Corn Commentary

Happy Tax Day!

Seriously, who says that? Nobody, that’s who. Still, it’s one of those two sure things in life – but the other one only happens to us once while taxes happen every year!

apr15Taxes were appropriately part of the agenda last week during hearings and press conferences on Capitol Hill.

During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on tax issues, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman testified that long-standing tax provisions should be made permanent, including Section 179 small business expensing which allows farmers and ranchers to expense certain purchases of assets. “Farm Bureau supports maintaining that with a cap of $500,000 per year. In other words, you could buy up to $500,000 worth of assets and be able to expense that amount in the first year, which would certainly help you bear the brunt of getting those assets to use in your business,” said Stallman.

That 500-thousand dollar break expired at the end of last year, along with many other provisions, but House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan has said he is open to making some of them permanent. “We’re the only country in the world that has big pieces of its tax policy that expires, we now call those extenders,” said Camp. “We literally let them expire for a year, then we retroactively put them in place and then they go forward a year.”

During an Americans for Tax Reform press conference after that hearing, Camp indicated he thought the expensing provision should be among those to be made permanent. “Some items are very good, whether it’s the expensing issue or research and development tax credit,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work on those and have markups in committee to see which of these policies we can make permanent.”

More “extenders” include tax credits for biodiesel, advanced biofuels and wind energy, which are now part of Senate legislation recently passed out of the finance committee.

Who Wants to Deal with Anti-GMO Thugs?

Why are anti-GMO activists so thuggish in social media? We saw this with Cheerios, when they all focused their unrighteous indignation on that relatively harmless breakfast cereal’s Facebook page. And when General Mills slightly altered the ingredients (and nutrition content) of the cereal, they did not relent but continued their vitriol. Now it’s time for Rep. Mike Pompeo to feel their wrath, as it was leaked out in DC media that he might file a bill striving to make sense of GMO labeling.

Is it wrong to call them thugs? I don’t think so. Under Rep. Pompeo’s innocuous Facebook post seeking summer interns, posted March 27, one finds well over 200 comments about GMOs, breaking a cardinal social rule about commenting on posts – keeping them germane to the subject. Among those comments one can find numerous examples of immature name calling (traitor! corrupt pig!), obscenities, ungrammatical use of exclamation points (one comment had six!!!!!!), SHOUTING VIA CAPITALIZATION, and of course stretching the truth – both a little and a lot.

Don’t these social media meanies realize it harms their cause a little to look like raving lunatics? As much as we may want to try to have a real thoughtful conversation, the tone and volume of their rants sadly make it hard to even want to have that sort of dialogue.

Ag Day Celebrates America’s Family Farmers

ag_dayIt can seem like everyone has a “day.” From margaritas to ravioli, calendars could become a dizzying disaster trying to keep on top of what is being “celebrated” every day of the year. Today is different though. Today, America celebrates the American icons that provide abundant food, feed and fuel. Today, we celebrate farmers.

Officially, Ag Day was created to recognize and celebrate the abundance produced by agriculture. Every year, agricultural associations, universities, companies, government agencies and many others across the country join in a wide variety of activities designed to bring the story of farmers and ranchers to the forefront. In 2014, the achievements of America’s family farmers certainly warrant a celebration.

America’s corn farmers recovered from a massive drought in 2012 to produce a record corn crop in 2013. Growing more than 13.9 billion bushels of corn, they showed the resilience and resolve indicative of our national character.

To learn more about the 2013 corn crop, click here.

In Washington, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, of which NCGA is a founding member, is taking a leadership role in bringing these and other accomplishments to light. This afternoon, USFRA held a panel discussion focusing on the next generation of American farmers and ranchers. Discussing what it means to be a farmer or rancher taking over responsibility for their family business in today’s environment, the participants brought the challenges and opportunities facing the future of ag to light.

On Wednesday evening, USFRA brings this discussion to life by hosting a preview of the new feature-length documentary, Farmland. The film, directed by Oscar and Emmy winner James Moll, takes an intimate look at the lives of six farmers and ranchers in their 20s. These young farmers have all taken responsibility for running their farming operations. Following the film, an intimate Q&A session will allow attendees to dig more deeply into their unique and fascinating situations.

To view a trailer of Farmland, click here.

Ag Day celebrates agriculture and, in doing so, it celebrates the American traditions of individualism and excellence that made our nation what it is today. So, maybe take a moment to hug a farmer as many may suggest. Just ask them first, they will still be hard at work and may need to wash up first.

Dr. Borlaug to Join Statuary Hall

borlaug-statueNational Agriculture Day celebrations in Washington DC this year just happen to fall on March 25, the centennial anniversary date of the Father of the Green Revolution. As a fitting tribute, the State of Iowa will install a bronze statue of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol on that very day.

Each state is allowed to have two statues of notable citizens in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol Building. The statue of Borlaug will replace the statue of U.S. Senator James Harlan installed in 1910, which will be relocated to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The second statue representing Iowa is of Governor Samuel Kirkwood, which was installed in 1913.

World Food Prize president Kenneth Quinn, chairman of the committee appointed by the governor of Iowa to develop the statue, says of all the people immortalized in that hall, Dr. Borlaug will be the only one honored for his work in agriculture. “The only real agricultural figure is going to be standing there amidst all of these presidents and generals,” said Quinn, who added that if you took all of the people in the hall and added all of the Nobel peace prize laureates “and you add up all of the lives that they all saved, they still won’t have done as much as Norman Borlaug did by himself.”

As the Father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Borlaug is credited with developing agricultural innovations that saved an estimated billion people around the world from hunger and starvation. Quinn likes to think that Dr. Borlaug’s presence in the nation’s Capitol will perform another great act for humanity by helping to bring politicians in Washington together. “During the most heated periods of recent politics, when Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on anything in our state legislature, the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate in one day passed the resolution saying Norman Borlaug should be in Statuary Hall,” said Quinn. “He’s the one guy who can get them all in the picture.” WFP President Kenneth Quinn talks about Borlaug statue

More information about the statue is available at www.iowaborlaugstatue.org, and there will also be a webcast of the statue unveiling ceremony, which will take place on March 25 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, at www.speaker.gov/live.

Smithsonian Wants Iconic Corn Ads

classic14-tolmanNational Corn Growers Association (NCGA) CEO Rick Tolman had bushels of great corn farmer news to share at the recent Commodity Classic about what the organization has done in the past year and what is happening now. We have since learned that this was the last Commodity Classic for Rick, as he has announced that he will be retiring at the end of September to enjoy more family time. He will surely be missed after 14 years of service to NCGA, but his retirement is well-deserved.

One exciting bit of news Rick announced at the NCGA banquet was that the Smithsonian Institution wants to put the Corn Farmers Coalition DC metro campaign ads in a new exhibit. “Those ads have been very iconic,” he said. “The Smithsonian Institution is doing a new exhibition called “American Enterprise” and they contacted us and said they really liked them because they’re about education, not about selling.”

cfc-20The ads have been featured in the Corn Farmers Coalition annual campaign which takes over every ad space in a single DC metro station for two weeks, a campaign that has been running for five years now.

The Smithsonian will include the ads in a new permanent exhibit scheduled to open next year in the Museum of American History. “It will last for 20 years and we anticipate about 90 million people seeing it,” Rick said.

In this interview on the final day of Classic, Rick also talks about the great corn grower response last year to commenting on the EPA proposal to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and how NCGA plans to keep that momentum going. Interview with Rick Tolman, NCGA CEO

Global Ethanol Discussion

nec14-globalIt is always interesting to hear the perspectives of different countries during the National Ethanol Conference global panel and to see the similarities as well as differences in viewpoint.

The panel was moderated by Bliss Baker, Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, and included Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, as well as (from left to right): Joel Velasco, Senior Advisor to Board of UNICA; Scott Thurlow, President, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association; Jayant Godbole, President and Director PRAJ Americas, Inc.; and Robert Vierhout, Secretary-General, ePURE

nec14-epureA few years ago, it was Brazil and the United States sparring with each other over ethanol trade and tariffs, but now it is the Europeans who are challenging the U.S. ethanol industry in the export arena.

“The real loser in the EU’s nonsensical action is the European consumer, who is being denied access to low cost high performance renewable fuels,” Dinneen said in his state of the industry address. Vierhout challenged that assertion on the panel. “Bob, please wake up,” said Vierhout. “If you would export your ethanol to Europe, who’s going to gain? Not the consumer, it’s the oil companies.”

Even Brazil and Canada fired back at Vierhout over Europe’s policy. “I’ll summarize for Rob,” said Velasco. “He’s never met a gallon, or a liter, or hectoliter, of ethanol imports that he likes.”

Thurlow questioned how this would play in the current European-U.S. trade negotiations. “I don’t see how your position can be tenable, Rob, if you are going to have a dispute resolution mechanism that will basically make it impossible for these types of ‘snap-back tariffs’ to be put on,” he said. To which Vierhout replied, “There’s still a possibility (the trade agreement) will exclude ethanol.”

Listen to the conversation here and watch the European exchange on video below: Growing Global Ethanol Industry Panel Discussion

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Faith, Family, Farming and Ducks

Even if you have never seen the show (like me) you probably know about Duck Dynasty by now, thanks to the controversy over comments made before Christmas by the program’s patriarch that sent the media into a tizzy.

afbf-robertsonThe oldest brother and newest member of the show’s cast – Alan Robertson, aka the “Beardless Brother” – appeared this week at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in San Antonio, with a beard.

The Duck Dynasty motto is “Faith, Family, Ducks” but Robertson told the thousands of farmers and ranchers at the meeting they could borrow that for their own use. “Faith, family, farming – that’s a good one for you guys,” he said.

Robertson believes the reason Duck Dynasty is so popular is that American viewers have a real desire for shows that demonstrate the old-fashioned values they still hold dear. “Something ordinary to us and probably to you [farmers] like working hard all day and coming home to have dinner around a table at night has become extraordinary to people in the 21st century,” said Robertson, who just joined the cast for the fourth season on A&E.

Political correctness aside, Alan really connected with the farmers and ranchers who share so much of the “Duck Dynasty” values about faith and family. Listen to an excerpt from Alan’s comments here: Duck Dynasty brother at AFBF

2014 Resolution: Put Environment Back in EPA

oil spillI am rapidly getting in the holiday spirit but before I get to relaxed and magnanimous I have to send one final love letter to my friends in the petroleum industry. So with thoughts of sugar plums dancing in my head here goes:

In doing my regular reading today I came across three separate stories that if looked at individually are disturbing. The first touts fracking as the main driver in a U.S. energy revolution.

“America is in the midst of a game-changing energy revolution. This potential has been unlocked by innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have made America the world’s top energy producer,” John Felmy, the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist said. said.

No argument there but let’s drop the other shoe or pair of shoes if you will. I keep asking the same questions regarding fracking; at what cost? What are the environmental consequences of this intrusive, earth rending form of energy extraction? How long will the boom last?

More and more experts are saying enjoy our current respite of available energy because it won’t last. And now the US Coast Guard is looking into the possibility of allowing fracking waste to be barged along American rivers. Granted if they have to ship it this is likely the best way (or at least safest and most economical way), but isn’t it enough that international oil has slimed our oceans on a consistent basis for decades. Now they want to put these toxic substances on our rivers and risk our fresh water too?

Thus, the second article and issue; Every year petroleum finds itself wrapped up in a string of environmental misadventures, and many take place in remote locations and out of the glare of public scrutiny diminishing the attention but not the damage done. From pipeline spills in Arkansas to explosions in Qingdao, China petroleum is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sure they get fined, but amounts that amount to pocket change for Big Oil. On the rare occasion they really get their hand slapped, such as the with the Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, they put on a good show for the media and as time passes they fight in court to get those penalties reduced.

The third leg of this nauseating oil epic is the ongoing efforts by the Obama Administration (hey, it’s your Environmental Protection Agency so you better own it) proposal to hamstring the only economically viable and environmentally responsible alternative to oil….ethanol.

For 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in how much corn ethanol will be required under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal law that helps get domestic, renewable, cleaner-burning corn ethanol blended in the nation’s fuel supply.

“It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has caved in to Big Oil rather than stand up for rural America and the environment,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey at a Protect the RFS rally on November 22, 2013. “The renewable fuels standard needs to be protected as it has helped hold down prices at the pump, created thousands of jobs in rural Iowa, and benefited the environment. The President should be focused on jobs and the economy rather than looking for ways to hurt rural America.” Read more here.

It’s still not too late to do something about this. So if you support renewable ethanol and want to put the environment back in EPA send a note. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

AAA Scores an FFF on Ethanol

The American Automobile Association claims to be a longtime supporter of ethanol, but its recent policy statement leaves one wondering to what degree this is really the case.

The fact is, E15 is the most tested gasoline blend ever. To assert, like AAA, that consumers are ignorant of the new fuel blend does a disservice to consumers, and shows that AAA and its allies have not done their job to properly educate consumers that E15 is an acceptable and safe blend for most of the cars on the street today. We need to trust consumers to be smart, especially when labels and choices are clear. You simply don’t see a lot of people trying to pump diesel into cars.

When it comes to the safety of E15, in addition to our information page that lists research demonstrating this, this document from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory includes a lot of very good information. Interestingly, the key piece of research cited by E15’s opponents has been shown by the U.S. Department of Energy to be clearly flawed.

Also, AAA errs when it talks about how many vehicles qualify for using E15 fuel. The EPA reports that it can safely be used in all light-duty vehicles from model year 2001 and newer. These vehicles represent up to three-quarters of the vehicles on the road today.

When it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, corn growers and the ethanol industry have done our part. In fact, we’ve done more than our fair share. Now, it’s time for automakers and the oil industry to get on board and give consumers what they want – the ability to choose a domestic, renewable fuel when they fill up at the pump. AAA should stand up for what’s in its members best interest – real fuel choice that’s good for the economy, energy security and the environment.

 

More to Gasoline Than Meets the Eye

Ethanol isn’t poison and gasoline is. There….I have said it. It boggles my mind how much of the public buys into the oil industry propaganda related to ethanol, most notably some of the environmental community. Why someone who considers themselves an environmentalist would listen to big oil on energy topics and what is best for consumers leaves me perplexed. Even on a good day when gasoline isn’t $3 to $4 a gallon, it remains a really bad idea when it comes to our health and the environment.

Ethanol is ethanol. There are no additives and it is the same product chemically that some drink in the form of martinis and other cocktails. Drink ethanol and  you just think you are better looking and funnier. Drink gasoline and you get dead. Gasoline has terrible environmental risk and repercussions and they are getting worse as we find new ways to dig, steam, and frack to get it out of the ground and the ocean bottom.

However, that is just the beginning of making commercial gasoline. Gasoline starts out as poison and it only gets better as dozens of chemicals can get mixed into the product. They get mixed in to make gas burn better during different seasons, to add octane, and even as a way for the oil industry to charge you for some byproducts of gasoline manufacturing that they otherwise would have to dispose of as toxic waste.

To this day one of my favorite news cartoons of all time showed thewhats in gas Exxon Valdez oil spill with petroleum covered wildlife effected by the disaster. The next panel showed an ethanol spill and featured google-eyed sea otters, dolphin and fish who apparently had been to happy hour.

I am a typical blogger. I have lots of opinions and I like words. But in this case I think I will show good judgement and just shut up and let the accompanying image tell the rest of the story. Take my word for it that many of these chemicals are even worse for your personal health and our future than they sound.



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