Corn Commentary

When It Comes to Labels, WSJ Gets It Right

Today, The Wall Street Journal took a bold stance against the pro-labeling lobbies in Oregon and Colorado. Calling upon voters to exercise both common sense and rely upon scientific knowledge, “The Organic Food Protectionists” reveals the reasoning behind state-level GMO-labeling bills – and it isn’t as Populist as proponents would purport.

Opening with the brilliant summation “if you can’t beat them, ask the government to stigmatize them,” the article probes the true motivation behind the organic-farming interests that champion these bills. Explaining the issues involved, from protectionism to a lack of scientific basis for their claims, the WSJ takes on bills, and the big money covertly spent to back them, which would force labels meant to market organics at the expense of consumers.

Scrutinizing what is truly at stake in this debate, the article examines how labeling is both already available in the form of USDA-certified organic status to the long-term goals of labeling proponents, mainly a permanent moratorium on a safe, effective technology.

Arguing for a move away from “scare tactics,” the author urges support for sensible, scientific standards – something that would actually benefit anyone who eats.

The message is clear. Much of the pro-labeling, pro-organic hype depends upon consumer fear to drive exorbitant profits.

The answer is clear as well. Vote against Oregon Measure 92 and Colorado Proposition 105.

DDGS Supply Demand Picture

2014-export-exchangeHundreds of international buyers from dozens of countries heard about the supply-demand picture for the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) this week at the 2014 Export Exchange.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” says Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsCooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Corn Growers in the Sunbelt

ncga-sunbeltThe National Corn Growers Association had a presence last week at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia for the first time.

NCGA president Chip Bowling of Maryland visited with attendees at the event, including USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden who grew up on a Georgia peanut farm, and got to see some crops he doesn’t normally see. “I got to see some cotton and a few peanuts,” Bowling told Randall Weiseman with Southeast AgNet during an interview at Sunbelt.

Bowling noted that corn acreage has been increasing in the southeast. “In the last couple years, when corn prices shot up there for awhile, we started seeing more corn acres in the south,” he said. “We are growing a fair amount now – about a billion and a half bushels – which is way up from what it used to be.”

Listen to Randall’s interview with Chip here: Southeast AgNet interview with NCGA president Chip Bowling

Learning About Conservation in the Everglades

Normally, the Conservation Technology and Information Center stays pretty close to the Midwest for its annual Conservation in Action tour, but this year they headed way south into the Florida Everglades to get a look at some very different types of crops.

ctic-14-ncgaOn the tour was CTIC board member and National Corn Growers Association Soil Health and Sustainability Manager Nick Goeser, who was amazed by the sugarcane planting and harvesting he saw. “It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s different (compared to corn) but the level of mechanization is very similar, the level of farm management, the precision involved – it’s amazing.”

Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) have implemented some very successful best management practices to protect the important ecosystem that provides the water supply for much of the state. “A lot of the management issues are similar,” said Goeser. “We learned they had about a 55% reduction in phosphorus, which is huge.”

Goeser says what farmers have been able to accomplish in the EAA can serve as a conservation case study for farmers in other parts of the country.

2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Listen to my interview with Nick here and watch some of the sugarcane harvest in the video below: Interview with Nick Goeser, NCGA

Study Shows How Big Oil Rigs the System in St. Louis

Big Oil continues to rig the system. Using its stranglehold on infrastructure, it uses pricing strategies to edge out ethanol at the detriment of consumers’ pocketbooks and the environment.

A study recently conducted by the Renewable Fuel Association in the St. Louis area highlighted this point quite clearly.

The study looked to see if anti-competitive pricing strategies were being employed to discourage E85 sales in this unique market, where the only stations offering the fuel are owned by one of the “big five” oil companies. Less than shockingly, the study found that E85 sold for one percent more than E10 on the retail market despite being priced 12 percent below E10 on the wholesale market.

To read the full study, click here.

The results show clearly how some gas companies and their franchised retailers strategically price E85 to discourage consumers from using the renewable, domestically produced biofuel. Big Oil has grown so good at what it does that, in many cases, they manage to make consumers to feel negatively toward E85 at the same time they continue to take choice out of their hands.

Does this Machiavellian plan end there? Of course not. Big Oil is better than that.

The pricing strategy they designed to ensure that affiliated refiners cannot meet the blending requirements outlined in the RFS provides them with data to undermine to use when arguing against the statute. The RFS was designed to benefit Americans. Big Oil has orchestrated an effort to ensure it fails and then, in turn, to cry out as if they are being asked to do something unreasonable.

It seems what is unreasonable is acting as good corporate citizens and in the best interest of all citizens, not creating workarounds to evade laws and continue to hold us over their barrels.

Find out what you can do to stop Big Oil from rigging the system by clicking here.

Entertainers Should Entertain, Not Preach

jason mraz 2As a former journalist I have a deeply ingrained sense of outrage when the public is being misled, bilked or fooled. This is especially true when misinformation is used to strip away their hard earned cash.
So I thought I would send an open letter to Jason Mraz, a singer/songwriter and niche celebrity, who also spends a lot of time and money working on causes he finds important including the environment.

If you don’t have time to read any further I have two messages for the obviously talented Mraz, who played to an appreciative crowd at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis last night:

Scientific experts say organic foods are not healthier that food grown using conventional methods contrary to what Mraz told the audience last night.
2 – Good for you for having the conviction of your beliefs. I appreciate your willing to use your celebrity to help a cause. But please keep your personal politics off the stage unless you do it through your songs themselves, that way fans know what they signed up for going in.

Using the interlude between music to espouse lifestyle choices, support political candidates, or give advice on something as personal as food is just bad form. Most people go to concerts, movies, sporting events, etc… to get a mental break from the headlines of the day or meditating on philosophical issues. I have never been a Jason Mraz fan, in part due to lack of exposure, so didn’t know too much about him. Still, I admit to being very surprised when a photo of his personal garden popped up on the stage and he proceeded to espouse the benefits of organic food production.

My hat is off to Mraz for trying to live a health-conscious lifestyle, but I went to hear music not visit a lifestyle coach, let alone one without real credentials. You have every right to your opinion but please try being more selective in how you use your notoriety and bully pulpit.

An article in “Real Clear Science” earlier this summer points out the majority of Americans believe that organic foods are healthier than food grown through conventional methods. The majority of Americans are wrong. Science has shown that organic is neither healthier for you nor better for the environment. In fact, it’s not safer, more nutritious, not does it taste better. These are all notions promoted by organic food proponents who have a lot to gain or were just misled. Given the markedly higher prices for nearly all of these products, the public has a right to know they are being hoodwinked.

Grains Council Helps Exports Rebound

usgcWith a record corn crop being harvested, exports are more important than ever. The United States exported more than 11 percent of the U.S. corn supply to over 100 countries in the 2013/2014 marketing year, which U.S. Grains Council president and CEO Tom Sleight says is a nice recovery from lost market share after the drought of 2012.

“Now it’s time to really dig in and dig in hard … recoup our market share, recoup our sales,” said Sleight. “With an abundant, competitively priced crop, plus our reputation for quality and contract and deliveries, we’ve been able to get back where we needed to be.”

U.S. corn exports to Japan enjoyed a powerful rebound in the just completed marketing year, with USDA reporting exports and outstanding sales of 11.8 million metric tons (465 million bushels). “In Japan, we’ve had a 90 plus percent market share since April,” said Sleight.

usgc-sleightHeading into the 2014/2015 marketing year, the Council has more plans to develop new markets for U.S. corn. “We have nine offices around the world, spending about 40% of our resources in Asia, another 40% in the western hemisphere,” Sleight said. “The other 20% in the middle part of the world – the Middle East, north Africa, very key market for us.” With hostilities and Ebola to contend with in those areas, Sleight said they are being mindful of safety and security issues.

In this interview, Sleight also talks about the upcoming Export Exchange, global biotechnology education challenges, the situation in China, and the potential for current trade negotiations to boost grain exports. Interview with Tom Sleight, US Grains Council

Orange Corn for Better Eyesight

orange-cornResearchers at Purdue University have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn, which could help fight vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, as well as macular degeneration right here at home.

The human body can convert provitamin A carotenoids into vitamin A, which plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year, half of whom die within a year of losing their eyesight, according to the World Health Organization. Insufficient carotenoids may also contribute to macular degeneration in the elderly, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly in Europe and the U.S.

“This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids – and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics,” said Professor of Agronomy Torbert Rocheford. Identifying the genes that determine carotenoid levels in corn kernels will help plant breeders develop novel biofortifed corn varieties for Africa and the U.S. The dark orange color of these corn varieties also makes them more culturally acceptable to consumers in African countries where yellow corn is generally fed only to animals, Rocheford said.

Note that he said this can be done by “natural” plant breeding, not “transgenics” which is another word for genetic modification. Genetically modified Golden Rice, which has been around for a decade now, was developed specifically to address vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries yet has been maligned and protested by GMO critics. Let’s hope they can speed up the “natural” process and get orange corn out there before too many more hundreds of thousands of children die.

Read more about orange corn from Purdue.

Late Night Laughs Point Out Ignorance, Pompous Propaganda

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel dished up a hearty helping of laughs seasoned with some satirical truth in a segment based on the Consumer Reports story on GMOs published earlier this week.

In the segment, a man-on-the-street crew asks farmers market consumers two questions. First, do they avoid GMOs? Second, do they know what the acronym GMO actually means?

For anyone who has tracked the correlation between common opinion on GMOs and factual knowledge of this technology, the results will seem predictable. For anyone who has followed just mainstream media coverage and first confronts this realization during a late night comedy show, they may be a bit shocking.

Why? While the vast majority of interviewees gaspingly reply that they try and avoid GMOs with great aplomb, all but one questioned has no clue what GMOs are. Those asked have only vague, convoluted explanations for their avoidance.

To watch the clip, click here.

The point has been made many times, but it seems to need reiteration. The more your know about GMO, the less likely you are to buy into bogus anti-GMO brainwashing.

Get real answers to you GMO questions by clicking here.

Farm News of the Future

farm-radioOnce upon a time, when farming was a primary occupation in our country, listening to farm news on the radio was virtually a ritual, particularly in the morning and during the noon hour.

Today so much of our news is received on our computers and smartphones that agricultural reporting has gone increasingly digital. We have farm publications in the radio and TV business and farm broadcasters online doing podcasts and print versions of their stories. What’s next?

Well, if you use your smartphone to listen to music through such applications as Pandora and I Heart Radio, getting farm news the same way is just around the corner. Farm Journal Broadcast has just announced the upcoming launch of “My Farm Radio,” a 24/7 digital mobile radio channel focused on providing news, weather, markets and entertainment for farmers and ranchers.

The “My Farm Radio” app is scheduled to launch at the beginning of November and will allow listeners to pick and choose what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, featuring both a “live stream” experience and programs “on-demand”.

Farm Journal is betting this will be a winner for farmers and ranchers – what do you think?



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