Corn Commentary

Smoke and Mirrors Business Approach

smoke and mirrorsBig Oil should be in the business of magic considering their recent success with smoke and mirrors regarding the changing role of petroleum and ethanol in the United States. Their virtuosity at deception, illusions, and insubstantial explanations is unrivaled.

This highly profitable and clever global industry, and their well-paid minions, continues to feed the public a regular diet of misinformation with the finesse of a Civil War solider loading cannon with a ram.

I challenge you to scan some of the information below and walk away thinking that American Ethanol is a bad idea.

The United States will shortly surpass Saudi Arabia as the largest crude oil supplier when natural gas liquids and biofuels are taken into account. U.S. liquids production is expected to reach 12.1 million barrels a day, which is 300,000 barrels a day higher than sand land. Ethanol’s role in this transformation should not be taken lightly.

Our gasoline supply is now about 10% ethanol, displacing 462 million barrels of imported oil last year alone, according to Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association. The ethanol industry now churns out more than 13 billion gallons of the biofuel while supporting more than 380,000 jobs and adding more than $43.4 billion to the gross domestic product.

Perhaps one of the biggest fabrications is the anti-ethanol faction telling the public we don’t need renewable fuels anymore given new oil extraction technology, better mileage vehicles and slack public demand. Does anybody really think world demand for transportation fuel will stay this low?

Roubini Global Economics notes in a recent report the U.S. is still vulnerable to oil price fluctuations and all the economic chaos that brings. “Heavy oil dependence still renders the country highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in the short-to-medium term, particularly as economic growth — and fuel demand – recovers.”

A report issued last month concluded that the United States’ rigid dependence on oil to fuel cars and trucks meant that Americans kept buying the stuff over the past decade, even as prices rose, at a cost of $1.2 trillion in additional federal debt.

And finally, the U.S. leads the world in advanced-biofuel development, accounting for more than two-thirds of ventures worldwide, according to a report from Navigant Research; While North America is No. 1 in terms of demand and investment. Here is a novel thought…why don’t we try going with our strengths for once, and ethanol appears to be a big one.

 

 

 

Meaningful Act Tells a Bigger Story

I didn’t know Kyle Hendrix but I wish I had. Nor do I know Jake Moore, the young man who recently set up a moving tribute to his fellow farmer who passed away too young from cancer. Moore recently arranged a fitting recognition for his best friend, Hendrix (31) that lined up dozens of tractors and combines along the route to the cemetery.

The wordless act of placing the steel behemoths along the road spoke volumes about their friendship. It also made a meaningful statement about how rural communities still rally around each other in a time of need. The old fashioned barn-raising of years past may be gone but the spirit lingers.

My guess is that much of the same farm machinery shown in Matt Rubel’s spectacular photos will also be seen harvesting Hendrix’s crop in the days ahead.  So Godspeed  Kyle and a big thanks to Moore for reminding us all of the value of friendship and community, and Rubel for capturing the reminder in an indelible way.

Corn Crop Lowered but Record Still Expected

Despite a wet spring causing a challenging start to the season, the 2013 corn crop is still looking to break new ground this year, according to the latest USDA production estimate out Monday.

corn-field“This crop should be a record crop,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber. “This is our first objective yield survey of the corn crop, showing a yield of 154.4 bushels per acre, which is way off trend yields but that combined with the real large acreage we saw planted this spring means a very large crop.”

The forecast is 13.8 billion bushels, down slightly from the last estimate, but up 28 percent from 2012. The average yield estimated would be the highest since 2009. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 89.1 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but up 2 percent from 2012.

However, Glauber points out that much can change between now and harvest, especially since crops were planted so late. “Because it’s developing late, we don’t have good ear weights yet,” he said. “These ears are going to have to fill out and right now we’re doing it on what we expect the fill out to be.” Later development also makes the crop more susceptible to early frost.

World Ag Outlook Board Chair Gerald Bange says the latest forecast means tighter supplies and higher prices. “We’ve gone up 10 cents on each end, between 4.50 and 5.30 per bushel for corn,” he said. The new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending stocks for 2013/14 will be 122 million bushels lower.

Exports are projected 25 million bushels lower with reduced domestic supplies and increased foreign competition. “We’re going to see a lot of corn coming out of places such as Ukraine, for example,” Bange said, as well as continued strong competition from Brazil.

However, Bange was quick to note that the overall export forecast for 2013-14 is up over 70%.

Catch Up with CommonGround

VideoMembers of the National Corn Growers Association understand that, with so many important, productive programs underway, it can be difficult to keep up with the successes achieved by the farmer-funded, farmer-led association. From the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR to the development of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center, members interested in tracking how NCGA puts their dollars to good use face a myriad of information.

And let’s remember- these men and women have a full-time gig running their farms and caring for their families too.

Keeping updates short and sweet plays a key role in ensuring the grassroots that provide NCGA its strength and character know that every day efforts are underway to create and maintain opportunities that benefit them- America’s corn farmers.

So in the spirit of brevity, roll this clip. In a few short minutes, catch up on what CommonGround, a program formed by NCGA, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates, is doing to foster dialogue between the women who grow America’s food and those who buy it.

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.



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