Friday, December 20, 2013

Ethanol is not subsidized by taxpayers

I am reposting this blog article from Minnesota Cornerstone:

Ethanol is not subsidized by taxpayers

“The only problem I have with ethanol is that it’s subsidized by the government!”
“Why take the people’s tax money and hand it to a few corporate faremers (sic) & refiners?” 
“Let’ look at the damage caused by subsidizing ethanol.”
These are actual reader comments on recent newspaper stories that focus on ethanol. If the topic of ethanol comes up among friends or family members, odds are at least somebody will bemoan “all those ethanol subsidies that farmers get.”
Here’s the thing: Ethanol isn’t subsidized. Your tax dollars directly support many different industries, but ethanol isn’t one of them.
Critics take misguided shots (deliberate or otherwise) at ethanol from a number of different angles. But there’s a difference between being misguided and flat-out wrong. If you think ethanol is subsidized, you’re flat-out wrong.
Yes, it’s true that various federal and state tax and blending credits — starting with The Energy Tax Act of 1978 — have aided ethanol over the years.  For example, the Minnesota legislature reduced the state fuel tax on gasoline that contains at least 10 percent ethanol by 4 cents per gallon in 1980. That credit diminished over the years and was phased out completely in 1997. A state ethanol producer payment program, which applied to ethanol plants, not farmers, ended in 2012.
January 1, 2012 marked the end of the federal ethanol blending credit, and, thus, the end to what many considered ethanol “subsidies.” It’s also important to point out that blending credits did not go to farmers. Checks weren’t being cut to farmers simply for growing corn that was made into ethanol. Energy producers (i.e. oil companies and refiners) received the credits as an incentive to blend more cleaner-burning ethanol and reduce the negative impact vehicle emissions had on air quality.
The next time you’re in the same room with someone who starts pounding his or her first on the table and shouting about “those damn farmers and their ethanol subsidies,” execute the following plan:
1. Explain to the angry person the facts about ethanol “subsidies,” as outlined in this post.
2. In all likelihood, the angry person probably will reject the facts because it doesn’t fit his or her predetermined set of beliefs. Once populist rhetoric or easy-to-digest talking points become entrenched in a person’s head, it’s tough to get them out.
3. Direct the anger somewhere more appropriate. If the person is mad about ethanol “subsidies” and refuses to believe that ethanol “subsidies” don’t exist, try to focus their anger on actual subsidies that are alive and well.
4. For starters, you can tell them about the $7 billion per year that oil companies enjoy in public subsidies. Get them fired up about using taxpayer dollars to build sports stadiums for billionaire owners. There are all kinds of actual subsidies to be angry about. Getting all fired up about ethanol subsidies that don’t exist is a tremendous waste of energy.
5. Ask the angry person if he or she would rather get their fuel from an American corn field, or heavily subsidized oil companies that drill in the Middle East or the Alberta Tar Sands?
(You might be wondering what you should do when commenters on articles about ethanol on newspaper websites get the facts wrong. Proceed with caution. Newspaper website comments sections are scary places where facts and reason go to die.)
As the debate about ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (legislation that sets goals for the amount of ethanol we blend in gasoline) heats up, critics of renewable fuels are out in full force. Many of them are still clinging to the blatantly wrong argument that ethanol is directly subsidized by taxpayers. The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol blended in gasoline by 1.4 billion gallons in 2014 has serious ramifications for farmers, the rural economy and our environment. It is absolutely essential that farmers and renewable fuels supporters push back on myths created by the opposition during this debate.
Ethanol is not “subsidized.” That’s one myth that is easily discredited.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Farmers take in 25 percent of corn in a week

It's been a long, strange harvest season this year. I saw this article by Gretchen Schlosser in the local West Central Tribune today talking about progress in the corn harvest, as well as other crops like soybeans and sugar beets:

Farmers take in 25 percent of corn in a week

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crop harvest slowed by conditions but yields better than expected

I got interviewed for a story by Gretchen Schlosser in the West Central Tribune:

Crop harvest slowed by conditions but yields better than expected after wet spring, summer drought

Reports from west central Minnesota farmers and agriculture professionals reflect the USDA crop-weather report issued Monday: the crop harvest has been slowed by rain, but yields are better than some farmers expected after a wet, late spring and drought conditions this summer.

Reached on his cell phone as he was combining corn north of Willmar, Alan Carlson reported that he is not far enough along in harvesting the crop. He estimated that he had harvested about 20 percent of his corn and was working in a drier than average field.

The yields were about what Carlson expected, with the lower ground yielding good numbers, but the higher, sandy hills producing less grain. The corn was running about 20 percent moisture, but the date on the calendar won’t allow for any drying in the field, he said. “It’s time to get it done,” he said.
Like other farmers, Carlson reported soybean yields that were better than expected. His average was between 46 and 55 bushels an acre.

The state crop-weather report, the first report issued in three weeks due to the government shutdown, shows that 19 percent of the state’s corn crop has been harvested, compared to 95 percent last year and 49 percent on a five-year average.

The soybean harvest, at 80 percent, is behind last year’s record pace of 100 percent, and on par with the five-year average of 83 percent. The sugar beet harvest lagged, at 66 percent, behind the 86 percent reported last year and the 80 percent five-year average.

Nationally, 39 percent of the corn crop and 63 percent of the soybeans was harvested as of Sunday — a figure based on progress in the 18 states that grow 93 to 95 percent of the two crops. Across the country, 62 percent of the sugar beets had been lifted, slightly less than the 66 percent five-year average.

Locally, the sugar beet harvest has been slowed significantly by rainfall. Noah Hultgren, who farms with his family in the Willmar area, reported that they would usually have 50 to 60 percent of their beets lifted, but had only 20 to 30 percent out of the ground and were having to push or pull each truck through the field to haul out the beets.

“It’s a slow-moving progress,” Hultgren said Monday, estimating that two weeks of good weather, with no rain, would be needed to finish the harvest. Hultgren said the yields on the corn and the sugar beets were a little better than he expected two months ago when drought conditions persisted across the region.

Locally, Wes Nelson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County, estimated that 90 percent of the soybeans had been harvested and that farmers were plugging away at the corn, with an estimated 25 percent of that crop out of the field.

Nelson reported that farmers reported both corn and soybean yields better than they had expected, but with variability based on soils. There have also been reports of lighter than normal test weights in the corn.

Like Hultgren, Nelson stressed that the biggest concern is getting the sugar beets harvested. “We need a dry stretch to get that done,” he said, noting that the piling sites have only small piles so far. “It will be a challenge for the sugar beet producers.”

Nelson was back in the office after the government shutdown and noted that the staff was processing the annual rental payments for the Conservation Reserve Program and then would move on to the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and Average Crop Revenue Election program payments. He estimated that the CRP payments would show up in landowner’s accounts next week, and the DCP and ACRE payments would be completed in the first full week of November.

Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Extension crops educator for the region, said that soybean yields were running a lot better than most farmers expected. The usual average is about 40 bushels, but this year’s yields are in the 50-bushel range.

As for corn, most farmers report their crop yields would be good if they could take both the drowned-out low acres and the drought-burned hills out of the equation, she said. “Mother Nature was definitely in control this year,” she said. “There’s not much a farmer could do this year to change that.”

DeJong-Hughes estimated the corn yield at 180 bushels per acre, but cautioned she’s heard reports of yields all over the board. As part of her work in extension, DeJong-Hughes took aerial photos three times this summer to observe and record crop conditions. The fields began the season yellowed by wet conditions, then greened up, and later dried out in the dry conditions.

Even if a field looks green and healthy from the roadway, she said, the view from above and ultimately, the yield totals at harvest time, show what’s really happening on that piece of land.
“Fly over with a plane and the field tells you a different story,” she said, noting that the fields never did catch up this year and that the combine will slow that lost potential at harvest.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New record price for land in Nobles County

According to an article by Julie Buntjer in the Worthington Daily Globe, a recent farmland sale in Nobles County set a new record for price at $13,000 per acre.

You can read the full article here:

"The winning bidders, Todd and Lorna Kruger of Sibley, Iowa, paid $13,000 per acre for the 156.8-acre parcel of tillable land, for a total price tag of $2,038,400. Sold by the heirs of Ella Mae Sall, the Prins-Sliver Auction Service saw brisk bidding among a field of regional bidders in the auction, according to Steve Prins."

That was nearly $1,000 more per acre than the previous record sale price of $12,050 per acre, which was up from the previous record of $11,700. Farm land prices are jumping quickly in southern Minnesota, following trends in Iowa.

" 'As far as the buyers, we hope that the farming industry continues to be good -- it's been good for the past few years and that's the reason they can afford to pay these prices,' said Prins, adding that a healthy farm economy is good for the community and local businesses. 'You can't believe the number of people looking for land,' he added. 'We have got a list of people who want land so terribly bad that you can't believe it. That's what's driving the prices up. The corn prices, the bean prices have been good, but there's just such a demand.' "

If you're ready to see what prices look like in your area or you're ready to sell your farmland, please call me for an appraisal or real estate advice. I'd love to help!

Noah Hultgren

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ask a farmer: What is the difference between sweet corn and field corn?

I recently wrote an article for the Minnesota Farm Guide, about the difference between sweet corn and field corn. Take a look at the article below, or here:

August 19, 2013 8:49 pm

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

US Home Prices Rise 12 Percent

I saw an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today stating that home prices in the U.S. rose 12.2 percent compared to last year, which is the biggest gain in the last 7 years - essentially prior to the start of the recession in 2007.

Mortgage rates have also been rising, so now seems like a good time for buyers and sellers to meet in the market. If you're ready to sell your house, please give me a call at 320-894-7528. I'd be happy to help you find a buyer!

Take care,
Noah Hultgren

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spring Planting is Behind Schedule

Hi everyone,

The wet weather has forced a slow start to spring planting this year, but we're catching up. I saw an article in the StarTribune by Mike Hughlett that looks at the impact of the late spring. Yields will likely be lowered.

Spring planting in Minnesota is still behind schedule
Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2013 - 8:36 PM

    "Wet weather continued to vex farmers last week, which means planting of Minnesota’s main crops remains behind schedule.
    In fact, some farmers will likely face lower crop yields due to the late start. As of Sunday, 87 percent of corn, the state’s biggest crop, had been planted, compared with a five-year average of 98 percent, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s St. Paul office.
    The state’s second-largest crop, soybeans, was 55 percent planted on Sunday, while the five-year average for that date is 88 percent. As for spring wheat, 92 percent was in the ground compared with a five-year average of 97 percent.
    “Cool and wet weather prevailed again in Minnesota for the week ending June 2,” the USDA’s weekly crop report said. “Standing water and muddy fields continued to hamper field work.”
    Minnesota farmers were plagued by a long winter and wet spring; they started May with nary a seed in the ground. Then, May turned out to be one of the gloomiest months in decades as measured by cloudy days. The Twin Cities experienced its sixth-wettest March-through-May on record.
    Minnesota farmers got a big break in the weather during the week of May 12 to 19. They seeded a vast amount of acres, catching up on long-term averages for planting. But progress since May 19 has slowed significantly.
    Late planting can reduce crop yields by shortening growing seasons. For corn, yields decline rapidly for every day of planting past mid-May. “Does this late planting have an effect? Most definitely,” said David Nicolai, a University of Minnesota Extension crop educator in Farmington.
    Due to the late start, corn yields on average should be about 84 percent of maximum, he said. Some corn farmers in the southeastern part of the state have been hit particularly hard by the wet weather.
    Soybeans can be planted throughout May without a yield penalty, but the clock starts ticking in June.
    Nicolai said that U Extension recommends that for soybeans planted after June 10, farmers use a hybrid seed that’s tailored to a shorter season. But typically, that seed will lead to lower yields, he said.
    The silver lining to all the rain: Minnesota’s parched topsoil has gotten a major recharge. As of Sunday, 63 percent of the state’s topsoil had adequate moisture, while 35 percent had surplus water, according to the USDA. As for subsoil moisture, 72 percent was adequate as of Sunday."
    Have a great week,
    Noah Hultgren

    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Stearns County farmland prices are rising

    Hard to believe that it is time for planting when the ground is covered with 6 more inches of fresh snow after another late season snow storm today, but I can't wait to get in the fields. I doubt I'm the only one - especially after the prefect spring we had last year.

    I just read an article today about farmland prices in Stearns County, which are also ready for planting. According to this article by Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Times, the value of prime farmland in Stearns County jumped 15 to 18 percent in the last year, according to the Stearns County assessor's office. The article is included below:

    Area farmland fetcheshigher property value
    Smaller farms could find it hard to thrive as taxes, seed prices increase

    Written by Kirsti Marohn

    Apr 22, 2013
    When some Stearns County farmers opened their property valuation notices in the past few weeks, they saw some startling numbers. The value of prime farmland jumped an average of 15 to 18 percent from last year, according to the county assessor’s office.

    That means many farmers could be paying more property taxes in 2014. But despite that, there haven’t been large crowds of people showing up to local boards of appeals, County Assessor Gary Grossinger said.
    Grossinger said turnout at those meetings, where landowners can challenge their property’s assessed value and classification, has been “probably the lightest in my 40 years.”

    That’s likely because many farmers had a profitable year last year thanks to high commodity prices, and are aware of the rising prices agricultural property has been fetching.
    The average sale price of farm land has increased from $4,000 an acre last year to $4,600 an acre so far this year, Grossinger said. There also have been a few sales for as much as $7,000 an acre.

    “People know what the farmland’s going for,” Grossinger said. “When your neighbors sell for $7,000 (an acre) and we’ve got it on for $4,000, you’re not going to complain too much.”
    Notices are sent to property owners every spring, informing them of their property’s estimated market value and taxable value. That value is used to determine how much the property taxes payable in 2014 will be.

    Residential and commercial land values have been flat, which probably means owners of agricultural land will shoulder a bigger share of the property tax burden.
    The level of spending by local counties, cities, townships and school districts also affects the final tax bill.

    One significant shift has been the increasing value of large tracts of prime agricultural property, while buildable land closer to cities hasn’t been rising in value. That’s due to the lack of interest in developing property right now, Grossinger said.
    “What’s selling now is good farmland,” he said.

    George Hadrich, a corn farmer in Holding Township, said the rising property values are making it difficult for smaller farmers to survive. Hadrich said the value of his 270 acres jumped about 20 percent from last year, and he worries that his tax bill will increase the same amount.
    Although corn prices have been higher recently, so has the price of seed corn, machinery and fertilizer, he said.

    “The two of us are still working part time to make things work out,” the 71-year-old Hadrich said.

    If you think now is the time to get your farmland appraised, or perhaps now is the time to sell your farmland, please give me a call at 320-894-7528.


    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Corn Growers Update

    What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time we had no snow, temperatures topping out in the 70s and 80s, and even some wheat planted! A sharp contrast to the snowdrifts, ice, and machinery tucked away in the shed this year...

    Though the winter has been long and harsh, I've had the opportunity to travel on behalf of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. In late February, yours truly flew to Florida for the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Florida. I had the opportunity to spend a few days before the convention at my aunt Jan's in nearby Lakeland soaking up the sun and some good old fashioned R and R. Besides enjoying the sunny and warm weather, I did attend many activities involved with the Commodity Classic. One of the highlights was listening to US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack speak on farm issues. Also, National Corn Growers held their 1st session of Corn Congress, where I am a voting delegate for Minnesota. It is similar to Congress as each state has a different number of voting delegates depending on membership. Minnesota only trails Iowa in representation. We will have our 2nd session in July. There are many issues that shape our Resolutions booklet. There is always good debate (some long-winded) that truly shows our grass roots organization.

    In March, I traveled to Washington D.C. with the same fly-in group as last year. Minnesota Corn was joined by the Southwest Council, which consists of farmers, bankers, insurance groups, and other commodity groups including Rice, Cotton and Sugar from Texas, Mississippi, new Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. We believe that showing our unity within the ag sector both by commodity and geography represents a strong view. We had 100 visits to the House and Senate offices. The visits consisted of a Congressman or their ag liaison. Our message included passing a farm bill now, protecting and strengthening crop insurance, and keeping a strong commodity title in the farm bill. Our lobbying firm Combest and Sell also orchestrated fundraisers for key legislators and champions of ag that I was able to attend. They included House Ag Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Senate Ag Ranking member Thad Cochran (R-MS), and House Ag Ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN). See the picture below!

    We also had our day on the Hill in March at the capitol in St. Paul. Our Minnesota Corn group visited with state legislators. The goal was to have representation visit a legislator in every county. I personally visited with Rep. Mary Sawatsky and Sen. Lyle Koenen, as they are in my district.

    Having good dialogue and voicing our concerns is very important as the amount of people directly involved in agriculture keeps shrinking. I have enjoyed my 2 years as a director for Minnesota Corn Growers. We have such a good story to tell in agriculture and I'm proud to be a farmer.


    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Ethanol is the answer

    I am proud to show that my letter to the editor about the importance of ethanol was published in the Letters to the Editor section of the West Central Tribune today. Here is a copy of my letter:

    Ethanol is the Answer
    By Noah Hultgren, Raymond

    The United States has spent an estimated $767 billion to $811 billion since invading Iraq over 10 years ago, according to the Congressional Budget Office. How much of this is tied to oil?

    Have we all forgotten the wars fought, money spent, and the lives lost fighting an addiction that our country has?

    We need ethanol! It is the only domestic renewable fuel that reduces America’s dependence on foreign oil. What better than to produce this renewable product right here at home? American ethanol creates over 400,000 jobs while contributing $42.4 billion to the gross domestic product.

    According to a 2010 study by both Iowa State and University of Wisconsin, domestic ethanol production helped keep gasoline prices nearly $1/gallon lower to consumers. Just think if we had to pay another $1 at the pump! Ethanol is our country’s answer to foreign oil addiction.

    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    Past UMMC Sales

    For some more information on sales prices for local farmland, I looked back through some of the properties we've sold at UMMC in the last year. We did a couple farmland sales in Renville County, ranging from $4,200 per acre to $7,800 per acre in September of 2012. All of our sales in Renville County were to other farmers, rather than investors...

    Sales prices were similar in McLeod County, ranging from $4,950 to $7,109 per acre. Sales prices were more stable in Meeker County, with three major sales all falling within $6,000 to $6,600 per acre.

    Chippewa County had the highest average per acre sales prices in the region, due to one really high sales price. But even a farmland sale went for over $9,000 per acre. Likewise, Brown County had a couple farmland sales above $9,000 per acre.

    If you are ready to sell your farmland, please contact me at 320-894-7528 or

    Noah Hultgren

    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    Stearns County farmland price per acre

    Wow - it's hard to believe that January is coming to an end already! It feels like I just celebrated the New Year, but I've been busy with events and meetings for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and my family's farming operation so the month has really flown by.
    Earlier this week I came across an interesting article about farmland prices a little closer to home, in Stearns County. In fact, we farm some land in Colfax township, which is right along western Stearns County. Some highlights from the article, written by Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Times, are as follows:
    • The price of farmland in western Stearns County is reaching record levels. Sales for more than $5,000 per acre are becoming more common.
      • In fact, in Raymond Township, the price per acre went up almost $5,000 just in the last 5 years - from an average of $2,241 in 2007 to a sale of 75 acres for $7,224 in 2012.
    • Interestingly, "for the first time in almost two decades, land in western Stearns County is worth more than land on the fringe of the St. Cloud metro" according to Stearns County Assessor Gary Grossinger.
      • According to a local appraiser, recent sales prices have been in the $5,500 and $6,500 range.
    • Many farmers are looking to expand, pushing prices higher and making it harder to find available farmland. And farmers are buying the land - not outside investors. "It’s mainly large corn or sugar beet farmers taking the opportunity to buy adjacent land to expand," according to Mark Koehn, an appraiser for Stearns County who specializes in farmland.
    • Much like the larger economy, there is always an element of uncertainty that casts a shadow on what has been a bright spot in the economy. Agriculture has been very strong for the last couple of years, but everyone knows that could change quickly if prices drop or if supplies outpace demand.

    To read the full article, you can go to: 

    If you think now would be a good time to sell your farmland, or even just have it appraised to see what the market value looks like right now, please give me a call at 320-894-7528 or e-mail me at and I will help you out!

    Noah Hultgren 

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

    Minnesota Land Economics

    An interesting source for information on recent sales of farm land is the University of Minnesota's "Minnesota Land Economics" site, which is available here:

    From the base page, you can select the jurisdiction you're interested in - in most cases it's most helpful to look at counties, but you might also be interested in watersheds, major river basins, or NASS districts - the specific county (or other geography) you want, and a set of other attributes. This can include years, acres, price per acre, or total sales price. From there, just click on "Generate Report" and you'll get the data you're looking for.

    For this blog entry, I looked at Kandiyohi County's farm land sales from 2009, 2010, and 2011, and found a total of 60 sales, with average per acre prices ranging between $2,000 an acre and $6,135 an acre. The maximum price was $7,869 per acre, from a sale in Willmar township in 2011.

    If you wanted any help in exploring the Minnesota Land Economics site, give me a call at 320-894-7528 or send me an e-mail at


    Noah Hultgren