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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WOTUS Back on the Table

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their final version of the revised rule defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS). This Clean Water Act regulation will define which rivers, streams, lakes and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA.

When it came to defining what is considered WOTUS in the past, KyCorn was concerned the proposed rule represented an unprecedented increase in EPA's jurisdiction and did not want the rule finalized without first undergoing significant revision.

In a statement, President of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), Chip Bowling said, "We cannot comment on the specifics of the revised rule until we have had a chance to fully review it.  We especially will look closely at how on-farm ditches, ponds and puddles are treated in the rule."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

An Issue to Keep on the Radar: The Monarch Population


Bueller. Bueller. Bueller.


The cast of buzzword characters are always the same when it comes to rising environmental issues and what the public want to blame for the cause.

But we already addressed bees, what's the issue now?

Enter the Monarch butterfly population - or the rapidly declining population - if you will.

Monarch numbers began to dwindle due to illegal logging operations in Mexico, but the problem didn't stop there. Loss of habit from urban expansion, land management practices and environmental factors such as drought and hard winters have had a detrimental impact of the Monarch population.

Wait, logging in Mexico, weather, urban expansion? How does this relate to Kentucky farmers?

Farmers are the ultimate caretakers of the land and Monarchs fall into the pollinator category, making the two potential BFF's and as the Beatles said, "We get by with a little help from our friends."

Monarch caterpillars thrive on Milkweed. Milkweed, a herbaceous perennial, grows as a wildflower. The plants grow to about three feet tall and flowers globes of fragment pink variety blooms. Consider planting them in conservation buffers or a small patch in the yard, out of the way of crop fields. Because milkweed does easily spread, KyCorn recommends contacting your local NRCS or Ag Extension Agent for best management practices.

A list of other excellent plants for pollinators, provided by Pulaski Co. Extension, can be found here

KyCorn Awards College Scholarships

Five recipients were selected for this year's KyCorn college scholarship, four high school seniors and one college. The annual scholarship awards $1,000 to each senior and $2,000 to a student in their second plus year of college.

Senior Winners

Amanda Gilles


Amanda Gilles is a senior at Apollo High School in Owensboro, Ky. Gilles works on her family's farm, Hill View Farms and is active in her local FFA, serving as the chapter President. She will be attending the University of Kentucky in the fall and majoring in Agriculture with an interest in Biotechnology.



Joel Reddick


A senior at Carlisle County High School in Bardwell, Ky, Joel Reddick plans on attending Murray State University in the fall to study Agronomy.  Reddick is also active in his local FFA, serving as the Chapter President and works on his family's poultry operation.



Richard "Clay" Smotherman


Another future agronomist, Clay Smotherman plans to attend Murray State University in the fall. He is currently a senior at Calloway County High School in Murray, Kentucky. Along with working on his family's tobacco farm, Smotherman is the captain of his varsity basketball team and active his local FFA.






A Martha Lane Collins High School senior from Simpsonville, Ky, Taylor Nash will attend the University of Kentucky in the fall to major in Agriculture Education. Nash serves as the Regional and Local FFA President and is active in his church as a peer mentor and study leader.



College Winner

Elizabeth Hinton


A returning recipient, Elizabeth Hinton was awarded a KyCorn High School Senior scholarship for 2014. A Falls of Rough, Ky native, Hinton studies Agriculture Economics at the University of Kentucky and also works as a research assistant in the UK Plant and Soil Science Department.



Check the education tone at the door, it's time to have conversations about GMO's

Scan headlines in a newspaper or news Website, scroll through posts friends have shared on Facebook or even do a quick Pinterest search for "healthy dinner recipes," no matter where you turn, it is highly probable three letters will show up - GMO. 

It's no secret, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are currently a hot topic. Despite good press recently from the Washington Post and Forbes, fear mongering from documentaries like, GMO OMG, tv personalities such as Dr. OZ and mommy bloggers turned Google scientists, consumers are left feeling confused and skeptical about what is right/wrong and wondering where to find accurate information.

This is where farmers come in. Who better to get the information from than the person planting Bt Corn seed in the ground? Yes, no longer is the ostrich method - head in sand, waiting for the public to find something else to worry about - going to cut it.

"Wait just one minute, I am not a GMO expert. I can't answer consumer questions," might be the thoughts passing through as you read this. Guess what? That's okay!

It's not about educating every consumer in your path. It's about having conversations, being relatable, planting seeds of information and handing them the tools to go forth and draw their own conclusions.

What can I expect to be asked and what can I say?

  • Do GMO's cause cancer? No. Over 1,000 studies have proved GMO's to be safe and pose no greater risk than conventional counterparts.
  • Are companies, like Monsanto, forcing farmers to grow GMO's? Farmers choose the seed they want from the vendor they want. Seed decisions are based on market demand, local growing environments and needs of the specific farm.
  • Are GMO's contaminating organic crops? Farmers have produced different crops next to each other before and since GM seeds entered the market. Management of ANY type of seed requires: farmer-to-farmer communication, crop rotation, buffer rows and recordkeeping.
  • There aren't long-term studies on GMO plants. (This one is more of an accusation.) Actually, there are, GM crops are extensively and repeatedly reviewed by the USDA, EPA and FDA. It takes years for a GM crop to gain approval. The University of Kentucky released an excel sheet compiling every study proving GM crop safety. ( UK excel file linked here.)
  • Why are biotech companies against labeling GMO foods? A label suggests there is a safety or health concern. Which there is not. If a consumer wanted to be certain what they are purchasing is non-GMO, they can purchase items labeling USDA Organic.
Where can I go to learn more?

Having a conversation about GMO's isn't about machine-gunning information, but being well versed on the subject is never a bad thing. These sites offer quality information and links:

KyCorn Takes to Washington for the RFS

Ethanol advocates from across the country descended on Washington, DC the last week of March for an annual "Biofuels Beltway" fly-in hosted by American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).  Adam Andrews, KyCorn's Director of Programs participated with more than 70 other ACE members to visit about 160 legislative offices representing 43 states. The main priority was to explain how successfully the RFS is working and underscore the importance of not messing with it.  

ACE Executive Vice President, Brian Jennings said "ACE members turned to Congress to convey the importance of keeping the RFS on track for implementation in 2015 and beyond."

According to Andrews, this event was different from other grassroots efforts for ethanol. 

"I usually attend meetings on Capitol Hill with farmers," remarked Andrews. "However in this instance, I attended meetings with non-farm benefactors of the RFS and green energy policy - my advocate partners in these meetings were a pharmacist and a bank board member. It was a fantastic opportunity to explain the important economic multiplier effect that a vibrant ethanol industry provides to rural America."

Just as the meeting participants were not necessarily farmers, the criteria for selecting offices to meet with was not necessarily from those representing traditional corn-belt districts. Many meetings were requested of ethanol critics and members who have arrived in Congress after the passage of the RFS and were unfamiliar with its basic objectives. 

"I believe we made some headway - even though they were just baby steps - in casting some doubt in the minds of well-intentioned ethanol critics who have only heard one-sided stories," Andrews continued. "I don't expect these folks to become our strongest allies, but if we can simply create some pause and show them where to find some balanced, science-based research tools, I believe that it will go far to erode the support of attacks on the RFS in Congress." 

Board Member Heads up Huts for Haiti

“Haiti is the poorest country in the world, it’s so poor it is actually rated as a fifth world country,” KyCorn Board Member Matt Castlen said.
He may be a Sukup grain bin dealer, but Castlen’s latest project doesn’t have his bins being sold to fill with grain, no, lately he and members of the Owensboro community are turning grain bins into homes for Haitian people.
Castlen has been to Haiti on two other missionary trips to help drill for water wells and build churches through Global Outreach Haiti and says words cannot describe the conditions there.
According to him the poverty of Haiti can be credited to the country’s lack of resources.
“Growing up on a farm and then becoming a farmer myself, I’m used to driving down the road and seeing cattle and grain crops, etc. but you won’t see that there. 85-90 percent of goods are imported, so when you have no natural resources it’s hard to have jobs. It’s 11-12 inches of rain a year there and the dirt has a high salt content, so it’s not good for growing much stuff.”
 “Four out of five children die before the age of five in Haiti,” Castlen continued. “So no one really thinks much of them until they get older. You’ll see them running around covered in scabies from sleeping on the dirt and despite their dark skin they will have red hair from the lack of protein in their diet.” 
Castlen said he felt called to do something to help the Haitian people and that’s when he heard about Sukup using their grain bin as homes. 
The Sukup family started building little grain bin home in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. The homes — or huts — are a standard grain bin with a well-ventilated double roof structure to reflect heat and provide cooler temperatures in their hot environment. Attached to either side of the hut are boxes, filled with soil.  The boxes serve as counter weight in high winds as well as a place to grow fruits and veggies. Also equipped on the outside of the hut is a water collection system designed to funnel rainwater and dew for home use. The last feature can be found inside the hut, a loft that sleeps up to 10 people and provides a place of rest off the dirt. 
This year the team hopes to raise enough money for 10 homes. Building each home will cost nearly $6,000 and an estimated additional $10,000 to ship the materials from the U.S. to Haiti.
“Our goal is to raise $80,000 by July so we can ship the materials, I’m planning on the supplies taking four to five months to clear customs so we will know everything is good before the team makes the trip next February,” he explained.
‘The team’ he is referring to is a men’s group from various churches and of all ages in the community that meet on Wednesday evenings. Together, they have constructed one hut — currently displayed in Thurston — that will travel throughout the community to showcase the cause. As of now, 12 in the group are scheduled to travel to Haiti next year to assemble the huts.
“The neat thing about it as word has gotten out we’ve had five more people come forward and say they are interested in going and that’s what I like about it,” Castlen added. It isn’t about what denomination you’re from or a single group of friends, it’s people from all types of backgrounds coming together.” 
Not only has this project brought new members to the team, according to Castlen, community reaction has been huge. The original fundraising milestone needed to reach $20,000 in April. As of Thursday, April 3, Huts for Haiti had raised $31,000.
“We’ve had calls from several other communities and states wanting to get involved and our community is really excited about it, but what is really neat is other missionary groups from across the country have contacted us wanting to do the same in countries, such as Honduras and Peru.”
“If you had asked me five years ago if I thought I’d be trying to organize and fundraise for this kind of project I would’ve said no way, but I feel God calls everyone to do their part in different ways,” he continued.
According to him, people ask why they are doing this when there are things to be done here in this country. 
 “It’s not our goal to travel to Haiti to be Humanitarians,” he stressed. If you could see how these people live, they have no hope. They are born into poverty, starvation and disease. We are going down there and using the housing to say we do love you, we do care about you and this is what we want to do for you.
“I know building 10 homes a year there isn’t really going to help much, but maybe if more and more people began to step in we could actually change the situation there.”
“KyCorn is proud of our board member’s contributions to their communities and beyond,” Executive Director, Laura Knoth said. “It’s in a farmer’s nature to want to help feed, clothe and house those in need and Matt is a wonderful example of turning that desire into action.”

To learn more about Huts for Haiti or to see how you can help visit, or contact Matt Castlen at 270-314-9343.