Corn Commentary

Corn Commentary for Farm Broadcasters

There was lots of corn commentating going on last week at the 70th annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual meeting in Kansas City.

nafb13-martinThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is a big supporter of the guys and gals who put farm news on radio and television stations and the internet. “It gives us the opportunity to get our message out to the public and to farmers,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre.

NCGA sponsors the welcoming reception for the NAFB and then organization leaders do tons of interviews with the broadcasters during the annual Trade Talk, which is where I interviewed Martin about a number of topics, including but not limited to, the farm bill and WRRDA. Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

nafb13-ncgaNCGA First Vice President Chip Bowling of Maryland was also on hand to chat with the broadcasters. He also talked about the farm bill, like everyone else, and about environmental regulations in his area around the Chesapeake Bay that are threatening agricultural producers.

It was especially interesting to farm broadcasters from the Midwest to get a different perspective on corn farming from a producer on the East coast. “In the Mid-Atlantic, we started planting corn right around the first of April, we had a good start and the corn crop just took off from the get-go and grew,” said Chip, noting it was a lot different this year in the Corn Belt. “Obviously with 14 billion bushels coming off, somebody grew a lot of good corn.”

Leah Guffey interviews Chip here: Interview with NCGA first VP Chip Bowling

2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Anti-HFCS Activists Take Losing Case to Court House from Court of Public Opinion

It would be hard to find any person who does not profit, directly or indirectly, from torts law who does not claim to abhor frivolous lawsuits. As a society, most of us publicly bemoan how these suits drive up the cost of everything from healthcare to fast food by awarding incomprehensibly large sums to supposed victims who suffer what outsiders often consider a relatively minor injury or injustice. Real cases of damage and negligence aside, public perception of trial lawyers skews toward the slimy in most instances.

According to a Forbes.com article, add anti-high fructose corn syrup activists to the list of litigants making unsubstantiated claims based in pseudo-science and precariously linked logic to gain media time as their whines wane in popularity. The piece, which differs from its subject in that it is both articulate and well-substantiated, outlines why the case should be dismissed due to the myriad of legal flaws and pseudo-scientific pseudo-evidence upon which it is based.

The true injustice? Across America, activists have dropped their picket signs and picked up DIY law books searching for an easier way to make headlines to support their dying causes. Finding the actual effort and evidence necessary to generate a true grassroots movement, they have left the street for the courtroom in the hopes their new legal jargon legitimizes their predictable propaganda.

In this case, refuse to be fooled by a carefully crafted sob story. Understand their legal claims lack merit, and their true agenda is to win in the court of public opinion. Remember that, in this case, the preponderance of evidence eviscerates their claim. The ruling is complete. Sugar is sugar whether It comes from corn, cane or beet.

To learn more, click here.

Automakers Join Crowds Amassing to Tear Down That Blend Wall

Lately, many more people have become familiar with the concept of a blend wall. Claiming the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates levels of ethanol use too high to be met in the face of declining fuel consumption, the oil industry wants a waiver.

According to information released today by the Renewable Fuel Association, the entire concept of a blend wall is bogus. With more than 70 percent of the top selling cars approved for E15 usage by their own manufacturers in 2014, consumers can now make choices based in years of scientific testing instead of blindly buying into big oil’s murky malarkey. Consumers can choose E15.

Owners of all Ford, GM and Volkswagen 2014 models and certain models of Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Land Rover have been given their maker’s blessing to buy E15, which had already been approved for use in cars model year 2001 or newer by the Environmental Protection Agency. Seemingly, the only place the blend wall remains relevant are in the hearts and minds of money-loving oil oligarchs.

Petro propaganda does serve a purpose. It helps petro-pushers keep a larger share of declining consumer fuel dollars in their pockets. One cannot fault corporations operating in a capitalist market for trying to protect their profits. They can fault them for perpetrating a gross injustice against Americans by doing so through lies and manipulation.

Automakers know their innovative, well-designed products run well on an innovative, well-designed fuel. They see that Americans need biofuels because they need cleaner air, energy security and a renewable fuel source that grows along with them. They are joining the mounting movement to tear down the old blend wall mentality.

Learn more about how to join them by clicking here or visit ChooseEthanol.com to see if new car you are considering is among the 70 percent that will fuel America’s biofuels future.

Fact Checking AP Ethanol Story

leroy1Leroy Perkins is “a white-haired, 66-year-old farmer in denim overalls” who is “agonizing” over whether he should put the “91 acres that he set aside for conservation years ago” into corn production. That is according to an Associated Press “investigative report” on the environmental impact of ethanol being released this week that features Leroy and Wayne County Iowa where he lives.

That’s not the story Leroy thought they were doing when he was contacted by AP reporters in July to talk about “the county fair, along with absentee, out-of-state state landlords and of course, water quality.” During the course of the interview, one of the reporters asked him what he thought about ethanol. “I told them I was for ethanol, I believe in it and we use it in our vehicles and equipment all the time … because it’s a product of the land,” he said. He never expected his interview would be for a “story to put down ethanol.”

apThe AP print and broadcast story is scheduled for publication after midnight November 12, but a draft copy for promotional purposes was circulated on the internet last week and seen by industry stakeholders and people like Leroy who were quoted in the piece.

Much of the pre-released article is focused on making the case for how ethanol policy is “raping the land” by encouraging more corn acreage. “The AP article tried to paint Wayne County as a poster child for cropland expansion under the RFS but they … omitted some key facts,” said Geoff Cooper, Vice President of Research and Analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Farmers in Wayne County Iowa planted far more corn in the past than they do today,” he added, noting that 88,000 acres were planted in 1985 compares to 58,000 last year.

Cooper and the RFA have put together a Counterpoint Fact Sheet on AP story which refutes at least 16 direct quotes from the draft article and he says industry representatives have been in touch with the news agency. “There has been some effort to get these factual inaccuracies corrected,” said Cooper. “If the story we saw that was posted last week is the same story that gets rolled out tomorrow morning, that tells us the AP just isn’t concerned about running a factual story.”

The Associated Press supplies content to thousands of print, internet, radio and television outlets around the world.

Listen to the call with Leroy and Geoff here:AP ethanol story fact check call

Harvest is on a Roll

After a slow start, the 2013 harvest is pretty much back on schedule in most of the country, but it seems late compared to last year’s record pace.

As of Sunday, USDA reports 73 percent of the corn crop was harvested, two points ahead of average, but more than 20% less than last year at this time. Only a few states are running behind at this point.

mcgaMissouri is exactly on pace with the five year average at 82% complete by Sunday. Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joined the Missouri Corn Growers Association at a grain elevator in the northeast part of the state to celebrate the success of the season’s crop.

“Right now, state corn yields statewide are up and we’re seeing averages pushing well above 125 bushels per acre with some farmers reporting high yields of about 200 bushels per acre in this region,” said Nixon.

MCGA CEO Gary Marshall says the Missouri crop is “one of the largest we’ve ever had” and believes the nation’s crop this year will be “the largest in history.” USDA will be coming out with the latest crop estimate on Friday.

The governor had lots of praise for corn farmers and the added value they provide to the state’s economy in the form of ethanol production and exports. Listen to his remarks here: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Pictured here in this photo from MCGA: Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Harry Bozoian, Gary Marshall, Gov. Jay Nixon and ADM Director of State Government Relations Chris Riley.

The Big Oil Hits Keep Coming

Big Oil continues to attack the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in every way possible, while denying that it receives any type of federal help to maintain its marketplace advantage. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) created a couple of “fact check” videos of comments made by American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Bob Greco. There were so many hits they had to make two volumes!

World Food Prize Overload

wfp-flagI’m still suffering from World Food Prize sensory and information overload. If you have never been to this event, you really should go. It is amazing to see and hear farmers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and researchers from so many nations gathered together for the central cause of feeding people.

World Food Prize Foundation president Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn says the event has grown so much from the first one-day symposium held in 1987. “We had more people registered this year for the symposium,” he said. “After we got beyond 1200 I almost stopped counting because I wasn’t sure where we were going to put folks!” In addition, there were 350 students and teachers at the event and over 700 attended the Iowa Hunger Summit earlier in the week, a new record.

Quinn marvels at what the World Food Prize has become. “We’ve been able to get to where people now say it’s the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, and some people say it’s the premier conference in the world on global agriculture and one of the most unique programs to inspire young people,” he said, adding that the Prize was sponsored by General Foods in the very beginning and taken over by Iowa businessman and philanthropist, John Ruan. Interview with WFP President Kenneth Quinn

The 2013 event brought speakers such as Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and philanthropist/farmer Howard G. Buffett who joined in announcing new initiatives to address conservation, hunger and poverty issues in Africa.

wfp-13-buffett-blairFor one, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has formed a partnership with John Deere and DuPont Pioneer to promote conservation agriculture adoption and support smallholders and sustainable farming in Africa. The effort will be piloted in Ghana and include a conservation-based, mechanized product suite developed by John Deere; a system of cover crops and improved inputs from DuPont Pioneer; and support for adoption and training on conservation-based practices by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Additionally, Blair announced a collaboration between his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the World Food Prize Foundation to launch the 40 Chances Fellows program – inspired by Buffett’s book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World” – to encourage innovation in developing market‐based approaches that address food insecurity.

40 Chances Panel discussion
Blair and Buffett Press Conference

They tell me there were a handful of activists outside protesting the World Food Prize honoring of biotechnology, but I never saw them. What I did see inside was lots of positive energy focused on new ways and ideas to feed people. Not “the world” or a “growing planet” – it’s about feeding PEOPLE in the best, most efficient, most productive and most sustainable ways possible.

2013 World Food Prize photos

Sugar Spins a Scary Story, but Science Sheds Its Less-than-Sweet Trick

costumed pug dogA new study released just yesterday  confirms what many have already known for a while now – There’s no need to look for candy labeled “No HFCS” in your little trick-or-treaters sack of loot this year. It’s fine to let them enjoy their bounty of colorful candies not matter which sugar makes them sweet: corn, cane or beet.

The timely tome, released in Nutritional Journal, found that consumption of fat and glucose increased in the United States between 1970 and 2009, but the consumption of fructose accounted for only 1.3 percent of the rise in calorie intake in that period.  Thus, the study again pulls the mask off of the myth that fructose is in some way uniquely tied to the rising trend toward obesity in this county.

HFCS isn’t the dietary boogeyman. Instead, creepy corn-haters have whipped up an illusion that tricks people into believing that avoiding HFCS would drive a stake through the heart of obesity. Much like vampires though, the entire story is nothing but a whimsical fairytale concocted to keep those who would believe it right in the palm of the storyteller’s hand.

No one demon can be exorcised to cure the problem of obesity because, like most things in real life, it is complex and action requires real work and knowledge. Moderation and exercise may not conjure the same fascination as a titillating tale of dietary demons, but they do get results that last long after the last candy corn finally makes its way out of the dish.

This Halloween, don’t fear your food. Enjoy the fruits of hard-earned trick-or-treating labors as much as the corny jokes with which they were earned. HFCS doesn’t cast some magic spell on your metabolism. That story is as false as the little vampire at your doors fangs.

More to Gasoline Than Meets the Eye

Ethanol isn’t poison and gasoline is. There….I have said it. It boggles my mind how much of the public buys into the oil industry propaganda related to ethanol, most notably some of the environmental community. Why someone who considers themselves an environmentalist would listen to big oil on energy topics and what is best for consumers leaves me perplexed. Even on a good day when gasoline isn’t $3 to $4 a gallon, it remains a really bad idea when it comes to our health and the environment.

Ethanol is ethanol. There are no additives and it is the same product chemically that some drink in the form of martinis and other cocktails. Drink ethanol and  you just think you are better looking and funnier. Drink gasoline and you get dead. Gasoline has terrible environmental risk and repercussions and they are getting worse as we find new ways to dig, steam, and frack to get it out of the ground and the ocean bottom.

However, that is just the beginning of making commercial gasoline. Gasoline starts out as poison and it only gets better as dozens of chemicals can get mixed into the product. They get mixed in to make gas burn better during different seasons, to add octane, and even as a way for the oil industry to charge you for some byproducts of gasoline manufacturing that they otherwise would have to dispose of as toxic waste.

To this day one of my favorite news cartoons of all time showed thewhats in gas Exxon Valdez oil spill with petroleum covered wildlife effected by the disaster. The next panel showed an ethanol spill and featured google-eyed sea otters, dolphin and fish who apparently had been to happy hour.

I am a typical blogger. I have lots of opinions and I like words. But in this case I think I will show good judgement and just shut up and let the accompanying image tell the rest of the story. Take my word for it that many of these chemicals are even worse for your personal health and our future than they sound.

Controlling Aflatoxin in Africa

DSC_1615Behind this pretty, innocent face is the mind of a brilliant researcher who was honored last week at the World Food Prize for her work in helping to make the maize crop in Africa safer for animals and humans.

Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi, a 38-year-old researcher from Kenya, received the 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application in recognition of her efforts to find the cause and a solution to a 2004-05 outbreak of aflatoxicosis in her country which killed 125 people who consumed contaminated grain.

Dr. Mutegi is leading efforts for the development of a biocontrol product in Kenya that can be used to significantly reduce aflatoxin levels in maize by introducing naturally occurring non-toxic strains of the fungus, which have a competitive advantage over the strains that produce the deadly aflatoxin. The technology was developed by USDA’s Agriculture Research Service and locally adapted for use in several African countries. The microbial bio pesticide she and her team are developing – “aflasafe KE01” – is affordable for farmers, is natural and environmentally safe, and once applied to a field, the effects last multiple growing seasons, making it extremely effective.

Listen Dr. Mutegi talk about her research during a World Food Prize press conference: Dr. Charity Mutegi remarks

2013 World Food Prize photos



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