Ag Industry Dealt a Blow from EPA

The agriculture industry has been dealt a blow according to Adam Nielsen, director of legislation and policy development for the Illinois Farm Bureau. Nielsen, who spends a significant amount of time promoting the agricultural industry in Washington, D.C., said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed 2014 reduction of the amount of corn ethanol blended as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is of great concern as is the lack of a five-year Farm Bill.

Adam Nielsen Illinois Farm Bureau“I think it’s time for those four tops to stop posturing and to finish the job,” said Nielsen when asked about the status of the Farm Bill while at a biodiesel groundbreaking and RFS roundtable event hosted by biofuel plant Patriot Renewable Fuels.  “And that’s to get back in a room and reach agreements on some of these issues that are considerable issues, but it’s not the first time a Farm Bill has ever been negotiated in this fashion and some of the people who are involved in this have been there before. So we’re all counting on them to be leaders right now.”

Nielsen said a five year farm bill is needed and the industry cannot afford another extension of one or two years. “The policies we have on the books right now reflect agriculture of the previous decade. We need a farm bill that reflects where we are today. I think they understand that and we’ve been patient for a long time, but our patience is beginning to run thin. And it is time for leaders to lead,” said Nielsen.

He noted that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and Farm Bill in some ways are tied together. Because the RFS drives the use of corn and soybeans there is no need for commodity supports. But if the bottom of the floor falls out on the RFS, then there would again be a need for commodity supports and this will typically be legislated through a Farm Bill.

When asked why the Farm Bill so so important and what’s at stake if one is not passed, Nielsen pointed out, “The Farm Bill provides a measure of national security, something we all take for granted. It guarantees the basic nutritional needs of Americans will be met. It really helps support the nation’s conservation goals. It keeps our soils healthy into the future. And then it provides a support for production.”

Finally, Nielsen said the Farm Bill is more than a farm bill. “It is a jobs bill for our economy. And this is what is at stake.”

Listen to my interview with Adam Nielsen here where he discusses both the Farm Bill as well as the need for the RFS to stay in tact and how the two bills are intertwined: Ag Industry Dealt a Blow from EPA

Check out the Patriot Renewable Fuels photo album.

EPA Unveils 2014 RFS Renewable Fuel Volumes

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the amount of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. The EPA has proposed to set the cellulosic biofuel category at 17 million gallons, biomass-based diesel at 1.28 billion gallons, advanced biofuel at 2.20 billion gallons and renewable fuel at 15.21 billion. Development with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input.

fuels-americalogoFuels America coalition hosted a media call in reaction to the EPA’s proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) today. The biofuels industry said they were disappointed and that the proposed volumes would set the entire industry back and that the EPA’s proposal cannot stand.

During the call, Bob Dinneen from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) unveiled a new analysis showing how the RVOs, if implemented, would impact gas prices. In addition to Bob Dinneen, participants included Brent Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President, BIO; Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union; Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy; and Jeff Lautt, CEO of POET.

The Fuels America said of today’s proposed 2014 RFS numbers, “We are astounded by the proposal released by the Administration today. It reflects an “all of the above, except biofuels” energy strategy. If implemented, would cost American drivers more than $7 billion in higher gas prices, and hand the oil companies a windfall of $10.3 billion. The impact of this proposal on the renewable fuel industry– both first and second generation – cannot be overstated. It caps the amount of renewable fuel used in our gasoline far below what the industry is already making, and could make next year, using an approach that is inconsistent with the RFS.

Dinneen said during the press conference, “By re-writing the statute and re-defining the conditions upon which a waiver from the RFS can be granted, EPA is proposing to place the nation’s renewable energy policy in the hands of the oil companies. That would be the death of innovation and evolution in our motor fuel markets, thus increasing consumer costs at the pump and the environmental cost of energy production. This proposal cannot stand.”

Buis noted that this is a proposed rule and not a final rule and there will be a 60 day comment period. “We welcome the opportunity to ensure that biofuel stakeholders are able to express their concern with this proposed rule, while also laying out a reasonable pathway to achieve the goals of the RFS during the forthcoming comment period.

This fall, the corn industry is looking at a record breaking harvest while the EPA has proposed renewable fuel volumes well below what the ethanol industry is capable of supplying. Lautt responded during the call that the opportunity to offer more affordable fuel options to consumers has never been better.

Listen to the full Fuels America press call here: Industry Responds to 2014 RFS RVO Proposal

Genscape’s New Corn Forecast: 13.3B Bushels

Using NASA satellite data, Genscape has released an updated October corn yield forecast of 13.3 billion bushels. The company has noted that other analysts, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have wide gaps in their predictions ranging from 13.2 billion bushels of corn produced during the 2013 growing season, to 14.2 billion bushels of corn.

Genscape Landviewer Oct 2013 corn forecast Genscape said a unique combination of spring floods and flash droughts, coupled with an unusually long growing season, have conspired to make this year’s annual corn forecast the most difficult on record. However, the company said through its Landviewer technology, is able to simplify the complexity of predicting forecasts.

“Given the unusual circumstances around this year’s growing season, we feel our NASA satellite and big data initiatives are even more important,” said Dr. Steffen Mueller, director of spatial grain analytics at Genscape. “We are back to our original prediction of 13.3 billion bushels, and we have the hard data to back it up.”

Genscape said its LandViewer model offers next generation data acquisition techniques, integrates NASA satellite imagery, and the industry’s most unified ground-based crop yield verification – called “ground truthing – with extensive analysis by experienced soil/agricultural scientists.

Normally at this time of year, the USDA incorporates Farm Service Agency (FSA) lost acreage data; however, this year that analysis has not available to market participants because of the temporary government shutdown. Genscape said because it is able to incorporate NASA satellite imagery with best-in-the-industry ground truthing data, their latest forecast is the only known model to currently account for this market intelligence.

The Value of a Veteran

There are hundreds of thousands of skilled and qualified veterans in need of a job and one industry that hasn’t tapped into the potential is the agricultural industry. But this can change according to Lisa Rosser, a 16-yeat human resources (HR) professional and a military veteran who spent 22 years in the active Army and Army Reserve.

Lisa-Rosser-Value-of-a-VeteranRosser founded the company “The Value of a Veteran” because she wants to help companies understand what military veterans have to offer an organization. She also helps companies translate military skills into civilian positions. In addition, she works with companies in all varied industries on how to market and source military talent. Rosser did just this during the AgCareers.com HR & Food Roundtable.

According to Rosser, the military has over 7,000 job positions across more than 100 plus functional areas and 81 percent of these jobs have a direct civilian equivalent. The challenge is helping companies understand the parallel between job skills and experience and how to apply them to the jobs they are looking for. With a shortage in skilled talent in the agriculture industry, Rosser says veterans and ag are a perfect fit.

During her presentation, Rosser walked HR professionals through a “cheat-sheet” per se of the language veterans use versus the jobs they need to fill. She also laid out a “map” to help companies hire veterans. I asked Rosser for a industry challenge when it comes to hiring veterans.

“For me it’s always understand why this might be a good business case for you to do this. What talent problems do you have to solve and could veterans potentially be part of the solution? So with many industries its a changing industry, maybe they have a graying workforce and they don’t know how they are going to replace all these skilled workers,” said Rosser. “That is where military can be part of the solution because we have very young, very talented, very skilled adaptable learners, who with a little bit of training, a little bit of on the job experience could be a really good fit….If you’re willing to make the investment at home, veterans can be a really good asset to you.”

Listen to my interview with Lisa Rosser: The Value of a Veteran

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

Total Rewards Programs That Will Woo Employees

Glowa and Kantor Aon HewittDuring the recent Ag & Food HR Roundtable held in Urbandale, Iowa at the DuPont Pioneer headquarters, several sessions were held on total rewards programs. As the ag industry gets more competitive, employers are discovering that the same old, same old rewards programs are not working. During Engaging Multiple Generations in the Workplace Through Rewards Programs, presenters Tim Glowa and Richard Kantor with Aon Hewitt discussed what excites and motivates the different generations to be the most productive in the workplace – and it’s not always what you think.

During the session, Glowa and Kantor reviewed recent research that showed what types of rewards and incentives were favored by the different generations and also discussed some companies that have had huge success with their rewards programs, such as Google.

faukenOn the same day, AgCareers.com, the host of the roundtable, also released results of its Total Rewards Insights for Multiple Generations. The survey was taken in the spring of 2013 and is aimed at helping the ag industry develop stronger benefit and incentive packages for employees. To learn more I spoke with Kristen Fauken, who oversaw the survey.

Fauken said the two important factors that affected overall performance across generations were the company’s social responsibility initiatives as well as the company’s efforts toward innovation and advancement. Other valued rewards and benefits included health care benefits, retirement savings plans, paid time off, challenging and meaningful work and professional development and learning opportunities.

You can learn more about the AgCareers.com total rewards survey by listening to my interview with Kristen Fauken: AgCareers.com Total Rewards Survey

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

AgCareers.com Takes Over Ag Warriors Program

AgWarriors logoAgCareers.com is taking over the Ag Warriors program, launched in February of 2012 to assist veterans looking for jobs in the ag industry. The employment program was originally developed by the International Agri-Center.

“In an effort to better serve returning veterans and their career needs, we have partnered with AgCareers.com to continue to grow the Ag Warriors program,” said Jerry Sinift, CEO for the International Agri-Center. “The program has grown exponentially in the past year and we believe the time has come to entrust the program to experts in the career building field. AgCareers.com is a highly respected authority in the ag industry and they have our full support as they continue to serve our veterans.”

osmundsonWith AgCareers taking the helm, Ericka Osmundson, director of marketing communications for the largest ag-related employment service in the country, said they will now work with employers to help match their needs to the qualifications of veterans. She noted that often times veterans don’t know how to tailor their unique skills to the ag industry while the ag industry doesn’t know how to translate “military” language to their field. They will assist both sides in this process.

“AgCareers.com is honored to be chosen to continue the efforts of the International Agri-Center’s Ag Warriors program,” said Eric Spell, president of AgCareers.com. “We are excited to open the door for both employers and veterans to connect regarding employment and careers within the agribusiness and food industries through AgCareers.com. We view the program as a way to honor veterans’ service and assist them in taking the next steps to career success.”

With the ag industry short on talent, they are looking for new ways to recruit people into the industry. Osmundson said the Ag Warriors program is the perfect way to do this. During their recent Ag & Food HR Roundtable, they offered several sessions for hiring managers to learn how to write their job descriptions in ways that veterans understand and as well as how to spot a veteran with the skills they are looking for.

Veterans and employers interested in the Ag Warriors program should contact Erika Osmundson.

Learn more about Ag Warriors in my interview with Erika Osmundson. AgCareers.com Takes Over Ag Warriors Program

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

Genscape Believes UDSA Corn Predictions Too High

On August 6, the Genscape LandViewer team released its corn supply predictions to clients, estimating the corn supply to around least 12.6 billion bushels. Other crop advisory groups as well as USDA is predicting the corn crop to be closer to 14 billion bushels, a number that Genscape believes is too high. The USDA is releasing its latest crop report on Monday, August 12, 2013 at noon EST.

LandViewer - Yield Change Aug 2013“For the supply to meet the high predictions from groups like the USDA, contributions from historically highly productive county-clusters would be necessary, and that doesn’t seem likely,” said Dr. Steffen Mueller, senior director of Genscape’s LandViewer group.

According to Genscape, traditionally highly productive county-clusters, such as many counties in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, show severe problems this year. In addition to modeling analysis, the LandViewer team has conducted multiple ground verification trips and has surmised that these problem areas will not likely recover to the level necessary to help the country meet the USDA’s total supply estimate. In addition, the national corn crop is an average of three weeks behind, and it will have much higher risk for frost exposure.

LandViewer’s prediction is based on a high resolution geospatial data model combined with extensive ground truthing. Using satellite technology, LandViewer has developed a spatial-based algorithm to predict corn supply on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Corn yield and supply predictions for each of the monitored 1,100 counties were shared with clients on August 6, a week in advance of the USDA reports. The information is useful for grain buyers to master local supply shortages or surpluses. For national grain investors, the LandViewer parcel-by-parcel platform has also proven to be a useful tool to identify risk associated with isolated county clusters.

Finding Tomorrow’s Leaders

One topic that has been top of mind this year during AgCareers.com Food & Ag HR Roundtable – how to recruit and retain top notch talent into the ag industry. The “Finding Tomorrow’s Leaders session focused on how and when to begin working with youth and students to introduce both agriculture, but also introduce your company to them. Another untapped market: veterans.

Ashley Collins AgCareersThe panel was moderated by Ashley Collins, AgCareers.com. She manages student outreach initiatives including student professional development in the workplace as well as corporate initiatives to help companies develop stronger student recruitment programs.

Dr Constance Hargrave Iowa State UShe was joined by Rod Hamilton, Christensen Farms; Dr. Constance Hargrave, Iowa State University who is the director of the SCIENCE BOUND program aimed at encouraging pre-college minority students to pursue degrees in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math); and Dr. Pamala Morris with Purdue University.

Dr Pamala Morris Purdue UniversityDr. Morris focuses on reaching out to youth and adults, especially minorities and those living in urban environments. She noted that it’s hard to sell “ag” but if you introduce the industry in another, hip way, such as through the environment, youth are not only open to learning about the industry, but excited about it. She is working on a pilot program called the “Environmental Revolution” that she hopes to launch throughout Indiana aimed at middle-school aged kids.

Rod Hamilton Christensen FarmsHamilton stressed that states need to commit to keeping and adding ag classes and in Minnesota, they can now be used to fulfill science requirements.

One thing that all the panelists agreed upon: the industry really needs to step up its sizzle and showcase to youth why ag is hip.

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

Why Ag is a Noble Profession

The agriculture industry would probably agree that they are a noble profession. But many on the outside don’t see it that way, especially students getting ready to emerge from college and have started their job search. Yet according to Dr. Scott Vernon, a professor in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, the image of agriculture held by outsiders must change if the shortage of skilled candidates is going to be reversed.

AgCareers13-HRroundtable-vernonDr. Vernon spoke at AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable, the largest event to date. He is the founder of “I Love Farmers, They Feed My Soul” movement, whose mission is to bring agriculture to youth living in urban areas. The industry, says Vernon, needs to begin engaging kids when they are young and continue the outreach through middle school, high school and into college. Kids who participate in these types of programs when they are young get hooked on ag and head to college to study in areas that will allow them to have a challenging and fun career in the industry.

Dr. Vernon says we need to show students the diversity within the industry. “We need to help them understand how they can take their talent or skill or love and passion and find a place in agriculture that we can use that talent, love and passion.” He also notes that in college, he finds that students are coming into the industry via their love of food, environment and business.

He said that while ag is a global industry and very complex, when you get down to it, it’s a people business. It’s all about people and the things they value and the connection to family. Dr. Vernon said that from an HR perspective, they need to understand how to tap into a student’s value system. He stresses if the industry “sells the sizzle,” they will come.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Scott Vernon here: Why Ag is a Noble Profession

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

Ethanol Fueling Legends Ride at Sturgis Rally

Robert White Renewable Fuels AssociationThe Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in full swing and one of the highlights of the event is the 2013 Legends Ride. The event started in Deadwood, South Dakota and ended at the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground where the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is a sponsor. This is the site where RFA is also pumping free 93 octane E10 for riders.

Chuck Zimmerman caught up with RFA’s motorcycle expert and enthusiast Robert White just before he rode off with the tens of thousands of other riders for the Legends Ride. White said that this is the fifth year Ethanol, Fueled with Pride has sponsored the event. The event is limited to 200 riders, comprised of celebrities, motorcycle builders, riders and more and the event is designed to raise money for charity. This year White said all the funds raised will go to the Black Hills Special Olympics and part of the effort is to fund the vehicle they take to the events.

RFA, or “ethanol” is also involved in other events taking place at Sturgis including the art exhibit at the Buffalo Chip Campground, where motorcycles that can’t be seen anywhere else are on display as well as a few other events. But White said beyond that, they are here for one main reason and that is to promote ethanol.

“This year we’ve had a lot of push back from the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) and it’s really focused around E15 and it has gotten really confusing to a lot of people. We want folks to use the right fuel; to know what type of fuel they can use, and in fact Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-4 pm at the Buffalo Chip, we have 93 octane E10 that I has especially blended for the riders who can come and fill their tanks for free….And we’ll show them that indeed E10 will work just fine.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Robert here: Interview with Robert White

2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Rod Hamilton Brings Sexy Back to Ag

Ever since Justin Timberlake sang about bringing sexy back, it appears that sexy is making its way back to a lot of things – including, says Rod Hamilton, agriculture. Although he admits that the cheek and tongue comment gets people’s attention and that’s not necessarily the image in which he believes ag should brand itself, he is serious that one reason kids and college students aren’t working toward careers in ag is because they don’t think its a cool industry. But it is.

AgCareers13-HRroundtable-hamiltonRod Hamilton joked about not being sure why he was asked to speak to the over 200 attendees at AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable but it only took a few comments for everyone to realize, why in fact, he was perfect. Rod didn’t begin life on a farm. He was sent to a farm to “grow up” and before he knew it he landed a job at Christensen Farms (a pork producer) based in Minnesota. Now the communications manager, he has seen several things: an industry that is not delivering a consistent message nor doing a good job of telling positive stories about itself and a shortage of up and coming talent. He noted that HR managers need to widen their pool of candidates and begin recruiting kids at a younger age to get them excited about agriculture.

Rod is also interesting because he sees an industry that needs more involvement in politics, so to fill the void he became a politician. He is now serving his fifth term in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and he is a member of the Agriculture Committee and served as Minority Lead, Vice Chair and Chair of the Committee. In this role, he has worked with educators throughout the state from elementary school through college as well as members of Minnesota communities who are passionate about where their food comes from, to ensure ag education stays in the classroom. And fortunately for the ag industry, he is just ramping up his career.

I couldn’t help but become excited about the field during his presentation and as the first day came to a close, I realized that if HR managers could bottle his passion for the industry and for kids and sprinkle it on students around the country, there would no longer be a shortage of amazing talent entering the agribusiness industry. But until then, he gave HR managers some great advice on recruiting and retaining talent to the ag industry.

Listen to my interview with Rod Hamilton here: Rod Hamilton Brings Sexy Back to Ag

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

AgCareers.com HR Roundtable Kicks off to Full House

AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable (@AgCareers / #AgRT) kicked off in Johnston, Iowa today, the home of global agricultural powerhouse and event host, DuPont Pioneer. Each year the event has grown larger and its no wonder why. With an urgent need for new agcareers13-HRroundtable-spelltalent to join the agricultural industry, there is no better event in the country for HR managers to network about job recruiting, hiring and retention tips.

The first session kicked off with some remarks from AgCareers.com President Eric Spell (who BTW- I am in a Twitter competition with) who discussed some recent trends, gave some project updates and announced some new and exciting projects. In addition, he announced the preliminary results of AgCareers.com AGRIBUSINESS HR REVIEW. This year more than 60 agribusiness companies participated with information about emerging industry trends and developments regarding Salary Reviews, HR Management Practices, Management Performance Schemes, Benefits and Salary Packaging, Recruitment Practice, Retirement Trends, and Branding Practices.

A few key discoveries according to Spell: more than 1 million agribusiness veterans are expected to retire in the next three or so years. This during the same time that there is a severe shortage of students who are graduating and taking jobs in the agribusiness field. The two hottest career fields in agriculture over the next few years: plant sciences or agronomy.

AgCareers.com has thousands of jobs on its site at any given time also has job posts for thousands of internships. Spell said the most high-profile internships for 2014 will be filled by Thanksgiving and encourages students, and employers to begin the search now.

But maybe one of the coolest programs AgCareers has, and it happens to be new, is its AgWarriors program which aims at helping connect veterans and employers. Interestingly, Spell said that more than 40 percent of the jobs needed in Ag don’t require ag backgrounds and with the unique skill sets these veterans bring to the workforce, they will be in high-demand to fill positions over coming years.

I’ve barely touched on the great information that was shared during the opening session today. You can listen to my interview with Eric Spell here: Interview with Eric Spell

Visit the AgCareers.com Ag & Food HR Roundtable photo album.

Swine Link Wrap-Up

Boehringer Ingelheim (BIVI) held a networking event for women in the swine industry last weekend and overall the event was a great success. To learn more about Swine Link, I spent some time with Lara Sheeley, senior associate director of BIVI who moved from BIVI Australia to lead the swine brand team in the U.S.

Lara Sheeley BIVISheeley said that Swine Link evolved from another group geared toward women in the swine industry called Sweet on Swine. Over the years, Boehringer Ingelheim has sponsored networking events to really get women in the swine industry to be able to network and meet each other and learn from each other. This event took a different form and focused on women in leadership in the agriculture and the swine industry. She noted that there are not a lot of opportunities for women in leadership to network both in the ag industry and the swine industry and so they focused this event on meeting this need.

When Sheeley took the job, she thought it would be a challenge because she moved from the companion animal side of the business to the production animal side of the business. But she soon discovered that another challenge was moving into an industry with few women in leadership roles, including at BIVI. She said she could really relate to what many of the speakers said, especially Jane Fallon with Cargill Pork, having moved from one side of the business to the swine side of the business.

Swine Link is an ongoing networking group and Sheeley says BIVI plans to host more events over the next few months. Examples include breakfast networking meetings or receptions during industry events. So keep your eyes out for Swine Link news.

Listen to my interview with Lara Sheeley here: Swine Link Wrap-up

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

Chicks Rockin the Swine Industry

Dr Abby HardingThere are hundreds of women rockin the swine industry and there is no better place to meet some of these women than during a Swine Link event. Swine Link is a network for women, by women and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, and is focused on women in agriculture and especially women in the swine industry. Several women took on Des Moines, Iowa on July 12-13, 2013 including Dr. Abbey Harding, a swine vet working with Lowe Consulting.

I had a chance to get to know Dr. Harding a bit over the weekend and asked her how she became a swine vet. Like so many other vets, she knew she wanted to be a vet for small animals since she was young, but after working with production animals and enjoying the experience, she shifted gears. She said since joining the swine industry, she has discovered that she really enjoys the travel and working with the people in the industry, including other swine vets.

Dr. Harding said she came to Swine Link through an invitation from Dr. Erin Johnson. She mentioned that the event has been a great experience for her and has really enjoyed getting to know the other women who participated. She said it was also great to put a face to a name, such as Dr. Marie Culhane, with whom she has been corresponding one various swine issues.

She encourages other women to participate in Swine Link and gave a piece of advice for others: “Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things.” Schools are time to take advantage of different opportunities and she encourages women and men alike to try out swine medicine.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Abbey Harding here: Chicks Rockin the Swine Industry

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

A Few Words From 2 Swine Industry Mentors

Historically the swine industry has been dominated by men, but over the past few years, the dynamic is changing as more women join the industry. Yet despite the accomplishments women have made in the workforce over the past 100 years, it can still be challenging to be a woman in a male dominated world. That is one reason why Boehringer Ingelheim (BIVI) launched Swine Link, a network for women by women.

This past weekend, BIVI hosted an event for several swine vets and other women in the industry to help them network among their peers as well as offer them some educational opportunities. Two women came in from North Carolina, Dr. Melissa Billing and Dr. Jessica Seate both with Murphy-Brown.

Dr Mellisa BillingI asked Dr. Billing about her experience as a female in the swine industry as well as one of the most important things she took away from the weekend. She knew since she was six that she would be a vet, but it wasn’t until vet school that she decided she wanted to land a job in the swine industry. Dr. Billing is unique in that when she began in the industry, her boss was a woman and she really looked up to her as a role model to show her the way in the industry and profession. She said that she really enjoyed interacting with other women in the industry and getting to know other professionals.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Melissa Billing here: Advice from Dr. Melissa Billing

Dr Jessica SeateDr. Jessica Seate was one of the newest vets in the swine industry and unlike many of her colleagues, she knew she wanted to be a swine vet since undergrad. She said she has some really great professors and mentors at Michigan State University who really helped her pursue her goal of practicing swine medicine. She said that her entry into the field hasn’t been that difficult, but what has been challenging is working with older growers who are set in their ways, to introduce new management tools and ideas. Dr. Seate said she enjoys participating in events such as Swine Link because it gives her the ability to bounce ideas of other professionals.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Jessica Seate here: Advice from Dr. Jessica Seate

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

Maintaining Motivation During a PRRS Break

Dr Erin JohnsonMaintaining motivation among your producers is challenging during a PRRS outbreak (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) but it is an important action to be taken to keep a swine herd healthy. During the Swine Link event held in Des Moines, Iowa on July 13, 2013 and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (BIVI), Dr. Erin Johnson, PRRS Technical Manager for BIVI led an interactive discussion on ideas for motivating team members.

Swine Link is focused on women in the swine industry and is a network focused on both interacting with other women and also on educational opportunities. I had to ask Dr. Johnson how she got involved and became a mentor, in the swine industry.

It turns out Dr. Johnson is not a typical swine girl – she fell in with the wrong crowd in vet school and during her senior year became interested in pigs although at the time, her main focus was livestock. However, she said, she knew that she wanted to stay in the Midwest and would have to branch out of dairy and after an externship focused on pigs, decided that was the right place for her to be.

With a focus on PRRS, Dr. Johnson has first hand experience on the frustration that PRRS can cause. She noted that the industry has techniques, tools, vaccines and management tools but none of these things really address the people. She said that every day and every farm takes people to get things done and the industry can’t lose focus on motivating the person to do the right things when it comes to PRRS and other issues. She has done this through giving them a greater sense of purpose and helping them better understand where they are going and why.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Erin Johnson here: Maintaining Motivation During a PRRS Break

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

Syngenta Commits to Renewable Fuels

Syngenta has announced a three-year commitment to contribute $1 to the renewable fuels industry for every acre planted with Enogen trait technology. The initiative, that began with this year’s growing season, will help support America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and promote the benefits of renewable fuels grown in America.

enogen“Renewable fuels are an essential part of the American energy equation, benefiting consumers, farmers and American energy independence,” said David Witherspoon, Head of Renewable Fuels at Syngenta. “Ethanol, whether from corn or other biomass sources, is an energy source for today and tomorrow driving economic growth and innovation.”

Syngenta is currently focused on increasing the productivity of renewable fuels made from traditional and non-traditional feedstocks such as corn. The Enogen trait technology is a biotech output trait designed specifically for ethanol production. The corn expresses alpha amylase enzyme directly in the corn kernel and replaces liquid alpha amylase enzyme. According to Syngenta, the unique enzyme present in Enogen grain facilitates a simpler, more efficient ethanol production process helping to maximize the productivity of every gallon produced, and thus the profitability of the ethanol plant.

By helping to create savings in electricity, natural gas and water usage, Enogen corn also has the potential to help an ethanol plant reduce its carbon footprint. Syngenta says that for a 100-million gallon plant, efficiency improvements by Enogen can save annually:

  • More than 68 million gallons of water
  • Nearly 10 million KWh of electricity
  • More than 350 billion BTUs of natural gas
  • More than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions

Enogen corn represents a unique value proposition for local communities as well. Enogen corn hybrids are planted under contract with an ethanol plant licensed to use the technology. In exchange for high-quality grain and robust alpha amylase enzyme, ethanol plants pay an average 40 cent per bushel premium to local farmers for their Enogen grain, an economic boost that could mean as much as $80 to $90 an acre for some Midwestern farmers.

The Future of SIV

What is the future of SIV, or swine influenza virus? While most don’t know the path SIV will take for sure, Dr. Marie Culhane may be a better predictor of both due to her work on SIV. Dr. Culhane is an associate clinical professor with the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and she gave a presentation on the Future of SIV during the Swine Link networking event July 13 in Des Moines, Iowa hosted by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Dr Marie CulhaneDr. Culhane said she refers to SIV as the flu because influenza virus is a shared virus between humans, and animals. The viruses go back and forth so to designate the flu as a swine only virus is untrue.

During her presentation, Dr. Culhane began by giving an overview of SIV, and noted that the flu goes back hundreds of years and in the U.S. discovered influenza in around 1918 and was a normal virus that caused respiratory problems in pigs. However, in 1998 a new virus was introduced into pigs, H3N2. This virus came after H1N1 and since then, the two viruses co-infected pigs and started to exchange genetic components of the virus, or reassorting.  This has caused a lot of changes in viruses and pigs and thus a need for new vaccines.

Because of the challenges with the new viruses, Dr. Culhane said there has been a lot of collaboration and the industry has learned a lot. She touched on this during her presentation and also gave some tips for producers to help keep the flu from affecting their pigs and also some tips on treatment if their pigs come down with the flu.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Marie Culhane here: Thoughts on SIV

Listen to Dr. Marie Culhane’s presentation here: The Future of SIV

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

Cheese and Wine Pairings to Rave About

This past weekend I attended Swine Link, a networking event held by women for women in the swine industry and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI). Joined by several swine vets and swine marketers and brand managers, the first day the group was hosted by Meredith Publishing and on Saturday night, the attendees were treated to a Wine and Cheese Pairings. Put together by C.J. and Kari Bienert,owners of The Cheese Shop located in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Cheese Shop TeamThe Bienert’s put together three pairings featuring cheese produced by local Iowans. The first cheese was produced by Reichert’s Dairy Air located in Knoxville, Iowa and called Robiolina Di Reba (my favorite) along with a red wine called Sattler from St. Laurent, Austria. To add a flavor twist, the cheese and wine was paired with Portobello Mushroom Relish produced by American Spoon.

The second pairing featured an Aged Prairie Rose cheese produced by Milton Creamery in Milton, Iowa. The cheese was paired with Caymus a white wine produced in Conundrum, California and Pickled Apricots produced by Boat Street.

The final pairing featured an aged gouda produced by Frisian Farms in Okaloosa, Iowa paired with fig and black tea preserves produced by Quince and Apple and featuring a red wine called Domain De Girasols, produced in Rasteau, Cotes Du Rhone Village.

All the products featured can be purchased at The Cheese Shop. BI plans on hosting more Swine Link events throughout the year, so keep your eye out for news about upcoming events.

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.

Biosecurity – PEDv Update

BIsw13-becton-npbWonder what is happening with biosecurity in the swine industry? You can get the 411 from Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health information for the National Pork Board, who gave an in-depth presentation during Swine Link sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. Becton discussed biosecurity as it relates to PEDv or the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. PEDv was first confirmed in the U.S. earlier this year.

During the presentation, Dr. Becton gave an overview of PEDv, the actions to manage PEDv and some of the recommendations that have come about. She also discussed the current status of both the epidemiology survey that ASV is doing and some of the ongoing research.

She also noted that PEDv is not a new virus, nor is it a regulatory/reportable disease. Since PEDv is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease, but rather a production-related disease. PEDV may appear clinically to be the same as transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus with acute diarrhea. She said it is very important to adhere to strict biosecurity protocols when dealing with the disease.

Listen to Dr. Lisa Becton’s presentation on PEDv here: Biosecurity - PEDv Update

Check out the photos from the event in the Swine Link photo album.