Corn Commentary

Consumers Have a Right to Know

In the California GMO Labeling debate, it seems everyone involved can agree upon one basic premise – consumers have a right to know. The debate occurs around exactly what that right entails.

Arguing to redefine terms such as “natural”, even to the exclusion of foods such as olive oil, proponents of the bill seem to believe consumers have a right to know exactly what their agenda-driven groups says that they do.

On the other hand, farmers believe that consumers have a right to know too. In a recent blog post, farmer Mike Haley carefully explained a side of the story that labeling loonies would prefer to push to the backburner.  Walking readers through the specific actions that this law would require of him, Haley shows the hidden costs of supporting the propositions hidden agenda.

Take a minute to see the true costs of this measure.  If it passes, everyone will pay.

Consumers have a right to know what they eat. They also have a right to know the consequences of their vote.

Olympic Gold Medalist Promotes Corn

While the Summer Olympics were going on in London, a gold medalist from the Winter Olympics was talking corn in Omaha at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference, thanks to the Nebraska Corn Board.

Curt Tomasevicz, a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic 4-man bobsled team, grew up in a small Nebraska farming community and now helps promote corn in the Cornhusker State. “That agricultural-based community got me to the Olympics,” Curt said of his hometown of Shelby, Nebraska, which boasts a population of 690. “I learned those lessons from those corn farmers that work hard every day, knowing that there’s good days and bad days, good years and bad years.”

Listen to Curt’s remarks at ACE here: Curt Tomasevicz at ACE

In an interview with Curt, he told me why he is a spokesperson for the Nebraska Corn Board. “To have that kind of support coming from a farm-based community, the logical thing for me to do is try to give something back to them,” he said. “Farmers are not competing for gold medals but at the same time they’re working hard to produce something, like corn. They work just as hard, if not harder, than Olympians.” Curt does personal appearances for the Nebraska Corn Board around the state at agricultural and civic events, as well as schools.

Listen to my interview with Curt here: Curt Tomasevicz interview

Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, was also at the ACE conference and she not only introduced Curt at the luncheon where he spoke, but she also gave an update on what they are doing to help get more blender pumps out in the state. “The corn board feels blender pumps are really important, especially for the state of Nebraska, since we are the number two producer of ethanol,” she said, noting that they set aside $750,000 this year to help promote installation of pumps. There are nearly 20 in the state now and about 30 new pumps are expected to be installed within the next year.

One of their challenges is getting into the larger cities of Nebraska, like Omaha, where there are currently no blender pumps available. “With the new grant program of $40,000 per location, that has gotten a lot more retailers interested,” she said.

Listen to my interview with Kim here: NE Corn Board's Kim Clark

E15 is On Sale in Kansas

Consumers now have another choice at the fuel pump, at least in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Zarco 66 “Oasis” station in Lawrence began offering 15% ethanol blended fuel, E15, in a blender pump last week for two cents a gallon less than E10.

Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco 66 stations, is pleased to be the first to offer consumers real choice at the pump in the form of E15 ethanol fuel. “We just whole-heartedly believe that alternatives are what we need to be moving toward to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and also being able to have cleaner burning product,” said Zaremba.

Zaremba, the incoming President of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, is offering the E15 as one of the choices at the station’s blender pump, which was one of the first installed in the state in 2008 and he also plans to offer E15 at a second Zarco 66 in Ottawa. Zarco overcame the hurdles required to offer the fuel with the help of the Kansas Corn Commission, East Kansas Agri-Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association.

Listen to interview with Zaremba here: Zarco CEO Scott Zaremba

MO Corn Growers Honored for Flood Documentary

The video tale of the flooding destruction of Missouri farm land has been recognized as an award winner in two categories.

The 33rd Annual Telly Awards named the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC) and Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA) documentary as a Bronze winner in both the online video-documentary and online video-social responsibility categories for the short documentary, “Underwater and Overlooked: Crisis on the Missouri River”, a 15-minute film detailing the personal losses caused by the 2011 Missouri River flood.

“This honor for Missouri Corn is a fitting tribute to those growers who stepped in front of the camera to share their story,” says Missouri Corn Director of Communications Becky Frankenbach. “It’s heartbreaking that nearly a year later many farmers are still struggling to repair the damage left behind. Our work to ensure flood control is a top priority for Missouri River management is far from finished.”

Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards honor outstanding commercials, video and film productions, and web commercials, videos and films. Winners represent the best work of respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators and corporate video departments in the world. This year, nearly 11,000 entries were received from all 50 states and numerous countries.

If you haven’t seen it yet – watch it here.

Congratulations to the MO Corn team for the honors!

Join the Friendly Farm Faces on Capitol Hill This Summer

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.

This Earth Day, Bang a Bongo for Ag

This Earth Day, a lot of people will gather in parks and at events across the country to both celebrate our amazing planet and look for ways to protect it.

In St. Louis, just a few miles down the main east-west corridor from the National Corn Growers Association’s headquarters, concerned citizens and eco-enthusiasts alike will converge upon Forest Park, weather permitting, in droves to discuss a wide array of enviro-issues. In previous years, conversations tended to hold up food-related movements, such as those toward organics or locavore lifestyles, as models of how the eco-conscious should live.

This year, instead of dismissing these celebrations as agenda-driven vehicles for anti-ag activities, farmers and those who support them need to join the conversation. Attending events, participating in open forums and telling the story of modern American farming, growers can bring an informed, balanced voice in support of their industry to the conversation.

In many ways, be it through the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance or CommonGround, farmers have already learned about the importance of telling their story. Many have even practiced doing so. Earth Day marks a distinct opportunity to take a moment out of the field and actively cultivate public understanding and dialogue.

A new website featuring award-winning videos produced by the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and Utilization Council,, reveals why farmers should value Earth Day in striking clarity. Using the example of their home state, the videos focus on how taking care of the land, air and water while increasing productivity provides hope. Hope that farmers will be able to help sustain a rapidly growing, hungry world. Watching the population counter tick up rapidly, thinking about the need to produce more food in the next 40 years than was produced in the last 10,000 years combined, it becomes obvious that we need to share the message of hope.

Take the time to share the incredible hope that farmers have for our growing world. Activists who would falsely accuse farmers of destroying the earth while promoting practices that would starve a constantly increasing segment of the population have already spun their yarn standing under the Earth Day banner for years. Let’s take part in a day that celebrates the earth, air and soil central to the very core of every farmer.

E15 Almost Street Legal

After more than a year of waiting since EPA approved its use for 2001 and newer vehicles, 15% ethanol blended motor fuel (E15) could be hitting the streets by this summer.

RFA retailer handbookLast week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP) developed by the Renewable Fuels Association, which RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen means the regulatory process is now essentially complete.

“The job now is largely the industry’s to make E15 a commercial reality and we are working hard to make sure that happens,” said Dinneen, and once the marketers receive their approvals, many consumers will be seeing a new, money-saving alternative at the pump. “Given the concern today of skyrocketing gasoline prices, with ethanol being $1 cheaper than gasoline today, any gasoline marketer wanting to utilize E15 is going to be able to offer that product less expensively than E10 or any other fuel that’s available.

Vice President of Technical Services Kristy Moore says RFA spent months developing the MMP. “The plan includes not only requirements for the label and appropriate use, it also includes tools and resources to insure that proper wording appears on shipping and product transfer documents and the development of a fuel survey,” she said.

To get clear information out to retailers, RFA also developed an E15 Retailer Handbook to explain the technical details of offering E15 to consumers. Director of Market Development Robert White says they are already taking the handbook to the streets. “As of today, we will have the new E15 retailer handbook in the hands of more than 13,000 retailers,” White said on Monday.

He added that they are advancing the commercialization of E15 through the BYO Ethanol campaign, a joint venture between the National Corn Growers Association, state corn grower groups, the American Coalition for Ethanol, and RFA.

Listen to or download an audio report about the latest developments toward E15 commercialization here: Ethanol Report on E15 Plan

NCGA’s Missouri Corn Membership Machine

Missouri Corn Growers president Billy Thiel is a membership machine for the National Corn Growers Association.

During the NCGA Awards banquet at the 2012 Commodity Classic, Thiel became the 17th member of the Walter Goeppinger Recruiter Hall of Fame, an honor which comes with a classy new blazer.

Thiel led the way in recruiting new members for NCGA in 2011, adding 811 Missouri corn growers, and helping to push NCGA to a record membership of 37,l60. He also helped Missouri Corn get first place for both the largest number of new members and the largest percentage increase for the year. MCGA membership increased by 479 members in 2011, up nearly 29 percent from the previous year.

“I’m glad growers are realizing the value in being a member of the Missouri Corn Growers Association,” says Thiel, who farms in Malta Bend, Mo. “We’ve got a bigger voice when we stand together. And it’s helping. The more growers we have join, the more help we have moving our industry forward. All the things we do are adding up to bigger accomplishments.”

In 2011, Thiel recruited members by hosting a golf tournament, membership event and reaching out to stakeholders in the state’s six farmer-owned ethanol plants.

Billy is pictured here in the center between Mickey Peterson of Minnesota, one of the first Hall of Famers, and NCGA president Garry Niemeyer.

2012 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Social Media Connects With Corn Grower Members

Membership, leadership and communications were the main focuses of the biennial Membership Symposium for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) this past week in Kissimmee, Florida.

NCGA Director of Development Tim Brackman (right) says the meeting is a crucial part of the planning efforts for the organization. “It allows us to meet with the state staff as well as farmer leaders and recruiters who are out there in the trenches,” he said.

Brackman says NCGA membership continues to grow. “I’m pleased to report that while many of the associations out there are experiencing flat or even declining membership, our numbers continue to remain strong. In fact, this past year in August, we hit an all-time membership high of over 37,000 members,” he said.

Listen to an interview with Tim here: NCGA's Tim Brackman

The program featured a variety of topics for member services, including use of social media, something that Grower Services Action Team chairman Brandon Hunnicutt of Nebraska knows a little something about. “This is the key with the up and coming generation,” he said. “You’re going to reach out to them on Twitter, on Linkedin, on Facebook, or whatever the next one is.”

Brandon says it’s a great way to stay in touch with growers and others all over the country and he should know. You can follow Brandon, who is Chairman of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a fifth generation Nebraska farmer, on Twitter – @cornfedfarmer.

Listen to an interview with Brandon here: Brandon Hunnicutt interview

Moms Are Talking

The volunteer farm women involved in CommonGround state programs across the country are talking and, increasingly, the evidence shows that urban and suburban moms are joining in the conversation.  With many states recently launching their programs or preparing to do so this spring, the buzz surrounding this open, honest approach to discussing food is spreading too.

Earlier this month, CommonGround Kansas launched its program with a full court press during the University of Kansas women’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

The Lady Jayhawks may have fallen to Kansas State University’s Lady Wildcats, but the ladies of CommonGround stood tall as they explained how they grow food and the facts about modern agriculture.  For a few hours on the cold January evening, volunteers shared in outstanding Kansas City barbeque and in conversations on subjects including the locavore movement, organic fruits and vegetables, sustainability and livestock production to a group of reporters, bloggers, government representatives and community influencers.

While bringing together farm women and the people who speak to urban and suburban moms on a large scale started a conversation, what truly matters is knowing that the dialogue opened that night made a difference.  Judging by an article featuring volunteer LaVelle Winsor that ran in the Lawrence World Journal, the stories these women have to tell and understanding they offer about food scored with attendees.

In explaining the program’s goals and offering it as a resource, the article spread the word that there is another source of information for moms concerned about the foods they prepare for their family.

“We aren’t trying to tell anyone how to eat,” Winsor was quoted as saying in the article. “But we would like them to know what actually happens on our farm.”

Want to learn more?  “Like” the CommonGround Facebook page and look to see if there are upcoming events in your area.

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