Reprinted with permission from the
Kearney HUB | Kearney, NE
By LORI POTTER Hub
Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 12:45 pm
WILCOX — Every Nebraska harvest season is different.
Most of the 2012 corn was in the bin by late October, while the 2013 harvest is just now peaking.
“I hope we’re done by Nov. 1, but it might be more like Nov. 11,” farmer Gale Lush said last week as he waited for his rain-dampened fields south of Wilcox to dry.
There has been one constant since Lush came home to farm full time in 1977. He has been a leader in organizations that support opportunities for farmers to add value to their crops and natural resources, including the development of the ethanol and wind energy industries.
“I just thought somebody needed to do it,” Lush said about serving as chairman of the American Corn Growers Association Foundation and as a Nebraska Farmers Union board member. “I started by talking to like-minded people.”
Whether he’s defending the
renewable fuel standard (RFS) for the ethanol or promoting wind
projects that, through lease payments, could provide added
income for landowners, his key question is: How would it be good
for rural America?
A 1970 graduate of Wilcox High
School, Lush earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then enrolled in UNL’s law
school. He took the bar exam after his first summer back on the
“It was so I’d have something
to fall back on if the farming thing didn’t work out,” he said.
“It’s nice to have that background for estate planning.”
He has focused on the business
end of the family farm partnership that includes his two
brothers and son, even though his favorite part of farming is
agronomy and the challenge of enhancing yields every year.
When asked about his free time,
Lush said, “I’m still trying to figure out the commodity
markets. Some people go to Florida, and I go to commodity
He also goes to Nebraska and
National Farmers Union and American Corn Growers Association and
Name: Gale Lush
Home: Farm south of Wilcox
Education: Wilcox High School graduate, 1970;
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, bachelor’s degree in
agriculture, 1974; and three years at UNL law school
Profession: Full-time farmer since 1977 and now
farms with his two brothers and son
Crops: Corn, soybeans and wheat
Family: Wife, Laurie; son and daughter-in-law,
Alexander and Elise, and their boys, Luke, Rylan and
Henry; and daughter Sarah of Omaha
Ag organizations: American Corn Growers
Association Foundation chairman and ACGA board ex
officio member; Nebraska Farmers Union Board director;
National Farmers Union and KAAPA member; Nebraska Corn
Board past director; and Class 2 Nebraska LEAD Program
Community activities: Trinity Lutheran Church in
Hildreth member and Wilcox School Board past member
Renewable Fuel Standard
Original goal: 7.5
billions of renewable fuels blended into gasoline by
9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022
Expected that nearly 10 percent of all fuel used will be
from renewable sources
For 2014: 16.55 billion gallons
capacity: More than 2 billion gallons
Corn used: About
700 million bushels
Environmental Protection Agency and Nebraska Ethanol
As a nonprofit, the foundation
can do outreach and education work, but not lobbying. “We’re
trying to reach out to the public in general and decision
makers, not support any particular legislation,” Lush said.
The outreach has included
supporting regional and Nebraska wind energy workshops for more
than a decade. That includes helping sponsor the 2013 Nebraska
Wind Energy Conference Nov. 13-15 at the Cornhusker Hotel in
“Everyone thought it was
impossible to get wind started in Nebraska, as a public power
state,” Lush said, until “seedbed” legislation was passed to aid
rural community-based wind projects.
Federal production tax credits
are critical incentives for private industries to invest in wind
energy. Lush said that because those credits must be renewed
annually by Congress, proponents must keep making a case for
American Corn Growers
Foundation leaders also focus on ethanol and preserving the RFS.
Lush described ethanol as the most important thing to happen to
rural Nebraska, an opinion reflected by his membership in the
Kearney-based cooperative that built the KAAPA Ethanol plant
west of Minden.
As chairman, Lush is quoted in
the American Corn Growers Foundation’s press releases that
defend the RFS and respond to constant efforts by oil interests,
including the American Petroleum Institute, to eliminate it.
The foundation’s RFS defense
tools include Iowa State University research that says ethanol
blends save consumers more than $1 per gallon at the pump. Lush
said even the conservative Hoover Institute lists the possible
savings at 50 cents to $1.
He also promotes the value of a
renewable, home-grown fuel that isn’t affected by violence or
politics in the Middle East or other areas of foreign oil
In a July press release issued
by the foundation, Lush says the American Petroleum Institute’s
latest call to end the RFS “shows a selfish disregard for the
best interests of the U.S. economy, U.S. consumers and U.S.
He told the Hub the RFS may be
more important to the overall ag economy than the farm bill.
With spot market corn prices at
around $4.25 per bushel and projections for a 2013 U.S. crop of
14 billion bushels, Lush said anything negatively affecting
ethanol production and demand for corn would devastate farm
Loran Schmit, a former state
senator and now executive director of the Association of
Nebraska Ethanol Producers, made that point in a recent speech
to the Beatrice Kiwanis Club.
“I need not describe for you
what would happen to the corn market if the corn for ethanol
market should disappear,” he said. “The average cost of planting
an acre of corn today is approximately $500. That will not work
with corn in the $2 per bushel range.”
Lush said Nebraska agriculture depends on a “golden triangle” of
corn, ethanol-distillers grains and livestock. The relationship
has created a market for 40 percent of the state’s corn and soon
will lift Nebraska to the No. 1 cattle-producing state.
“If everybody sticks together,
everything will work out. The golden triangle does work,” he
The next boost for ethanol
needs to be getting more gas stations to install blenders pumps
that dispense the recently approved E15, Lush said. The standard
blend is E10, or 10 percent ethanol.
He said defending ethanol is a
constant fight and challenge because big oil interests that
oppose the RFS have unlimited funds.
Every time ethanol supporters
think they’ve quieted opponents’ food-versus-fuel argument, it
comes up again. “Yeah, that’s a big one,” Lush said.
Countering that is difficult
because so many Americans have no ties to agriculture. “When you
don’t know anything, you can believe almost anything if it’s
said in a believable way,” Lush said.
The American Corn Growers
Foundation sent Project Director-Outreach Coordinator Dan
McGuire of Lincoln to the Chicago Food Show. “He took one of my
field corn ears and a sweet corn ear to the show the
difference,” Lush said, and to explain that the corn in grocery
stores is not the same corn used for ethanol and livestock feed.
Lush said ethanol proponents
might be fighting the same battles 10 years from now, but it’s
worth the effort to ensure the industry’s long-term viability.
“Once it’s destroyed, gas
prices will go up,” he said. “Then it will be impossible to get