No Connection Between HFCS and Obesity

In HFCS, Research by Cindy

Sweeteners are sweeteners – whether they are from sugar or corn – according to some new nutrition research.

Nutrition JournalA supplement in the December 2008 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reviews the history and development of high fructose corn syrup “finds no scientific support for the hypothesis that high fructose corn syrup is causally linked to obesity in the United States or globally any more or less than other caloric sweeteners.”

A recent symposium brought together scientific leaders on this topic from varying backgrounds – including many who have been critical of high fructose corn syrup. From that symposium, a consensus emerged that HFCS “is in fact indistinguishable from sucrose in its metabolic effects.”

In fact, what they seem to agree on is (get ready for this shocker) …. “The true cause of the obesity crisis is more likely an increase in caloric intake overall.”

So, what they are saying is the cause for obesity in America is not really corn after all – it’s simply that we eat too much! Who would have thought that?

30 Year Challenge for Agriculture

In Farming, General by Cindy

An increasing world population coupled with increasing incomes will pose some major challenges for agriculture over the next three decades, as the world puts greater and greater demands on farmers to meet the world’s food and energy needs.

Farm Foundation SummitFarm Foundation released a new report this week at The Food and Agriculture Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. that outlines those challenges. Entitled “The 30-Year Challenge: Agriculture’s Strategic Role in Feeding and Fueling a Growing World,” the report includes input from a diverse set of agriculture and agribusiness leaders, government agency representatives and academics.

Neil Conklin Farm Foundation“Global population is expected to increase by one-third by 2040. Increasing incomes, particularly in developing countries, may bring changes in dietary preferences and greater demand for agriculture to provide food and energy,” says Farm Foundation President Neilson Conklin. All this will increase pressure on and competition for natural resources at a time when the impacts of climate change on production systems are not yet fully understood, he adds.

“Farm Foundation has a 75-year commitment to objectivity, fostering constructive debate that is essential to sound public policy development in a democracy. It is appropriate that Farm Foundation be the catalyst to spur all stakeholders to begin discussions on the 30-year challenge,” Conklin continues.

Farm Foundation is directing and leading this project with support from the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council and United Egg Producers.

Listen to an interview with Neil about the report here: [audio:]

ADM Bullish on Food and Fuel

In Farming, Food vs Fuel by Cindy

The world’s population will grow by 33 percent by the year 2040, but the amount of farmland to feed and fuel that growing demand won’t have to grow by that same one-third… that’s what attendees at the Farm Foundation‘s Food and Agriculture Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. heard this week from Greg Webb of Archer Daniels Midland.

Greg Webb ADMWebb from Archer Daniels Midland told the group increasing efficiencies in production agriculture would help meet the growing demands while adding only a disproportional smaller amount of land to the production mix.

“Agriculture’s role is not one of conflict between food or fuel,” Webb said. “It is one that is quite compatible. Producing more food results in more fuel being produced as well.”

Webb says more efficient practices will give farmers, who are already are being pretty efficient compared to just recent history, an even greater opportunity to produce both the food and fuel the world demands, as long policies don’t get in the way.

Listen to an interview with Greg Webb by reporter John Davis with DomesticFuel: [audio:]

Corn Growers Heard at Bankruptcy Hearing

In Ethanol, Farming by Cindy

A hearing is the place to be heard and corn growers are pleased that they at least had their input during the bankruptcy hearing this week for VeraSun, even if the outcome was not favorable.

VeraSunAs expected, bankruptcy law and the ruling will allow VeraSun to reject any contracts that are economically disadvantageous to VeraSun, including corn growers’ contracts.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Chairman Ron Litterer of Iowa says at least they tried. “It was doubtful that we could influence the courts to require VeraSun to pay the contracted price for our corn,” Litterer said. “We believe we did influence other issues of concern to growers.”

“We will continue to advocate for the interests of all corn suppliers and play a role to help make the best of a bad situation,” said Litterer. “As providers of corn to VeraSun, corn growers want fair payment under fair terms for their corn, as well as a positive conclusion that allows VeraSun to stay viable as a long-term customer for our corn.”

NCGA will continue to monitor the VeraSun situation and keep growers informed.

Disappointed Corn Growers

In Ethanol, State Groups by Cindy

The Indiana Corn Marketing Board is calling for action over the Indy Racing League decision to partner with Brazil for ethanol to fuel the Indy Car Series.

“It is unfortunate that the IRL has chosen to promote imported ethanol at a time when we, as a country, are working hard to lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy and have an industry that has the capacity to meet all U.S. ethanol needs,” said Mike Shuter, president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC). “The U.S. ethanol industry and U.S. corn farmers have been strong supporters of the IRL – not only promoting the series as it moved towards ethanol but also pumping funds into it.”

Shuter added that the ICMC, which is the state’s corn checkoff organization, will continue working hard to promote domestically-made corn ethanol which supports the creation of jobs and boosts local economies.

“We encourage the citizens of Indiana to make your opinion known to the IRL if you feel this decision was a mistake and not in the best interest of our country, Indiana farmers, and the local economies that benefit from the growing ethanol industry in our state,” said Shuter.

Hoosier Ag Today did an interview
with Shuter, which farm broadcaster Gary Truitt was kind enough to share with Corn Commentary.

Listen to Gary’s interview here: [audio:]

Who is Indy?

In Ethanol, State Groups by Cindy

The Indy Racing League is taking a lot of flack for signing a contract with APEX-Brasil — a trade promotion agency that will be the official ethanol supplier to the series beginning in 2009.

Last week, IRL officials met with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Indiana Corn Marketing Council and National Corn Growers Association to discuss the arrangement. After the meeting, the IRL issued a statement explaining the deal, noting that the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association UNICA “will look to partner with a U.S. company to supply the IndyCar Series with American-produced corn-based ethanol.”

Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League, provided more explanation. “For the last three years, ethanol has been the official fuel as a result of a sponsorship agreement with the ethanol producers and EPIC, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council,” he said. “The ethanol producers recently notified the IndyCar Series that it would not be renewing the agreement for 2009 and beyond and EPIC is ceasing operation. No one from any other part of the American-based ethanol community stepped forward with a substantial proposal.”

Now this requires a bit of explanation. First, regarding EPIC “ceasing operation.” The organization is becoming part of the new Growth Energy group announced earlier this month. Growth Energy was started by the same major players who started EPIC almost four years ago – POET, ICM and Fagan – and now they are going in a different direction with the organization.

Also, reports are that several American ethanol producers did come forward to offer their services as a supplier during last week’s meetings but IRL officials are concerned that independent American suppliers would have difficulty matching the resources of APEX-Brasil for promotion and marketing. Still, at least for 2009, the Indy Car Series will be fueled with American ethanol through the Brazilian partnership.

Indian Corn Legend

In Farming, General by Cindy

This time of year is the only time associated with Indian corn, but did you know that corn came into the world through the Great Spirit?

That’s according to an old Indian legend I googled across. It’s pretty lengthy, as legends tend to be, but I found it pretty interesting reading on several levels. You can read the more traditional version here – or a more contemporary version here.

indian cornHere’s the Corn Commentary condensed version:

Our hero is a young Indian man named Wunzh who comes from a poor family with a father who is “kind and contented and always gave thanks to the Great Spirit for everything that he received.” Young Wunzh is the same way. When it comes time for him to fast “so that he may see in a vision the Spirit that is to be his guide through life” he goes off filled with longing to do something for his family and his tribe, specifically in the form of finding easier way to get food “than by hunting and catching fish.”

His fasting period where he is visited by a “stranger” whom he must wrestle bears a striking similarity to Jacob wrestling with the angel of God in the book of Genesis. You might recall Jacob would not let the man in his dream go until he blessed him. So Wunzh wrestles his stranger successfully and fasts one extra day to meet him again, wrestle him to the death and bury him as he had been directed in the vision.

But he never forgot the grave of his friend.

Daily he visited it, and pulled up the weeds and grass, and kept the earth soft and moist. Very soon, to his great wonder, he saw the tops of green plumes coming through the ground.

Weeks passed by, the summer was drawing to a close. One day, Wunzh asked his father to follow him. He led him to a distant meadow. There, in the place where the stranger had been buried, stood a tall and graceful plant, with bright-colored, silken hair, and crowned by nodding green plumes. Its stalk was covered with waving leaves, and there grew from its sides clusters of milk-filled ears of corn, golden and sweet, each ear closely wrapped in its green husks.

“It is my friend!” shouted the boy joyously. “It is Mondawmin, the Indian Corn! We need no longer depend on hunting, so long as this gift is planted and cared for. The Great Spirit has heard my voice and has sent us this food.”

Then the whole family feasted on the ears of corn and thanked the Great Spirit who gave it. So Indian Corn came into the world.

So the moral of the story is: be thankful for corn this Thanksgiving!

Talking Turkey

In Ethanol, Food Prices by Cindy

The turkey industry has been one of the most vocal opponents of corn for ethanol production in the last year. So, it’s not surprising to see that the cost of the turkey is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2008 Thanksgiving dinner, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $19.09 or roughly $1.19 per pound, reflects an increase of 9 cents per pound, or a total of $1.46 per turkey compared to 2007. Meanwhile, a bushel of corn has decreased 21 percent from $4.28 on Nov. 21 last year to $3.39 on the same day this year (prices are for Dec. 2008 futures). However, big food companies are still blaming increased use of corn for ethanol production for the higher cost of Thanksgiving dinner.

turkeyWhat’s wrong with this picture? The Renewable Fuels Association did the math and found that only 1.4% of price for the typical holiday meal for 10 this Thanksgiving can be attributed to the U.S. ethanol industry’s demand for corn.

Here’s how they did the math: First, they determined the amount of corn required to produce the common Thanksgiving dinner items – including turkey, stuffing, peas, cranberry sauce, rolls and milk. About 31.5 pounds of corn, with a market value of approximately $2.50, would be required to produce those food items – since only the turkey and the milk require corn. The value of corn required to produce these products accounts for roughly 7.1 percent of the total retail price.

Finally, we examined ethanol’s impact on the price of corn, and in turn, on the price of the Thanksgiving meal. An October 23 Reuters article stated that the consensus among analysts is that the ethanol industry’s demand for corn has accounted for “around 20 percent” of recent corn prices. Thus, only 20 percent of the $2.46 worth of corn required to produce a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 can be attributed to ethanol.

The result is less than 50 cents – about 1.4 percent – and that is of the TOTAL retail price for the dinner.

Incidentally, the less than 6% increase in the Thanksgiving meal this year is still a bargain in anybody’s book. This year’s average cost of $44.61 is equivalent to $20.65 in 20-year inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Farm Bureau. That means the actual dollar cost of the Thanksgiving dinner has declined more than 8 percent since 1988.

Definitely something to be thankful for this year.

Growers Could Get Burned by VeraSun

In Ethanol by Cindy

There’s a bunch of corn growers out there worried about getting burned by VeraSun’s falling star.

The nation’s second largest ethanol producer filed Chapter 11 reorganization less than a month ago and now the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Chairman Ron Litterer and others have filed a formal objection with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court over how corn contracts with the VeraSun may be handled. The grower from Greene, Iowa stands to lose personally because he has an outstanding contract to deliver corn to VeraSun. He filed the objection with and on behalf of corn growers in at least seven other states that have similar situations and are concerned with VeraSun’s proposed procedures to reject outstanding contracts.

“It is doubtful that we can influence the courts to require VeraSun to pay the contracted price for our corn. However, we do hope to influence other issues of concern to growers,” Litterer said.

VeraSunVeraSun released a statement recently saying that they are continuing to work with suppliers while pursuing long-term financing. “Unfortunately, the Company will need to reject some corn contracts for delivery through Dec. 31, 2008 at our Janesville and Welcome, Minn., facilities due to the delayed startups,” the statement continues. “Other contracts may need to be rejected or renegotiated as we continue to work through them on an individual basis.”

The corn growers are objecting to specific concerns with VeraSun’s proposed procedures under bankruptcy, which may allow VeraSun to wait until 10 days before contracted delivery date to notify growers of their rejection of the contract. This would essentially leave corn suppliers in a state of limbo while VeraSun is free to determine the market price for corn before deciding whether to accept deliveries under a contract or summarily reject the contract. Litterer believes this would be fundamentally unfair to corn growers and other corn suppliers.

According to information available to NCGA, potentially thousands of corn growers from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and other states have contracts with VeraSun.

Meanwhile, VeraSun has announced that it received a “non-binding unsolicited indication of interest with respect to the purchase of substantially all of its assets.” At the same time, POET – the world’s largest ethanol producer – says they are “in serious discussions with a couple of ethanol producers regarding possible acquisitions.” You do the math.

HFCS Campaign Expands

In General by Ken

Our friends over at the Corn Refiners Association have expanded their campaign promoting high fructose corn syrup to include some new advertisements, which you can see here.

My personal favorite.

From the CRA:

Many news outlets have covered the CRA’s “Changing the Conversation on High Fructose Corn Syrup” campaign recently. A well-timed “Halloween” initiative directed at moms was rolled out in late October that included dozens of TV and radio media interviews. More media tours are being planned.