A successful Corn Utilization and Technology Conference concluded today with the presentation of awards recognizing the top poster contest entries this year. Pictured are a few of the winners with NCGA President, Garry Niemeyer. A few of the winners had to leave prior to the closing luncheon.
“The National Corn Growers Association is pleased to lend our support and encouragement to young researchers,” said NCGA Director of Research and New Uses Dr. Richard Vierling. “Corn offers a variety of solutions for many of today’s problems, and we are honored to play a small role in recognizing the scholarly efforts that will help create entirely new ways to utilize this amazing resource.”
This year’s contest attracted more than 30 student entries, which is more than a third more than those submitted at the last event in 2010. A panel of industry and academic experts evaluated the posters on their relevance to the corn industry, scientific originality, viable and supportable conclusions and oral and visual presentation. The judges reviewed entries that detailed research well above average in their significance to the industry. Due to the impressive quality of the entries, multiple rounds of judging were necessary to select the winners.
In an effort to reflect the broadened scope of the conference, the contest added two new awards this year for posters concerning the importance of aflatoxin research and mycotoxin mitigation. See the list of winners after the break. (more…)
The state host for the 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference is the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. Here’s part of the team during our opening reception in the exhibit area. I visited with corn grower Mike Shuter, council president and asked him what he thinks of this conference. He says it provides an opportunity for farmers like him to see all the types of research being done. He says the crop is off to a good start in Indiana although it has been dry. That may actually be a benefit in the long run though.
The opening keynote speaker for the 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference is Dr. Mike Ladisch, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. I recorded his remarks so you could listen in and spoke with him afterward.
Mike says he’s been working in the field of corn and cellulose conversion for almost 30 years. He says some of the most exciting things happening in research right now are advances in cellulose conversion and understanding how enzymes and micro-organisms are able to convert things like corn stalks to things like ethanol and sugars. “What we’re now doing is applying this to corn. As a consequence it will make corn processing more efficient but also open up avenues for making new products, high value products, from the corn kernel.” He thinks this conference is a tremendous way of learning about new developments in agriculture from both a scientific and a practical point of view.
The 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference is underway, the ribbon has been cut. Cutting the ribbon are (l-r) Garry Niemeyer, President, National Corn Growers Association and Dr. Mike Ladisch, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University and our keynote speaker this afternoon.
To get a preview of this year’s CUTC I sat down with Garry and we talked about the program as well as the corn crop and farm bill. Garry says this conference provides a great opportunity to hear about new technology and the research that’s being done. He’s got his research glossary out so he can keep up with the terminology! From a farmer perspective he says it is very important to know if this new technology will help him maintain a sustainable and profitable operation. He also says that the importance of holding a conference like CUTC is becoming more apparent to farmers “as they need to step up to the plate so that we know what will happen with our investment in our future and our livelihoods.” He says technology has taken us from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance and he wants to share that with world. That means more research.
Speaking of research, we turned to the farm bill which is coming back up for work on the Senate side. He says they’ve worked very hard on this version since it’s the first one up. He thinks that the ARC program (Agriculture Risk Coverage) is very compatible to most farmers, however it represents a $23 billion decline from where we currently are. But the money just isn’t there, which is why we don’t have direct payments. There’s optimism that this will move through the full senate soon.
When it comes to the corn crop he says, “I have never ever seen corn grow like it has this year.” He left home with corn that he planted in March that was shoulder high on him. So that sounds pretty optimistic to me. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for the rest of the season.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have denied a petition to officially change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to corn sugar, but the marketplace might just discover consumers actually like HFCS better.
After making a big deal two years ago about switching the recipe for Hunt’s Ketchup to include sugar instead of HFCS, ConAgra has apparently now quietly decided to switch back. According to Food Navigator-USA.com, ConAgra officials say consumer demand for the product was “not as strong as expected.” The company will continue to keep one line of ketchup, labeled as “all natural,” with sugar in place of HFCS.
The company has sent out no formal release on the change and Food Navigator USA gets the credit for breaking the story, although it means it’s not getting out there in the mainstream media. You would think that ConAgra would want to let consumers know that they are giving them back what they want.
Several other companies have created HFCS-free product lines while retaining original versions with HFCS, but ConAgra decided two years ago to make the switch for “every bottle” of ketchup. There can only be one reason why they are now going to offer one version with HFCS and one without – their sales must have dropped when they changed the recipe.
Go figure. We consumers are funny that way. We tend to buy what we like. So, perhaps if the food companies decide to create separate lines of products with and without HFCS they will find that consumers prefer the one that tastes the best.
The CBO says the legislation will save more than $23.6 billion over a nine year period, but FAPRI director Pat Westhoff says elimination of the current Direct and Countercyclical Payment (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) programs will cost farmers. “When we lose those existing programs, it does result in lower farm income and lower average farm land values,” he said. “It doesn’t have a very big impact on commodity markets however.”
Westhoff says replacing those programs with the proposed Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) could result in a little more land use for production and slightly lower crop prices. “Both ARC and STAX help producers at times when they have relatively modest losses. The assumption is that farmers will continue to buy normal crop insurance to cover themselves,” he said, noting that these programs would be more closely tied to market prices and crop yields. “So you could have years where payments under this program will be very large and some years where they’ll be next to nothing.”
According to Westhoff, the FAPRI analysis is similar to the CBO analysis, except that FAPRI looks at a much broader picture, rather than just the budgetary impact.
Online parodies have long poked fun at the self-righteous rantings of the food elite. Now, a scientific study proves what many with foodie friends have long known. Eating organic can actually turn you into a jerk.
In all seriousness, the study, published in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science, found that exposure to organic foods can “harshen moral judgments.”
Why doesn’t the earth-loving, nurturing persona used to market these foods encourage their target market to act in kind? Because, to no small extent, the feeling of superiority and wholesomeness conferred by their dietary choices leads to self-congratulatory self-righteousness. Taking the old saying “you are what you eat” to heart, organic devotees look down from their pesticide-free pedestal on those who have not committed to living a similar lifestyle.
What moral quandaries do those who partake in the halo effect ignore?
For many Americans, organics simply are not an option. The price premium placed on these products may seem small to the Whole Foods set, but the majority of ordinary folks in line at the local Aldi’s call the place “Whole Paycheck” for a reason. An average family, already coping with the remnants of a recession and ever climbing prices at the pump, already makes hard choices about what must be foregone just to get by. Paying extra for foods that are nutritionally identical makes little sense to the common shopper who still has common sense.
Moreover, these supposedly earth-loving ecovores show little concern for the planets other inhabitants. The world population will grow to more than nine billion people by 2050. To keep up with that growth, more food will have to be produced over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined. Given that this must be done using finite resources, biotechnology, and other un-trendy technology, provide the yield increases and input decreases necessary to feed these new humans. Promoting starvation might seem harsh, but turning a blind eye while bashing the tools that might feed the hungry really is not all that different.
Buying organic has become the modern equivalent of purchasing indulgences. U.S. farmers work hard to produce an abundant array of affordable safe, nutritious options for our country’s wide variety of consumers to enjoy. The halo floating over organic-only heads turns out to be a bit tarnished and a tad askew. It is time for the healthier-than-thou crowd to come back down to earth.
As the world moves closer to trading around the clock, the future of crop report release times is being pondered.
Some options being considered include changing the reports to the afternoon or running them on weekends to take them out of live trading time. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange just started electronic trading 21 hours a day and intends to offer expanded floor trading hours for CBOT grain and oilseed futures and options during major crop reports, pending CFTC certification. According to CME, the floor trading open would be “changed to 7:20 a.m. CST from 9:30 a.m. CST on mornings of specified reports beginning June 12, 2012 for the USDA WASDE and Crop Production reports.”
With that in mind, USDA is reviewing release times for the major statistical reports that tend to move markets, including World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, Acreage, Cattle, Cattle on Feed, Crop Production, Grain Stocks, Prospective Plantings, Quarterly Hogs and Pigs, and Small Grain Summary. USDA plans to seek public comment on the issue, which will mean it will be months before any change will be made. Until then, the current USDA release times of 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET will remain in effect.
“It is important that USDA continue to ensure the integrity of its report release process, particularly as global exchanges move closer to 24-hour trading,” said USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber. “To this end, USDA is reviewing our procedures and will solicit public input to determine the needs of those who use our data.”
In a recent letter to the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the National Corn Growers Association requested a 30-day public comment period before grain traders are allowed 22-hour-per-day electronic trading of grain and oilseed futures contracts. NCGA believes it is important for CFTC to take input and further analyze the proposals from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and the CME Group. “As currently formulated, both ICE’s plans for new contracts with greatly expanded trading hours and the CME Group’s plans to expand hours raise serious issues that potentially place the Nation’s corn growers at a marketing disadvantage,” wrote NCGA President Garry Niemeyer.
NCGA is concerned that extended trading hours could lead to “extreme” market volatility and problems for growers who track the futures to make marketing decisions.
Friendly farm family faces will be greeting those who work in and visit the nation’s capitol again this summer.
The Corn Farmers Coalition (CFC) is launching its major advertising campaign by taking over every available ad space at Union Station. The effort will also put prominent facts about family farmers in Capitol Hill publications, radio, frequently used websites, and other Metro locations in June and July.
“Nine of the largest corn crops in U.S. history have been grown in the last decade by family farmers,” said Jay Lynch, a fifth-generation farmer from Humboldt, Iowa whose family is featured in one of the new ads. “Direct outreach by farmers like me is putting a face on today’s family farmers and raising overall awareness with legislators, leaders or governmental agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of State, think tanks, lobbyists and environmental groups.”
Corn farmers from 14 states and the National Corn Growers Association are supporting the Corn Farmers Coalition program to introduce a foundation of facts seen as essential to decision making, rather than directly influencing legislation and regulation.
Learn more about the family farmers behind CFC in this short video.