American Character Fuels Future of Our Farms

In Activism, agribusiness, Biotechnology, Farming, International, Media by Cathryn

Farming looks quite different in America than it does in Europe. While many offhandedly write off the modernizations that allow American farmers to produce such an abundant, affordable food supply by characterizing U.S. farmers as passive pawns of agribusiness, The Economist magazine dug deeper in recent article and found American farming to be a product more of a forward-looking, achievement-driven national character. A character carefully cultivated in young farmers very much by design.

To see the full article, click here.

This close examination finds that the history of the New World necessitated farmers find ways to feed a fast growing, wide spread population. The attitudes embraced by immigrants, forward-thinking and innovative individualists, led American farmers to more easily embrace changing technology and science. The New World looked forward. The Old World embraced the past.

Today, as the article notes, organizations aimed at developing a scientifically minded, industrious generation of new farmers, such as 4-H, mold young agriculturalists to embrace science. Through programs such as these, America continues to push forward in farming, as it does in many other areas.

As Americans, we must continue to focus on the core values that fueled the incredible growth of our nation. As a society, we embrace technology rapidly, craving the newest medical and communications advances. By applying the same fervor to agriculture, we can use the tools developed in our research labs and in our nation’s fields. Together, we must embrace the technologies that move agriculture forward to meet tomorrow’s demands.

America’s young farmers see a vibrant vision of what farming can be. Why encumber them with a social and political environment that would prefer looking toward the past?

Don’t Till for Me Argentina

In Conservation, Farming, International by Cindy

Argentina may be about 10 years behind the United States in adoption of precision farming technology, but the country is probably 20 years ahead in adoption of no till practices.

That was one of the most interesting bits of information I gleaned about Argentinean farming during the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) 2013 Congress in Argentina last week.

ifaj13-notillThe Argentinean No Till Farmers Association – Aapresid – was created in 1989 with the goal of helping farmers in the country adopt no-tillage practices on their farming operations. “Nowadays, about 80% of our crops are done by no till,” said Martin Descalzo Souto with the organization. That compares with about 35-40% here in the United States.

“It was a very important saving of fuel so it was economically important for the farmer, and they also have an important saving of water,” Souto said, adding there are some areas of the country that can only be planted without tillage.

Aapresid is now taking no-till to the next level by providing a certification program for farmers who keep records of their practices and use crop rotation to reduce chemical use and improve soil. “We are looking at it not just as a practice but as a process,” said Souto.

Adoption of even the most basic precision technology is becoming more prevalent in Argentina, but Souto says they still need agronomists to work with that information for it to become more widespread. Interview with Martin Descalzo Souto, Argentinean No Till Farmers Association

2013 IFAJ Congress Photo Album

Radio Report Shares Story of Full Impact, Importance of Farm Bill

In Activism, Audio, Farm Bill, Media by Cathryn

Sometimes, it seems as if the reality of farming in the United States gets lost in the media shuffle. With so much attention turned towards serious situations abroad or sensationalized scandals at home, thoughtful journalism on the issues affecting American agriculture often do not make the front page unless a major weather event, such as a drought, raises concerns over availability or food prices.

Yesterday, National Public Radio’s Here and Now provided an in-depth look at why the farm bill matters to rural America. Focusing on the positive impact of crop insurance, this piece provides a look at why an issue some might dismiss as only important to farmers actually matters for the multitude of businesses that depend upon farmer dollars.

Farmers might not agree with every word uttered by every party interviewed for the story. Certainly, there are as many opinions about the course of this legislation as there are producers touched by it. For everyone involved in agriculture, such well-reasoned, rational radio does provide a benefit in introducing a nuanced narrative to listeners who might not be otherwise familiar with the issue.

As Congress returns from recess, American agriculture must tell its story. It is critical for the men and women who farm to explain the importance of crop insurance to them personally. Likewise, we need to relate the importance to the vast web of equipment dealers, bankers, seed providers and others who benefit from a healthy farming economy. We need to put forth the time and effort and spur Congress to action because we do need a farm bill now.

So take a listen. The story is yours to tell.

Corn Views: Back off the Renewable Fuels Standard, it’s working

In Ethanol, Guest Blogger by Cathryn

Today, Corn Commentary features a post authored by Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag that originally ran on

Corn Views: Back off the Renewable Fuels Standard, it’s working

If I told you there was a piece of legislation that has reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil by 20 percent, supports 400,000 jobs, adds $43 billion to our gross domestic product, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 percent and saves the typical motorist $1,200 per year, would you call for that legislation to be scaled back or repealed?

It sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to repeal a piece of legislation that is doing all of those things?

But that’s exactly what Big Oil companies and their highly paid executives, lobbyists and public relations teams are trying to do to a piece of legislation called the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

The RFS was enacted in 2005, updated in 2007, and is one of our country’s most successful energy policies ever. Thanks to the RFS — legislation that sets market-based goals for blending renewable fuels with gasoline – Big Oil’s monopoly on transportation fuels is loosening, which allows alternatives like ethanol to compete fairly in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, Big Oil isn’t a fan of the free market and competition. It’s attacking the RFS and ethanol so it can continue gouging Americans at the pump and limit fuel choices.

I believe that America was founded on free-market principles. Businesses should compete fairly in the marketplace and consumers should be protected against monopolies like Big Oil that unfairly manipulate prices.

Consider this: A barrel of oil cost $23 in 2001. Today, oil is over $100 per barrel — a 335 percent increase – despite the fact that demand for gasoline is down and we’re drilling for more oil in places like North Dakota.

In Minnesota, the price of a gallon of gas has gone from under $1.50 to around $4 (sometimes more) over the last 11 years.

These unexplainable and unjustified price increases are not sustainable. We need legislation like the RFS to ensure fairness in the marketplace and give alternatives like ethanol a shot to compete. Because the price of ethanol is less than gasoline, it’s already saving Americans about $1.09 per gallon.

Of course, Big Oil hasn’t let the facts get in the way of its attacks on renewable fuels. It’s gotten so bad that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently urged the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possibly anti-competitive practices (such as intimidating franchisees) by oil companies that may block market access for renewable fuels.

Minnesota’s corn farmers appreciate the bi-partisan efforts of both senators to protect consumers and build a transportation fuels market that is competitive. Now it’s time for other leaders in Washington to follow suit and defend the RFS.

Partisan gridlock already makes it difficult for our elected officials to pass meaningful legislation these days. The last thing Americans need is for Congress to repeal the RFS – a piece of legislation that’s saving us money, increasing competition and preserving our environment.

Corn views is a monthly column from Minnesota Corn Growers Association president Tom Haag, who farms near Eden Valley.


Corn Communicators in Argentina

In International by Cindy

Three corn grower communications professionals are among hundreds of agricultural journalists from all over the world at the 2013 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) Congress in Argentina this week.

ifaj13-cornMindy Williamson with Iowa Corn Growers, Marri Carrow with U.S. Grains Council, and National Corn Growers Association Communications Director Ken Colombini spent the day on Tuesday visiting a farm near Rosario to learn how about 80% of Argentinian growers have adopted no till in the last decade. We also stopped at a fertilizer facility to learn about demand and use of fertilizer in Argentina and how yields have doubled in the last 20 years. And we visited a terminal where we learned a lot about the importance of the soybean complex in this South American country which is a leader in soy product exports.

Corn is the second largest crop in Argentina behind soybeans, accounting for about 24% of production. Yields average about nine tons per hectare, which is about 144 bushels an acre, if my conversion skills are correct. Of course, it is just getting to the end of winter in Argentina, so no corn is growing here right now and it is a little chilly here! Much cooler than in the Midwest, for sure.

It was interesting to hear that Argentina is increasing use of corn for ethanol and biodiesel production. Since sugarcane is not as big a crop here as it is in Brazil, corn is their ethanol feedstock of choice.

Argentinian farmers are increasing their adoption of precision technology, but it has only been the last few years that it has become affordable enough, so they are mostly still in the early stages of using GPS and autosteer capabilities.

Internet access leaves much to be desired in the hotel where we are currently staying in Rosario. It was better in Buenos Aires but we have not been able to get audio or large photos uploaded from here since yesterday – but we will be adding more in the days to come, as well as interviews with the folks we are meeting in Argentina.

2013 IFAJ Congress Photo Album

Low Crop Prices Line Corporate Pockets

In Food Prices, Food vs Fuel by Cathryn

With cotton prices falling, reports indicating larger profit margins for apparel manufacturers are surfacing. In the discussion, reporters do not seem to even ask if the companies that cover our rears will lower the price of a pair of jeans. The fact that they will keep the profits comes as a given.

So, why does the idea that falling corn prices will lower the price of food have so much traction?

In relating food prices to the use of corn for ethanol, consumers are expected to assume that food manufacturers would pass these savings along. Simply, why is different corporate behavior expected from the apparel industry than from the grocery? Given that both operate with the goal of turning a profit for shareholders, this makes little sense.

Common sense underlies the public understanding of the economics of cotton. It should underlie the public understanding of economics of corn.

Corn Growers Strong at Farm Progress Show

In Audio, Biotechnology, Ethanol, Events, Exports, Farm Bill, Trade by Cindy

fps13-ncgaThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is out in full force at the 2013 Farm Progress Show, with both president Pam Johnson of Iowa and First Vice President Martin Barbre in his home state of Illinois on site.

They were doing interviews with all the farm media at the show, talking about a variety of topics. We chatted about the condition of the crop – which Pam says is “coming along” in Iowa and Martin says is “better than we’ve ever seen” in southern Illinois.

The farm bill is still a big concern for the corn growers and Pam says they are “not waiting very patiently anymore” for Congress to get the job done. They are strongly encouraging all members to contact their representatives during this August recess and urge them to make some real progress during the few days they are in session during September.

When it comes to membership, NCGA is now over 40,000 strong, which is a lot of voices that can make a big difference. “Our association has shown membership growth every year for the past 15 years,” Martin said. “Makes us feel like we’re really doing our job, really promoting the policy that the members create and making it happen.”

Pam and Martin also talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard, trade, WRDA and biotechnology in this interview.Interview with Pam Johnson and Martin Barbre

New Ads Strike Back at Big Oil’s Ethanol Attack

In Biofuels by Cathryn

In major markets across the country, Growth Energy is giving television viewers a healthy dose of reality with a series of satirical ads exposing Big Oil’s big plan to keep renewable fuels out of the market. Featuring Mr. Slick and Dummy, a ventriloquist and his puppet, the ads point out how oil interests use misinformation perpetuated by virtual mouthpieces to ramp up rumors about ethanol anyone could recognize as self-serving propaganda if it came from their mouths.

The ads, which will also run in print and online, illustrate what many who study the industry have seen for years. Big Oil manufactures anti-ethanol campaigns for one reason – ensuring they keep a stranglehold on our nation’s energy supply. In parroting the oil industry’s propaganda, ethanol bashing “experts” become no more than puppets for their fossil fuel masters.

Take a moment to check out the ad for yourself by clicking here.

Ethanol offers a renewable alternative to gasoline that frees the United States from an addiction to what Big Oil pushes. It does so while keeping costs down and dollars in our economy.

Don’t be spoon-fed supposed facts cleverly manufactured to come in an easy-to-swallow package. Think about your pocketbook, your environment and your nation’s future. Think about ethanol.

Keep Your Money out of Oil’s Well-Manicured Clutches

In Ethanol, Food vs Fuel by Cathryn

purse-of-cashWhat do you call a woman who whines about high grocery prices but shops at Whole Foods while she does it? What if she is wearing high-end yoga apparel, a designer handbag and jewelry from the most exclusive collections while she does it? Out of touch? Worse?

Big Oil thinks that most Americans would call her my neighbor, share her values and understand her experience. Furthermore, they think we would take her offhanded analysis of the correlation between energy policy and consumer economics as reliable fact.

This time, it seems that Big Oil’s attack on corn ethanol exposed a real truth – that their priorities are seriously out-of-whack.

Click here to watch the ad. Pay careful attention to the “everyday mom” at the grocery store while you do so.

Now, allow for a moment of somewhat catty contemplation.

The receipt she holds up clearly has a Whole Foods logo at the top. With bags overflowing with groceries, she bemoans how much she has to pay and attributes rising prices to ethanol in her “impromptu” analysis.

Did you roll your eyes at some point and think “Whole Paycheck’s more like it?” Think that just maybe she isn’t doing her best to shop in an even moderately cost-conscious way? Just maybe?

Let’s go back to her outfit. Is that jacket Lululemon or Athleta? Either way, it certainly isn’t from Walmart or Target. The handbag stitching and perfect riveting show an attention to detail that comes more often from Nordstrom than a no name bag. The twisted gold necklace with its delicate work could be Yurman. It could be Hardy. One thing it isn’t is cheap.

Don’t even start to contemplate how she flits her hand about with a rock like that on it…

In reality, most women head to the market with less shiny hair tucked in a ball cap. They wear sweats not expertly coordinated to set off their coloring. They carry a bag big enough to tote around the million and one emergency items their kids might need. You find them at Krogers or Kmart.

What Big Oil got wrong in this ad is that they cast a reflection of themselves, instead of one real Americans identify with. The showed a well-heeled elitist who wants to keep enough in her very lovely pocketbook to maintain her luxe lifestyle. They showed, in essence, exactly why they campaign to keep a stranglehold on our energy market. Much like the woman in their ad, they don’t want to keep their own lavish lifestyles funded.

They want to do so at the expense of the American consumer. Someone they obviously do not understand and whose best interests they do not have at heart.

The farmers who grow ethanol want the best for American consumers because that is who they are too. In towns from Sioux Falls to South Bend, they are the farm families just down the road. Like you, they want to stop paying more than they should at the pump and in the store.

Find out more about how ethanol is fueling a movement toward consumer choice by clicking here.

Support Fuel Freedom in 140 Characters or Less

In E85 by Cathryn

photoWhat happens when you give people a choice in what they purchase? The market goes to work.

Recently, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association released data indicating that E85 sales jumped an impressive 43 percent in the second quarter of the fiscal year. With reports of a strong corn crop driving prices down, consumers with flex fuel vehicles are choosing to use their vehicles biofuel-ready capability to save big at the pump.

At the same time, Senators Klobuchar and Grassley are calling for an investigation of the practices Big Oil uses to squash choice and firm their stranglehold on America’s fuel economy. They want to make sure that the oil industry does not use nefarious tactics in its quest to quash consumer choice. They want all Americans to be able to benefit from domestically-produced biofuels the way Iowans already do today.

In the marketplace for fuels, consumers can only save when given choices. Overreliance on petroleum leaves consumers helpless when prices fluctuate. Fuel options, and the vehicles that allow them to take advantage of them, free Americans from the whims of a monopoly fully willing to put aside the best interests of the nation for the profitability of the few.

Show your support for Klobuchar and Grassley’s willingness to stand up to Big Oil and act in a bipartisan to defend America’s fuel freedom. Send a tweet applauding their actions at @amyklobuchar and @chuckgrassley today.