Corn Commentary

Corn Harvest in Florida

fl-cornFlorida ranks first in the nation for sweet corn production, but we also grow a little bit of field corn in the Sunshine State as well.

Not that the Corn Belt has to worry about losing its title to Florida. Only about 30,000 acres of field corn were harvested in Florida in 2011 with a yield of 100 bushels per acre. Most of that acreage can be found along the I-10 corridor across the top of the state, from Pensacola to Jacksonville.

As I was Googling around for 2013 corn harvest information, I came across this article and video by Mace Bauer, who is an agronomy extension agent in Columbia County, located right at the intersection of I-10 and I-75. He says their “acreage was up about 30% in this area due to spring prices favoring corn on irrigated land.”

Mace shot his “tractor drivers view” of the north Florida corn harvest at 83 Farms, LLC in Lake City. He says the corn was being loaded directly on to rail cars to be taken into North Georgia and the Carolinas to meet the needs of the livestock industries in that area. “Following the Midwest Drought of 2012, many end users are scrambling to meet grain needs before the large harvest in the Midwest begins,” Mace says, adding that area farmers were happy to deliver.

Farmer Assurance Provision Protects Farmers, Not Monsanto

Painting a seriously skewed portrait of the Farmer Assurance Provision, Elizabeth Kucinich played on anti-Monsanto, anti-capitalist sentiment in an attempt to whip up public fervor against a sensible law designed to protect America’s farm families. The resulting piece, which ran on the Huffington Post, uses a truly ridiculous combination of ominous implications and arguments based to mislead the masses and, in doing so, further the lack of understanding that makes so many people many fearful of their food.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, in its essence, protects American family farmers who, due to often-frivolous lawsuits based in procedural arguments and directed at major corporations, could face serious economic harm. This provision reassure farmers that they can plant and harvest crops developed through biotechnology already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a temporary stewardship agreement in the event of litigation against the agencies decision.

In simple terms, the FAP removes a potentially significant financial risk facing farmers. Without this important piece of legislation, the regulatory process for biotechnology would leave the family farmers who purchase seeds approved by their government vulnerable to costly losses should an activist group choose to legally challenge the government’s decision. Without this provision, these men and women, acting in good faith, become collateral damage in an ideological battle between those who embrace and those who eschew science.

The need for such protection has been made evident over the past several years as opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed lawsuits against the USDA on procedural grounds. In filing these suits, the anti-activists aim to disrupt the regulatory process and, in a broader fashion, undermine the science-based regulation of biotech ag products. These lawsuits strain USDA resources and delay the approval of new, innovative products America’s farmers need to grow abundant, affordable food and remain internationally competitive.

Kucinich goes so far as to advocate for these types of attacks. Implying that chemical herbicides and genetically engineered crops should be met with public rage, notably without giving any reason why these extensively tested, proven technological advances are anything less than revolutionary, she rages blindly against a world in which innovation generates a profit.

Furthermore, this farmer-bashing fiasco of a post then begins makes a massive leap into the realm of food labeling to continue its tirade against the companies who provide farmers with new technologies. She points out companies such as Monsanto and DuPont have spent money to fight GMO labeling campaigns. She fails to evaluate the actual propositions in any way. In the case of California, she conveniently forgets to mention the proposed legislation was actually backed by trial lawyers looking to find their next cash cow. Presumably, she feels comfortable with predatory lawsuits that generate no value for the community but not with companies investing in ag research and supplying the innovations needed to feed a growing world turning a profit.

While she may not understand sound science and live in constant denial of the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology is not only safe but is beneficial, she masterfully demonstrates her knowledge of how to engineer panic and fear. Her post expertly manufactures the perception of public outrage and uses it as grounds on which to attack a provision intended to protect America’s farm families from her assault on science. The scorched-earth mentality of this assault demonstrates her deep desire to maintain a weapon that inflicts massive collateral damages on honest, hardworking farm families. Rather than demonstrating a deep insight into the FAP, GMO labeling initiatives, sound science or capitalism, she exposes both her ignorance and rage-fueled fervor to burn down anything which she doesn’t understand.

Don’t fall for the self-serving hype disguised as righteous indignation. Take the step she doesn’t and get the facts. The rhetoric may be rousing, but her assault on the Farmer Assurance Provision is actually on America’s farm families.

Importance of Ag Education

The president of the Iowa Board of Regents is a great promoter of agricultural education in the United States as “Today’s Solution for Tomorrow’s World.”

fps13-rastetterBruce Rastetter visited the 2013 Farm Progress Show last month to talk about the importance of agricultural education and the vast number of career choices available for students of all backgrounds. “I think the biggest fields are agronomy, plant sciences, the animal science area is growing because of world protein demand, but it’s really the technology, the innovation and the ability to use science to create greater yields,” he told me.

Rastetter says Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture has record enrollment this fall, fourth largest in the country, and nearly every single student has a job by the time they graduate, “with the majority of them having five offers by December of their senior year.”

He believes students with non-ag background will be more interested in agricultural careers if they realize its importance in feeding the world. “If it wasn’t for Norman Borlaug there would be a couple billion of people that would have died in the world. We need to make sure that we encourage an education system that develops the next Norman Boraug for the world,” said Rastetter.

Listen to my conversation with Bruce from Farm Progress Show: Interview with Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter

Fight Back Against Big Oil’s Big Plan

This week, American drivers mark a strange milestone as they have now paid an average of more than $3 per gallon for gas for 1,000 straight days. AAA says the prices are here to stay. Staring at the sky, pockets already emptied as paychecks haven’t kept up with inflation, frustrated commuters continue to ask, “Can’t anyone save us?”

Look toward the horizon instead of the heavens. The answer lies in corn fields across the country. As the wind blows through the stalks, it whispers, “ethanol.”

Just last year, drivers saved about a dollar a gallon through the use of E10 blends.  Now that E15 is becoming available in more markets anyone driving a 2001 or newer auto can increase their ability to make ethanol’s discount to gasoline work for them. For those with the foresight to purchase flex fuel vehicles, E85 can actually bring the cost down below the $3 per gallon threshold. With most drivers logging more than 12,000 miles per year, those savings can really add up.

Right now, Big Oil is spending an incredible amount of money, money made from selling American consumers costly fuel, in an attempt to kill the very policy that brings an E10 option to the pump. They have the infrastructure and power to ensure that they quash consumer choice. They promote this cloaked attack using dollars taken from your pocket.  Whether  using American driver dollars to shore up a monopoly and gain even more American driver dollars is a either diabolical plot or a  profitable business decision depends on which side of the gas hose you are on.

Join the fight against fossil fuel tyranny. Learn more about how renewable fuels save money for consumers and help save the environment. Together, we can escape from the oil-soaked clutches which would bleed our bank accounts dry. Learn more today.

E15 Back from Summer Break

Drivers of 2001 model year or newer vehicles can now fill up with 15% ethanol blends once again, now that the silly summer volatility vacation is over.

E15nowavailablesign-JPG_000“We’re excited to see E15 back in Iowa,” said Iowa RFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

Iowa’s six E15 retailers reported earlier this year that consumers had absolutely zero issues with registered E15 fueling, labeling, and engine performance when it was previously available from September 15, 2012 through May 31, 2013. E15 was sold in the state at an average of nearly a 22-cent discount to regular (no ethanol) gasoline, and at nearly an 11-cent discount to E10, the most commonly used fuel in the nation.

In the past 14 months, E15 availability has expanded to approximately 40 stations in nine states. More than 40 million miles have been driven on E15 with no known cases of engine damage, misfueling, or liability claims. E15 is unable to be sold at any of those locations between June 1 and September 15 because the proper blendstock is unavailable due to summer volatility requirements. EPA did not waive the one-pound federal requirement that the blended product have a Reid Vapor Pressure of 9 pounds or less per square inch for E15, which limits its sale during the summer months.

“After three months of waiting, retailers with compatible equipment can finally start offering E15 if allowed by their franchises,” said Renewable Fuels Association director of market development Robert White. “Given the economy, current gas prices, new data on consumer demand and sales revenue generated by retailers who are presently offering E15, I think you will see interest increase dramatically.”

Besides Iowa, E15 retailers are also located in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.

WRRDA Bills Flows Out of House Committee

mississippi-riverThe House Transportation Committee made a long-awaited move Wednesday and introduced a water resources development bill that adds an extra R to WRDA and provides some hope that improvements will finally be made to outdated locks and dams on waterways that move crops to export markets.

According to the committee, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA) “cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, promotes fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America’s competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.”

fps13-davisThe issue was a major topic of discussion at the Farm Progress Show where committee member Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) told farmers he expected the bill to be introduced this month.

“We’ve got to have better policies in place, because even the Corps of Engineers says with full funding right now it would take them 40 years to complete the upgrades to the lock and dam system on the Mississippi,” said Davis. “That’s unacceptable.”

The committee’s bill includes a provision authored by Davis and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) to improve waterway infrastructure though public-private partnerships “with one goal in mind, to speed up the process that will allow us to have greater locks and dams,” he said. Interview with Rep. Rodney Davis

National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Martin Barbre of Illinois hopes members of Congress understand how critical the situation is before it’s too late. “One of these days, there’s not going to be any salt going to Chicago in the middle of winter because the locks and dams are broke down, then they’ll realize what the corn growers have been fighting all this time,” Barbre said during an interview at Farm Progress Show.

The Davis-Bustos language authorizes the creation of a pilot program that would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to identify 15 water resources development projects eligible to be financed through public-private partnerships. Similar legislation was included in the Senate version of WRDA which passed in May.

Neil Young Believes in Homegrown Fuel

Homegrown’s all right with me.
Homegrown is the way it should be.
Homegrown is a good thing.
Neil Young – Homegrown

Grammy-winning recording artist Neil Young rocked the free world and showed he has a “heart of gold” for ethanol during a press event in Washington D.C. Monday with the National Farmers Union focused on passage of a farm bill and support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nfu-neil-young“I love ethanol. I love how it smells, I love the way it makes my car go, everything about it is great, it’s clean,” said Young. “It’s a beautiful fuel.”

Young, who was one of the original founders of Farm Aid in 1985, definitely won some new farmer fans with his passionate support for homegrown fuel and criticism of the oil industry.

“America does not have freedom of choice when it comes to its fuel,” he said.”Every time you get off the road, you enter a monopoly zone – it’s called Big Oil. There’s no reason why every fuel stop that has more than four fuel pumps cannot have an E85 pump…it gives Americans the freedom to choose the fuel they use.”

Young recently traveled cross country in a vehicle powered by cellulosic ethanol and electricity because he strongly believes that alternative fuels are important for the environment. “We have a very big problem, CO2 is going to be a huge issue in the next couple of years,” he said. “Ethanol and other biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, are the answer to this problem.”

Listen to some of Young’s comments here: Neil Young for Ethanol

American Character Fuels Future of Our Farms

Farming looks quite different in America than it does in Europe. While many offhandedly write off the modernizations that allow American farmers to produce such an abundant, affordable food supply by characterizing U.S. farmers as passive pawns of agribusiness, The Economist magazine dug deeper in recent article and found American farming to be a product more of a forward-looking, achievement-driven national character. A character carefully cultivated in young farmers very much by design.

To see the full article, click here.

This close examination finds that the history of the New World necessitated farmers find ways to feed a fast growing, wide spread population. The attitudes embraced by immigrants, forward-thinking and innovative individualists, led American farmers to more easily embrace changing technology and science. The New World looked forward. The Old World embraced the past.

Today, as the article notes, organizations aimed at developing a scientifically minded, industrious generation of new farmers, such as 4-H, mold young agriculturalists to embrace science. Through programs such as these, America continues to push forward in farming, as it does in many other areas.

As Americans, we must continue to focus on the core values that fueled the incredible growth of our nation. As a society, we embrace technology rapidly, craving the newest medical and communications advances. By applying the same fervor to agriculture, we can use the tools developed in our research labs and in our nation’s fields. Together, we must embrace the technologies that move agriculture forward to meet tomorrow’s demands.

America’s young farmers see a vibrant vision of what farming can be. Why encumber them with a social and political environment that would prefer looking toward the past?

Don’t Till for Me Argentina

Argentina may be about 10 years behind the United States in adoption of precision farming technology, but the country is probably 20 years ahead in adoption of no till practices.

That was one of the most interesting bits of information I gleaned about Argentinean farming during the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) 2013 Congress in Argentina last week.

ifaj13-notillThe Argentinean No Till Farmers Association – Aapresid – was created in 1989 with the goal of helping farmers in the country adopt no-tillage practices on their farming operations. “Nowadays, about 80% of our crops are done by no till,” said Martin Descalzo Souto with the organization. That compares with about 35-40% here in the United States.

“It was a very important saving of fuel so it was economically important for the farmer, and they also have an important saving of water,” Souto said, adding there are some areas of the country that can only be planted without tillage.

Aapresid is now taking no-till to the next level by providing a certification program for farmers who keep records of their practices and use crop rotation to reduce chemical use and improve soil. “We are looking at it not just as a practice but as a process,” said Souto.

Adoption of even the most basic precision technology is becoming more prevalent in Argentina, but Souto says they still need agronomists to work with that information for it to become more widespread. Interview with Martin Descalzo Souto, Argentinean No Till Farmers Association

2013 IFAJ Congress Photo Album

Radio Report Shares Story of Full Impact, Importance of Farm Bill

Sometimes, it seems as if the reality of farming in the United States gets lost in the media shuffle. With so much attention turned towards serious situations abroad or sensationalized scandals at home, thoughtful journalism on the issues affecting American agriculture often do not make the front page unless a major weather event, such as a drought, raises concerns over availability or food prices.

Yesterday, National Public Radio’s Here and Now provided an in-depth look at why the farm bill matters to rural America. Focusing on the positive impact of crop insurance, this piece provides a look at why an issue some might dismiss as only important to farmers actually matters for the multitude of businesses that depend upon farmer dollars.

Farmers might not agree with every word uttered by every party interviewed for the story. Certainly, there are as many opinions about the course of this legislation as there are producers touched by it. For everyone involved in agriculture, such well-reasoned, rational radio does provide a benefit in introducing a nuanced narrative to listeners who might not be otherwise familiar with the issue.

As Congress returns from recess, American agriculture must tell its story. It is critical for the men and women who farm to explain the importance of crop insurance to them personally. Likewise, we need to relate the importance to the vast web of equipment dealers, bankers, seed providers and others who benefit from a healthy farming economy. We need to put forth the time and effort and spur Congress to action because we do need a farm bill now.

So take a listen. The story is yours to tell.



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