NCI Update - 2016 July/August Issue

NCI Update - 2016 July/August Issue

To continue our communications efforts in supporting the promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota), we have developed a bi-monthly newsletter that will be sent exclusively by email. In this issue there is information about the INT-SOY course that will be held at NCI in June 2017, an update on the new soymilk and tofu machine, an article about our milling technical services and also a reminder to register for the Utilization of Pulses in Extruded Snack Course. To view the latest issue and to sign up for the next issue go to

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NCI's Director Mark Weber Interviewed on FarmTalk Ag News 890

Northern Crops Institute's Director Mark Weber was on FarmTalk with Mick Kjar, Ag News 890. The interview was recorded on February 2, 2016, at the Northern Soybean Expo that was held at the Fargo Holiday Inn and was hosted by the North Dakota Soybean Council and the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association. Click here to listen.

Northern Crops Institute expects visitors from Asian markets in 2016

Director Mark Weber was interviewed by Mark Dorenkamp from Brownfield News during the 2016 Minnesota Ag Expo.

The director of the Northern Crops Institute says trade teams from southeast Asia and possibly China are expected to visit later this year and learn how to put U.S. northern crops into practice.

“We will have the opportunity to promote the higher feeding values of the soybeans grown in this region.  Through the excellent work of the University of Minnesota they have discovered that our soybeans in this region have greater feeding value than other parts of the world.  This is something that we will help promote.”

Mark Weber tells Brownfield the Institute was founded in 1983 with a mission to promote the primary crops grown in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

He says the Institute works closely with commodity groups from the region, such as corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, sunflowers, peas and lentils.

“What we do is we host trade teams.  We bring in users of the crops from around the world.  To date we’ve had visitors from 140 countries that have come to train and learn at the Northern Crops Institute, and we have a group of food and feed scientists that teach them how to utilize the crops that we grow in this region in their food and feed products.”

The Northern Crops Institute is on the campus of North Dakota State University, funded by state appropriations and various Checkoffs.

To listen to the interview in its entirety go to:

North Dakota Wheat Commission pledges $350,000 to NDSU's Center for Risk and Trade

The North Dakota Wheat Commission has pledged $350,000 to the Center for Risk and Trade endowment at North Dakota State University.

The North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund provided a 50 percent match of $175,000 to the endowment campaign. Funding for programming,student scholarships, faculty development and opportunities for industry to use the center for continuing education are provided through the endowment.

“We are very fortunate to receive excellent support for many of our research programs from the North Dakota Wheat Commission," said Ken Grafton, dean of NDSU’s College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources. "Trade issues are critical to our region’s farmers. The lab allows faculty and students to study issues related to risk and trade and to enhance our research in these areas."

The center’s Commodity Trading Room is the nation’s only university laboratory dedicated to agriculture and biofuels. Equipped with advanced information sources, trading software, analytical tools and 32 workstations, the center is a premier teaching facility for commodity marketing, logistics, trading and risk management.

William Wilson, distinguished professor of agribusiness and applied economics, said NDSU has offered well-received courses in commodity procurement
since 1983.

"There is substantial risk in wheat production and marketing that affects growers, handlers, domestic end-users and wheat importers,” he said. “Our lab enhances training and equips industry participants to become better buyers and customers. Our work with the industry results in better programs for our students. Through the lab, the students gain real-life experience using state-of-the-art technology.”

“The North Dakota Wheat Commission is proud to provide continued support for the Center for Risk and Trade,” said North Dakota Wheat Commission Administrator Neal Fisher. “The center helps wheat producers hone their marketing skills in a global market that is increasingly volatile. In partnership with the center and NDSU’s Northern Crops Institute, we also provide risk management education to international wheat buyers from more than 100 countries.”

Since its inception in 1959, the North Dakota Wheat Commission has supported research and market promotion programs at NDSU. The pledge boosts the commission’s total giving to NDSU to more than $1 million. The organization was recently inducted into the 1862 Society, which is the highest level of recognition from the NDSU Development Foundation. The society is named for the year Congress enacted legislation to establish land-grant universities.

In addition, the commission also provides annual investments for wheat research of up to $1.5 million each year.

Published in Prairie Business on November 5, 2015.

Zurn serves as advocate for Minnesota's agriculture industry

Karolyn Zurn says that she has driven many a tractor, combine and farm truck during her 43-year marriage to husband Bill. Today she spends much of her time serving as an advocate for the agriculture industry. (Forum News Service)

Karolyn Zurn says that she has driven many a tractor, combine and farm truck during her 43-year marriage to husband Bill. Today she spends much of her time serving as an advocate for the agriculture industry. (Forum News Service)

She may not spend her days operating a combine or a chisel plow anymore, but Karolyn Zurn still considers herself a farmer.

During the course of her 43-year marriage to Callaway native Bill Zurn, Karolyn has been an integral part of the family’s farm operations, whether it involved doing the books, driving a tractor or tending to the livestock (at various times, the family has raised cows, pigs, chickens and horses, she says, though their current operation consists of crop farming exclusively).

These days, she and Bill both say they are in the process of “transitioning” out of the family business, leaving more and more of the day-to-day running of the farm in the hands of their sons, Eric and Nick. Karolyn has even handed over the bookkeeping duties for the farm to her daughter-in-law, Erica.

“I liked working out in the fields,” Karolyn says, “but our family decided they wanted to me to work for the agricultural world, as an advocate. This is where I can be the most productive now.

“In any one day, I will put three different papers together for the groups I work for,” she continued.

Those groups form a pretty long list. Currently, Zurn serves as president of the Minnesota Agri-Women as well as the Government Affairs & Vital Issues chair for the American Agri-Women, as well as serving on the board for Minnesota Ag in the Classroom.

She is also a member of North Dakota’s Common Ground, an organization, made up primarily of farm women, that works to help “take the fear out of food” by showing exactly how farmers and ranchers grow and supply food for public consumption.

In addition, she serves as the liaison between the Northern Crops Institute and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. Located on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, NCI is a collaborative effort among North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota to support the promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region.

She said exports are a vital part of Minnesota’s agricultural industry.

“Minnesota is one of the leading states in the export of turkeys, soybeans and swine,” she said.

Through her work with Common Ground, she was also recently invited to be the Minnesota spokesperson for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.

Basically, this legislation seeks to prevent activists from making the labeling of genetically modified foods mandatory in all cases, and to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce, thus ensuring that the products are safe for consumers. It would also create a new legal framework, subject to FDA oversight, governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence of, or use of, genetically engineered food or food ingredients.

Zurn says that making such labels mandatory would cause a steep rise in food prices, as well as needlessly making families afraid of feeding their children anything that isn’t 100 percent organic.

“I think it’s horrific that couples feel they’re not doing the best for their kids” if they can’t afford to buy organic food, Zurn said. “Genetically engineered does not mean unsafe. I know what we raise on our farm, and for the last 20 years or more it has been proven safe by the USDA. Not one person has gotten sick from anything we raise.”

Genetic engineering has done a lot of good things, Zurn pointed out. For instance, the cotton industry has developed genetically engineered cotton plants that do not require spraying for pests and diseases, which is particularly valuable in areas where supplies of fresh water are limited.

Zurn is also a vocal advocate of Ag in the Classroom, which as she pointed out, is about more than grade school kids spending a couple of days at M State each year, learning about crops and livestock (though that program, sponsored by Becker County Farm Bureau, Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business Committee and Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District, is a good one, she noted). There are many more programs available, for classes of all ages.

“I’m on the grant committee (for Ag in the Classroom),” she said. “Schools can apply for grants and we give up to $1,000 to teachers for their class projects.”

There are also downloadable curriculum materials for teachers to implement in their classrooms, all free of charge.

“Minnesota Ag in the Classroom strives to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of agriculture,” she says. “The educational materials provide a wealth of opportunities to embed agriculture, food and natural resources content into the context of K-12 education.”

But Zurn is perhaps most passionate when it comes to talking about women’s role in agriculture. She said that women who work side by side with their husbands on the farm often don’t classify themselves as farmers, even though their role in the success of the operation is vital.

“Advocacy for women in agriculture is something I love to do,” she says. “A lot of them don’t see their own value.”

Fortunately, Zurn says, her husband Bill has always viewed her as a partner in the family’s farm operation.

“My husband has always promoted me and helped me realize my own worth,” she says. “He’s been a great mentor.”

They have worked together on their goal of leaving behind a healthy, sustainable farm operation for their children.

“We had a goal to make sure our farm stayed sustainable and productive, and that we would leave our land in better condition than when we purchased it,” she says.

She, in turn, has tried to pass on those values to their five children, and in turn, to their 11 grandchildren.

“I took care of them and made sure their life was full,” she said. “I worked off the farm and on it at the same time. I did a lot of the tillage, combined wheat and drove the trucks a lot of the time.”

She also worked for food service companies like Proctor & Gamble and Mrs. Gerry’s Foods.

“After work I’d come home and jump in the combine and think nothing of it,” she said.

Her advocacy work was originally just an offshoot of her work on and off the farm, promoting agriculture and food production.

“Farmers take excellent care of their land and their livestock,” she said. “If we didn’t take care of our land, it wouldn’t be productive, and if we didn’t take care of our livestock, we couldn’t sell it for a profit.”

Adapting to change

Click here for original article.

Northern soybean production helps spur NCI growth

Once recognized for its work within the wheat industry, the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) and its inclusion of soy-based courses has become a shining example of how Minnesota soybean checkoff dollars work on behalf of soybean producers.

NCI, formed in 1983 out of a need to train customers on wheat quality and uses, and has grown into an international meeting and learning center that brings teams of people from all around the world to learn about crops produced in the area. NCI is not involved in research, only promotion and market development.

Over time, crop patterns in the region changed, causing NCI to add significant new programming. Soybean production expanded and growers are now able to plant soybeans farther north due to research and new varieties. Currently, one-third of all courses offered at NCI are soybean related.

"The timing was essential in this evolution of the Northern Crops Institute," says Karolyn Zurn, a former Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) director who served on the NCI board. "The time was right for change to happen. Wheat production was decreasing as soybean production was becoming widespread and the northern region in particular was expanding in soybean production."

While Zurn was an MSGA director, she served on the NCI board on behalf of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council through its relationship with MSGA.

Mark Weber, director of NCI since 2011, said Minnesota Soybean has been influential in the leadership of NCI. Sherwood Peterson served as chair of the NCI board in 2002 as the MSGA representative. At the time, soybeans still weren't part of the curriculum.

Zurn served as NCI vice chair in 2011 and 2012, and chair in 2013 and 2014 as the MSR&PC representative.

"Instrumental to the development of NCI to include more soybean courses was Karolyn Zurn from the Minnesota Soybean Growers association and past chair of the NCI board, and Vanessa Kummer, from the North Dakota Soybean Council and (former) United Soybean Board President," Weber says. "Both of these industry leaders helped put the initial programs together."

As the transition began to include more soybean courses at NCI, the classes were not widely recognized, as NCI was still known as a wheat institute. Zurn worked together with Weber to have NCI noted as an institute for soybeans, as well. She bean working with the U.S. Soybean Export Council to encourage them to send trade teams to learn about soy.

Zurn, who was highly active in NCI as it evolved, attributes her involvement to being familiar and working within the soybean industry, being located near NCI, her interest in the Institute and her passion for representing the soybean industry.

While she served as a liaison for Minnesota Soybean, Zurn reached out to other industry leaders to explain what NCI does and to spark more interest.

"We made sure that I would attend market development meetings on behalf of the Northern Crops Institute and make presentations of proposals and gain support for the institute's efforts."

Those meetings, where MSR&PC and MSGA directors discussed possible checkoff investments to recommend to the full MSR&PC board of directors, helped lay the groundwork for soybean education within NCI.

Trade teams visiting the institute often have the opportunity to tour local farms, such as the Zurn farm in Callaway, Minn. This gives attendees the chance to see production firth hand and understand why soybeans growing in the area are a great feed component.

"NCI has received great support from the tri-state soybean councils, " Weber says. "The three groups work as one to address the question 'what projects can we do together to improve the soybean industry as a whole?'"

Also available to trade teams visiting NCI is sophisticated grain trading lab, developed by Dr. William Wilson of North Dakota State University. This lab gives attendees the ability to practice hands-on trading in arealistic simulated environment.

Two years ago, NCI updated the on-site feed mill. The three-quarter million dollar project received generous support. A soybean feed manufacturing trade team from China was the first class after renovation. The feed jill also has a feed scientist to work with and provide training. To date, NCI has hosted trade teams from 140 countries. The facility and its staff of 12 are located on the North Dakota State University campus, in Fargo, N.D.

Foreign business leaders visit N.D. to learn about soybeans, specialty crops

Click here for original article.

CASSELTON, N.D. - SB&B Foods has been working for years to sell soybeans in China.

"It certainly presents a great opportunity," said Todd Sinner, the soybean processing company's vice president and an owner partner. "It's a large market and we need to make sure that we have the right pieces in place when it does open."

SB&B has been selling soybeans to other Asian buyers for more than 25 years, but is not yet in China because Sinner said government regulations make it more challenging to export soybeans there.

"It's really just assuring not only the China buyer, but the China government, the officials, that our food is safe," he said.

The soybeans are tested and inspected here in the United States, but China does not yet accept those testing methods and certificates. The soybeans are also tested in China and if they don't pass, the seller is stuck with the product and shipping costs.

"It adds a little bit more risk to the supplier," Sinner said. "Fortunately, we do have other markets nearby that we could tranship, but at a cost."

He hopes business trips to China and reverse trade missions, where business leaders visit North Dakota to learn how our crops are grown and processed, will help build relationships that could lead to business deals.

"It's certainly an important market that we're paying attention to and developing relationships in," he said. "We know that it's a long-term process and we're certainly investing in that."

Delegations from China, other Asian countries and Colombia recently visited the Red River Valley. One Chinese delegation focused on the state's specialty crops. The other was interested in non-GMO soybeans.

"The food-grade soybean supply in China is decreasing, but the demand is increasing," said Yuefang Wu of China Soy Foods Association, through a translator. "The main purpose of this trip is to understand the soy food, the non-GMO soy food industry in the United States."

Some have visited the state before, but most of the delegates were a new group of potential buyers from China, said Dean Gorder, North Dakota Trade Office executive director.

"The single largest buyer, importer of food anywhere in the world is the country of China," he said. "Their middle class is growing. Their need for secure food sources is growing and North Dakota as a state and all the companies producing these products need to be a part of that."

Buyers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Sri Lanka toured farms and elevators in Colfax and Casselton to learn about buying soybeans for livestock feed.

And Colombian delegates were here to learn about specialty crops and pulse ingredients like peas, beans, lentils and confectionary sunflowers. They learned about using the ingredients at the Northern Crops Institute in Fargo. They also visited several North Dakota agribusinesses.

"Many times, the actual sales occur when we get them back to North Dakota," Gorder said. "They see the quality of the people, the quality of the product, the nice, clean air. All of the things that are good about North Dakota really resonate with the buyer so it raises the likelihood of deals being concluded significantly."

The Chinese government is also starting to consider easing restrictions on importing non-genetically modified products, Gorder said.

"Currently, they have a zero tolerance policy for any genetic traits and they're starting to modify that approach, so that's a benefit to North Dakota exporters," he said. "We met with the head of their quarantine service about three years ago and he made a statement that when demand exceeds supply, the rules will change."

The Chinese and Colombian reverse trade missions were organized through the North Dakota Trade Office, Northern Crops Institute, Northern Pulse Growers, Northarvest Bean Association, North Dakota Soybean Council and North Dakota State University.

The Soybean Council also hosted the delegation interested in soybeans for livestock feed.

Colombians come to Northarvest

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Eighteen importers from Colombia traveled to Northarvest, August 17-21 on a reverse trade mission. the visit was follow-up to a North Dakota Trade Office delegation of five North Dakota pulse and dry bean processors to Colombia in April. the US Dry Bean Council (USDBC) conducted two trips to Colombia last year. The reverse trade mission agenda included presentations at the Northern Crops Institute on the nutritional properties of pulse ingredients, as well as their application in baked goods, snacks and pasta. The importers also heard presentations from four Northarvest dry bean processors, had three hours of one-on-one meetings, and toured SRS Commodities in Mayville, north Dakota, Great Northern Ag in Plaza, JM Grain in Garrison, and Legume Matrix in Jamestown.

The USDBC has been active in Colombia and has a number of new promotional activities planned over the next year, including collaborating with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Bogota and other US commodity groups on the "Sabor USA" or "Flavor USA" media campaign.

Northarvest Bean Growers Association Executive Vice President Tim Courneya is glad to know the USDBCpromotion to Colombian consumers has begun, and thinks it will result in increased sales of US pinto beans to the South American country. "Our beans are priced very competitively and Colombian consumers like them, both for the taste and the price." Courneya says overall exports of US dry beans to Colombia in just the first six months of this marketing year equaled the exports of the previous three years combined.

Since the implementation of the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in 2012, US agricultural exports to Colombia have doubled to $2.4 billion. Colombia is currently the 10th largest market for US exports.

Sabor USA will air on a local Colombian TV channel that focuses on younger audiences, and will include restaurant and retail promotion, social media, and a TV/internet cooking show using US ingredients. The TV channel's cooking show will dedicate the upcoming season exclusively to US food culture. The purpose will be to educate, entertain and inspire Colombians about American food. Each episode will feature recipes made with food represented by the different US commodity groups active in Colombia, including the USDBC.

The FAS intends to expand Sabor USA to other Spanish speaking countries and USDBC will continue to support these efforts to gain greater exposure for US dry beans in the Americas.