Corn Commentary

Farming is Big in Any Language

basf-farming“Farming, the Biggest Job on Earth” is the tag line of a European campaign for agriculture by BASF Corporation which is hitting the United States now on Facebook. It’s also very true.

I had the pleasure this past week of being able to attend BASF’s global press conference with nearly 100 other agricultural journalists from ten countries, right after being in Argentina with over 150 from 30 countries. Coming up is the World Food Prize and Global Farmers Roundtable, which brings together representatives from all parts of the agriculture industry. The languages are different, the politics are often at odds, but the goal of feeding people sustainably is the same in every country.

Farming is such a big job that it requires lots of help – from new hybrids and crop protection products to precision technology and bigger equipment for planting and harvesting. Researchers, engineers, extension agents, and even the ag media are all part of this big job called farming.

Farming is the oldest profession, a noble endeavor and hard work. Any way you look at it, it’s a big job and arguably the biggest job on Earth.

API Poll Shows Their Efforts to Confuse Consumers Are Working

The American Petroleum Institute took to Capitol Hill this week touting the results of a poll showing their most recent barrage of misinformation has indeed created confusion. Unable to provide substance in their verbal assault on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the pro-oil propaganda peddlers rely upon consumer-sentiment stats. In essence, this information demonstrates one thing – tossing copious amounts of cash into advertising that makes baseless claims can work.

In the poll, as reported by OPIS, API found that:

  • 66 percent of those surveyed agreed that federal government regulations could drive up the cost of gasoline for consumers (19 percent disagreed)
  • 50 percent of those surveyed agreed that blending corn-based ethanol into gasoline could increase costs to consumers (28 percent disagreed)
  • 77 percent of those surveyed are concerned about putting E15 into their vehicle (18 percent are not concerned)
  • 69 percent of those surveyed agreed that using even more corn for ethanol production could increase consumer prices for groceries (24 percent disagreed)

Tellingly, the group did not provide concrete evidence that these claims are rooted in reality. Instead, they argued that simply because a belief exists, it must be valid.

The series of advertisements the group currently runs promoting these exact claims must not have anything to do with it, right?

A look at the facts shows the anti-ethanol assertions to be untrue.

  • Ethanol reduces the cost of gas consumers pay at the pump by nearly a dollar. Available at a lower cost than gasoline, it provides fuel blenders a way to save money so retailers can charge less at the pump.
  • E15 is one of the most tested fuel blends in history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved E15 for 2001 and newer cars and trucks.
  • U.S. farmers grow more than enough corn for all uses. Each year, a supply of corn is held over to be used the following year – providing more than a half billion bushels for this year from the 2012 corn supply. U.S. ethanol production uses just three percent of the global grain supply.
  • In reducing emissions, ethanol outperforms gasoline. Global ethanol production and use is estimated to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 110 million metric tons, according to energy experts – the equivalent of taking more than 20 million vehicles off the road.

 

If legislators and regulators fall victim to this ruse, they will be acting not in the best interest of American but instead proving that Big Oil can buy a monopoly over our fuel tanks and pocketbooks. If consumers fall prey to the advertisements aimed at ensuring oil secures its stranglehold, they act as accomplices.

Money may buy airtime and influence, but it cannot purchase the truth. Ethanol offers an alternative that benefits Americans economically, environmentally and provides a real choice. Get the facts and tell a friend.

Oil Industry Bigger Block to E15 Than Cost

A recent report from the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) has found the cost for retailers to offer 15% ethanol blends is less than detractors have been claiming.

“Some of E15’s opponents have said over and over that it costs $200,000 to $300,000 to install E15,” says Robert White with the Renewable Fuels Association. “There are stations in existence today that didn’t cost that much to build!”

White says the PEI report done at the request of USDA found the actual cost can be as little as $50 for a just labels on a pump to a maximum of about $15,000. “The report shows that many stations can offer E15 for about $1200 for the entire station,” he said. “If they need dispenser work, you can get buy with an average of $4200…The cost of offering E15 is very inexpensive.

zarcoA bigger hurdle for retailers to offering E15 is the petroleum companies that supply them. Scott Zaremba, a Kansas retailer who was the first to offer E15 in the nation last year, says he was a Phillips 66 marketer until recently when the petroleum company instituted policies that prevented him from marketing the blend.

“They changed the rules mid-stream for what they would allow me to do once E15 came out,” said Zaremba. As a result, he re-branded his eight “energy retail” locations from Zarco 66 to Zarco USA and created a fuel brand of American Fuels. “With that we can offer today E15 to consumers with 2001 and newer cars, trucks and SUVS,” he said.

Scott is hoping that other fuel retailers will join the energy revolution and stand up to the oil companies so consumers can have a real choice at the pump.

Bridging the Gap between Farm Gates and America’s Plates

Looking at the myriad of activities NCGA and so many other organizations conduct to help share the story of farming with consumers, one might wonder about the impact on public opinion. Today, a blog post by Rajean Blomquist provided clear, concise evidence that open, real conversations between the women who grow food and those who purchase it make a difference.

Blomquist attended a dinner organized by CommonGround Colorado last month. While there, she had a chance to meet the farm women who volunteer their time and share their stories to help consumers understand how their food is grown and raised.

Speaking of that night, Blomquist recounts the impression of America’s farmers she has following her conversations.

“These farm women spoke passionately about their jobs, their families, the history of their farms – most are third and fourth generation farmers. To me, that speaks volumes of their dedication to bring us the freshest, safest food.  They spoke of feeding their families what they and their fellow farming friends grow, the best proof I need to know they won’t sell it if they don’t eat it.  Their clear skin, bright eyes, nice teeth, and hair told me they appear to be healthy from the inside out. There are an enormous amount of regulations in the farm industry. No doubt, farmers work harder than most people before many of us raise our heads off our pillows in the mornings.”

To read the full post, click here.

This may only seem like one person, but Blomquist shares her story too. Through her blog, the volunteers reach women not only across Colorado but also around the world.

The world grows more connected by the day as bloggers and social media users reach a global community on the web. The conversations about food and farming in this space have a ripple effect. One person’s impression can touch many more people in further flung places than anyone could have imagined only a few decades ago.

Someone is telling your story – the story of farming in America. Working together, we can make sure that more thoughtful, concerned voices, voices like Blomquist, hear it first from a farmer.

Corn Harvest in Florida

fl-cornFlorida ranks first in the nation for sweet corn production, but we also grow a little bit of field corn in the Sunshine State as well.

Not that the Corn Belt has to worry about losing its title to Florida. Only about 30,000 acres of field corn were harvested in Florida in 2011 with a yield of 100 bushels per acre. Most of that acreage can be found along the I-10 corridor across the top of the state, from Pensacola to Jacksonville.

As I was Googling around for 2013 corn harvest information, I came across this article and video by Mace Bauer, who is an agronomy extension agent in Columbia County, located right at the intersection of I-10 and I-75. He says their “acreage was up about 30% in this area due to spring prices favoring corn on irrigated land.”

Mace shot his “tractor drivers view” of the north Florida corn harvest at 83 Farms, LLC in Lake City. He says the corn was being loaded directly on to rail cars to be taken into North Georgia and the Carolinas to meet the needs of the livestock industries in that area. “Following the Midwest Drought of 2012, many end users are scrambling to meet grain needs before the large harvest in the Midwest begins,” Mace says, adding that area farmers were happy to deliver.

Farmer Assurance Provision Protects Farmers, Not Monsanto

Painting a seriously skewed portrait of the Farmer Assurance Provision, Elizabeth Kucinich played on anti-Monsanto, anti-capitalist sentiment in an attempt to whip up public fervor against a sensible law designed to protect America’s farm families. The resulting piece, which ran on the Huffington Post, uses a truly ridiculous combination of ominous implications and arguments based to mislead the masses and, in doing so, further the lack of understanding that makes so many people many fearful of their food.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, in its essence, protects American family farmers who, due to often-frivolous lawsuits based in procedural arguments and directed at major corporations, could face serious economic harm. This provision reassure farmers that they can plant and harvest crops developed through biotechnology already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a temporary stewardship agreement in the event of litigation against the agencies decision.

In simple terms, the FAP removes a potentially significant financial risk facing farmers. Without this important piece of legislation, the regulatory process for biotechnology would leave the family farmers who purchase seeds approved by their government vulnerable to costly losses should an activist group choose to legally challenge the government’s decision. Without this provision, these men and women, acting in good faith, become collateral damage in an ideological battle between those who embrace and those who eschew science.

The need for such protection has been made evident over the past several years as opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed lawsuits against the USDA on procedural grounds. In filing these suits, the anti-activists aim to disrupt the regulatory process and, in a broader fashion, undermine the science-based regulation of biotech ag products. These lawsuits strain USDA resources and delay the approval of new, innovative products America’s farmers need to grow abundant, affordable food and remain internationally competitive.

Kucinich goes so far as to advocate for these types of attacks. Implying that chemical herbicides and genetically engineered crops should be met with public rage, notably without giving any reason why these extensively tested, proven technological advances are anything less than revolutionary, she rages blindly against a world in which innovation generates a profit.

Furthermore, this farmer-bashing fiasco of a post then begins makes a massive leap into the realm of food labeling to continue its tirade against the companies who provide farmers with new technologies. She points out companies such as Monsanto and DuPont have spent money to fight GMO labeling campaigns. She fails to evaluate the actual propositions in any way. In the case of California, she conveniently forgets to mention the proposed legislation was actually backed by trial lawyers looking to find their next cash cow. Presumably, she feels comfortable with predatory lawsuits that generate no value for the community but not with companies investing in ag research and supplying the innovations needed to feed a growing world turning a profit.

While she may not understand sound science and live in constant denial of the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology is not only safe but is beneficial, she masterfully demonstrates her knowledge of how to engineer panic and fear. Her post expertly manufactures the perception of public outrage and uses it as grounds on which to attack a provision intended to protect America’s farm families from her assault on science. The scorched-earth mentality of this assault demonstrates her deep desire to maintain a weapon that inflicts massive collateral damages on honest, hardworking farm families. Rather than demonstrating a deep insight into the FAP, GMO labeling initiatives, sound science or capitalism, she exposes both her ignorance and rage-fueled fervor to burn down anything which she doesn’t understand.

Don’t fall for the self-serving hype disguised as righteous indignation. Take the step she doesn’t and get the facts. The rhetoric may be rousing, but her assault on the Farmer Assurance Provision is actually on America’s farm families.

Importance of Ag Education

The president of the Iowa Board of Regents is a great promoter of agricultural education in the United States as “Today’s Solution for Tomorrow’s World.”

fps13-rastetterBruce Rastetter visited the 2013 Farm Progress Show last month to talk about the importance of agricultural education and the vast number of career choices available for students of all backgrounds. “I think the biggest fields are agronomy, plant sciences, the animal science area is growing because of world protein demand, but it’s really the technology, the innovation and the ability to use science to create greater yields,” he told me.

Rastetter says Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture has record enrollment this fall, fourth largest in the country, and nearly every single student has a job by the time they graduate, “with the majority of them having five offers by December of their senior year.”

He believes students with non-ag background will be more interested in agricultural careers if they realize its importance in feeding the world. “If it wasn’t for Norman Borlaug there would be a couple billion of people that would have died in the world. We need to make sure that we encourage an education system that develops the next Norman Boraug for the world,” said Rastetter.

Listen to my conversation with Bruce from Farm Progress Show: Interview with Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter

Fight Back Against Big Oil’s Big Plan

This week, American drivers mark a strange milestone as they have now paid an average of more than $3 per gallon for gas for 1,000 straight days. AAA says the prices are here to stay. Staring at the sky, pockets already emptied as paychecks haven’t kept up with inflation, frustrated commuters continue to ask, “Can’t anyone save us?”

Look toward the horizon instead of the heavens. The answer lies in corn fields across the country. As the wind blows through the stalks, it whispers, “ethanol.”

Just last year, drivers saved about a dollar a gallon through the use of E10 blends.  Now that E15 is becoming available in more markets anyone driving a 2001 or newer auto can increase their ability to make ethanol’s discount to gasoline work for them. For those with the foresight to purchase flex fuel vehicles, E85 can actually bring the cost down below the $3 per gallon threshold. With most drivers logging more than 12,000 miles per year, those savings can really add up.

Right now, Big Oil is spending an incredible amount of money, money made from selling American consumers costly fuel, in an attempt to kill the very policy that brings an E10 option to the pump. They have the infrastructure and power to ensure that they quash consumer choice. They promote this cloaked attack using dollars taken from your pocket.  Whether  using American driver dollars to shore up a monopoly and gain even more American driver dollars is a either diabolical plot or a  profitable business decision depends on which side of the gas hose you are on.

Join the fight against fossil fuel tyranny. Learn more about how renewable fuels save money for consumers and help save the environment. Together, we can escape from the oil-soaked clutches which would bleed our bank accounts dry. Learn more today.

E15 Back from Summer Break

Drivers of 2001 model year or newer vehicles can now fill up with 15% ethanol blends once again, now that the silly summer volatility vacation is over.

E15nowavailablesign-JPG_000“We’re excited to see E15 back in Iowa,” said Iowa RFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

Iowa’s six E15 retailers reported earlier this year that consumers had absolutely zero issues with registered E15 fueling, labeling, and engine performance when it was previously available from September 15, 2012 through May 31, 2013. E15 was sold in the state at an average of nearly a 22-cent discount to regular (no ethanol) gasoline, and at nearly an 11-cent discount to E10, the most commonly used fuel in the nation.

In the past 14 months, E15 availability has expanded to approximately 40 stations in nine states. More than 40 million miles have been driven on E15 with no known cases of engine damage, misfueling, or liability claims. E15 is unable to be sold at any of those locations between June 1 and September 15 because the proper blendstock is unavailable due to summer volatility requirements. EPA did not waive the one-pound federal requirement that the blended product have a Reid Vapor Pressure of 9 pounds or less per square inch for E15, which limits its sale during the summer months.

“After three months of waiting, retailers with compatible equipment can finally start offering E15 if allowed by their franchises,” said Renewable Fuels Association director of market development Robert White. “Given the economy, current gas prices, new data on consumer demand and sales revenue generated by retailers who are presently offering E15, I think you will see interest increase dramatically.”

Besides Iowa, E15 retailers are also located in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.

WRRDA Bills Flows Out of House Committee

mississippi-riverThe House Transportation Committee made a long-awaited move Wednesday and introduced a water resources development bill that adds an extra R to WRDA and provides some hope that improvements will finally be made to outdated locks and dams on waterways that move crops to export markets.

According to the committee, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA) “cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, promotes fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America’s competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.”

fps13-davisThe issue was a major topic of discussion at the Farm Progress Show where committee member Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) told farmers he expected the bill to be introduced this month.

“We’ve got to have better policies in place, because even the Corps of Engineers says with full funding right now it would take them 40 years to complete the upgrades to the lock and dam system on the Mississippi,” said Davis. “That’s unacceptable.”

The committee’s bill includes a provision authored by Davis and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) to improve waterway infrastructure though public-private partnerships “with one goal in mind, to speed up the process that will allow us to have greater locks and dams,” he said. Interview with Rep. Rodney Davis

National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Martin Barbre of Illinois hopes members of Congress understand how critical the situation is before it’s too late. “One of these days, there’s not going to be any salt going to Chicago in the middle of winter because the locks and dams are broke down, then they’ll realize what the corn growers have been fighting all this time,” Barbre said during an interview at Farm Progress Show.

The Davis-Bustos language authorizes the creation of a pilot program that would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to identify 15 water resources development projects eligible to be financed through public-private partnerships. Similar legislation was included in the Senate version of WRDA which passed in May.



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