Corn Commentary

Team Ethanol Victory

Team Ethanol VictoryIt was an all-American victory Sunday as Team Ethanol scored its first IndyCar Series win on Independence Day weekend at the Camping World Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, NY.

For Rahal Letterman team driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, it was a dream come true.

“American kid winning with ethanol on the side of the car,” Ryan said after the race. “It’s an American team – Bobby Rahal gave me the job and now we’re in Victory Circle.”

It was also an all-American dream come true for corn growers and the ethanol industry, since this is the second year the IndyCar Series has run on 100 percent ethanol.

Happy Energy Independence Day

By producing a few billion gallons more ethanol and using a little bit less fuel on the road, America could be energy independent through the Fourth of July every year.

oil energy graphicOver 35 biofuels, agricultural and environmental organizations are calling attention to the idea that America is on the road to energy independence. A joint statement from the groups points out that America could effectively supply its own transportation fuel needs for 186 days in 2009 — equivalent to January 1 through July 4 — meaning that imports would be needed for less than half the year. That can be achieved if each person would conserve just 21 gallons of fuel in the coming year and if we would increase ethanol production by about five billion more gallons.

The groups are calling for unity to achieve this goal. “To find true and long-lasting sustainable solutions, corporate self interests, political polarization, and agendas must be set aside. We must band together in the fight for Energy Independence here in the United States and around the globe.”

Among the many groups supporting Energy Independence Day are the National Corn Growers Association, Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, Renewable Fuels Association, Renewable Fuels Now, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, National Wheat Growers Association, and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Read more about it here.

The Era of Industrial Biotechnology

CUTC AttendeesDuring the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference some of the superstars in the industry made presentations during a session chaired by POET’s Vice President of R&D, Mark Stowers. Mark said that he hoped attendees took away a “broader concept.” His session was titled, “Dry Grind Evolution: How new technologies will continue to change the landscape for the dry grind platform.”

Mark says that the integration of biology and engineering has only been around for 30 years. He says that if you go back 20 years the application of that in human health led to a revolution in that industry and that 10 years ago that application led to stacked genes and a revolution in agriculture. Now he says we’re seeing the cumulative effect of those technologies in what he calls industrial biotechnology. This third wave says will affect fuels and materials and every part of our lives. Mark was very excited to see the level of interest in new technologies. Judging by the fact that the room was packed for his session I’d say he has reason to be.

You can listen to my interview with Mark here:


CUTC Photo Album

“Big Chicken” Behind RFS Waiver Request

A Houston Chronicle articles traces Texas Governor Rick Perry’s request for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard back to a March 25 meeting with Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, owner of Pilgrim’s Pride, the country’s largest chicken producer.

Governor Rick PerryShortly after that meeting, Pilgrim donated $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Perry. Pilgrim’s Pride also generously donated its lobbyists and public relations firm to help Perry’s staff finalize the details of waiver request, which was submitted on April 25.

Pilgrims PridePilgrim’s Pride, which owns 25 percent of the US poultry market, had net sales of nearly $7.6 billion last year, with a gross profit of about $600 million. According to their last annual report, the company still managed to make a significant profit despite higher feed costs. In fact, their gross profit for fiscal 2007 increased $293.9 million, or 98.8%, over fiscal 2006.

Doesn’t sound like they are suffering too much from higher feed costs.

Money Talks

hedline.jpgGreat reporting by the Houston Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry’s request for a waiver of federal corn-based ethanol production mandates was prompted by a March meeting he had with East Texas poultry producer Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, who six days later gave $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association chaired by Perry.

(snip)

Perry pressed for the waiver despite an April 10 Texas A&M study that showed a waiver of federal mandates on ethanol production would have little or no effect in driving down the price of feed corn for poultry and livestock. The A&M study blamed rising corn prices on the cost of oil, global demands for corn and commodities speculation.

(snip)

Perry’s staff coordinated preparation of the waiver request with Pilgrim’s Pride lobbyist Gaylor Hughey of Tyler and Cliff Angelo with Public Strategies, the firm handling a public relations campaign against ethanol for Pilgrim’s Pride and a coalition of meat producers.

Get the whole story here.

Confident Corn Growers

NASSThe USDA Planted Acreage report out Monday was good news, although it did not totally reflect the damage from Midwest flooding yet.

Corn planted area is reported to be 1.31 million acres more than was estimated in the March intentions report at 87.3 million acres, down just 7 percent from last year. That is the second highest since 1946, behind last year’s total of 93.6 million acres. If it were all to make it, growers would harvest 78.9 million acres for grain, down 9 percent from 2007 and the second highest since 1944.

NASS collected most of the data for the report before the majority of the flooding occurred but they did re-interview about 1,200 farmers at the end of the month in the flood-affected areas. Through that it was determined that farmers intend to harvest about two percent less, or 90.4 percent, of their planted acres of corn for grain.

Garry Niemeyer and Ken McCauleyI had the opportunity to chat with a few corn growers Friday night at a benefit concert for Farm Foundation held at the Lake Ozark home of Sara Wyant (Agri-Pulse) and husband Allan Johnson (USDA Rural Development). Garry Niemeyer of Illinois and and Ken McCauley of Kansas were two of the growers at the event. Ken, who is the chairman of the National Corn Growers, says his corn in Northeast Kansas looks good. “If you’re sitting there with flood water, you don’t want to go to northeast Kansas, because it looks really good,” Ken told me. “We have had some hail, we have had some wind, but overall I think we can make it through because we do need a big corn crop.”

“I tell you what, everybody is going to produce some corn,” Ken says. “Iowa will produce a lot of corn and when you get down to it we’re gonna have a good corn crop and it could even be one of the better one or two or three.”

“I really think we’re gonna get through this and farmers are going to look back and say ‘what a year!'”

Listen to my interview with Ken here:

Radio Campaign Targets KC

Missouri CornKansas CornMissouri and Kansas may be rivals on the football field but they are on the same team when it comes to the “food versus fuel” issue.

The Missouri Corn Merchandising Council teamed up with the Kansas Corn Commission and the Renewable Fuels Now Coalition for a targeted radio campaign in the Kansas City region. The 30-second spots have been airing on KCFX, KCMO, WHB and KMBZ feature a radio host called “The Food Dude” answering callers’ questions about higher food prices. This air-time was paid for with corn grower checkoff funds and is operating under the Renewable Fuels Now Coalition banner. The educational radio efforts will run through July 1.

These radio spots include a space at the end for local taglines and are available for use by request from the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) in Omaha. Listen to the “Food Dude” spot here:

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:



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