Top 9 in 2009: Top corn industry highlights of the year

On the last day of 2009, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) has named the top nine highlights of 2009 for the South Dakota corn industry:

1. Another record corn crop – For the third year in a row, South Dakota has topped all records harvesting its largest corn crop state history. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its final production figures in January, but preliminary numbers show much for South Dakota producers to be proud of. Recent estimates indicated South Dakota produced 690 million bushels of corn, exceeding all previous records. Producers can and will produce the food and fuel our nation needs.

2. BYO ethanol Blender Pump Program is launched – Consumers can enjoy more choices at the pump, gas station owners can experience product flexibility, and the nation can achieve its renewable fuels targets – all thanks to the blender pump and the distribution of mid-range ethanol blends. An unprecedented national campaign was launched between leading corn-producing states, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) to get 5,000 blender pumps installed nationwide over the next three years.

3. Property Tax Solution – The SDCGA was just one of many ag groups in the state to take an active role in making sure the new productivity property tax assessments were fair and equitable for producers. New cropland valuations now are based on productivity instead of market sales.  The new law shifts ag land tax assessments away from unpredictable market fluctuations and instead bases them on the land’s average earning capacity.

4. Biotechnology gains acceptance worldwide – The European Union approved four traits for food and feed uses and import and processing in October and November, after receiving a positive safety assessment from the European Food Safety Authority. The clearance of these products opens the door of possibility for U.S. feed ingredients including value-added products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and corn gluten, both co-products of U.S. ethanol production and sets the stage for future acceptance.

5. Farmers helping Farmers – In an unprecedented move, a farmer-owned cooperative made a bold commitment to corn producers in Southeast South Dakota. Central Farmers Cooperative purchased the former VeraSun Marion, S.D., ethanol plant, renaming it NuGen Energy, LLC. The move reestablished a 33 million bushel market for area corn, keeping ownership local.

6. South Dakota farmer assumes national corn helm – At a time when the nation’s most abundant crop is a focal point of policy, press and production, Darrin Ihnen of Hurley, S.D., assumed the helm as president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). With unique challenges and exciting industry opportunities on the horizon, Ihnen will represent the nation’s corn farmers, reflecting his own South Dakota roots. As NCGA president, Ihnen will be the voice for our nation’s corn farmers on countless topics of importance including policy, consumer awareness and production practices.

7. Rail Legislation – Record crops require efficient transportation. For the first time in 30 years, proposed rail reform has a chance of making meaningful improvements for rail customers. Rail legislation introduced in December would streamline the rate complaint process, and even more important for South Dakota shippers, the bill would create a new arbitration process for small rate complaints. As a rural state in the middle of the country, rail service is critical to South Dakota’s farm economy. This legislation will help ensure that South Dakota farmers receive a fair shake from rail carriers as they move their goods to market.

8. This Land is Your Land – As original environmentalists, corn farmers are continuing their work as stewards of the earth’s natural resources. Production agriculture has been increasing in efficiency over time, demonstrating positive progress toward meeting increasing demand for agricultural products while achieving lesser environmental impact. Growth in sustainability by corn farmers over the past 20 years was found by the broad based alliance, Field to Market, which released the following:

  • Land use per bushel of corn decreased 37 percent.
  • Soil loss above a tolerable level has decreased 69 percent per bushel.
  • Irrigation water use per bushel has decreased 27 percent.
  • Energy use per bushel decreased 37 percent.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per bushel decreased 30 percent.

9. Genome – Dedicated and persistent efforts on the part of producers across the nation came to fruition as results of the Maize Genome Sequencing Project became available to the public. A longtime advocate of increasing access to agricultural data, the SDCGA along with National Corn Growers Association worked tirelessly for 12 years to obtain the funding necessary to complete this first comprehensive gene map of North American corn.  Results from the Maize Genome Sequencing Project appeared in the Nov. 20 journal Science. Now, both public and private scientists will take this knowledge and develop real world applications and innovative technological advances that will improve plants and expand their uses to meet growing needs for food, feed and fuel. The data will expedite breeding programs and increase knowledge of corn’s important agronomic traits. Information encoded in the corn genome can help scientists improve water and nitrogen use efficiencies, help plants cope with disease, pests and adverse weather and allow breeders to develop innovative products for specific end users. By decreasing the inputs needed and increasing yields, these traits will also allow corn to become an even more sustainable crop.

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