Corn Commentary

Here’s Your Sign

You probably are familiar with comedian Bill Engvall’s signature bit “Here’s your sign” that pokes fun at people who ask dumb questions to which the answers should be obvious.

The next time someone asks, “Why should we support domestic production of ethanol?” – here’s their sign, courtesy of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council. They have several others as part of an advertising campaign that started earlier this month encouraging supporters to “sign up for ethanol.”

The campaign highlights the role of ethanol in increased energy security, economic development and decreased gas prices.

The goal for the group is to get at least 4,000 state residents to register their support at the web site but the website has been attracting hundreds of ethanol supporters nationwide. Names of people from at least 25 other states are listed on the website ethanol supporter scroll. States from east to west and north to south are represented – including California, New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Washington, Arizona and more.

Check it out and add your name to the list.

Pro Farmer Crop Estimate

The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour has come up with an estimate for this year’s corn and soybean crops that’s close, but just a bit lower than this month’s USDA forecast.

Based on data collected on the tour last week, Pro Farmer estimates a corn yield of 153.3 bushels per acre for total of 12.15 billion bushels. That compares to USDA’s August forecast of a 155 bushel yield for corn and a 12.3 billion bushel harvest.

For soybeans, Pro Farmer estimates a yield of 39.95 bushels per acre and a harvest of 2.93 billion bushels, compared to USDA’s forecast of 2.97 billion bushels with yields are expected to average 40.5.

Chip Flory, editor and publisher of the Pro Farmer newsletter, said the four-day roller coaster ride tour was the craziest he’s ever seen. “We lost bushels out of Ohio compared to USDA’s August estimate, I think we found those bushels in South Dakota. Then we lost bushels in Nebraska, but we found them in Indiana. Then we lost some bushels out of Illinois but we found them in western Iowa,” Flory said. “It’s just been a give and take tour.”

To allow for weather changes between now and crop maturity, Pro Farmer is putting a range of plus-or-minus one-percent on the corn yield estimate and plus or minus two-percent on the soybean yield estimate.

The annual Pro Farmer tour goes through portions of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and all of Iowa. This year’s tour included nearly 70 crop scouts ranging from full-time farmers to members of the media and representatives of banks like Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers. The tour was sponsored by John Deere Risk Protection and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

Corn Flakes Go For The Gold

I first saw this on Fox News while working out this afternoon. Apparently 8 Gold Olympics Medals winner Michael Phelps is forgoing the Wheaties box cover for Corn Flakes. Now that’s interesting.

He’s also going to be on the cover of Frosted Corn Flakes and that, according to Fox, has “outraged” some nutritionists. If so, there’s not much on the web about it and probably for good reason. My take is that some nutritionists are trying to capitalize on Phelps’ current fame to hype their own agenda. Give me a break.

Anyway, the folks at Kellogg’s are pretty happy:

He’s already taken his place in history alongside the legends, but now Michael Phelps can add one more milestone to the list. After earning eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympic Games, Michael Phelps has earned a place of honor on the front of specially-marked Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes® and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® cereal boxes.

The gold medal winning Olympic champion from Baltimore, Maryland will be featured on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal packages that are expected to hit grocery store shelves across the U.S. in mid-September. The boxes will feature images of Phelps during what were some of the most memorable moments of this summer’s Olympic Games.

“As an Official Sponsor of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and a proud sponsor of Phelps, it is only fitting that Kellogg Company feature this world-class athlete on its iconic boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereals,” said Marta Cyhan, Vice President, Global Promotions, Kellogg Company. “Michael embodies the values behind our Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes™ program. He knows that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but about good sportsmanship, working hard and being your best.”

MO Governor Checks Out Food Prices

Missouri State Fair-goers last week got an education about the cost of corn in their everyday food items.

Featuring a “Price Is Right” themed game, the Missouri Corn Growers booth in the Agriculture Building challenged consumers to guess the value of corn in various grocery items including milk, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, soda and corn flakes. According to MCGA Communications Director Becky Grisham, “With inaccurate accusations blaming corn for rising food costs, consumers were surprised to find that most items’ retail prices were largely unconnected to the value of corn needed to produce them.”

“The vast majority of questions and comments regarding corn and ethanol have been positive,” Grisham reported. “Most importantly, attendees are walking away with a better understanding of corn farmers’ ability to produce feed, food and fuel.”

Even Missouri Governor Matt Blunt stopped by the booth to play the game. No word on how well he did.

Kansas Corn Helps Launch Blender Pump Program

Kansas Corn CommissionKansas is now the second state to lead the nation in raising public awareness for higher blends of ethanol as the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), ICM and the Kansas Corn Commission Monday launched a blender pump incentive program for the Sunflower State.

EPIC“Today is a great day for Kansas as we help the ethanol industry expand higher blends of ethanol through blender pumps while also giving consumers a break at the pump and allowing them to use a product produced right here in Kansas,” said Kansas Corn Commission Chairman, Bob Timmons. “This program will help strengthen our economy by encouraging blender pump infrastructure development, and take us one step closer to weakening our dependence on foreign oil.”

The initiative will help fuel station retailers obtain funding and the equipment needed to sell higher blends of ethanol, which range from E20 to E50 and can only be used in FFVs. One of the main goals is to increase the state’s blender pump infrastructure by installing a minimum of 100 blender pumps over the next year. Currently, three blender pumps are open in the state thanks to a pilot program adopted by the Kansas Department of Agriculture that made Kansas one of the first states in the nation to allow ethanol blender pumps.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council launched a similar program.

Alice in Ethanol Land

Wisconsin’s Alice in Dairyland must be feeling like she is in Wonderland now driving the state in a brand new, fully-loaded E85 compatible Chevy Tahoe courtesy of the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board and General Motors.

Ashley Huibregtse is serving as the 61st Alice in Dairyland. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she earned her degree in Elementary Education and Communications. As a public relations specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Alice in Dairyland annually travels the equivalent of a trip around the world during her 12-month tour.

“It’s very appropriate that our state agricultural ambassador starts her year-long, statewide drive at an ethanol plant and that she does so driving our ethanol-fueled car,” says Ken Rosenow, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board President and corn grower from Oconomowoc. “Having Alice in Dairyland drive the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board’s E-85 Chevy Tahoe while she promotes agriculture across the state is the perfect symbol of how corn-based ethanol drives our state’s economy in an economical, fuel-efficient and renewable manner.”

Ugly Baby Has Bright Future

When National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman was introduced at the 21st American Coalition for Ethanol Conference and Trade Show, he was called “one of the most effective spokespeople” for the ethanol industry, and he certainly lived up to that introduction.

He started out by noting that the corn growers and ethanol producers in the audience were indeed and “powerful and influential group.”

“You’re the group that’s the cause of the Amazon rain forest deforestation, the obesity epidemic and world starvation and you stand accused of crimes against humanity. You’re the reason for the increase in dead zone of the Gulf, the cause of the Midwest flooding this spring, the reason that a tub of popcorn costs $5, that Britney had a meltdown and that Brett Favre came out of retirement and became a Jet, and you’re the cause of John Edward’s infidelity.”

Tolman talked about the press ethanol has been getting lately and focused in on T. Boone Pickens’ comment that corn ethanol was “the ugly baby of renewable energy.”

“Most babies are ugly when they are born,” Tolman said. “People say that the newborn baby looks a lot like Winston Churchill or, heaven forbid, T. Boone Pickens.”

Tolman says there are many comparisons that can be drawn between babies and the ethanol industry – they go through lots of trauma and stress being born, they need help to survive and grow, and they have a great deal of potential.

“Corn ethanol may be the ugly baby, that’s kind of a badge of honor,” he said. “It is the ugly baby with a very bright future.”

He concluded with pictures of his own grandbabies and said if anyone wants to call them ugly, “I know their grandmother, I wouldn’t do that.”

Food for Phones

Samsung unveiled its latest “eco-phone” this week in Beijing.

The E200 Eco is the third phone Samsung has introduced this year with parts made from bioplastic materials extracted from corn and the first which features the entire case made from corn-based plastic.

The E200 Eco features a camera, video messaging and an MP3 player. The phone will be available in Europe next month but does not yet have an American release date.

Samsung affiliate Cheil Industries has been developing these environmentally friendly materials.

Some Weekend Reading on Ethanol

Two recent reports take a broad look at the research and statistics related to ethanol’s impact on food and fuel. On July 31, Ethanol Across America published a new white paper that compiled existing data and research. It “notes that while corn prices have indeed nearly doubled in the past year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), food costs have increased within their historical annual average of 2.9%. However, fuel prices have risen 82% since 2006 and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture have had a much greater impact on food prices due to higher costs of bringing products to market and food processing.”

Douglas A. Durante, Director of the Ethanol Across America campaign, said “Ethanol demand has accounted for 20 percent of the increase in demand for grain, with considerably less when the distillers grains are returned to the feed supply. The other 80 percent is due to global demand from other countries that are increasing their quality of life and diet. More people wanting more meat and more dairy products will continue to drive the market much more than biofuels.”

And the North Dakota Farmers Union is distributing an educational booklet called “The Popcorn Theories.” The booklet dispels some of the myths being perpetuated in the public arena about what is driving today’s food prices. Chief among the theories is the notion that ethanol production is responsible for the higher cost of food.

According to NDFU, the facts show that high energy costs are the primary culprit driving today’s food prices. The price of oil has forced the cost of food higher as the average food item travels more than 1,500 miles before reaching the final consumer. Other contributing factors include weather-related production shortages, the weak dollar, growing export demand from developing world economies, and market speculation.

Where Does Gov. Perry Shop?

Maybe Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of those politicians who likes to spend too much on things like haircuts. I can’t otherwise understand his statement in the Wall Street Journal today that corn is “close to $8 per bushel.”

It’s actually a lot less than that, nearly half in some parts.

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