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Monday, February 24, 2014

Strengthening Kentucky's Corn Markets

By Russel Schwenke, KyCorn President

Russel Schwenke, of Boone County, was elected president of KyCorn in January, succeeding Ray Allan Mackey. Schwenke raises grain and beef cattle with his brother Bob, son Eric and nephews, and has been farming for 40 years. He also serves on the Boone Co. Conservancy Board of Directors, which works to protect farmland and green space, and he is the vice chairman of Union Emergency Services.

I could not have had a better first month of being president of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association. The farm bill was finally passed, and we were able to submit more than 3000 letters to the EPA regarding a change to the Renewable Fuels Standard. It makes me delighted that our members and partners have the passion to mobilize in such an effective manner. Only time will tell if our efforts were fruitful. The new rules from the EPA are anticipated this summer.

Unfortunately, corn prices bring me some concern. I’ve read from various agricultural economists the breakeven price is about $4.30 per bushel, which means it may be time to roll up our sleeves and look for additional market opportunities. 
Livestock continue to utilize about 70 million bushels of corn within the commonwealth, making it our primary market. We are interested in finding ways to grow the opportunities for Kentucky livestock producers to increase the amount of corn needed for feed.

The bourbon industry is also growing. We see the possibilities of promoting the benefits of using local corn and investing in infrastructure to improve access to Kentucky-produced grain.

Our ethanol plant continues to utilize 12 million bushels of local corn per year, and success of the industry plays a vital role in corn demand. We want to ensure this market continues to be strong and are excited in anticipation of more Kentucky fuel retailers providing ethanol fuel blends. There are now more than 50 retailers selling E85.

Corn for food processing may also provide room for growth. We have several mills in the state using local corn for baking and snack foods, and we may need to look at additional opportunities for specialty corn crops. A group of corn buyers from Mexico visited Kentucky last summer to see how our crops may fit their needs, and feedback was promising.

Exports may provide the biggest opportunity for development. Once local demand is met, surplus needs to move out of the state for southeastern and overseas markets. Location on major waterways and transportation infrastructure provides our growers increased access to these markets. We have been working to protect and improve waterway infrastructure and will continue to do so. Supporting the efforts of the US Grains Council, the organization that promotes corn and distiller’s grains exports, continues to be a vital investment. 

These are just a few of the areas we are working to provide more opportunity for our corn farmers’ profitability. For more information on all of our market development, research, promotion and education programs, please visit our website at

I am also more than happy to receive feedback and input from our members about the job we are doing, so please be sure to send me a note at

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