Posted By Mark December 21, 2009
If you farm or if you eat you will be affected by a lovely body of water many of us will never see called the Chesapeake Bay. This is because “The Bay” as it is known affectionately is being used as a test case or a template for how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will deal with watersheds across the nation. Unfortunately, those pushing the agenda blame many of the Bays woes on agriculture.
So, although this largely political fight will take place on the east coast, the ramifications are real and they may soon come to your city, town, village, burg and farm.
We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Virginia Grains Producers Association for taking the lead in this fight. The primary concern regarding the EPA process is the lack of complete data about current implementation of conservation practices already in place. The shortfall of real information significantly skews water quality reports and results in misleading pollution load reduction assignments for any one sector.
In recent testimony before the United States House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Molly Pugh, executive director of the Virginia Grain Producers Association (VGPA), stressed the actions growers have taken and are taking to be responsible stewards of their natural resources.
First and foremost, environmental goals cannot be addressed without assessing the effect on farm profitability. “VGPA has committed to working with all our partners including environment and government partners to achieve our region’s environmental goals and long-term farm profitability,” Pugh said in written testimony. “Our growers are committed to environmental stewardship and making their operations as efficient as possible. Reducing soil erosion, improving field efficiency of nutrient use and improving water quality are all goals that make our growers more profitable and improve the quality of the land on which they depend.” (more…)
Posted By Mark December 16, 2009
In what is being reported to be the busiest day to date at the UN Climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Darrin Ihnen had a private meeting with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The time was spent discussing NCGA’s perspective on climate change and several other pressing issues.
Key to the visit was NCGA’s reiterating the fact that there are serious concerns among our members with the cap-and-trade proposal in Congress. Ihnen noted that if significant progress for agriculture is not achieved in the legislation, we will come under increased pressure to oppose the bill outright.
NCGA continues to be a part of the debate and development of climate legislation in order to make it as farmer-friendly as possible but Ihnen, a farmer from South Dakota, pointed out it’s difficult to convince farmers that a new “green” economy will be good for them when the renewable fuel that we already produce comes under such regular attacks from the environmental community. (more…)
Posted By Mark December 14, 2009
Agriculture in the U.S. represents 7% of the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) problem but 20% of the potential solution, according to US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak. National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Darrin Ihnen, on hand to hear Sec. Vilsak speak at Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the Copenhagen at the Climate Change Conference, said the Secretary emphasized the linkage between climate change and food security as the most important challenge facing agriculture. According to Vilsack, our efforts should focus on three areas — research, adaptation and mitigation.
Vilsak, the keynote speaker at Ag Day at the University of Copehagen, also was heard to remark:
- Farmers should evaluate new business models based on carbon mitigation.
- Governments should drive environmental markets
- Sustainable farming is not just applicable to small operations. Large farms can be sustainable.
- The new research arm at USDA, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will focus significant resources on climate change adaptation.
- USDA Extension Service will need greater resources to help farmers adapt
- We need to move away from carbon based fertilizers
- Food aid for the developing world should mean more than just providing food but also sharing technologies and modern practices to help growers become more productive
- Post-harvest storage facilities will become increasingly important to limit waste in our production systems
More than 74 percent of the agriculture-based GHG emissions come from developing countries, says Ohio Corn Growers Executive Director Dwayne Siekman in his blog from Copehagen.
“It is obvious that U.S. farmers have been and will continue to do their job, but the rest of the world believes the U.S. should pay to bring everyone to their level, and that developing countries want the U.S. to shoulder much of the load in GHG mitigation,” he said. (more…)
Posted By Mark December 9, 2009
Agriculture is broken. Our food is making us fat and killing us. Farming is horrible for the environment and I am having a bad hair day!
Who are these elitist whiners that seem hell bent on convincing us all that we are doing things wrong when it comes to feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves and even fueling our cars. To listen to this loud and often pompous minority you would think the sky is indeed falling Chicken Little…or maybe I should free range Chicken Little or even say Lettuce Little to be more politically correct.
Ok bozos, listen up….U.S. agriculture is a finely tuned machine that is the envy of the world because we are productive, increasingly efficient, and are improving our environmental footprint every day. I don’t have to read or believe the tripe you are selling just because you have wrestled the public megaphone away from the real experts.
In the past 25 years, U.S. farmers have been able to boost corn production by more than 40% due to improved varieties, better production practices and equipment advances, all while reducing their environmental impact. These and other similar advances have enabled hundreds of people, especially in developing countries, to greatly improve their diets.
So, note to Michael Pollan, Martha Stewart, Michael Mohr, Tim Searchinger and all the other self proclaimed experts in the world who wouldn’t know a cow pie from a moon pie if they were ankle deep in it…lots of people read romance novels, watch Real Housewives of (choose your location) but nobody takes any of it seriously. The unwashed masses think you are mildly amusing too.
You might generate a good discussion over the water cooler or prompt a laugh or two, but at the end of the day, nobody is making life changing decisions based on your self -proclaimed expertise.
Here are some real facts to facilitate your next discussion regarding our largest and most important industry:
98 percent of farms are family farms; corn yields have doubled since 1970 on fewer acres; amount of land to produce a bushel of corn down 37 percent; energy used to produce a bushel down 37%; emissions per bushel down 30%…and on and on.
The truth is we need to double food production by 2050 to feed our growing world. And we are well on our way to doing so while using the same or fewer resources.
The real food experts promote eating in moderation and from the four food groups because it is the wise thing to do, makes us healthier and with some exercise will increase our life span. With that said, get off my over fed backside. I hope your 15 minutes of fame are about done. This is America where if I choose to live on a diet of Nachos, Chicken wings, and a lard sandwich I can do so with a clear conscience.
I like going to bed each night knowing I have spent another day on this planet with freedom of choice, even if that means exercising bad choices. I sleep peacefully knowing that this Republic still works and those of the nay saying ilk are wasting a lot of energy constructing a food fad built on false assumptions. The American public is very good at smelling a rat.
For myself and the rest of the overfed masses I intend to protest too. I will not write a manifesto, blow up a state-of-the art research facility that could save thousands of lives, or even wear a funny mascot costume of biotech corn or a cute pink piggy. I intend to eat Ding Dongs and wash it down with soft drinks loaded with high fructose corn syrup until I have to buy a bigger size of pants. Democracy is cool and somewhere in the fine print of the Constitution it must say something about freedom to eat what I want, right after that freedom-of-speech-thingy!
Posted By Mark November 17, 2009
Apparently, last week’s International Energy Agency (IEA) numbers regarding future oil supplies were fudged to protect the innocent or at least our frail economic recovery. According to a whistleblower who whispered in the ear of The Guardian, the world is much closer to running out of oil that we think.
So, what is to be gained or lost by such skullduggery? Stockbrokers, bankers and oil investors jumping out of windows…sure, but what is the downside? (Insert sarcasm here).
The comments in the UK’s respected Guardian stated that the IEA has inflated its 2009 report of oil reserves for fear that the truth would shock world markets into a reactionary panic. IEA is alleged to have put its role as an industry watchdog in the kennel for the time being to fend off a potential buying panic…even at the risk of being exposed for overplaying supplies and chances for finding increased reserves.
On face value this might seem to be based on at least a modicum of twisted logic, but what are the ramifications for world governments who govern, plan and even invest based on IEA’s data? Consider that they also develop their own energy policies based on such essential information.
According to the Guardian’s high-level IEA source, estimates of global oil production growing from its current level of 83 million barrels per day to 105 million barrels per day are as bogus as the Tooth Fairy. The source said many IEA officials believe even 90 million barrels per day is unreachable, but the agency will not lower its forecast because it fears panic could spread through financial markets.
If we have indeed entered the “Peak Oil Zone” (that strange and unfamiliar place where we actually feel the pressure to get real about “energy policy” not oil policy) then it is time to fess up like an alcoholic at an AA meeting. “Hi my name is Joe Consumer and I have a petroleum problem.” (more…)
Posted By Cindy October 21, 2009
The concept of taxing sodas seems to have hit a sweet spot with some as a means to pay for health care.
Always the leader in ideas like this, California plans to hold hearings in the state legislature next month that may lead to taxes or fees on soda as a way of addressing obesity and healthcare problems in the state. A hearing of the Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes will “hear from experts regarding the growing scientific evidence of links between soda consumption and obesity.” Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) says they need “to do more to educate the public about the health effects of drinking too much soda and consider options for reducing soda consumption among children.”
That sounds all well and good. From the federal level all the way down to the local level there is increasing emphasis on educating people to make healthier food choices, which would includes drinking more water or milk and less sugary drinks. But, whether taxes on soda would be used for better education or to pay for health care costs associated with obesity, the losers will be consumers – especially those with the lowest incomes. An additional tax on beverages would most heavily impact the people who are struggling the most in the current economy. A tax of a penny an ounce would add 12 to 20 cents on the average soda.
You may have seen the ads that Americans Against Food Taxes (AAFT) has been running opposing the concept of taxing food or beverages. AAFT notes that the food and beverage industry has already been working to reduce childhood obesity through innovation, nutrition education, and encouraging physical activity. Many, if not most, schools have removed soda machines and have limited the amount of high sugar, high fat foods and beverages in school lunch programs.
The biggest problem with the whole taxing concept is that it will probably not do anything to deter consumption, which is allegedly the goal, especially among the lower income groups. Proof of this is cigarette taxes. The prevalence of smoking is higher in those who have spent less time in school (9-11 years – incidence 38%) and those who are living on the poverty line (33%). It is very likely that a soda tax would have little impact – probably none at all – on the people who are most at risk for obesity-related illnesses.
You can join the fight and support AAFT’s efforts by going to www.nofoodtaxes.com.
Posted By Mark October 19, 2009
We live in a new media age where online sources from videos to blogs can carry as much credibility as traditional news sources. Online communications carry the big benefit of having the potential to reach a targeted community with lightning speed, do so in a cost effective way, and it gives you more control over content.
The National Corn Growers Association is making a conscious effort to embrace this revolution with the most recent example being two new videos exposing two common myths: 1. Family farmers have been replaced by corporate Ag and 2. Sustainable farming practices are the purview of organic farmers exclusively.
Actually 98% of the nation’s corn is grown by America’s family farmers which are the most productive in the world. These operations are also more sustainable each year, getting bigger crops with fewer resources and less environmental impact. Instead of being proud of these entrepreneurs and the generations of invaluable knowledge they possess, some misguided folks seek to vilify them and make the masses fear their food and the farmers who produce it.
NCGA is fighting back and you can help. The latest effort is a fun and attention getting email with a Halloween theme and links to the two videos that tell people they shouldn’t be afraid of their food. We have a great story to tell.
If you would like to spread the word send the link above to your friends, family, neighbors, leaders and decision makers…pretty much anybody since we all eat and have a stake in the future of our food and the people who produce it! The effect of this compounding email could be significant. If you are interested in receiving an email with the poster pictured here and an appropriate message you can forward to your contacts, please send a request to email@example.com and we’ll send it right to you.
Posted By Cindy October 4, 2009
The popular corn herbicide The popular corn herbicide Atrazine has been used safely by farmers for 50 years now, but it is facing renewed attacks by environmental activists. The Natural Resources Defense Council has formally requested that the EPA cancel atrazine’s registration and revoke all atrazine tolerance levels, which is bringing corn growers to its defense.
Last week, growers met with Syngenta Crop Protection officials about the challenges being faced by atrazine. A roundtable meeting was held at the National Corn Growers Association office, followed by another meeting at the farm of Missouri Corn Growers Association President Keith Witt in Warrenton, Mo. “The science shows atrazine is safe,” Witt said. “We will continue to fight the environmental activists’ misguided agenda. If they are at successful at this, what’s next? Aspirin?”
We can probably thank the New York Times August story “Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass?” for scaring up new fears about this very safe and affordable herbicide. Read this great commentary by Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health addressing the NYT article.
Here’s a quote from Dr. Whelan – “How much “weed killer” in your water is safe? Well, how much arsenic in your natural baked potato is safe? (Arsenic occurs naturally in potatoes.) The mere ability to detect a chemical in a substance — in food, air, water, consumer products, or even human tissue — does not signal that there is a public health hazard.”
She also notes, “You would drown from drinking the huge amounts of water needed for you to be affected by trace levels of atrazine in any American water supply.” She calls the whole atrazine issue a “bogus risk” that is part of a general wave of “chemophobia” – scaring people about “chemicals” in their air, food, water, and consumer products.
It just means farmers have to fight harder than ever to keep the tools they need to feed the world.
Posted By Mark October 1, 2009
If you need a break from reading all the negative headlines, or hearing about all the things that are wrong with our society, our economy and even our very lifestyle…you came to the right place. This blog will provide nothing but positive and uplifting information for you today if you are a corn farmer.
At a time when membership in all kinds of organizations is declining, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and affiliated states are proud to offer some good, in fact very good news. We will enter October with a new all-time high membership total of 36,378.
The real significance of this accomplishment for growers is what this trend reflects. It most likely reflects some of the concerns growers have about the serious issues facing agriculture today, but it also is sign of optimism that NCGA is in the fight, getting their hands dirty, and making a difference.
For many organizations Oct. 1, marks the beginning of a new fiscal year so it seems like a good time to take stock of the proactive approach being employed by NCGA. Here is a peek at what NCGA’s farmers leaders are tackling just this week: (more…)
Posted By Mark September 25, 2009
Michael Pollen, author of such widely read but hotly debated books as “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,: and “Omnivore’s Dilemma” got a nice dose of farmer activism when he spoke at the University of Wisconsin last night. A group of about 200 Wisconsin farmers, Ag supporters, and UW Ag students and faculty also showed up to the lecture wearing green t-shirts printed with the slogan, “In Defense of Farming: Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank Farmers.”
The appearance seems to have proven a point for those in agriculture who feel they are getting pounded on every side on multiple issues and they have no control, no way to make a difference. If you were ready to throw your hands in the air and give up you might want to read this story.
Although political and social activism goes against the grain for most farmers, it may be time to reassess this aversion based on the impact WI Aggies had on Journalist Pollen’s normal presentation. The result appears to have been a more subdued if not more sensitive Michael Pollen. (more…)