Embrace the Freedom to Make Bad Choices

In Activism, Farming, General, HFCS by Mark

Agriculture is broken. Our food is making us fat and killing us. Farming is horrible for the environment and I am having a bad hair day!

Who are these elitist whiners that seem hell bent on convincing us all that we are doing things wrong when it comes to feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves and even fueling our cars. To listen to this loud and often pompous minority you would think the sky is indeed falling Chicken Little…or maybe I should free range Chicken Little or even say Lettuce Little to be more politically correct.

Ok bozos, listen up….U.S. agriculture is a finely tuned machine that is the envy of the world because we are productive, increasingly efficient, and are improving our environmental footprint every day.  I don’t have to read or believe the tripe you are selling just because you have wrestled the public megaphone away from the real experts.

In the past 25 years, U.S. farmers have been able to boost corn production by more than 40% due to improved varieties, better production practices and equipment advances, all while reducing their environmental impact. These and other similar advances have enabled hundreds of people, especially in developing countries, to greatly improve their diets.

So, note to Michael Pollan, Martha Stewart, Michael Mohr, Tim Searchinger and all the other self proclaimed experts in the world who wouldn’t know a cow pie from a moon pie if they were ankle deep in it…lots of people read romance novels, watch Real Housewives of (choose your location) but nobody takes any of it seriously.  The unwashed masses think you are mildly amusing too.

You might generate a good discussion over the water cooler or prompt a laugh or two, but at the end of the day, nobody is making life changing decisions based on your self -proclaimed expertise.

Here are some real facts to facilitate your next discussion regarding our largest and most important industry:

98 percent of farms are family farms; corn yields have doubled since 1970 on fewer acres; amount of land to produce a bushel of corn down 37 percent; energy used to produce a bushel down 37%; emissions per bushel down 30%…and on and on.

The truth is we need to double food production by 2050 to feed our growing world.  And we are well on our way to doing so while using the same or fewer resources.

The real food experts promote eating in moderation and from the four food groups because it is the wise thing to do, makes us healthier and with some exercise will increase our life span. With that said, get off my over fed backside. I hope your 15 minutes of fame are about done. This is America where if I choose to live on a diet of Nachos, Chicken wings, and a lard sandwich I can do so with a clear conscience.

I like going to bed each night knowing I have spent another day on this planet with freedom of choice, even if that means exercising bad choices. I sleep peacefully knowing that this Republic still works and those of the nay saying ilk are wasting a lot of energy constructing a food fad built on false assumptions. The American public is very good at smelling a rat.

For myself and the rest of the overfed masses I intend to protest too. I will not write a manifesto, blow up a state-of-the art research facility that could save thousands of lives, or even wear a funny mascot costume of biotech corn or a cute pink piggy. I intend to eat Ding Dongs and wash it down with soft drinks loaded with high fructose corn syrup until I have to buy a bigger size of pants. Democracy is cool and somewhere in the fine print of the Constitution it must say something about freedom to eat what I want, right after that freedom-of-speech-thingy!

Corn Grower in Jordan

In Audio, Exports by Cindy

Corn MissionMissouri corn grower Jim Stuever is one of the farmers taking part in the U.S. Grains Council Corn Mission, which is now completing the final leg of the journey in Amman, Jordan. The first two stops were Morocco and Egypt.

Jim, pictured here listening to a presentation by USDA Ag Specialist Mohamed Kraishy, says he has seen a very diverse set of conditions from country to country as they have traveled with different market development efforts. From what he has been able to witness, Jim believes the Grains Council is helping to reinforce and increase foreign markets for American corn and corn by-products.

You can listen to Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Jim here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usgc/usgc-corn-09-jim-2.mp3]

See and hear much more about the Corn Mission on Agwired and on the USGC blog The Grain Board.

Corn Grower Comments from Egypt

In Audio, Exports by Cindy

Corn MissionAs the U.S. Grains Council Corn Mission team moves on from Egypt to Jordan today, we get a chance to hear from Darren Armstrong, a corn grower from North Carolina who is on the trip. Chuck Zimmerman of Agwired interviewed Darren to get his thoughts about what the team saw in Egypt.

Darren was impressed with the potential he saw in Egypt for U.S. corn exports and thought the feedlots they visited were well taken care of and are becoming more efficient. He was also glad to see how well DDGs have been accepted by Egyptian livestock producers. You have to see the photos of the water buffalo feedlot and dairies the group visited, which can be viewed here. We don’t have very many water buffalo farms back here at home!

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Darren here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usgc/usgc-corn-09-darren-2.mp3]

Hold Your Breath

In Current News, Environmental, government by Cindy

It’s official now. Humans beings are polluting the planet just by exhaling.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week officially declared carbon dioxide, the stuff we exhale, as one of six greenhouse gases that “threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.”

miscAccording to EPA, on-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, but how much do humans contribute? From what I can figure – and correct me if I am wrong – there are 305 million people in the United States who exhale an average of 12 times per minute. There is approximately .037 grams of CO2 in each exhalation, which means we breathe out about 135 million grams of CO2 into the atmosphere EVERY MINUTE. That seems like a lot to me. Adding in the entire world population of nearly seven billion people (since everyone breathes, but not everyone drives a car) it’s up to about 3 billion grams per minute, if my math is right. So, I figure that if we would just exhale less, we could save the planet.

Seriously, the EPA conclusion could have serious ramifications for agriculture. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has serious concerns with the implications regulating GHG emissions could have for America’s corn farmers and the livestock industry. The American Farm Bureau Federation released a statement saying that EPA’s decision “could carry severe consequences for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

Despite the so-called “Climate gate” emails that have raised questions in the last couple of weeks about the manipulation of scientific data with regard to global warming caused by GHG emissions, EPA states that, “Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades.”

You would think that would cause world leaders and our own government to at least want to take a second look at the whole issue to see if there really is a major cause for concern.

You would think, but then again – don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Lots of Corn Still in Fields

In Farming by Cindy

Twelve percent of the nation’s corn crop remained in the fields as of Sunday, as USDA promised to continue crop progress reports for yet another week. “This is the second slowest corn harvest on record,” said USDA’s Brad Rippey. “The only other slower year by December 6th was 1992, when 83 percent of the corn was harvested by that date.”

Only southern states like Texas and North Carolina are reporting a complete corn harvest at this point. North Dakota remains the furthest behind with only just over half of the crop combined. Most states did make good progress during mostly dry weather last week, but a new round of really bad weather this week will mean more delays.

cornUSDA Meteorologist Eric Luebehusen says the storm system heading across the country this week means the harvest season may be over at this point. “Whatever corn is left standing will likely stay in the fields for quite some time and there is a risk of lodging for any remaining corn due to strong winds,” he said.

What that will mean for the forecast of a near record corn crop this year remains to be seen. Nebraska farmer Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, noted that the old adage in agriculture “never count your chickens until they’re hatched” also goes for corn farmers – “never count your bushels until they’re in the bin.”

“Corn has been standing well, and some corn producers have already tolerated three different storms, but time and weather can still take its toll. It sure appears not all of this crop will be harvested in 2009, and it has been a long time since we have seen harvest on that many acres carry into the next year,” said Tiemann.

Nebraska has exactly the same amount of corn harvested as the nationwide percentage – 88 percent – which leaves 12 percent in the fields, or approximately 180 million bushels with a farm-gate value of more than $630 million.

Morocco Corn Mission Comments

In Audio, Exports by Cindy

Corn MissionThe Morocco portion of the U.S Grains Council Corn Mission has concluded and the team is now in Egypt. While in Morocco, the group toured a cattle feedlot, poultry operation and shipping port, and met with many government and agricultural representatives. Among them was Abdelali Aziz, General Director for the Moroccan Office of Cereals, who is pictured here on the right next to Wisconsin corn grower Joe Zenz.

Corn MissionAgwired’s Chuck Zimmerman, who has been blogging the trip, interviewed Joe when they were leaving Morocco to get his impressions about what they saw and heard as it relates to the potential for U.S. corn exports. Joe says he sees great potential in the Morocco market, but he thinks producers still have a lot to learn about production and the USGC is playing a key role in providing educational resources. In the future, Joe thinks there’s a lot of market potential with DDGs by setting up some trials to show producers how well it can perform.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Joe here:
[audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usgc/usgc-corn-joe-2.mp3]

Chuck is also taking numerous photos on the Corn Mission and putting them in separate Flickr photo albums for each country, which can be viewed by clicking on the links below.

USGC Corn Mission In Morocco Photo Album

USGC Corn Mission In Egypt Photo Album

EPA’s Non Decision on Higher Ethanol Blends

In Ethanol by Cindy

EPAThe Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week not to decide on a waiver that would allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends in regular gasoline leaves the ethanol industry in limbo for at least another six months. While the agency seemed to indicate that it will approve the waiver, once they “have all the necessary science to make the right decision,” they only said it would apply to year 2001 and newer vehicles. That would mean only 60 percent of American cars and trucks could use the fuel, which sounds like the making of a nightmare for fuel retailers.

According to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen, “Such a bifurcation would create unnecessary and burdensome requirements for fuel retailers, as well as confusion for consumers. It is unlikely that retailers would be willing to offer both an E15 blend for newer model vehicles and E10 or less for older models. This scenario could effectively result in no increase in ethanol use, despite an approval of higher level blends.”

The RFA has written to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson questioning this potential limitation and asking for their rationale. The organization also continues to request that the agency immediately allow up to 12 percent ethanol in gasoline. “That would open up a market for an additional 20 percent ethanol demand,” said Dinneen.

Dinneen says the reason EPA can approve 12 percent immediately is because gasoline is currently allowed to contain up to ten percent ethanol AND up to two percent MTBE. He asks, “If it’s okay to blend two percent MTBE on top of ten percent ethanol, what in the world difference does it make if you have 12 percent of a single oxygenate?”

Both ethanol and MTBE are classified as oxygenates that raise the octane of gasoline. The main differences between them are that MTBE is made from fossil fuel and is hazardous to the environment. Seems like a decision that would be easy for EPA to make.

Corn is a Resource Worth Developing to its Full Potential

In General by Mark

Wake up world! 160 bushels per acre! That is the 2010 national average yield being predicted by IA St. meteorologist Elwynn Taylor. In 1980 family farmers produced 80 bushels an acre. That’s a “holy cow” statistic if there ever was one.

 Taylor, quoted in the farmgate blog today says there is a 23 percent chance of more than 173 bu. and a 17 percent  chance of below 142 bu., but he says consistent yields since 1996 reduces the chances of those.  Adoption of technology and innovation by farmers are tilting the odds in our favor.

 What does all this mean for consumers? America’s family farmers are growing more corn today than at any previous time in history and the trend is accelerating. And they are doing so with less everything…fuel, water, chemicals, fertilizer, etc…Corn production has nearly doubled since 1980.

This amazing accomplishment has occurred during some very rough growing seasons like 2009. This year’s wet conditions have farmers still in the field but when they are done they will harvest about 13 billion bushels of corn.

This is simple math;  a growing volume of corn + a 27percent reduction in water use + a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases + a 37 percent reduction in land required + a 37 percent reduction in energy required and a 69 percent reduction in soil loss = A MONSTER ECONOMIC ENGINE.

Corn is arguably the most versatile commodity on the planet and can be used for food, feed, fuel, fabrics, biodegradable plastics, cosmetics, fireworks, batteries, and on and on for thousands of uses.  None grows corn better than American family farmers. There is a not so subtle message here if we are willing to listen. As my old man used to say, “If you want to succeed, go with your strengths.”

Growth of Grain Imports In Morocco

In Exports, Trade by Cindy

Corn MissionA team of corn growers on a mission in Morocco this week heard from Kurt Shultz, Director for the Mediterranean and Africa for the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), about the agriculture industry in Morocco and the potential it holds for U.S. grain producers.

Chuck Zimmerman, who is blogging the trip on Agwired and The Grain Board, reports that Kurt told them the USGC became involved in Morocco about 15 years ago when corn imports were low and there was a huge duty of about 75 percent. USGC formed a relationship with livestock producers and the government that has led to the reduction of those duties to about 35 percent, which has driven growth tremendously, as has an increase in poultry production.

Kurt says that the USGC helped form a poultry organization that provides members with educational materials so that it can compete on a global level. He says that investment has paid off big dividends over the years. Besides corn, he says they are seeing a growth in the imports of dried distillers grains. Kurt says that imports in Morocco could double in the next five years, especially with developments in the ruminant sector.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Kurt here:

[audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usgc/usgc-corn-kurt.mp3]

See photos from the trip here: USGC Corn Mission In Morocco Photo Album

Mark Twain Would Have Liked Ethanol, Maybe Even in a Car

In Current News, Ethanol, Outlook by Mark

Beloved American author Samuel Clemens,Slide1 known to the world as simply Mark Twain, led a storied, colorful and sometimes dangerous life. It was one of these near misses with catastrophe that led to the now famous line “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

 This quote seems to ring very true for ethanol fuel today as well. To read the volume of tripe being spread about by certain anti-ethanol factions in the grocery, environmental and big oil industries you would think ethanol is dead indeed.

 Thank goodness the truth is much like Mr. Twain and proves to be pretty resilient over time. In the petroleum world there is one particular publication, albeit published only once a year, that is known for putting the spin aside and addressing energy issues in a realistic and truthful manner.

 ExxonMobil’s “Energy Outlook,” the company’s annual forecast about the industry, which is set to be released any day, points to increased adoption of wind, solar and biofuels.  Exxon executive Andrew Swiger stripped off the rhetoric regarding alternative energy sources at a recent conference while giving a sneak peak of the “Energy Outlook.”

 In his comments he reported biofuels are expected to grow at a rate of 9.6 percent from 2005 through 2030. Up from 9.3 percent a year ago, and this at a time when overall energy demand is as flat as breakfast at IHOP. While wind and solar also grow, oil and coal are on the decline.

 The next time a naysayer tells you ethanol is dead or alternative energy supporters are crack pots, remind them of these other words of wisdom from Mr. Twain: “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”