroy, ISU president. "Its support has helped strengthen this very important industry for Iowa by addressing critical issues such as air quality and odor mitigation, and this gift takes the council's support to a new level."

What will the new center do for Iowa?

"This new center will respond to issues of importance to the egg industry," says egg council executive director Kevin Vinchattle. "We see the center providing science-based solutions for growing existing markets, exploring new uses and new markets, developing more efficient and environmentally-friendly production practices and enhancing nutritional aspects for the benefit of consumers."

"We're very appreciative of the support shown to us by the Iowa Egg Council," says Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Ag and Life Sciences. "The opportunities for this endowed program will be mutually beneficial to both Iowa State University and the egg industry, and will lead to a better understanding of the industry's needs and greater opportunities to deliver results."

Primary goals for the endowed program

Vinchattle says some of the new program's goals include:

* Provide a perpetual source of funds directed to research and outreach priorities of the egg industry.
* Serve as a vehicle for communicating new research information that bolsters the profitability and competitiveness of the egg industry.
* Increase education, outreach and research in the areas of egg product function, disease diagnosis, food safety, marketing and distribution and positive environmental programs for egg production and processing.
* Expand ISU's animal feeding operation air-quality initiative through research and outreach specific to the egg industry.

The Iowa Egg Council is a producer-supported organization that was established in 1973. Its mission is to increase consumption of eggs through promotion, education and research. The council's headquarters are in Urbandale, Iowa.

IDALS Launches New Farm-To-School Program

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced last week a new Web site for the Iowa Farm-to-School program, which is designed to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional farm economies by partnering farmers with local schools. To learn more visit

The Farm-to-School program will provide an increased opportunity for schools to connect with local farmers to provide children across the state with fresh, locally grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables, meat, milk, eggs and nuts in their lunches. In addition to including local foods in school meals, the program helps build a connection between students and farmers who grow and produced their food.

"I'm very excited about the opportunities through the new Farm-to-School program to help students across Iowa eat better and develop a greater understanding of agriculture," says Northey.

Connects schools with local farmers

Farm-to-School promotes the image of Iowa, the value of Iowa products and nutrition in schools in the state, resulting in increasing the awareness and demand for Iowa products. "There is a growing interest statewide in locally-grown and produced food," notes Northey. "The Iowa Farm-to-School program provides farmers and schools with a chance to connect and share resources. This is a tremendous opportunity to tell the story of agriculture and the important role it plays in Iowa's economy."

The Iowa Farm-to-School program was created by legislation that passed during the 2007 session of the Iowa Legislature. The legislation provides funding to link schools and children with local farmers and organizations to offer fresh, locally- grown food and nutrition based on educational opportunities. The program is being coordinated through Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Education.

The legislation also established a Farm-to-School Council that will establish partnerships between public agencies and nonprofit organizations facilitate communication between farmers and schools. To learn more about the Farm-to-School Program, go to or contact Larry Thomsen at or 515-281-8136.

Horsin' Around

The horse capital of the world – Kentucky - is the destination for the 2008 Missouri 4-H Equine Trip, May 23-29. 4-H teens with a passion for horses and an interest in a possible equine career are encouraged to participate.

Highlights include a day at the Kentucky Horse Park viewing cross country events, dressage, high school rodeo competitions and a tour of the grounds. The tour also includes visits to several breed farms including Thoroughbreds, Saddlebreds, Rocky Mountain Horses, Arabians and Quarter Horses. The group will view races and tours at the Red Mile and Churchill Downs race tracks.

A full day will be focused on equine medical careers with tours at the foremost facilities in Lexington. The group will also have a chance to meet and connect with Kentucky 4-H equine teens.

The $375 trip fee includes charter bus transportation, local tours in Lexington area, lodging at the Best Western in Georgetown, trip t-shirt and travel bag, all tour fees and most meals. Trip application and initial deposit are due March 15 to Debbie Davis, 4-H Youth Specialist, PO Box 294, Plattsburg, MO 64494.

Contact Davis at 816-539-3765, or Carol Parmenter at 417-448-2560. Forms may be found on the Missouri 4-H web site:

Census of Agriculture Deadline Fast Approaching

The deadline for farmers and ranchers to submit their Census of Agriculture forms is Monday.

"On average we've been receiving about 32,000 forms per day," says Carol House of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That's about 1 million forms so far, but less than half the 2.5 million mailed out in December.

House says questions or problems can be directed to a special hotline that has been set up at 1-888-4-AG-STAT.

Forms can be mailed, or to fill out the census online click HERE.

Financing Farm Bill is Still the Big Problem

The White House has reaffirmed this week that they will not support tax revenue to fund the Farm Bill. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says closing tax loopholes is not a tax raise and that the President is going to have to bend on that or else the bill is headed for a veto.

"It's a complex bill and any rigid "my way or the highway" stance on the part of the White House is not very helpful," Harkin says. "Most of the action is taking place behind the scenes, but make no mistake we are moving forward aggressively."

Harkin spoke with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., earlier this week and he will be talking with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about getting Farm Bill conference committee members named.

"I hope we can get the conferees appointed and then maybe we can start getting together on this," Harkin says. "On the Democratic side Finance Chair Max Baucus will be a conferee. I'm hopeful Senator Grassley, the Finance Committee ranking member will be one of the Republican conferees, of course that's up to the Minority Leader. We will be counting on them to help us identify funding sources that can be agreed on by both houses of Congress and the White House."

Deadline Looms for Census of Agriculture

The deadline for farmers and ranchers to submit their Census of Agriculture forms is Monday.

"On average we've been receiving about 32,000 forms per day," says Carol House of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That's about 1 million forms so far, but less than half the 2.5 million mailed out in December.

House says questions or problems can be directed to a special hotline that has been set up at 1-888-4-AG-STAT.

Forms can be mailed, or to fill out the census online click HERE.

Energy From Wind Important to the Future

The new energy bill that was signed in December endorses 25x'25, which is the goal of 25% of the nation's energy being supplied by renewable resources by the year 2025. All renewable sources need to be developed to reach that goal. Allen Rider who is the volunteer leader of the 25x'25 Steering Committee says wind is an important energy source that is sometimes overlooked.

"Wind can be a formidable portion of that total energy package for the electricity side," Rider says. "And in fact in the future may even provide more of the transportation type fuels as we get to electric cars. It is an important part and logically has the potential to become 20 to 25% of the total energy package from the electrical standpoint."

To achieve that goal will require support for needed infrastructure and Rider says that will need help from the political process. Progress is being made to gain support from national leaders, but Rider says it's also important that the public understands and is informed about the potential of renewable energy.

"The trade offs associated with renewable energy are very positive for this country," Rider says. "So we need to continue to make sure that people have the facts, they understand the facts and they can understand the various activities that are going on."

According to Rider, many have already invested in renewable energy, and wind energy generation has seen tremendous growth throughout the country. In the last eight years the U.S.'s wind power capacity has increased more than 600%.