Corn Commentary

Know the Truth

A great man once said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Unfortunately, the general public is faced with conflicting “truths” on a daily basis so its hard for them to tell just “what is truth.”

Food Price TruthA group called the 2020 Project is sponsoring a campaign called FoodPriceTruth.org in an attempt to break through the clutter and be heard on the food versus fuel issue that is being distorted by the media, Big Food and Big Oil.

According to the 2020 Project blog, “We are sponsoring the project because the debate about “food versus fuel” has been skewed by corporate interests running aggressive PR campaigns. The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) — who are underwriting the campaign — want the world to believe that biofuels are increasing the price of food while its largest members spike food prices and sharply increase their profits during the crisis. General Mills, Kellogg and Kraft are all reporting much higher profits this quarter — some of their quarterly reports acknowledge that their profits stem from higher prices –while their lobbying arm pretends to be sympathetic to the consumer.”

Food Price Truth is supported by donations from several biofuels stakeholders, including advanced biofuels companies. Their mission is to “provide a clearinghouse of information designed to set the record straight on the domestic and worldwide food crisis.”

The challenge is for the public to decide whose truth they are going to believe.

Iowa Corn Growers Help With Flood Relief Efforts

Iowa corn growers are helping communities in the state recover from flooding.

Iowa Corn Promotion BoardThe Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Corn Promotion Board have donated $2,500 worth of ethanol gift certificates to the Red Cross to help with the transportation costs associated with flood relief efforts.

Iowa Corn“Thousands of Iowa growers and their communities have been hit by these floods,” said Tim Recker, ICGA president. “We already know ethanol helps consumers control their every day fuel costs, so it seems only right for ethanol to help with fuel costs during the recovery.”

The groups announced the gift at the Iowa Corn Indy 250 race last weekend. The donation, in the form of 250 $10 gift certificates, will give the Red Cross flexibility since the certificates can be easily distributed and used anywhere ethanol-blended fuel is sold in Iowa.

Researching Food and Fuel Link

Michael WetzsteinThe Farm Foundation just concluded a conference in their series titled, “Transition To A Bio Economy.” This one was on risk, infrastructure and industry evolution and all the presentations were on biofuels. I conducted a series of interviews with the presenters which you can find with this link.

One of them has done some interesting research on the link between the volatility of ethanol production and corn prices. He is Michael Wetzstein, University of Georgia. His talk dealt with two issues. One is on price volatility and the other is on food and fuel. Michael says that gas price volatility can be avoided with fuel diversification by blending renewable fuels with fossil fuels.

Another part of his research is on food and fuel and to answer the question of “Is there a direct link between the volatility of ethanol production and the volatility of corn prices. His research has found that there is a link but not a persistent or long lasting one. In fact, in the long run he says there is no direct link.

The bottom line he says is that we just need to produce more food. After talking to Iowa corn growers last weekend, I can say that American farmers are certainly doing their best.

You can listen to my interview with Michael here:

Proud of What They Do

E Man and Corn Guy at Iowa IndySunday was “Proud to be a Midwestern Corn Grower Day” during the telecast of the Iowa Corn Indy 250. The only thing that would have made the day better would have been the Team Ethanol car in the winner’s circle. But Ryan Hunter Reay certainly gave it a good go.

Just about every other commercial during the race broadcast was one from the corn growers and they were excellent spots. I also loved the opening “start your corn ethanol-fueled engines” heralded by Iowa Corn Promotion Board chairman Julius Schaaf.

The spot below is my personal favorite from the race, featuring corn growers proclaiming they are proud to be America’s feed, food and fuel providers. GO Corn!!!

Check out all the photos from the race and pre-race activities here:
Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album

For audio and video interviews and overall coverage of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 – check out this link to Domestic Fuel.

Iowa Corn Educates Media

Iowa Corn GrowersAt the Iowa Speedway yesterday, the Iowa Corn Growers Association held an outdoor press conference. They used it to help educate media about corn usage by placing banners on the side of a grain trailer showing the relative percentages of corn used for different purposes like livestock feed and ethanol.

I did a short interview with Gary Edwards, ICGA board member. Ken Root, WHO, also participated. Gary farms in Animosa, IA which is in one of the most flood impacted areas of the state. He says that although corn growth is behind schedule and there is a lot of land impacted, he expects that the state will still have a good crop. He wants people to keep in mind that last year they had a record corn crop and this year still has the potential to be one of the biggest. He says the water levels have gone down significantly already and he expects that a lot of those fields will dry out and be re-planted. He has no doubt that they’ll be able to provide all the corn needed for both food and fuel again this year.

You can listen to my interview with Gary here:

Race Writers Learn About Ethanol

Ethanol Press ConferenceThe corn ethanol industry is on a national stage this weekend in Newton, IA with the 2nd Annual Iowa Corn Indy 250. To help journalists covering the event get an inside look at ethanol several groups participated in a press conference including (l-r), Toni Nuernberg, EPIC, Craig Floss, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Mike Sobetski, LifeLine Foods and Troy Hobbs, Monsanto.

They spoke about food and fuel, corn prices and the future of ethanol. Afterward the journalists were provided with a pace car ride out on the track.

You can listen to their remarks here:

You can listen to Toni’s comments here:

You can listen to Craig’s comments here:

You can listen to Mike’s comments here:

You can listen to Troy’s comments here:

E For Ethanol and Enzymes

CUTC AttendeesThe word “enzymes” was a key one at the CUTC this year and in fact, one whole session was devoted to it titled, “New developments and efficiencies in the world of enzymes.”

One of the speakers on that program was Elizabeth Hood, Arkansas State University. I spoke to her about her presentation. She’s a plant biotechnologist with a small start up company. They produce enzymes for biomass conversion. Her talk was about the work their doing that uses the corn kernel as the bio-factory for making enzymes. She’s hoping that this will be a co-product for ethanol production.

Elizabeth says it will be about 12 to 16 months until they have commercial products and that they’ve been working on the project for about 7 years.

You can listen to my interview with Elizabeth here:


CUTC Photo Album

Creating New Products From Ethanol

Carl LiraFor many people, ethanol seems like a new product, although it’s anything but. What is new is how researchers are finding new products that can be made from ethanol itself.

At the recent CUTC, one of the presentations was “Reactive Distillations for Chemical Products from Ethanol” by Carl Lira, Michigan State University. I spoke with him about the work he’s doing in this area.

Carl says he’s looking at methods to diversify the ethanol production platform. For example, he’s looking at new products that can be made from ethanol so that producers can diversify and react to the market in different ways. He’s trying to get them to think with more of a bio refinery philosophy. From a product standpoint, he’s using ethanol as a reagent to produce high quality chemicals.

He says they’ve done some economic analysis which is available from NCGA and that it looks very attractive.

You can listen to my interview with Carl here:


CUTC Photo Album

Food AND Fuel Ethanol Technology

ICM technologyICM, Inc. made what could quite possibly be a revolutionary announcement today about technology that can be added to existing ethanol plants to allow the production of both fuel AND food. Not just distillers grains to feed livestock, but high quality protein to feed people.

ICM president Dave Vander Griend says their technology can literally help to feed the world. “There’s been a lot of talk about the global need for grain, but in fact, the global need is really for protein,” he said.

Dave Vander Griend ICMThe process separates the corn kernel into its three main components – endosperm, germ and bran. Optimizing the whole kernel allows for the production of a number of food and feed grade co-products as well as another alternate fuel source to power the plant itself.

One of the most promising aspects of the technology is the protein that can be separated out from the germ. “Because that protein is a very amino acid balanced protein, a very healthy protein,” Dave says. The protein can be then utilized as a supplement to make a better food product and could be exported as part of the United States food aid program.

I interviewed Dave about this exciting opportunity during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Nashville. He also talks about the mood of the industry and his feelings about the efficiency of American farmers.

You can listen to my interview with Dave here:

Blunt Stands Firm

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt has denied a request by Kansas City for a waiver of the state’s ten percent ethanol renewable fuels standard.

“We have reviewed the request for a waiver of the E-10 standard in the Kansas City area,” Gov. Blunt said. “After thorough consideration of all aspects of this waiver request, I have decided it is in the best interest of the state to not issue the waiver.”

Missouri CornThat was good news for Missouri corn growers, who strongly support the state renewable fuels standard.

“With gasoline prices already soaring, removing ethanol in Kansas City would send prices even higher,” said Missouri Corn Growers Association president Mike Geske. “By denying the waiver, Gov. Blunt is preventing consumers from experiencing additional pain at the pump.”

Missouri currently has the lowest average gas price per gallon nationwide at $3.82 and part of the credit for that is being given to the ten percent mandate. Read this “Expainer” article by Slate.com.



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