Corn Commentary

Cultivating Our National Character

blastThe Fourth of July celebrates the birth of our nation. Through fireworks displays, historical reenactments and parades, we take time to give thanks to our founding fathers for the fortitude and foresight they showed in authoring our constitution and constructing the groundwork for a new type of nation.

As we reflect upon these historical events, upon what truly makes us unique as a nation, it makes sense to look at who the founding fathers truly were. In large part, they were farmers.

Of the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention, 14 were farmers. George Washington, the father of the nation, served as a military leader during the war for independence but, when he went home, he was a farmer.

Our nation has a strong basis in agriculture. Certainly, farming has changed over the years and evolved to meet the needs of a growing, developing society but the character of the farmer, fiercely independent, tirelessly optimistic and doggedly dedicated to hard work, remains an integral part of who we are today.

Thomas Jefferson himself often noted the importance of agriculture to the character of the young nation, famously saying:

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands. “

This Independence Day, while spending time with family and community, take just a moment to think about the men and women who continue the proud tradition of our forefathers. Think about our farmers. Steadfast in their mission, they provide an abundance that sustains our people and fuels our country.

Are all Scientific Studies Equal?

For those of us who aren’t scientists it is easy to read a seemingly scientific study and assume that it must be true. We like to think that scientists would never lie or misinterpret information. They would never allow a personal bias to interfere with their work, right?

Wrong! In a recent review of Robert Lustig’s book, Fat Chance, Dr. Mark Kern exposed Lustig’s contradictions and falsities. Throughout his book his bias against fructose-containing sugars is very strong, yet in the beginning he states that he has no bias.

Lustig claims that everything in his book can be backed up by cold, hard facts. However, he cites non-peer reviewed publications and makes up facts of his own to align with his message. No reputable scientist would ever take that information seriously, so why should anyone else

On top of everything else, Lustig portrays himself as an expert on the metabolic process, yet he shows a blatant lack of knowledge on that process. This publication should lead one to ask what qualifications this man has to tell you what you should and should not consume.

Unfortunately studies such as Lustig’s are far too common and the American consumers really need to start asking questions about credibility. Pay attention to the real experts, not just those who claim to be.

To read Dr. Kern’s review of Fat Chance click here.

For the latest GMO news, check Snopes

Recent attacks on biotechnology (or “GMOs,” for those who don’t like big words) have reached a fevered pitch. And like anyone with a fever, one can expect a bout of hallucination, or seeing things that aren’t quite there. Did Russian President Vladimir Putin threaten war over GMOs? Do GMO cucumbers cause (pardon the expression) genital baldness? Is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese made from GMO wheat? And what about those Indian farmer suicides?

None of these urban legends appear to be true.

Putin?

Cucumbers?

Mac and cheese?

Farmer suicides?

A blogger recently posted a list of “Nine Things You Should Not Post on Facebook.” I recommend this for anyone who wants to be more active in social media, especially No. 1.

And when it comes to GMOs, here are a few resources for more information. I know there are a lot more, but I am sort of partial to USFRA and CommonGround:

http://www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource/topics/biotech-seeds

http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/gmo-foods/

 

 

More Moms Bring Home the Bacon, But Do They Know Where It Came From?

pigThis week, the Pew Research Center released its analysis of Census and polling data showing that four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family. Coupled with the notion that consumer food questions are on the rise, the importance of communicating the real story of American agriculture to America’s moms becomes evident.

Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief Gregg Hillyer took note of this point, sharing his insight into the issue in the “We’d Like to Mention” section magazine’s June/July edition. The story, which looks at the effectiveness of opening a conversation about food and farming between moms on and off the farm, took particular note of CommonGround, a program founded to do just that by the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates.

In the article, Hillyer sites from interviews with CommonGround volunteers about why this program serves a growing need in our society.

“As our population continues to shift from rural to urban communities, people become more disconnected from their food,” pointed out CommounGround Kentucky volunteer Carrie Divine. “We’re here… to provide moms with useful information so they can worry less and feel more confident in their food choices.”

Concluding that “afterall, moms always know best,” Hillyer shares the incredible story of these volunteer farm moms on a mission with the agricultural community. For helping illuminate the efforts underway to start an honest, open dialogue about farming with the general public, he is to be commended.

Information about CommonGround, including ways to join the conversation, is always available. To learn more, click here.

Historian of Corn Breeding

Troyer5It’s a safe bet that few people in the world know more about corn than A. Forrest Troyer, who has devoted his long life to developing improved corn hybrids and has been involved in the development of at least 40 commercial corn hybrids that have sold over 60 million bags of seed. That’s more than enough to plant all the corn in North America for two years!

Troyer worked for Pioneer Hi-Bred, Pfizer Genetics, Dekalb and Cargill Hybrid Seeds, and in his “retirement” is now adjunct professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois. Recently, Todd Gleason wtih the University of Illinois and WILL Radio interviewed Troyer for a great series on “The Story of Corn.” From the evolution of open pollinated corn to today’s genetics, it’s a fascinating story.

Listen to Todd’s report here: Todd Gleason with Forrest Troyer

Print All You Want, We’ll Make More

print-emailThis might not be the most politically correct message for Earth Day week, but it’s true.

I’m sure you’ve seen email signatures saying something to the effect of “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail!” Today I got one with a very different message:

Notice: It’s OK to print this e-mail.

Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees and corn starch. Growing and harvesting trees and corn provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest and agricultural management, we have more trees and corn in America today than we had 100 years ago.

To give credit where credit is due, the signature came from an employee of GROWMARK, Inc. I plan to add it to my email signatures in the future.

Iowa Governor Brings Benefits of Biofuels to Beltway

corn-ethanol-pump_100172125_sIowa Governor Terry Branstad publicly made the case for the Renewable Fuel Standard and for introducing higher ethanol blends into the market in an eloquently penned opinion piece that ran in the Washington-centric publication Politico. Citing examples of how biofuels have benefited his state and looking toward the future of the industry, Branstad issued this appeal to logic at a time when important biofuels policies face an increasing number of attacks.

In the piece, Branstad not only points to the successes seen in Iowa economically from ethanol production, but he also directly speaks to often-repeated concerns over the impact that higher ethanol blends have on auto engines.

“Cars run well on higher blends of renewable fuel,” he explained. “Iowa’s state trooper fleet runs on E85. Ethanol is higher octane and thus a more powerful fuel. That extra octane provides an advantage to our law enforcement ranks and the high-performing vehicles they rely on daily.”

Branstad’s appeal for a steady hand in guiding the way into an American future that sees the full benefits of biofuels calls upon readers to think through the issues at hand and realize the importance of both the RFS and higher ethanol blends.

“We must not forget that most successful industries and innovations do not mature overnight. Cellphones were around since the 1970s but not widely adopted until the 2000s. And automobiles did not replace horse-drawn carriages in just a few years,” he concluded. “The RFS has been a key driver in this industry’s progress. We should not, and cannot, turn back that progress now.”

To read the piece in its entirety, click here.

God Really Did Make a Farmer

farmer-handsThe original Ram Trucks Super Bowl commercial featuring Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” is up to over 14 million views on YouTube, not counting all the re-posts of the video, and has led to parodies too numerous to count.

There’s God made a factory farmer, liberal, banker, photographer, skateboarder, printer, DJ, realtor, gamer, machinist, chemist, publicist, YouTuber, teacher, Democrat, cat – you name it.

But, really – God really did make a farmer. Just check the Book of Genesis. “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Gen. 2:15)

Of course, we all know the rest of the story. When Adam and Eve misbehaved, God made farming more difficult and even more of a sacred calling – “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.”

And the first parents passed their vocation on to their children. “Eve … gave birth to Cain…Later she gave birth to his brother Abel…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” We won’t go into the rest of that story (since one of them also became the first murderer) but suffice it to say – God really did make a farmer first. Not a chemist or a DJ or even a liberal – but maybe a cat.

Yard Work Just Got More Green

 

It’s sporty, it’s fuel injected, it’s green and it’s powered by ethanol. If you are thinking NASCAR™ race cars that’s a good guess but you would be wrong. Because in this case the equipment in question is literally green…as in covered in the well know green and yellow paint of John Deere tractors, combines and lawn equipment.

And unlike the 200 mile-per-hour race cars that trade mileage for speed, the new John Deere  ZTrack mower is also efficient.

John Deere recently released their new, ZTrak Z925M, zero-turn, Flex Fuel Commercial Mowers, capable of running on ethanol blends up to E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). When you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense. Ethanol blends are powering nearly every vehicle on the road today with blends of ethanol from 10% to 85%, so it was only a matter of time before we mowed with high octane E85 too.

John Deere tractors and combines have been frequenting the nation’s corn fields for generations as a stalwart contributor to planting and harvesting operations so the ZTrack Flex-Fuel seems…well, logical.

E10 (10% ethanol) has been utilized successfully in small gas engines, boats and mowers for decades  so we applaud John Deere’s decision to go green, utilize a homegrown fuel and support rural America by bringing an E85 capable to the market .  Be sure to try out the new ZTrak Flex Fuel mower next time you visit your dealer and tell the Corn Growers sent you.

(E10 has been approved for use by all small gas engine manufacturers as well as marine engine manufacturers. Let your mouse dJohn Deere Flex Fuelo the walking if you want to know more.)

How Drought Hit Trend Yields

Most of us know where the drought hit the hardest last year, but it’s always more interesting to see it in living color.

The University of Illinois’ FarmDoc Daily did just that by comparing state corn yields last year with trend yields, showing how much yields were reduced in the most drought-stricken areas. You can click on the map below to see a larger version.

corn-yields

The map highlights how the lowest yields were in Kentucky (47 percent of trend) and Missouri (53 percent) and Indiana and Illinois came in at about 62 percent of trend. Much of the rest of Corn Belt saw yields around 75 percent of the trend line. Minnesota and North Dakota had yields close to trend, while most states in the Southeast had above trend yields. Georgia was 24% above trend and South Carolina was 31%, which would be great if those states were not generally ranked in the bottom half of corn growing states. New York and Maryland grow more corn than Georgia and South Carolina.

University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey, who did the map, says as bad as it was, the drought could have been worse.

“In some senses, though, the US dodged a bullet with the 2012 drought,” said Schnitkey. “Much lower total supplies would have resulted had the center of the drought occurred in eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. A center here would have impacted all of the corn-belt in a much worse way, potentially causing the western corn-belt to have as low of yields as the eastern corn-belt. As it actually occurred, Iowa and other western corn-belt state were not as badly hit as could have been the case.”

Read his summary here.



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