Corn Commentary

It’s Candy Corn Time!

candy-cornAt the same time of year when combines are running in the corn fields, billions of kernels of candy corn are being popped in mouths around the country.

That’s right, I said billions. According to the National Confectioners Association, 35 million pounds of candy corn are sold around Halloween, which is approximately 9 billion individual kernels of corn. That’s kind of scary!

Candy corn has been around for more than 100 years. George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderlee became the first to produce the candy. The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection in 1900 and still produces candy corn today.

The main ingredient in candy corn actually is corn – corn syrup, that is. And the NCA points out that it was first made when most of America was still farming country. They don’t know if it was the fact that so many Americans had farm experience at that time, if urban dwellers found it charming or if it was some combination that made it so popular, but people went nuts over it.

And today, October 30 is National Candy Corn Day, so enjoy some of the sweet, tri-colored treats to celebrate – but save some for the trick-or-treaters!

Best of Times for Agriculture?

Dr. Lowell CatlettCorn prices may be lower but eternal optimist Dr. Lowell Catlett says it’s still the best of times right now for agriculture.

“Historically, there’s never been a better time to be in agriculture,” said Catlett this week at the Bayer CropScience 2014 Corn and Soybean Future Forum being held in Germany. “The world has never known so much wealth, we’ve gone up 20 fold in the last 20 years.”

And that means more protein, which is good for corn and soybean producers. “We got to double meat protein production because of world wealth in the next 25 years,” said Catlett. “And if we double that, we’ve got to do it with some feed products with animals that are grown intensively – better health, better feed efficiency, and less impact on the environment.”

Listen to a quick interview with Dr. Catlett from Germany here: Interview with Dr. Catlett

Of course, if you have ever seen Dr. Catlett in action, you know he is not only an optimist, but a funny and informative entertainer – listen to an excerpt of his remarks this week here: Dr. Lowell Catlett Remarks

Export Exchange Tours Visit Midwest

badger-visitMany of the international teams visiting the United States last week for the 2014 Export Exchange also participated in tours before and after the event to see ethanol plants and farms across the Midwest.

Badger State Ethanol in Wisconsin had the honor of hosting a team of buyers from the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The KSA/Jordan team included companies representing the major dairy and poultry companies and major importers of feed grains in both countries and have been buyers of DDGS in the last couple of years.

exex-tour-ken-ksThe Kansas Corn Growers hosted a Latin American trade team at two Kansas farms, the BNSF container facility at Edgerton and the East Kansas Agri Energy ethanol plant at Garnett to learn about corn, ethanol and DDGS. One of the farmers they visited with was former National Corn Growers Association president Ken McCauley.

Held every other year by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Export Exchange brings together more than 200 international buyers with U.S. sellers of corn, sorghum, barley, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Over the course of three days of events and the pre- and post-tours, these individuals not only do business directly but also make connections to facilitate future sales.

When It Comes to Labels, WSJ Gets It Right

Today, The Wall Street Journal took a bold stance against the pro-labeling lobbies in Oregon and Colorado. Calling upon voters to exercise both common sense and rely upon scientific knowledge, “The Organic Food Protectionists” reveals the reasoning behind state-level GMO-labeling bills – and it isn’t as Populist as proponents would purport.

Opening with the brilliant summation “if you can’t beat them, ask the government to stigmatize them,” the article probes the true motivation behind the organic-farming interests that champion these bills. Explaining the issues involved, from protectionism to a lack of scientific basis for their claims, the WSJ takes on bills, and the big money covertly spent to back them, which would force labels meant to market organics at the expense of consumers.

Scrutinizing what is truly at stake in this debate, the article examines how labeling is both already available in the form of USDA-certified organic status to the long-term goals of labeling proponents, mainly a permanent moratorium on a safe, effective technology.

Arguing for a move away from “scare tactics,” the author urges support for sensible, scientific standards – something that would actually benefit anyone who eats.

The message is clear. Much of the pro-labeling, pro-organic hype depends upon consumer fear to drive exorbitant profits.

The answer is clear as well. Vote against Oregon Measure 92 and Colorado Proposition 105.

DDGS Supply Demand Picture

2014-export-exchangeHundreds of international buyers from dozens of countries heard about the supply-demand picture for the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) this week at the 2014 Export Exchange.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” says Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsCooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Corn Growers in the Sunbelt

ncga-sunbeltThe National Corn Growers Association had a presence last week at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia for the first time.

NCGA president Chip Bowling of Maryland visited with attendees at the event, including USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden who grew up on a Georgia peanut farm, and got to see some crops he doesn’t normally see. “I got to see some cotton and a few peanuts,” Bowling told Randall Weiseman with Southeast AgNet during an interview at Sunbelt.

Bowling noted that corn acreage has been increasing in the southeast. “In the last couple years, when corn prices shot up there for awhile, we started seeing more corn acres in the south,” he said. “We are growing a fair amount now – about a billion and a half bushels – which is way up from what it used to be.”

Listen to Randall’s interview with Chip here: Southeast AgNet interview with NCGA president Chip Bowling

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



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