Corn Commentary

Learning About Conservation in the Everglades

Normally, the Conservation Technology and Information Center stays pretty close to the Midwest for its annual Conservation in Action tour, but this year they headed way south into the Florida Everglades to get a look at some very different types of crops.

ctic-14-ncgaOn the tour was CTIC board member and National Corn Growers Association Soil Health and Sustainability Manager Nick Goeser, who was amazed by the sugarcane planting and harvesting he saw. “It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s different (compared to corn) but the level of mechanization is very similar, the level of farm management, the precision involved – it’s amazing.”

Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) have implemented some very successful best management practices to protect the important ecosystem that provides the water supply for much of the state. “A lot of the management issues are similar,” said Goeser. “We learned they had about a 55% reduction in phosphorus, which is huge.”

Goeser says what farmers have been able to accomplish in the EAA can serve as a conservation case study for farmers in other parts of the country.

2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Listen to my interview with Nick here and watch some of the sugarcane harvest in the video below: Interview with Nick Goeser, NCGA

Study Shows How Big Oil Rigs the System in St. Louis

Big Oil continues to rig the system. Using its stranglehold on infrastructure, it uses pricing strategies to edge out ethanol at the detriment of consumers’ pocketbooks and the environment.

A study recently conducted by the Renewable Fuel Association in the St. Louis area highlighted this point quite clearly.

The study looked to see if anti-competitive pricing strategies were being employed to discourage E85 sales in this unique market, where the only stations offering the fuel are owned by one of the “big five” oil companies. Less than shockingly, the study found that E85 sold for one percent more than E10 on the retail market despite being priced 12 percent below E10 on the wholesale market.

To read the full study, click here.

The results show clearly how some gas companies and their franchised retailers strategically price E85 to discourage consumers from using the renewable, domestically produced biofuel. Big Oil has grown so good at what it does that, in many cases, they manage to make consumers to feel negatively toward E85 at the same time they continue to take choice out of their hands.

Does this Machiavellian plan end there? Of course not. Big Oil is better than that.

The pricing strategy they designed to ensure that affiliated refiners cannot meet the blending requirements outlined in the RFS provides them with data to undermine to use when arguing against the statute. The RFS was designed to benefit Americans. Big Oil has orchestrated an effort to ensure it fails and then, in turn, to cry out as if they are being asked to do something unreasonable.

It seems what is unreasonable is acting as good corporate citizens and in the best interest of all citizens, not creating workarounds to evade laws and continue to hold us over their barrels.

Find out what you can do to stop Big Oil from rigging the system by clicking here.

Entertainers Should Entertain, Not Preach

jason mraz 2As a former journalist I have a deeply ingrained sense of outrage when the public is being misled, bilked or fooled. This is especially true when misinformation is used to strip away their hard earned cash.
So I thought I would send an open letter to Jason Mraz, a singer/songwriter and niche celebrity, who also spends a lot of time and money working on causes he finds important including the environment.

If you don’t have time to read any further I have two messages for the obviously talented Mraz, who played to an appreciative crowd at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis last night:

Scientific experts say organic foods are not healthier that food grown using conventional methods contrary to what Mraz told the audience last night.
2 – Good for you for having the conviction of your beliefs. I appreciate your willing to use your celebrity to help a cause. But please keep your personal politics off the stage unless you do it through your songs themselves, that way fans know what they signed up for going in.

Using the interlude between music to espouse lifestyle choices, support political candidates, or give advice on something as personal as food is just bad form. Most people go to concerts, movies, sporting events, etc… to get a mental break from the headlines of the day or meditating on philosophical issues. I have never been a Jason Mraz fan, in part due to lack of exposure, so didn’t know too much about him. Still, I admit to being very surprised when a photo of his personal garden popped up on the stage and he proceeded to espouse the benefits of organic food production.

My hat is off to Mraz for trying to live a health-conscious lifestyle, but I went to hear music not visit a lifestyle coach, let alone one without real credentials. You have every right to your opinion but please try being more selective in how you use your notoriety and bully pulpit.

An article in “Real Clear Science” earlier this summer points out the majority of Americans believe that organic foods are healthier than food grown through conventional methods. The majority of Americans are wrong. Science has shown that organic is neither healthier for you nor better for the environment. In fact, it’s not safer, more nutritious, not does it taste better. These are all notions promoted by organic food proponents who have a lot to gain or were just misled. Given the markedly higher prices for nearly all of these products, the public has a right to know they are being hoodwinked.

Grains Council Helps Exports Rebound

usgcWith a record corn crop being harvested, exports are more important than ever. The United States exported more than 11 percent of the U.S. corn supply to over 100 countries in the 2013/2014 marketing year, which U.S. Grains Council president and CEO Tom Sleight says is a nice recovery from lost market share after the drought of 2012.

“Now it’s time to really dig in and dig in hard … recoup our market share, recoup our sales,” said Sleight. “With an abundant, competitively priced crop, plus our reputation for quality and contract and deliveries, we’ve been able to get back where we needed to be.”

U.S. corn exports to Japan enjoyed a powerful rebound in the just completed marketing year, with USDA reporting exports and outstanding sales of 11.8 million metric tons (465 million bushels). “In Japan, we’ve had a 90 plus percent market share since April,” said Sleight.

usgc-sleightHeading into the 2014/2015 marketing year, the Council has more plans to develop new markets for U.S. corn. “We have nine offices around the world, spending about 40% of our resources in Asia, another 40% in the western hemisphere,” Sleight said. “The other 20% in the middle part of the world – the Middle East, north Africa, very key market for us.” With hostilities and Ebola to contend with in those areas, Sleight said they are being mindful of safety and security issues.

In this interview, Sleight also talks about the upcoming Export Exchange, global biotechnology education challenges, the situation in China, and the potential for current trade negotiations to boost grain exports. Interview with Tom Sleight, US Grains Council

Orange Corn for Better Eyesight

orange-cornResearchers at Purdue University have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn, which could help fight vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, as well as macular degeneration right here at home.

The human body can convert provitamin A carotenoids into vitamin A, which plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year, half of whom die within a year of losing their eyesight, according to the World Health Organization. Insufficient carotenoids may also contribute to macular degeneration in the elderly, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly in Europe and the U.S.

“This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids – and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics,” said Professor of Agronomy Torbert Rocheford. Identifying the genes that determine carotenoid levels in corn kernels will help plant breeders develop novel biofortifed corn varieties for Africa and the U.S. The dark orange color of these corn varieties also makes them more culturally acceptable to consumers in African countries where yellow corn is generally fed only to animals, Rocheford said.

Note that he said this can be done by “natural” plant breeding, not “transgenics” which is another word for genetic modification. Genetically modified Golden Rice, which has been around for a decade now, was developed specifically to address vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries yet has been maligned and protested by GMO critics. Let’s hope they can speed up the “natural” process and get orange corn out there before too many more hundreds of thousands of children die.

Read more about orange corn from Purdue.

Late Night Laughs Point Out Ignorance, Pompous Propaganda

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel dished up a hearty helping of laughs seasoned with some satirical truth in a segment based on the Consumer Reports story on GMOs published earlier this week.

In the segment, a man-on-the-street crew asks farmers market consumers two questions. First, do they avoid GMOs? Second, do they know what the acronym GMO actually means?

For anyone who has tracked the correlation between common opinion on GMOs and factual knowledge of this technology, the results will seem predictable. For anyone who has followed just mainstream media coverage and first confronts this realization during a late night comedy show, they may be a bit shocking.

Why? While the vast majority of interviewees gaspingly reply that they try and avoid GMOs with great aplomb, all but one questioned has no clue what GMOs are. Those asked have only vague, convoluted explanations for their avoidance.

To watch the clip, click here.

The point has been made many times, but it seems to need reiteration. The more your know about GMO, the less likely you are to buy into bogus anti-GMO brainwashing.

Get real answers to you GMO questions by clicking here.

Farm News of the Future

farm-radioOnce upon a time, when farming was a primary occupation in our country, listening to farm news on the radio was virtually a ritual, particularly in the morning and during the noon hour.

Today so much of our news is received on our computers and smartphones that agricultural reporting has gone increasingly digital. We have farm publications in the radio and TV business and farm broadcasters online doing podcasts and print versions of their stories. What’s next?

Well, if you use your smartphone to listen to music through such applications as Pandora and I Heart Radio, getting farm news the same way is just around the corner. Farm Journal Broadcast has just announced the upcoming launch of “My Farm Radio,” a 24/7 digital mobile radio channel focused on providing news, weather, markets and entertainment for farmers and ranchers.

The “My Farm Radio” app is scheduled to launch at the beginning of November and will allow listeners to pick and choose what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, featuring both a “live stream” experience and programs “on-demand”.

Farm Journal is betting this will be a winner for farmers and ranchers – what do you think?

How’s Your Harvest Going?

il-harvest-14The corn harvest nationwide is running behind average for this time of year and just a bit ahead of last year, but the crop continues to look good.

According to USDA, the condition of the corn crop remains 74% good to excellent, 60% of the crop is mature, and 12% was harvested as of Sunday. All states are behind normal pace in the harvest.

Meanwhile, there’s more grain in the bins than there was a year ago at this time. USDA’s newest Grain Stocks report shows 1.24 billion bushels of old crop corn in all positions as of September 1, up 50 percent from the same time last year. Of the total stocks, 462 million bushels of corn were stored on farms and 774 million bushels were stored off the farm, up 68 and 42 percent from the prior year, respectively. The U.S. corn disappearance totaled 2.62 billion bushels during June-August, up from 1.95 billion bushels during the same period last year.

The Illinois Corn Growers Facebook page has been showcasing harvest photos from around the state, including this one here submitted by Jordan Miles. So, how is your harvest going?

And don’t forget — You can enter your harvest pictures in the competition at Fields-of-Corn.com.

Increasing DDGS Exports

2014-export-exchangeComing up October 20-22 in Seattle is the 2014 Export Exchange sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association and the U-S Grains Council to bring international coarse grain buyers and U.S. suppliers together, with a particular focus on the ethanol co-product distillers grains for livestock feed. More than 180 international buyers and end-users are expected to meet and build relationships with more than 300 domestic suppliers in attendance at this event held every two years.

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the Export Exchange is more important than ever right now. “We export about 25% of our distiller’s feed and in the past more than half of that has gone to China,” said Dinneen. “China is making export of distiller’s feed to that country today a bit more challenging today with their concerns about GMO.”

Expressing his opinion that China’s concerns are primarily about price and politics, Dinneen said this year’s Export Exchange will include an educational session on biotechnology, “but more importantly we’ll have buyers from more than 33 other countries” to build markets beyond China.

Registration is still open for the event and USGC Industry Relations Director Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey talks about what is planned for this year’s Export Exchange in this interview. Interview with Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey

Know Your Enemy

carter-africaIt was 1997 when former President Jimmy Carter penned an op-ed for The Washington Times entitled “Forestalling Famine With Biotechnology.” He noted then that “extremist groups in affluent nations have begun to mount attacks against plant biotechnology” and that they were also concerned “that fertilizer and pesticides will “poison” the earth’s farmland, even when used in moderate amounts.”

Carter called that thinking “dangerously misguided” and said it would be “grievous that we have within our power the ability to prevent starvation, but fail to act on it.”

“Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is,” he concluded.

That was 17 years ago when agricultural biotechnology was in its very infancy. A new study has taken a look at livestock productivity and health data from more than 100 billion animals covering a 29 year period from prior to 1996 when all animal feed was non-GMO, and the years since then as use has increased to more than 90%. The study done by animal biotechnology specialist Alison Van Eenennaam with the University of California-Davis conclusively found no abnormal trends in livestock health since GMO crops became commonly used as livestock feed. “Although this is field data, it really supports the wealth of scientific studies that have shown no deleterious effects from consuming genetically engineered feed in our livestock populations,” said Van Eenennaam. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences has just undertaken a comprehensive independent study of genetically engineered crops, sponsored in part by USDA.

The question is, will any results matter to the anti-GMO extremist groups that Carter warned about in 1997, to whom no amount of scientific evidence on the safety of genetically engineered crops will suffice. These groups consistently claim research on GMOs has been limited, is inconclusive, or is biased because it was funded by the industry.

These activist organizations are the enemies of biotechnology and arguably the enemies of our world’s very future. “Without adequate food supplies at affordable prices, we cannot expect world health or peace,” Carter said in 1997. The world could well be a better place if we truly turned our swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks and got on with the business of feeding hungry people.



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