Posted By Cathryn August 7, 2012
It may sound corny, but lately it seems that a lot of people talk about the omnipresence of corn. While this fact is inarguable, the negative tone of many articles on the corn-centric nature of our lives seems befuddling. This week, the Kansas City Star took a more insightful approach to exploring how people interact with the crop in their daily lives. As it turns out, a world without corn doesn’t seems like such a great place to live.
The author carefully walks through what a day without corn might look like. Unable to brush his teeth, scramble a decent egg and with his clothes falling to rags, he finds that corn actually makes small improvements to an incredible number of the items that make our lives more pleasant, healthy or comfortable.
The properties inherent to corn make it our nation’s most abundant crop for a reason. Lending useful applications to products as varied as pharmaceuticals and fireworks, corn may really be the glue the binds us together in many ways.
Another kernel of wisdom, it helps to make that glue too.
Corn is king not because it rules over us. Corn it king because IT RULES! Take a minute to check out how many great, interesting, useful ways that corn is used.
Farmers across the country work hard year in and year out to make sure there is a supply of corn so that consumers can enjoy everything from cosmetics to cola. Let’s support the great efforts of our nation’s hardworking family farmers, even if it may sound corny to some ears.
Posted By Cathryn August 1, 2012
As many media mercenaries continue misleading attempts to whip an already economically stressed public into a frenzy proclaiming the drought will hit their pocketbooks at the market this fall, the Associated Press offered a more balanced, thoughtful look at the possible impacts today. Noting the many factors that impact food prices, the article carefully examined how a variety of factors keep food prices in check.
Taking the time to explain the difference between sweet corn and field corn may seem somewhat unnecessary to those who work the land daily, but it helps consumers understand the nuances of our industry. Educated consumers are empowered consumers. They have the knowledge and perspective to evaluate sensationalized claims with a critical eye. An open, honest conversation about our food benefits consumers and farmers alike.
So, kudos AP. The tools farmers use to tell their story, such as CommonGround and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, continue their work to help open this conversation. It is refreshing to see media taking on an active role in using its clout to educate its readership. America’s family farmers appreciate the help.
Posted By Cathryn June 28, 2012
As temperatures across the Midwest soar into the triple digits with little chance for rain or relief in sight, talking heads have started to blabber on again about how the drought will hit consumer’s wallets. Adding further pain to the heat-induced misery, these armchair economists stoke the fires of already burning financial concerns.
Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater may grab attention and cause alarm, but it is illegal to do so for a reason. Causing panic for the sake of causing panic does not have a public benefit.
A more cynical commentator might note that it does help drive rating and generate revenue. But instead of focusing on the fray, take a look at the facts.
According to a newly released study from National Public Radio’s Planet Money series, Americans today spend less on groceries than they did 30 years ago, nearly a full five percentage points less. Prices have declined across the board with some staple items, such as butter and chicken legs, down by 35 percent. Even a steak costs 30 percent less.
Will a drought impact America’s corn crop this year? Almost certainly. Does this spell dire circumstances that will leave the grocery consuming public taking out loans to feed their family with healthy, safe food? Almost certainly not.
In today’s America, what is truly in jeopardy is a sense of perspective. Banners flash before already stressed eyes on the evening news making dire declarations. Weary from battling real issues all day, these prophets of pain become an echoing chorus of doom drumming away basic sanity. Frantic feelings froth to a frenzy as the spiral of sustained stress with the prognosticators acting like an emotional succubus that feeds on America’s anxieties.
Stay calm. It may be hot outside, but cooler heads can prevail. Calmly, remember that America has the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in its history. The percentage of income needed to eat well has dropped to one of, if not the, lowest level in the developed world. Through innovation and hard work, farmers prove, time after time, that they can and will feed America, no matter what challenges they face.
Posted By Cathryn June 11, 2012
Have you ever heard about the Corn Farmers Coalition and wondered who actually sees this stuff?
Sure, the ads catch attention from a mile away. Sure, the beaming family farmers, on their real farms, convey powerful, impactful messages about today’s farm. Sure, these ads appear to be something that would draw any normal reader into a short ag literacy lesson. But, where do people actually come into contact with them?
As always, the innovative minds behind the campaign have found new, thoughtfully selected venues that reach those outside of rural America want to find their information- where they already are.
This week, the campaign launched its fourth year with fresh faces and facts both in traditional venues, such as the DC Metro, and in other places that pack a punch, like the online version of the Washington Post. The award-winning informational series has, yet again, even more finely honed its choice of channel to include the online news sites that, according to the papers themselves, have greatly impacted how Americans consume news content.
Like the stories covered by journalists, the Corn Farmers Coalition paints a clear picture of farming, an industry with which 98.5 percent of the population has little or no contact. Like the feature stories, it provides answers to the questions most prevalent in readers’ minds. Like the hard-hitting exposes, it shows the truth, unbiased and in all of its glory.
Take a moment to check out what legislators, regulators, their aides and many other inquisitive inhabitants of our nation’s capital will be checking out themselves this summer. Then, join the featured families taking the voice of the corn industry to Washington with a letter on why real farmers, just like the ones in these ads, need a real farm bill in real time by clicking here.
Posted By Cathryn June 7, 2012
This election year, Americans are already growing increasingly agitated with pompous, self-important celebrities who feel an uncontrollable desire to pontificate upon politics. Qualified only by having played a politician in a made-for-TV movie or having co-written a B-side flop, these self-anointed bearers of the divine torch of celebri-smarts help us regular folk understand our mistaken, unworldly personal ponderings.
Honestly, who could take a multi-millionaire who plays dress-up for a living seriously when he or she banters on about the plight of the common folk? Did they learn about Main Street in a Method class?
Another group of sell-out celebrats, the chefs of cable TV, who not only feed actors but often host their own insightful television programs, want to tell average Americans how to think about the farm bill. In a letter proudly coordinated by the Environmental Working Group, intellectual icons including Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio trumpeted their opposition to big, rich commodity farms while wrapping themselves in the trendy terminology of the local, organic and environmental movements. As much as they criticize the Senate legislation, how many of these signers even read it?
To be frank, it seems a tad hypocritical to take the bully pulpit preaching a populist gospel while rubbing elbows with the sophomoric socialites who get a kick out of menus that offer greater detail about each truffle-decorated tapa than their letter offers about the world-changing policies proposed. It’s like they all live in Portlandia.
The only advice these elitist epicureans have the expertise to dish out pertains to the dishes in their ovens. Most Americans cannot afford to dine at their establishments; America cannot afford to bite into their half-baked policies.
Farmers feed us in a meaningful, sustainable fashion. So, call the trendy wannabes out for what they are and stand by a classic. America’s farm families need a farm bill now. America’s top chefs need a new hobby.
Posted By Cathryn May 21, 2012
“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Watching CommonGround Colorado volunteers Danell Kalcevic and Cindy Frasier during a live television interview broadcast on Denver’s News9 last week, I remembered this metaphor, which the nuns who ran the high school I attended often used during my tenure.
These two women, facing the cameras for the first time, met remarks which may have ruffled other’s feathers with calm, patient, open understanding. In return, they gained the trust and respect of the station staff and, most probably, many viewers as well.
Adding a bit of sweetness to their already pleasant personalities, they brought cookies. Meat cookies to be exact. So, immediately, they drew interest that, when coupled with the way in which they told their story, helped start a real conversation about food rather than a battle.
The lesson applies to everyone who dedicates time and effort to helping further the public discourse on farming. Had Danell or Cindy become combative or defensive, the conversation would have stopped. If we allow ourselves to put up that wall, it shuts out the people who most need to hear the real story of today’s family farmer.
Agvocates need to cultivate their interactions with the same care given to their land. Imagine how it feels to have someone bluntly call a statement wrong. Now, imagine a smiling face offering their perspective from what they have seen. Which agvocate would more likely build a real, productive conversation?
Take a moment to evaluate how implication, tone and non-verbal cues affect a conversation. Bring honey with you to agvocacy instead of vinegar.
Notably, it never hurts to bring a plate of Beef Cookie Recipe too.
Posted By Cathryn May 11, 2012
Oprah Winfrey’s daytime diatribes may not run on network television any longer, but she continues to damage public perception of agriculture with little regard for the scientific evidence against her claims.
Oprah’s power as a media mogul has not diminished since her self-titled program ran its final episode. Instead, her legions of followers now flock to her magazine, website, cable channel and the programs of her protégés, actively seeking out her wisdom on subjects ranging from the best fiction to nutrition advice.
Sadly, sometimes the references she points to on food issues contain enough fallacies that a particularly witty librarian might file them in the fiction section. With an entire section of her website dedicated to Michael Pollan’s “Food 101,” she lends the halo-effect of her considerable influence to works which have many unfounded statements and some which have been disproven by a variety of reputable sources.
Now, Tim Burrack, an Iowa farmer who actively participates in the advancement of his industry through service to the National Corn Growers Association and several other ag-focused groups, has issued a challenge in the form of an invitation. In a letter published on the Truth about Trade and Biotechnology’s website, Burrack invites Winfrey to visit his farm for “a firsthand look at how an Iowa farmer produces healthy food in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.”
Burrack felt the need to act after reading an article in the May issue of O: The Oprah Magazine that asserts no one actually knows the real effect of crops produced using biotechnology. Understanding the impact Oprah’s statements have upon her vast legions of followers, he issued the offer to help better inform the media maven and, in doing so, help provide a deeper, more informed understanding of modern agriculture to someone who wields almost unmatched influence on the American public.
Like Burrack, farmers and their allies know all too well how even a simple uninformed statement can harm public understanding of agriculture for years to come. Given the influence of the source in this case, it is crucial that America’s farmers stand up for the incredible work that they do and products they provide.
Take a stand for farmers and for truth today. Click here to post a comment to the original article calling on Oprah to take Burrack up on his invitation. Then, wield some social media influence by sharing the letter through Twitter or Facebook.
Together, the people who grow food for our country can take on those who would insult or mischaracterize their work while enjoying the variety of safe, affordable choices they produce. Burrack took a stand for what he knows is right. Now, let Oprah know just how many of America’s farmer families and their friends stand behind him.
Posted By Cathryn May 9, 2012
In coverage of the recent “occupation” of agricultural research land at the University of California- Berkley, one essential point was striking in its absence. While a public university, the land these so-called activists forcibly took over is, in fact, private property. Their actions in doing so showed complete disregard for the principles upon which our nation was founded, for the well-being of the institution’s students and for the rapidly growing world population whose food security depends upon the products of agricultural research.
Clinging to worn-out rhetoric shrouded in a mindless, trendy façade, these protesters stand against a fundamental principle upon which the nation is based. The ownership of private property has been held as a fundamental value of American society since the revolution. The nation’s forefathers enshrined it in the Constitution, and, in doing so, created a country to which many have fled in order to gain this protection. Placing their judgment above that of the university governing board, state government and of the people which those legislators represent, this fringe group forcibly chose to repurpose land to suit its own agenda.
What did the people who support this university lose?
They lost a valuable asset that provided the university with an outdoor laboratory. Agricultural research often culminates in necessary field trials that allow scientists to test how new varieties or products will react in circumstances similar to those in which they may ultimately grow. This land was not a common area without a stated purpose. These protestors stole a valuable resource.
They lost the valuable time. Right now, the future food security of the world depends upon agricultural research. In next 40 years, farmers will need to produce more food than was produced in the last 10,000 years combined to ensure the food supply keeps up with population growth. In light of this challenge, taking fields used for research into the products which will make this possible is tantamount to taking food from the mouths of those who will need it within our lifetime.
Actions have real consequences. The “Occupy the Farm” movement has shown how disregard for the basic ground rules governing our society, no matter how supposedly well-intentioned, results in real harm. Their lack of foresight and careful scrutiny of the possibly consequences of their actions shows the irresponsibility inherent in policies they espouse.
Posted By Cathryn April 27, 2012
If climate change occurs at a rate predicted by some in areas predicted by others accompanied by a rash of severe weather disasters, assuming no advancement in corn traits used maintain yield under said conditions, should come about while mandated biofuels production consumes a certain portion of said crop, assuming no advancements in the technology used in its production, price volatility might increase.
Does the above sound like a run-on sentence culminating in a premise based on a lot of supposition? It may be, but so-called experts who extract their living by sensationalizing strung-together worst-case scenarios would actually strike down the laws decreasing our dependence on foreign oil using that very same logic.
Worrying over potential situations that might occur down the line if a variety of circumstances come together to create a perfect storm is one of the fastest ways to ensure progress halts. True, policy and regulation should consider the likely consequences of implementation, but these consequences should be likely, imminent and balanced against the problems the policy addresses.
In this case, arguing against implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard because price volatility possible under a very specific vision of the future throws out the baby with the bathwater.
The RFS helps keep gas prices down for consumers, decreases dependence on foreign oil and reduces the environmental impact of transportation. It does this today. It does this well.
Bleak future forecasts fail to factor in the constant improvements in agriculture which consistently allow farmers to grow more, under more difficult circumstances, using fewer inputs. In the last 20 years alone, ethanol yields have increased by 10 percent, thus requiring less corn to make the same amount of fuel. At the same time, corn yield have risen by 39 percent, thus requiring much less land to produce the same amount of corn. Assuming that today’s crop will not continue to improve, thus looking the same another 20 years down the line, is foolish at best and disingenuous at worst.
Furthermore, ignoring the fact that these presumptions assume the ability to predict the weather 20 years out when most news channels would thrill at an accurate forecast for the weekend, the naysayers ignore the new, dynamic corn traits farmers are planting this year. With the first drought-tolerant traits already preserving yields under tough conditions, it makes sense that the scientists developing the next generation will improve seed technology enabling growers to meet demand under a variety of scenarios.
Right now, American consumers need ethanol. Right now, it is improving our national security, our air, our rural economies and our fuel prices. Do not let prophets of doom cloak their predictions in science, thus repealing the progress toward a cleaner, safer, more energy independent America.
American ethanol works constantly to improve, as do America’s farmers. Allow them to continue their progress while the country continues to benefit. Situations change, but the only way to make progress is to take a step forward without constantly shuffling back.
Posted By Cathryn April 20, 2012
Today, the Associated Press demonstrated why common sense is no longer common and often does not make a significant amount of so-called sense. In a story written to promote a Eurocentric anti-modern meat agenda, the media source rambles on about the evils of administering antibiotics to sick cattle, pigs and chickens. Fear-mongering at its finest, the author uses sparse quotes from agenda-driven groups, unaccredited consumers and specialty producers who would personally benefit from a ban, to supplement the single, credible quote from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which states clearly, when taken on its own, that indiscriminant antibiotic use is not favorable.
The questions ignored are myriad. Do antibiotics have a role to play in animal agriculture? How are they actually used on a normal American farm? Why do the current regulations remain in place?
The author, through crafty copy, attempts to sway the reader from asking these basic, simple questions through a subtext appealing to the idea that all readers with common sense would make the same assumptions he does. If using antibiotics can be bad, it cannot ever be beneficial. If the interest groups and niche marketers seem like good, conscientious people, then the family farmers who day in and out produce safe, nutritious, affordable food choices in abundance for the country must be the party at fault. The more modern technology, here in the form of medication, used to produce that food, the higher the chance that it will not be as wholesome as what our forefathers and mothers ate.
Useless nostalgia for a past seen through rose-tinted glasses aside, Americans today benefit from the safest food supply in recorded history. They have a much wider array of healthy, safe choices than could have been conceived in a pre-penicillin past.
How can the average person find information, both facts and firsthand accounts, from knowledgeable sources willing to explain what they say? In the case of food questions, CommonGround volunteers across the country share true accounts of how they grow and raise food on their own farms. Plus, their stories are supported by credible, complete information from actual experts.
If you want to know more about antibiotics than the mainstream media is able to provide, take a moment to meet Teresa Brandenberg, a cattle rancher from Kansas. A young mother who cares deeply for both her family and her cattle, Teresa understands the government regulations for antibiotic use, the reasoning behind those rules and how it affects families, both hers and yours.
Maybe, it could more accurately be said that common sense still plays an important role in the life of most Americans. With so many urban and suburbanites far removed from the farm, asking questions about what feeds their families both natural and responsible. Talking to the people who live that story makes a lot of sense.
Listening to over-hyped, sensationalized accounts of farming written by Washington media? Maybe that is what doesn’t make sense after all.
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