Corn Commentary

EPA Upholds Renewable Fuels Standard

EPAThe Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it would deny a request by Texas Governor Rick Perry to reduce the Renewable Fuels Standard.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson says they carefully considered the more than 15,000 comments on the issue and found that “the RFS is not causing economic harm but is strengthening our nation’s energy security and supporting American farming communities.”

Stay tuned for more – the press conference is underway.

Waiver Decision Coming Down

Corn growers and ethanol producers are holding their collective breath today as the highly-anticipated decision by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether to grant a partial waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard will be announced this afternoon.

EPAEPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Meyers will hold a press conference at noon central to officially answer the request from Texas Governor Rick Perry to cut the RFS ethanol blending requirements by 50 percent after delaying the decision by two weeks due to the massive volume of comments received.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Gov. Perry sent a letter to EPA this week with 55 pages of attachments to Johnson responding “to challenges to his request filed with the environmental agency after the public comment period ended July 23.”

In his letter, Perry acknowledged that corn, diesel and crude oil prices have “retreated” in the past month. But, he wrote, “the fundamental problems adversely affecting our well-being remain and could worsen when those prices begin to escalate again, as they probably will.”

He also pointed to information he got from two “expert” economists who claim that the ethanol mandate “contributes materially to higher diesel fuel and and crude oil prices by suppressing gasoline production,” Perry wrote.

“This view is contrary to what would seem to be conventional wisdom and as espoused by the proponents of the ethanol mandates who claim that ethanol is suppressing the price of gasoline at the pump. But it is true nonetheless.”

We await the decision of the judges.

Missouri Corn Pleased With Primary

Kenny HulshofBoth candidates for Missouri governor this fall now support ethanol.

The Missouri Corn Growers are breathing a sigh of relief today as pro-ethanol Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof defeated Sarah Steelman, who had vowed to cancel the state’s 10 percent ethanol standard for gasoline. In November, Hulshof will face Democrat Jay Nixon, who also supports the ethanol standard.

MCGA“Some candidates have tried to drive a wedge in Missouri’s agricultural community for political gain,” states Missouri Corn Growers Association President Mike Geske. “But farmers understand the market cycles and consumers aren’t buying the scapegoat tactics being used by ethanol’s critics.”

“At a time when families are facing tough budget decisions and canceling vacation plans, Exxon Mobile reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion, the largest quarterly profit ever by a U.S. corporation,” Geske said. “Our wealth is going overseas and our businesses are being bought out by foreign investors, yet Missouri’s ethanol industry remains farmer owned. Members of the agriculture community have built this industry from the ground up and those dollars are staying here at home. In today’s economic environment, it is really one of the few bright spots.”

Missouri is home to six farmer-owned ethanol plants, producing over 250 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Microsoft Using Corn Cups

One of the latest companies to make use of a corn product to be more “green” is Microsoft. They’re using cups made from corn on their Fargo, ND campus and according to the video version of the story it looks like the cups are actually green.

The story is posted on WDAY, Fargo, ND.

These utensils just melt away in the sun. The plates and bowls derived from sugarcane, paper cups from corn, the cutlery is from potatoes.

These are not recycled; they are composted like grass clippings. The garbage bags even melt away.

You can watch the video of the story with this link. The story says Microsoft goes through 24 million cups a year. Sounds like a smart move for the environment!

Corn prices drop, but Big Food is Krafty on profits

Nebraska corn growers bring up a very good point.

Nebraska corn producers have seen the value of their corn drop dramatically over the past month, and that begs the question as to whether consumers will see a corresponding drop in their grocery bill, since grocery manufacturers have argued that higher corn was behind their rising prices.

The state corn board also points out that Kraft’s profits are up significantly this quarter, compared to a year ago, due to higher prices that more than offset rising costs.

Eco Friendly Corn Cards

Corn cardSponsored hotel card keys are getting to be common at conferences, but at the Ag Media Summit it was the first time I noticed them being made from corn-based plastic. I don’t usually scrutinize my hotel card keys, so there could very well have been at any one or more of the meetings I have been at in the last year or two – but I noticed it this time. Apparently these cards have been commercially available for about two years.

CornCard USA offers the product, which can also be used for credit cards, ID cards or any plastic cards that have been traditionally petroleum-based PVC plastic. The Arthur Blank Company advertises the cards on-line as being, “manufactured from corn, an abundant and annually renewable resource. Since corn is domestically grown, it is readily available for manufacturing, supports US farmers, the US economy, and reduces dependency on foreign petroleum supplies.”

Recently, other companies have taken up the idea, like Advantidge, a California-based security identification company. In April, the company began selling corn cards, which this story I found says is “an eco-friendly card made from a special type of corn that does not affect human corn supply.” I would be interested to know what this “special type of corn is.” Sounds to me like they were just trying to deflect any potential criticism that they were using food for cards!

New Ag Editors President Gets Corn

AMS 08 Got CornHolly Martin of High Plains Journal is the new president of the American Agricultural Editors Association and the outgoing president wanted to make sure she “Got Corn” as part of her new position.

Her focus in the coming year will be on next year’s International Federation of Agricultural Journalists meeting that will be held in conjunction with AAEA’s annual meeting. That meeting will offer our ag journalists the opportunity to showcase American agriculture to hundreds of ag media representatives from around the world. It will be held July 29-August 5.

Holly is the editor of High Plains Journal and lives with her family on a farm near Ford, KS. The outgoing AAEA is John Walter with Successful Farming.

Getting to Know Nancy

Cindy and Nancy at AMSWe finally got to meet the new National Corn Growers Association Director of Communications Nancy Bunker Koester at the Agricultural Media Summit this week in Tampa.

AMS gave Nancy the chance to meet and interact with a hundreds of ag media professionals and other industry leaders. She is not unfamiliar with this industry, having worked for Monsanto – which is ironically where her predecessor Mimi Ricketts now works. She has also done some consulting work with NCGA in the past.

She is pictured here with me at the AMS 10th anniversary dinner. Chuck did an interview with her earlier in the day about her background and plans for working with the corn growers on important issues.

“We have a message to get out about food, fuel and feed, that there’s plenty of corn seed to go around for that,” Nancy said. “And we’re working to fervently to be sure people know that.”

Listen to Chuck’s interview here:

Corn Commentary Gets the Gold

Congrats are in order for NCGA and Corn Commentary.

ASAE gold circleThe American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Center for Association Leadership has awarded the National Corn Growers Association with a 2008 Gold Circle Award in the category of “Blogs – Association Annual Budget Greater than $2 Million” for Corn Commentary.

ASAEJohn H. Graham IV, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE, said “These organizations show how successful communication vehicles help associations accomplish their strategic goals and mission. I applaud the skilled communication professionals who have mastered their tools and communications strategies to create these exemplary pieces.”

Incidentally, Corn Commentary is just about to celebrate its first anniversary. The site was launched August 2, 2007 and this post is number 416.

Alliance Formed to Fight for Food and Fuel

Some of the most respected names in agriculture are teaming up to make the case that the world can produce both food and fuel and do so abundantly and sustainably.

Alliance For Abundant Food and EnergyThe Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy includes Archer Daniels Midland, DuPont, John Deere, Monsanto, as well as the Renewable Fuels Association, who are all committed to “improving diets and reducing dependence on fossil fuels through agricultural productivity worldwide.”

Recently, critics have tried to frame the debate as an “either/or” decision, making people feel they must choose between food and energy security. The Alliance believes this is a false choice that ignores both the capabilities of agriculture and our nation’s history of using innovation to solve our problems. The Alliance realizes both are possible – and can be accomplished using less land and fewer resources than generally understood.

They point out the important innovations that these companies have already made to improve agricultural productivity, such as “seeds that yield more per acre, tractors that use GPS technology to avoid re-seeding rows, and processing techniques that allow us to make even more from a simple grain of corn. At the same time, these companies have sought to share their advances with farmers through donations and training programs in the U.S. and worldwide.”

The alliance plans to actively promote this message through advertising, lobbying and public relations efforts.

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