Corn Commentary

Starting the Conversation on T-TIP

vilsack-usdaAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Europe last week meeting with agricultural and trade officials and about the importance of agriculture’s role in the U.S.-European Union (EU) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). He started the week in Brussels by meeting with 28 agricultural ministers and representatives from the EU.

“I wanted to emphasize the opportunity and the necessity that agriculture has got to be a significant part of whatever the trade discussions ultimately end up being with T-TIP,” said Vilsack. “I was very candid with my colleagues that absent a real commitment to agriculture in this trade agreement it would be very difficult for Congress to get the votes to pass T-TIP.”

Vilsack said among the challenges related to agriculture in the agreement are tariffs, non-tariff barriers, sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues, biotechnology, regulatory simplification, pathogen reduction, and geographic indicators.

Ultimately, Vilsack believes there are more similarities than differences between the United States and Europe. “We have a common goal, which is expanding markets, and we have a common language when it comes to dealing with these difficult issues and that common language is science,” he said.

In addition to Brussels, Vilsack visited with officials in Luxembourg, Paris, and Dublin.

Vilsack press call from Brussels

NCGA CEO Addresses FEW

few14-tolmanCall it the Rick Tolman Farewell Tour.

National Corn Growers Association CEO, Rick Tolman took the podium this past week for the last time as CEO of the National Corn Growers Association to address the general session at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis. It was the 30th year for the workshop and during his remarks he commented on how things have changed in the past 30 years – from the acres of corn planted and bushels harvested to the gallons of ethanol produced and where things are headed in the future of the industry.

“It’s so exciting to see the tremendous growth the industry has made,” said Tolman. “We have so many ethanol plants now and it’s part of the mainstream, it’s in almost every gallon of gasoline across the country … and ten years ago that wasn’t the case … we’ve made tremendous progress.”

In an interview after his address at FEW, Tolman talked about this year’s corn crop, which is expected to be another record. Emergence pushed past the five-year average last week, according to the latest USDA report, and 75 percent of all acres are rated in good to excellent condition as of June 8.

Tolman says while we have planted a few less acres this year we continue to push through the 10-million bushel barrier that was so difficult to reach early in his 14-year tenure as NCGA CEO. He will be stepping down from that position at the end of September. Interview with NCGA CEO Rick Tolman

2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Gary Lamie Graduate Student Competition Winners

CUTC Poster Contest WinnersDuring the 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference the winners of the Gary Lamie Graduate Student Poster Competition were announced. The program is sponsored by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. Pictured are National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre (left) and NCGA Research and Development Action Team Chair Tom Mueller (right) with the top three poster winners. I visited with Tom whose committee oversees the CUTC.

“The National Corn Growers Association is pleased to lend our support, encouragement and a cash stipend to young researchers,” said NCGA Research and Business Development Action Team Chair Tom Mueller during the awards presentation. “Clearly, corn offers a variety of solutions for many of today’s problems, and we are honored to play a small role in recognizing the scholarly efforts that will help expand corn utilization.”

This year’s contest attracted 22 student entries. A panel of industry and academic experts evaluated the posters on their relevance to the corn industry, scientific originality, viable and supportable conclusions and oral and visual presentation. The judges reviewed entries that detailed research well above average in their significance to the industry. Due to the impressive quality of the entries, multiple rounds of judging were necessary to select the winners.

Lei Fang, Iowa State University, took first place in the contest. The second-place award was presented to Iowa State University student Fengdan Chang. Third place was awarded to Arati Santhanakrishnan, who is a student at Michigan State University.

Listen in to my interview with Tom and also hear about corn crop conditions in his area: Interview with Tom Mueller

I also asked the student winners a few questions about their projects and what it means to them to have the opportunity to compete and attend the CUTC: Interview with Student Winners

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Let’s Move! Science Backs GMOs

Whether one is a fan of the White House’s Let’s Move! initiative or not, it almost inarguably plays a large role in our nation’s discussions on food. Today, Let’s Move! Executive Director and White House Senior Advisor on Nutrition Policy Sam Kass made a major statement about the future of food during the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives conference backing the science behind GMOs and advocating for a cultural shift toward their acceptance.

Kass’s remarks, covered in Politico Pro, indicated his thoughts on how the impact of climate change and adaptive technologies will shift the currently fierce debate over GMO foods.

“I think this debate is naturally going to start to shift,” said Kass. “I think the science is pretty clear. Ultimately I think the science will win out.”

His comments echoed those often made by groups such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and CommonGround in espousing the importance of consumer choice and access to factual information about the quality and safety of the abundant food options produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“I think part of the problem with the debate as it stands is that it’s either one or the other,” said Kass. “Every side says my way is the best way. Diversity [in agriculture] is strength.”

Iowa Corn Promotes Cy-Hawk Day

June 9 was a special day for Iowans as Iowa Governor Terry Branstad officially proclaimed it Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Day.

ia-corn-cy-hawkThe Iowa Corn Promotion Board is a proud sponsor of the University of Iowa and Iowa State sports teams to educate fans about the importance of corn in their everyday lives and they were thrilled to stand beside the governor, team cheerleaders, and mascots Cy and Herky to celebrate the occasion on Monday.

“We aren’t just celebrating the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series, but we are celebrating both Universities, the coaches, athletes and the farmers who make the partnership work,” said Chris Edgington, a farmer from St. Ansgar and the current Vice President of Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

The official proclamation states, “Whereas, the series salutes the tradition and significant role that agriculture has in the history and the future of our great state; and the series is about celebrating the games, academics, the people of Iowa, and awarding points to the winner in various head to head match ups.”

The Iowa–Iowa State football game on September 13th will launch the 4th year for the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. No matter which team you back, everyone is a winner with corn!

Getting More Ethanol Per Bushel

scott-kohlSomewhere between corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol is a midpoint that can be found in the corn kernel.

“Generation one is starch to ethanol and generation two is corn stover and grasses but there is cellulose in the corn kernel,” explained ICM, Inc. technical director Scott Kohl during a session last week at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. “That’s the Generation 1.5 – the fiber in the corn kernel.”

Kohl says ICM is developing processes to separate that fiber from the rest of the kernel to make more ethanol so that the yield from a single bushel of corn will increase. “We’ve run nearly 2,000 hours of pilot runs on that system,” he said. “We are now in the process of getting the financing arranged to have the first plant running by the middle of 2015.” Kohl says the process will raise the ethanol yield from corn by 10 percent and the distillers protein content will also increase.

At CUTC, Kohl also talked about new products from dry grind mills through ICM’s patent-pending Fiber Separation Technology (FST), which is precursor to the Gen 1.5 process. “In order to get the fiber ready for the Gen 1.5 process we have to separate and purify it,” he said. “With the new process (plants) are going to make ethanol, high protein, high fiber, and a lot more oil.”

Find out more in this interview: Interview with Steve Kohl, ICM

2014 CUTC Photo Album

The More You Know

The More You KnowRemember the PSA’s that used to run with a tagline of “The More You Know?” They provided a helpful little piece of info on a broad array of subject? Today, Real Clear Science writer Ross Pomeroy offered up a succinct PSA of his own correcting misconceptions about organic and conventional agriculture with scientific information.

So what is the 15-second sound bite? Produce, whether conventional or organic, is equally safe and nutritious.

His story, “The Biggest Myth about Organic Farming,” examines the scientific realities behind many common consumer misconceptions. From exploring whether one method is healthier to explaining organics are grown using pesticides too, Pomeroy pummels the marketing hype which fosters fear and gives way to guilt among well-intentioned shoppers.

To read the full article, click here.

The truth is simple. Consumers have many choices. American farmers work to grow healthy, nutritious foods, and American shoppers have the right to decide what they prefer to purchase. What consumers need to know though is the facts that empower them to make the best decisions for their families.

The more you know about American farming, the more you know what an incredible, innovative industry it is, and the more you know about the wide variety of production options which all provide equally nutritious, healthy food for people in a way that is equally good for the environment.

So, take a moment to share his story. The more we all know, the better off we will be.

The Kentucky Bourbon Industry

Kristin MeadorsIf you’re going to have a Corn Utilization Conference why not start with America’s Native Spirit – Bourbon? That’s what our keynote speaker, Kristin Meadors, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Kentucky Distillers Association, did for us. She told us all about bourbon and how important it is to the Kentucky economy. She brought along her “little friends” to give away to people who asked a question after her presentation.

Some interesting facts include that there are more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky right now, 4.9 million, than there are people and horses in the state. Nearly 60% of every bottle of spirits in Kentucky goes to taxes. Talk about high taxation! I spoke with Kristin before her presentation.

Interview with Kristin Meadors

Learn more about the Kentucky bourbon industry from Kristin’s speech.

Kristin Meadors Keynote Address

2014 CUTC Photo Album

NCGA President Opens Corn Utilization Tech Conference

cutc-14-martinThe 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is taking place in Louisville, Kentucky this week. During the opening session National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) president Martin Barbre welcomed attendees to the semi-annual event that this year focuses on wet and dry milling technologies and new uses.

Barbre says the event brings together researchers with the common goal of facilitating the next ground-breaking technologies and corn-based products of the future. “It’s a great place for researchers to see what others are doing,” he said. “We also have a very good international focus with visitors and attendees from all four corners of the world.”

I had chance to chat with Martin about CUTC as well as some other important issues of interest to corn farmers, such as the newly passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), the EPA’s proposed Waters of the United States rule, and exports.

You can listen to that interview here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

2014 CUTC Photo Album

In Battle Against Misinformation, Barbre Leads by Example

NCGA President Martin Barbre put pen to paper this week to correct an anti-ethanol article run by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Taking decisive action to address the misinformation published, Barbre not only shed light on an important subject for readers but also led by example.

To read “Opinion Piece on Ethanol Gets Three Things Wrong,” click here.

So often, farmers see, hear or read fallacies about their industry perpetuated in the media. It is easy to fall victim to inertia. It is easy to get worked up among one’s peers. It takes greater effort and even a bit of hutzpah to speak out publicly, answering back critics in a respectful, well-considered manner. Yet, it is only in using your voices, your energy and your knowledge that you can become an advocate and shape the world around you.

Newspapers accept letters to the editor and opinion pieces every day. Likewise, calling the local television or radio newsroom producer can yield results too. So, take the initiative. Write a letter, offer to speak as an expert on a news program and provide a farmer’s point of view. The first step away from that resting position is the hardest; realize it gets easier from there.

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