Corn Commentary

Scouting for Truth: Part 1

First of Two Parts

If you listen to the Girl Scouts, you start to hear some pretty strange things lately.  The organization that helped girls build useful skills and fostered healthy self images for generations has expanded its range of activities. Now, in addition to teaching girls skills like camping or sewing, Girl Scouts teaches misinformation about agriculture and promotes an anti-corn agenda.

For their “Senior Journey,” scouts can now select an option called “Sow What? It’s Your Planet-Love It!”  Theoretically, teaching young girls often completely disconnected from the farm where their food comes from and how it is grown should be positive and fun.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts have their facts wrong.

In the manual for the project, the Girl Scouts attack traditional agriculture, rouse long-dead arguments over food prices and propagate baseless accusations against high fructose corn syrup.

Here’s one example: “When you grow only one crop, a disease or pest can wipe out your entire harvest.  Therefore single-crop farmers often rely heavily on chemicals to control insects and protect crops.”

In reality, farmers today use far fewer pesticides and insecticides than they did even 20 years ago.  As growers continue to adopt hybrids with insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant traits, they have greatly reduced the need for synthetic applications of herbicides and insecticides.  The family farmers who comprise 95 percent of the farms in America strive to use fewer chemicals to produce a healthy, abundant crop.

But the Girl Scouts do not celebrate the achievements of our nation’s farmers.  Instead, they make statements that consistently prove they are ignorant of corn farmers’ ability continually produce record harvests and meet the growing need for food, feed, fuel and fiber.

The Girl Scouts allege that “growing biofuels takes away land from growing food…that has created rising food prices around the world.  Which has hurt poor people most?”  Looking at the numbers instead of using inflammatory rhetoric shows a different story.

Corn growers are continually growing more corn through higher yields.  In 2009, growers produced a record harvest of 13.1 billion bushels. Advances in techniques and technologies allow growers to meet growing demand without increasing acreage.

These higher yields also help keep prices low.  In fact over the past three years, the amount of corn used for ethanol production has risen continually while the average farm price for corn has actually fallen.  In 2007, only 3 billion bushels of corn went into ethanol production and, at that time, the farm price for corn averaged $4.20 per bushel.  By 2009, 4.4 billion bushels of corn went into ethanol production and farm prices for corn had steadily declined to an average of $3.60 per bushel.

Additionally, ethanol plants actually produce distillers grains, a key component in much livestock feed, and actually utilize the same corn for feed and fuel.  Given the facts about feed, corn production and prices, it becomes apparent that the Girl Scouts woefully misstate the situation by blaming ethanol for rising food costs.

The misinformation does not end with false accusations against livestock and ethanol though.  The Girl Scouts go on to blast corn usage in food, particularly as high fructose corn syrup.  Think about the irony of that, and check back tomorrow for a full account. They make a lot of money selling products laden with HFCS and other processed corn products.