In an era of compartmentalized media, USA Today holds a unique position. A truly national newspaper with circulation only surpassed by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today reaches Americans across the country every day with bright graphics and its bold layout.
This Friday, American Ethanol and NASCAR celebrated hitting the three million mile mark in a very public way running a full-page announcement on the back cover of the popular daily’s Sports section. Drawing readers in with a visually arresting image showing the American Ethanol flag flying high over the pulse pounding racetrack action, the spread also provided exciting information about what switching to a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend has done for the sport and could do for American drivers off track too.
For two years, every vehicle in every NASCAR race has raced toward victory with E15 in the tank. Through the American Ethanol and NASCAR partnership, the nation’s top drivers, whether they race in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Trucks series, have trusted their tanks to this sustainable, renewable biofuel blend.
What have they found?
Running on a 15 percent ethanol blend has not only reduced their emissions by 20 percent, it has actually increased their horsepower. Ethanol provides the performance NASCAR drivers demand and fuels the pulse quickening action that keeps fans on the edge of their seats.
American Ethanol and NASCAR want to share the great news and celebrate this achievement with NASCAR fans and environmentalists alike. Whether reading USA Today in a hotel lobby or at the end of a driveway, sports fans across the country are joining in the celebration of America’s homegrown sport’s successes running on its homegrown fuel.
Imagine how differently a day at the office might have been in 1961. A secretarial pool takes the place of word processing software. Googling a subject might take hours and physical labor sifting through back editions of the paper or encyclopedias and still yield limited results. Email communications require a phone call, paper memo or even a written letter sent through courier or mail without the Internet. Once out of the office, communication ceases unless a coworker dials a landline nearby.
While most people have capriciously wished for an end to modern technology following a particularly annoying late-night text from an employer, only the smallest minority actually advocates a return to the workplace technology of 50 years ago.
So, why do so many people outside of agriculture think that a return to equally antiquated technology would actually improve farming?
Recently, a column in Stock and Land magazine examined the impact of a large-scale return to the farming methods of our forefathers, a romantic notion with dismal consequences. Instead of growing a crop large enough to share with the world, U.S. farmers would produce only enough food to feed half of the country’s current population. Maintaining levels of dairy, meat and milk production would require two-thirds more land. Increased environmental degradation and social unrest further complicate this already hungry scenario.
Simply, removing technology and scientific advances from modern life seriously damages productivity and effectiveness whether done in corporate or agrarian America. Notably, the negative impact on farming creates a food shortage thus depriving an incredible number of those in towns and cities of the sustenance needed to survive.
Instead of buying into the soft-focus vision of farming that replaces knowledge and understanding with a vague sense of nostalgia, get the facts. Question the farmers and ranchers who produce food about how and why they use the technology and practices that they do. Look at the bounty of healthy options U.S. agriculture offers. Become part of national discussion about food that seeks a better tomorrow instead of a rose-tinted version of the past.
In a summer plagued by extreme weather, farmers along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers watched as water swelled from its banks and, eventually, covered many of their fields. These farmers continue working to salvage the 400,000 acres lost to the flood. This is about more than flooded farms and homes though– this is about people’s lives and livelihoods.
2011 has been a devastating year for farmers along the rivers. In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up three levees in southeast Missouri, flooding 200 square miles of homes, fields and businesses along the banks of the Mississippi River. Shortly thereafter, they released historic amounts of water from the Missouri River Reservoir System, flooding an estimated 400,000 acres of prime farmland for four months. Stress, frustration and a sense of hopeless rolled in with the water.
The Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council are working along these growers that the government does not turn its back on the farms that they chose to flood. Through a new documentary, Underwater and Overlooked: Crisis on the Missouri River, the groups bring the facts to the forefront, holding the Corps accountable for the 2011 flood along the Missouri River banks and pushing them to take steps to ensure this never happens again.
The Army Corps of Engineers made the decisions that changed the lives of Missouri farmers. Now is the time to hear their stories, understand this tragedy and join with those supporting the victims as they rebuild. Click here to see what actually happened in Missouri’s farmlands as they sat flooded for 16 weeks. When the water goes down, the cameras go away and the spotlight dims, keep this story in the public eye until the levees are repaired and flood management is recognized as the top priority by the Corps.
Yesterday, like most Mondays, tweets linking to vegetarian recipes and reminders of “Meatless Mondays” littered the screen. Armchair activists urged their online minions to help save the planet from either incinerating or freezing by simply selecting meat-free options weekly on a day designated solely due to a public love of alliteration. Like clockwork, retweets of the original musings of the more prominent easy-fix promoters added to the cacophony. If logging off were an option, it would have been appealing.
Written by Dr. Judith Capper, an assistant professor of Dairy Science at Washington State University, the article looks at how, because no one took the time to look at the studies for indications that eating meat on Mondays can make a key impact on climate change, an industry that produces an affordable, quality food option which the majority of Americans enjoy comes off on social media as providing a socially irresponsible product.
This week, take back the Twitterverse. Spread the word that no one should base decisions on 140 characters or less. Maligning an entire industry based upon misinformation propagated due to laziness is socially irresponsible. Send out the aforementioned link and promote real science. Take a moment to ask for credible, current information on the environmental impact of livestock production.
From Main Street to MTV, everyone is talking about food. Unfortunately, this conversation does not often include the people who grow it. CommonGround Conversations creates a space for America’s farm families, and the people who support them, to share the story. Here, we have a meeting ground that will let you discover the values and hard work that underlie our nation’s abundant, safe harvest. Help us share our story! By submitting photos of yourself, family and friends waving at the camera, join your voice with like-minded people to open a national dialogue saying, “Hi! I support farmers. Let’s talk about how we grow our food.”
Now’s your chance to join in on the CommonGround movement and let your voice be heard.
Right now, the movement is growing. Help us find the CommonGround between the people who grow food and those who buy it. Start today on CommonGround’s Facebook fan page. Here’s how to join the conversation:
Some people may complain about the price of corn when it gets above around $4 a bushel, but there are corn connoisseurs who are willing to pay the equivalent of hundreds per bushel for special varieties that contribute to unique and delightful dishes.
Iroquois White Corn has an unusual earthy flavor and a varied texture that chefs love and it’s worth about $840 a bushel for Marty and Kris Travis of Spence Farm in Livingston County, Illinois.
Marty and Kris started growing the heirloom corn several years ago. “We harvest it, dry it and then we roast it over an open fire, shell it and run it through our stone mill to make a roasted corn meal,” Marty said. “We sell that to the general public and to chefs for $15 a pound.”
The Travis’ have also started growing a red flint corn from Italy this year, a typical polenta corn that took them two years to find and is in high demand with chefs right now. “The red corn has this incredible, floral flavor that is unlike any of the corns that we’ve ever tasted,” said Marty.
Kris and Marty are seventh generation farmers and their operation is the oldest family farm in Livingston County, IL. The unique farming operation was a stop on the Conservation Technology Information Center Indian Creek Watershed Project field tour last week. Watch them talk about their specialty corn crops and how they’ve found a market for just about every part of the plant!
A friend of mine told me he thought he heard a strange sound coming from Washington, DC today. He wasn’t quite sure what it was. Sounded
vaguely like a cat being stepped on but he was suspicious it was the sound of Congress playing the fiddle while the capitol or at least reason burned.
For non-history buffs this is a reference to the Roman emperor Nero who is infamously known for playing the fiddle while Rome burned to the ground. Seems like a rather fitting historical reference after Congress has spent a solid week debating legislation that would hamper alternative fuel expansion while giving petroleum a pass.
However, he might have been mistaken. The mournful sound might have been the sound of the recession train coming around the bend again
with OPEC steering the engine. The cartel of oil-producing countries will have $1 trillion in revenues for the first time this year, benefiting from high prices that may cause a “double-dip recession,” according to the London Telegraph.
Oh my gosh….did they really just say “for the first time this year?” I guess that means we have been held up at the gas pumps for this mountain of cash before? Yes, we have, and it is time for the public’s short memory to stop.
Forecasts from the US government show that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose key members include Saudi Arabia and Iran, will collect a third more in revenues because prices have averaged $111 per barrel this year.
If you wondering what kind of catalyst it takes to cause another major recession before the last one is even purged from the memories of the still unemployed….this is pretty much it. We are rapidly running out of time to address our oil addiction in this country when our biggest export product is the U.S. greenback.
It is time to stop shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to energy and our economy. Want to turn the economy around, let’s start by addressing our energy enslavement. Downsize your ride, drive less, support any and all domestic energy alternatives like ethanol that work. And by all means, would somebody stop stepping on the cat!
For years, environmental activists have reinforced the negative impact that plastic bags, similar to those used in grocery stores, have upon the planet. These ubiquitous bags can sit in landfills for over 1,000 years. Now, people who love the planet and their dogs are championing a better option- corn-based biodegradable dog waste bags.
Here, ingenuity and U.S. farming collide to meet demand rooted in an urban problem, cleaning up after Fido. With the new bags, which programs such as the downtown St. Louis “Scoop the Poop” campaign are using, dog owners can rest assured knowing that they are keeping their city and their planet clean.
Farmers know how important caring for the land is. So enjoy walking Rex and don’t forget that farmers provide the fuel for innovative ways to improve the way we treat the earth every day.
It is interesting to note the group change.org, on their “Sustainable Food” web site takes issue with the new CommonGround campaign which seeks to give exposure to family farmers and their efforts to educate the public about food and the people who raise/grow it.
It is also ironic that if three “foodies” get together to offer their advice on how we should grow food in this country it is advocacy…a movement if you will. However, if a group of family farmers of all sizes and persuasions get together it instantly becomes that nebulous and evil “Big Ag.”
Chris Wilson, president of American Agri-Women, describes the effort well saying, “CommonGround is a program that builds bridges between the passionate women of America’s farms and their counterparts in America’s cities to dispel the misconceptions about our food and the people who grow it.”
There are numerous efforts today like Common Ground (from the Corn Farmers Coalition to The Hands That Feed Us) that seek to give a voice to family farmers. Doing so in an organized fashion and giving farm women an opportunity to be heard makes perfect sense. This public outreach effort is neither anti-sustainability, against social change or antagonistic.
Traditional farming is driving social change and has made incredible gains in environmental improvement and sustainability. In fact, all segments of Ag are moving more to the middle – saving soil, cutting pesticide and fertilizer applications, reducing carbon footprint – so it is really the rate of change that is at issue.
To continue to feed an additional 9 billion people by 2050 this speed of change will be critical to nourishing an expanding world population. Safe, abundant and affordable food is something that we can all agreement upon and is a core goal for all of the farmers supporting CommonGround.
“There are many misconceptions about agriculture in the media today, and we are working, as we have over the past 35 years, to be a voice for truth in communicating to others about agriculture,” Wilson says, so maybe it is the organized effort and the amplification of the message that is disturbing some who are used to dominating the conversation about food in this nation.
Thanks American Agri-Women for showing continued leadership and thanks for all the farmers supporting this important effort by contributing your hard-earned dollars.
Today’s guest blogger is Jeff Fowle a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He also writes a blog called Common Sense Agriculture.
I am writing in response to the opinion piece that was published in your Lifestyle section on October 11, 2010. It is sad that you would publish an article by an animal rights activist that paints every farm, ranch and animal facility with one broad brush of inaccuracy and fallacy. The vast majority of farmers and ranchers treat their animals humanely and respectfully. As a rancher and an active animal welfarist, I would like to share the following thoughts.
First, this is a personal issue for family farmers and ranchers like me. We consider our animals a part of our family and often spend more time caring for our animals than we spend with our families. We make sure our animals have the highest quality food, water and veterinary care; health is paramount. We also do our best to protect our animals from disease, competition, injury and predators.
Second, the writer makes it sound as though these practices are typical. Those of us involved in farming and ranching know that is not so. Without healthy, content animals, farmers and ranchers could not stay in business. We understand the importance of animal care in assuring safe and high-quality meat, milk and eggs for our communities. Some of us personally know our consumers, others do not, but we always make it a priority to ensure that the food we are raising is the best cared for and of the highest quality.
Third, farmers and ranchers are as disgusted as anyone by the abuse alleged in this opinion piece. If people are abusing animals, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. One incident of mishandling is one too many. There must be zero tolerance for inhumane animal treatment, period.
There are a lot of dedicated people who specialize in animal care, people like veterinarians, animal scientists and experts on animal well-being. Farmers and ranchers have been actively working with them to create quality-assurance programs that set guidelines for animal handling to eliminate stress, decrease risk of injury (to both animal and human) and ensure the highest quality of animal products for American consumers.
In closing, as a family rancher, I thank you for the opportunity to respond as an individual who depends on ensuring the health and welfare of the livestock I raise to be able to continue to provide a high quality, safe, wholesome and nutritious product.
Farmers and ranchers across the United States are telling their stories through videos, blogging and photos. Consumers can connect with them to see how they care for their animals and raise the safest food possible at http://www.agchat.org. You can contact Jeff here.