Dear Consumer, They Tell Me Not to Get Angry But, Sometimes, I Do

In Activism, Food, Guest Blogger by Cathryn

Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from Missouri CommonGround blogger Kate Lambert. A passionate agvocate who blogs at, Lambert describes the frustration many of her fellow farmers feel when trying to convey their passion and love of farming. Why struggle in this way? Because, as you will see, Lambert and many like her deeply understand the importance of communicating with consumers.

Dear Concerned Consumer,

The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you.   I shouldn’t talk about the environment, or the health of my soil – they say you do not care about those things.

They tell me not to discuss the challenge of feeding the world.  I should not detail the challenges of feeding my own family on a farmer’s income, with ever rising input costs, unpredictable weather patterns and buyer preferences that change with the direction of the wind.  They tell me this doesn’t register with you.

They tell me to only speak about things that directly impact you.  They tell me not to talk about the science, because the emotional registers more.  They tell me not to talk too long or write too much, you don’t have time.

They tell me not to get angry.  But if I am honest, sometimes I do.

I get angry that you have time to read  about the latest detox diets and “natural” foods, yet don’t have time to read how seed technology is increasing yields in developing nations, and helping us here at home to be better stewards of our land.

I get angry that you are willing to pay a premium, up to 60%, on a product with a label that doesn’t even mean what you think it does.

I get angry that you think “Big Agriculture” is waging some kind of war, but refuse to acknowledge the huge profits being made off those labels you are now demanding.

I get angry that you demand “chemical free” farming, or even think that “chemical free” is possible.  I get angry so many of you do not seem to know what a chemical is.

I get angry that marketing hides that all types of farming – from organic to conventional – use chemicals.  They do it SAFELY and minimally, but they use them.

I get angry that you do not understand that farmers only  provide  raw product and that once it leaves our farm we are not responsible for what the food processors do to it.

I get angry that you don’t celebrate the fact that youspend less than 10% of your disposable income on food, when people in other nations spend 40%.

I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden, to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm. If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store. If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income.  If entire areas have bad crops, thousands are affected by supply and price.

I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmer’s market, who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his 8 free range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.

I get angry that you expect us to change our farming practices as frequently as you change your diet fads, and to make such changes without using any technology.

I get angry that you demand “humane treatment” of livestock without having actually ever spent time with livestock.  I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle.

I get angry that you think I  need to be told how to treat my animals, like PETA is going to offer some insight that years of working with and caring for these animals hasn’t already taught me.

I get angry that you want the latest and greatest gadgets in every aspect of your life, and then expect me to put on overalls and grab a pitchfork, and farm the way someone told you that your great Grandfather did in the 1940’s.

I get angry that you think it’s fair to demand farming practices match some romanticized version of an early era and are perfectly accepting of the fact these changes will take my land and water, which I now use to feed hundreds, and use it to feed only dozens.

I get angry that you give more weight to Facebook memes than actual scientific studies.  I get angry that you take Food Babe’s word, who has yet to actually set foot on a modern farm and literally has no qualifications to talk about the things she does, over nearly the entire scientific community.

I get angry that you cannot tell the difference between  credible science and bad science.   Like the “GMO Pig Feed” study from Australia.  Or the “Glyphosate toxicity” study in rats.  I get angry that the real scientists even have to address claims from these studies.

I get angry that you think there is some kind of war going on in rural America.  That Monsanto has enslaved us all to fight their battle, and we are too “simple” to know any better.  That conventional farmers are fighting with organic farmers.  That big farmers are fighting with small farmers.

I get angry you don’t actually come out to rural America and see that we are all here, like we always have been, farming side by side and eating lunch together at noon.

The marketing research tells me you won’t have read this far down.  If you have, I am actually trying to apologize for my anger.

I KNOW it’s not your fault.  I KNOW that modern agriculture has failed to tell our story and companies took advantage of that.

I KNOW there is a ridiculous amount of information available that is often confusing and contradictory.

I KNOW we are a generation that didn’t get the core education we need to understand science.

I KNOW that nothing sells in the media better than fear.

I KNOW that most of you don’t know a farmer and that most of you have never set foot on a farm.

I am apologizing for my anger.  And I am going to continue to try and reach out, in a positive way.  But  I just want you to know, if my anger shows through and it feels like it’s at you, it’s not.

It’s more at myself, and my industry, for not doing a better job of explaining the truth to you sooner.   And yes, you do have the  RIGHT to know.  I just wish you had time for the whole story.


An American Farm Wife

Multiple Marketing Personalities Confounding

In Corny News, feed, Food, New Products by Mark

Does anyone else besides me get the impression that pet food companies are sporting multiple marketing personalities these days? They run about willy-nilly on television and online espousing the benefits of grain free dog food. These commercials and marketing materials are constructed in such a way as to make you believe dog food that contains corn is bad for your pet.

However, leave your set on a little longer and you are likely to see a spot from the same company pushing their traditional pet foods containing the good old golden grain….cohuskyrn. Likewise if you land on one web site you quickly get the impression corn is making spot throw up or Scooby Doo go, well, Scooby doo. Nearby on another piece of digital real estate the same company tells you corn provides protein, energy, and linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid for dogs. Ounce for ounce, corn has twice the level of antioxidants as an apple.

Thankfully, one of the oldest and most respected pet food companies, Purina, has publically stated that corn contributes to a balanced canine diet. “You want to give your dog a food that supports health and enrichment. A balanced diet will keep your dog healthy and improve his life. That’s why we include corn in many of our dog foods.”

But Purina doesn’t get a pass on this issue as they exhibit some of the same dissociative disorder seen in many companies marketing human and pet foods today. They are marketing an entire line of dry and wet, grain free dog food products despite the acknowledgement that a miniscule number of dogs have any physical abnormalities that would require such a product.

Which begs the question….Hey, Sybil, why are you spending so much money marketing a product that is more expensive and that Fido doesn’t really need? You don’t need a psychiatrist to figure this one out. In an increasingly competitive market, producers of human and dog food are willing to market to an uninformed minority in the name of market share. At least when their paws are held to the fire, Purina confirms, “Our careful research has indicated to us that corn is not only acceptable in a dog’s diet, but benefits their health. 99-percent of dogs are not allergic to grains and thrive on a diet that includes them.

Good Dog!

Refinery Shutdown Like a E15 Advertisement

In General by Mark

If you live in the heart of the Midwest soaring fuel prices are a reality, not a nightmare, figment of your imagination or Wile E. Coyote cartoon. An equipment failure at one the region’s largest oil refineries caused an immediate and painful spike at the gas pump for consumers across the Midwest this week. The BP Whiting Refinery located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, had a breakdown of its crude distillation unit. The device, not made by ACME apparently,  is critical to the output of 120,000 barrels of gasoline a day. Whiting is the sixth-largest refinery in the United States and is a pivotal supplier of gasolineacme for drivers in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri.

“Gasoline prices are already on their way up and are expected to go up more than $1 a gallon in these markets,” according to NCGA President Chip Bowling. “Everyone is talking about these crazy gas prices right now so I am encouraging folks to use this as a teaching opportunity. This is a great way to drive home to family, friends and others how tenuous our relationship is with petroleum. We rely too much on imported oil and on a small number of aging oil refineries.”

A 250,000 barrel-per-day crude distillation unit went down with a mechanical problem at the facility, knocking out half the plants productive capacity for an undisclosed time.

“All of the lost gasoline output resulting from this outage could be offset if all gasoline in the Midwest region immediately transitioned from E10 to E15,” said Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “Moreover, ethanol in the Chicago wholesale market is roughly $1 per gallon lower than gasoline today. That means if refiners and blenders serving the Midwest market immediately switched to producing E15 to blunt the impacts of this refinery outage, gas prices would instantly fall by at least 5 cents per gallon and drivers in the Midwest would save about $6 million per day,” he said.

RFA is calling on EPA to immediately waive RVP requirements for E15 and also allow E12 blending–based on the fact that it is substantially similar to E10–in the Midwest region to facilitate expanded ethanol blending and blunt the consumer impacts of this refinery outage.

“I hope the Environmental Protection Agency is paying attention. If cleaner air alone is not enough to get them to leave the current Renewable Fuels Standard alone, then maybe this incident at Whiting will convince them,” Bowling said. “Incidents like these are not unusual and are getting more common as refineries continue to age and oil companies show no stomach for building new facilities. Agriculture has the corn and the desire to boost production.”






Corn’s Big Change: Why Mutants are Good

In General by Guest Blogger

By Tom Mueller

EXTRA, EXTRA, read all about it! Plant scientists identify the gene mutation that turned grass into corn!

Not exactly the headline heard or seen on any news outlet this week. So, what’s the big deal?

Teosinte. Image via UW-Madison, from cited story in Washington Post.

Washington Post journalist Robert Gebelhoff captured the significance in a recent Speaking of Science column. In the article, University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and study author John Doebley compared the impact of teosinte’s mutation from grass to corn to that of humans evolving from four-legged creatures to upright bipeds.

This research documented how a simple nucleotide change can alter protein function. Until now, there was disagreement among scientists on whether a single change in the DNA could make such a difference. Armed with DNA diversity data (i.e. a measure of genetic variation), researchers identified the location within the corn genome where the covered kernels of teosinte became the naked kernels of the corn plant. When teosinte’s tough protective kernel husk vanished, the diversity of the plant was unleased and this mother-load of calorie dense food took form.

Genetic mutation is a natural and frequent occurrence. Most mutations are neutral and innocuous. However, when a significant mutation takes place, we experience a game changer.

Corn’s mutative evolution has been big, but just how big was it? In Tamar Haspel’s Washington Post article In defense of corn, one expert noted that corn has adapted to almost every climate that humans have, and that it is three times as productive as 95 percent of the world’s flowing plants. That mutant really packed a punch.

By all accounts, corn has a few more benefits up its genetic sleeve. As it turns out, the gene identified in the University of Wisconsin-Madison study also affects the shape of corn kernels. The size and shape of corn seed does have an impact on emergence and early growth when environmental stresses such as early planting, cool soil temperatures and soil crusting are present.

So, embrace the mutants.

About the author: Tom Mueller, chairman of NCGA’s Research and Business Development Action Team, farms in Illinois.

Paltrow’s Pretentious Propaganda Heads to the Hill

In Biotechnology, Food, Food Prices, Policy, Politics by Cathryn


Gwyneth Paltrow has faced her fair share of criticism for her food theories. From failing the Food Stamp Challenge 2015 to promoting incredibly pricey diets on Goop, she has clearly shown, time and again, that her point of view does not take into account the financial realities faced by average American families. Her status as Hollywood royalty creates an insular bubble which not only allows her to ignore the plight of the people who shell out hard earned money to see her movies but it also allows her to continue promoting her Patrician food politics on a national stage.

Today, she will join her equally aristocratic ancestor Blythe Danner to petition our legislators in Washington to stand on her side, one consciously uncoupled from reality, in opposing the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. This legislation, which would create a national, science-based standard for the labeling of foods created with the use of biotechnology, plays an important role in keeping food affordable for American families.

Unlike Paltrow, look at the reality facing all of us today. Should the 50-state patchwork of labeling legislation which would most probably come to fruition without Congressional action go into effect, starting with Vermont next July, the average American family would see their grocery bill go up by $500 per year. They would gain a sticker, one based on marketing misinformation in many cases, without improving the quality of food or information they receive for their grocery dollars one iota.

Paltrow poses as a lifestyle guru, laboring under the delusion every one of us should aspire to her holier-than-thou views of food. It is hypocrisy. She eschews science, promotes profit-driven propaganda and advocates for a position which harms the very people who pay for her ludicrous lifestyle.

Don’t fall for it.

Our representatives in Washington should represent us. While most of us do not have the time to fly to DC or a staff to splash our views across the headlines, we do have a voice. There are more of us than her. In a democracy where every one of us is entitled to an equal vote, we can stand up for ourselves, creating a system where science and economics actually matter.

Contact your elected officials today. Let them know the real impact failing to support this key legislation would have on the people who actually matter, their constituents. It is easy to do. Start by clicking here.

A Recipe for Relationships

In Food, State Groups by Cathryn

This week, CommonGround Maryland volunteers took to the airwaves in our nation’s capital to discuss upcoming events where people who have questions about food can have real conversations with the women who grow and raise it. Sharing an incredible recipe for roasted sweet corn and blue crab gazpacho, Paula Linthicum and Jennifer Cross reached out to the audience of ABC News Channel 8 to help residents of Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia understand that they can enjoy food without the fear.

To view the clip, click here.

This Friday, Common Ground will host a crab feast at NCGA President Chip Bowling’s farm in Newburg, Maryland to begin that same conversation with DC media and Congressional staff. Working together, the volunteers who make up this grassroots movement are gaining momentum in their effort to get Washington buzzing about the real story behind American farming – one they live every day.

Check back next week to find out more or go to Common Ground to learn more!


Huffington Post Goes Green in Support of Ethanol over Oil

In Biofuels, Ethanol, Media by Cathryn

Big Oil concocted the blend wall myth to protect its own profits, at least according to an article run today in the Huffington Post. Carefully delineating the events which led to the EPA’s reduction in required volume obligations announced in May, author Paul Alexander questions,” will the myth of a blend wall destroy the RFS, on which a good portion of the renewable fuel business is built, or will hard facts prevail?”

The piece, a departure from the anti-corn ethanol rhetoric often seen in national media, thoughtfully explores the connections behind the policy shift. From an Obama administration official reported by Reuters to have met with anti-RFS lobbying groups during his White House tenure to carefully detailing Department of Energy statement which affirm the viability of higher ethanol blends, Alexander crafts a solid argument that the blend wall arose from pro-oil propagandists.

Logically, he draws the seemingly obvious conclusion. Backing away from the RFS does equate to running toward a fossil fuel future. For an administration touting its environmental street cred, the move seems illogical at best.

Take a moment to read the article in full by clicking here.

From rallies in the Heartland to a flood of messages sent to the Hill, ethanol’s proponents must make their voice heard. Today, Alexander proved to be a prominent ally in this critical struggle to grow a cleaner, greener future for Americans by pointing out the current path only adds to the green in the pockets of Big Oil.

Love It or Hate It- NPR Has Mixed Emotions on Ethanol

In American Ethanol, Biofuels, Sustainability by Cathryn

NPR needs an all-hands-on-deck meeting. Recently, the reporters covering ethanol seem to be operating under almost opposing sets of assumptions. Sometimes, they hit it out of the park. Defying anti-ethanol propaganda disguised as conventional wisdom, they cut through the crud and achieve the accuracy journalists value above all.

But, sometimes, they fall victim to the trap laid by anti-ethanol activists who have worked for years to ingrain their false facts so deeply that they achieve an aura of un-questionability.

In this story from June 10, NPR reporter Grant Gerlock tackles why U.S. farmers and the EPA disagree vocally on changes made to the Renewable Volume Obligations outlined in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Gerlock speaks with a variety of guests, from the Union of Concerned Scientist’s Jeremy Martin to Iowa State University’s Bruce Babcock, an agricultural economist. While this may appear to be a good faith effort to present a well-rounded view of the situation, Gerlock’s unquestioning acceptance of anti-ethanol rhetoric quickly becomes apparent.

Speaking with USDA researcher Rob Mitchell, a proponent of switchgrass as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol, Gerlock makes a mental leap based upon the assumption that some ethanol is good and some is bad. He just assumes that corn-based ethanol could not possibly lower greenhouse gas emissions – even in comparison with oil. While both products do so, it does a grave disservice to suggest that the one more widely available today does not offer this important benefit.

To read the transcript (and see the incredible leap of misinformed faith for yourself), click here.

Yet, in a piece by Michael Tomsic that host Audie Cornish highlighted, NPR accepts NASCAR’s assertion that corn-based ethanol blends have been key to their efforts to make the sport “more green.” Discussing the move to ethanol, Tomsic sites that switching to a 15 percent ethanol blend has “reduced emissions by 20 percent” for NASCAR.

To read the transcript, click here.

Notably, he not only touts the virtue of using E15, he also points out that legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer has concerns about how his car will perform on the fuel after having a chance to use it.

Yes, NPR showed in the first instance that it can fall prey but, in the second, it showed that others within the organization can find the positive, honest story America’s farmers have to tell about ethanol- the story which they have raced feverishly to share.

Want to say kudos highlighting NASCAR Green? Want to set the record straight on corn-based ethanol’s environmental advantage? Either choice, there is a way.

NPR offers listeners the opportunity to submit their comments to the Office of the Ombudsman. Unlike traditional comment sections, the letters submitted are considered carefully. Each week, some are even chosen to be read aloud on the air.

So no matter what you want to say, speak up! They have the story half-right. Your voice can make a difference.

To contact the NPR ombudsman, click here.

Who Said Conventional Production Is Sustainable?

In Biotechnology, Environmental, Food, Sustainability by Cathryn

When you look at the facts, conventional agriculture scores higher than organic on sustainability. What system generates these results? The new Responsibly Grown labeling system developed by Whole Foods.

According to a multitude of media reports, the system will rank produce on a variety of criteria including water use, pesticide use and sustainability. Then, the data will be used to award produce selections with a label of “good,” “better” or “best.”

For one example, from Fox News, click here.

From early reports, conventional farmers have placed much higher than the growers using organic methods.

The system reflects a shift in the industry as a whole. While organics may have grown in popularity, many advocate a more scientific approach to assessing the impact of food production. Whole Foods spent three full years developing the Responsibly Grown program. Instead of simply applying a label to market the produce, they provide information on the true impact of growing practices.

Farmers, whether conventional or organic, strive to care for their land. It has provided a livelihood for their family for many generations in most cases. In about as many, they hope it will continue to do so for many generations to come. Keeping it healthy only makes sense.

Conventional production can be more sustainable than organic. Soon, the proof will be clearly labeled at a Whole Foods near you.

Monday’s Maize Mutant: HM1

In General by Cathryn

Photo courtesy of Dr. Gerald Neuffer

Photo courtesy of Dr. Gerald Neuffer

Cochliobolus carbonum is a fungus that causes northern leaf spot and ear rot disease in corn. The fungus produces a toxin that is highly destructive to corn ears and leaves. The HM1 gene in corn is responsible for resistance or susceptibility to the fungal plant pathogen. Corn lines that are resistant to C. carbonum and its toxin can become susceptible if their HM1 gene is mutated.  This seemingly unfortunate event has allowed maize researchers to clone and characterize the HM1 gene, which led to a better understanding of how fungal toxins work and how plants defend themselves against pathogens. Mutant analysis is one of the most powerful tools researchers have for understanding how genes work and how their expression controls different pathways and how plants respond to the environment.