Posted By Cindy November 15, 2011
Farm broadcasters on radio and television were advocating for agriculture long before anyone ever even dreamed of inventing the word “agvocate.” Their numbers may have declined over the years, but the farm broadcast professionals who remain on the air every day talking about agriculture reach an enormous audience across the nation. They are literally on the front lines in the battle for the hearts and minds of the 98% who are not in the barns and fields providing food, fuel and fiber for the nation and the world.
At the annual meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) last week, about 100 of the nation’s farm broadcasters were busy gathering interviews with representatives from agricultural companies and organizations that will fill the airwaves between now and Christmas, and by virtue of the medium, that information will be heard and seen by millions of non-farm listeners and viewers as well. Social media is a wonderful new tool to get up close and personal with the public, but farm broadcasters have been bringing the farm to the public since the first radio stations commenced operations in this country in 1920.
Back in the early days of radio, much of the airtime was devoted to agriculture, since a much larger percentage of the population was still directly involved in farming and ranching. Over time, that has gradually diminished to the point where even some of the most well-known powerhouses of farm radio – such as WGN in Chicago and WHO in Des Moines – have drastically cut back or even eliminated farm programming all together.
There has been renewed talk recently about the demise of local radio, with the nation’s largest radio station operator making drastic cuts in local talent on its 850 stations. This makes it more important than ever for the agriculture community – including companies, organizations and individuals – to show their support for farm broadcasting. Whether it is a local farm broadcaster or even a network, farm programming is often the target of cuts – even if it is a source of significant revenue. Still, money does talk loudest, so financial support is crucial, but taking the time to send a note or an email of thanks to your local radio station that carries farm programming could make a big difference when decisions are being made.
Don’t wait until the axe falls – send a note to the general manager of your local station today and just say thanks for keeping our advocates for agriculture on the air.
Posted By Cindy November 15, 2011
It has only been a year since the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance was officially announced, and what a year it has been for the coalition of agricultural organizations!
USFRA held its first annual meeting last week in Kansas City just prior to the NAMA Trends in Agriculture and the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual meeting where board members like Vice Chairman Bart Schott (pictured), who is also chairman of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), had a chance to talk with dozens of broadcasters about the accomplishments and goals of USFRA.
NCGA CEO Rick Tolman says it’s amazing to see how much the organization has grown in the 12 short months since the first USFRA board meeting in 2010. “There were 12-15 of us sitting around the table putting this thing together and dreaming what it might be,” Rick said. Now there are more than 20 on the board and another 80 were in attendance. He says they raised over $10 million dollars in the first year and have a second year budget of $11.1 million. “So, it’s really exciting to think of where we came from and where we are in such a short period of time.”
Much of the first annual meeting dealt with plans for 2012 and you can hear all about it in this interview that Chuck Zimmerman did with Rick about the accomplishments and goals of USFRA: Rick Tolman Interview
Posted By Mark November 8, 2011
The longest of journeys begins with a first step and perhaps the national idiocy over the evils of corn sugar (HFCS) may be about to subside. In the “Well Blog” in today’s New York Times they pronounce that soda bans in schools have limited impact.
I know business professionals aren’t supposed to say “Duh” but this is a blog and sometimes simple is better so “Duh.”
The NY Times blog notes that “State laws that ban soda in schools — but not other sweetened beverages — have virtually no impact on the amount of sugary drinks middle school students buy and consume at school, a new study shows.”
Their study took a look at thousands of public school students across 40 states, found that removing soda from cafeterias and school vending machines only prompted students to buy sports drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and other sugar-laden beverages instead. In states that banned only soda, students bought and consumed sugary drinks just as frequently at school as their peers in states where there were no bans at all.
Did somebody actually pay for this information? In the name of saving some money and urging the discussion along let me go one step further and save you the time and investment in other moments that make you slap your forehead and scream “Eureka.”
Some schools have actually removed all drinks containing sugar in an effort to protect the students from themselves and guess what happens. Teachers I know who work in the trenches elbow to elbow with the children and young adults say an interesting phenomenon occurs; students actually bring their own drink of choice to school…or even more than one.
This easy access to their first choice of drinks/drinks may actually increase their consumption. Most teachers and many school administrators get this but apparently school boards who are making these silly decisions do not.
I have said it here before and will likely say it again; trying to legislate or regulate common sense is a slippery slope. The national obesity problem amongst children and adults in this country is a real issue but it needs to be addressed through intelligent lifestyle choices that include better selections of food and quantity consumed as well as regular exercise. Good role models at home can have far more impact on students than any school board.
Posted By Cathryn November 7, 2011
What advice do retired generals and admirals have for federal officials looking to improve national security? If you want a safer tomorrow for Americans, start fueling more cars with ethanol today.
According to a report released by a nonprofit research organization on the findings of the Military Advisory Board, reducing our oil consumption by 30 percent through the use of biofuels “would significantly improve security and economics by decreasing deficits, preserving capital for job creation and increase energy reserves.”
This finding, and the report in general, provide solid support for an idea that already seems logical to most Americans. Over the past decades, it has become painfully obvious that the U.S. addiction to cheap foreign oil creates problems. From the need to continually interact with unstable, even hostile, regimes to an untenable vulnerability to the whims of a cartel-controlled market, everyday people here suffer because they do not have simple, readily available ways to fuel their cars on something besides oil.
In the report, released in October, this panel concludes that the obvious would be effective. If imported oil exposes the United States to myriad risks, grow a reliable, sustainable alternative at home. U.S. farmers, working with a robust biofuels industry, could actually harvest security.
Given that ethanol production has already tripled since 2005, our nation’s corn growers have demonstrated their ability to supply a growing market. Actually, the report itself even notes the efficiency gains in biotechnology, coupled with yield gains, could continually increase the amount of oil biofuels could displace.
Regulators, bureaucrats and politicians may not be the best sources for unbiased information, but retired military leaders certainly understand national security and can be relied upon to put the national interest ahead of their own. Sometimes a solution is simple. Harness the power of our land. Harness the power of our people. Grow a country that is self-reliant and secure.
Posted By Cindy November 2, 2011
On the same day the world was officially proclaimed home of seven billion souls, the United Nations General Assembly officially declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives with the theme of “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”.
“This Day of 7 Billion – is not about one newborn, or even one generation,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “This is a day about our entire human family.”
According to the U.N., one billion of the seven billion souls on the planet belongs to a cooperative and that cooperatives, especially in agriculture, contribute to “poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration” around the world. Agricultural producers are more likely than most to belong to a cooperative, and rural residents in general more than city dwellers.
The latest Global300 report, released by the International Co-operative Alliance this week, says that the world’s largest 300 co-operatives generate revenues of $1.6 trillion—equal to the GDP of the world’s ninth largest economy. Most of the largest cooperatives are found in the developed economies of France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands and the United States, with 30 per cent engaged in the agriculture and food sectors, 23 per cent in retailing, 22 per cent in insurance and 19 per cent in banking.
The root of the cooperative business model is the root of the very word itself – co-operate; to operate together as a unit. When farmers, producers, workers, and consumers find that they can accomplish more if they cooperate collectively than they could as individuals, a cooperative is born.
“Cooperatives have a long history going back to England in the mid-1800s when producers would get together to help market their products and that has resulted in the cooperative system here in the United States,” says Dan Kelley, an Illinois farmer and chairman of GROWMARK, one of the oldest and most successful agricultural co-ops in the country. “If you think of products like Welch’s grape juice, Florida’s Natural, SunMaid Raisins – those are cooperatives that have a national brand and market in some cases world wide.”
Cooperatives can also be credited with the rapid expansion of the ethanol industry in the Midwest over the past decade. A significant percentage of plants currently in production are still farmer-owned cooperatives, run by farmers in the area who found out what they could accomplish by working together.
Cooperatives define themselves in the spirit of working together to achieve a common goal. That is something to celebrate.
Posted By Cindy November 2, 2011
This week, the world population hit exactly 7 billion (give or take a few million), coincidentally celebrated by the United Nations on the eve of All Hallows Day, better known as Halloween. The better to scare you with, my dear.
The milestone was marked by hundreds of scary stories predicting the end of the world as we know it, since people are nothing but consuming zombies who are taking over the planet. The primary ways to prevent the inevitable collapse of the entire earth are to stop eating meat and stop using corn for ethanol – preferably stop growing corn – and stop making more people.
In a world where people are seen as a burden, there is little mention of the potential of the seven billion souls they represent. The potential to maintain our precious planet and feed the souls that inhabit it lies in the hearts and minds of those billions. Rather than being afraid that there will not be enough for everyone, we should be excited about the future to see what new and better ways will be devised to produce food.
Seven is a number that traditionally represents the infinite. The potential of seven billion souls is indeed infinite.
Posted By Cathryn November 2, 2011
Frequently, CornCommentary serves as a place to correct the many errors, fallacies and misrepresentations that plague media coverage of agriculture. With 98.5 percent of the population totally uninvolved in farming or farm-related activities and deep labor cuts at outlets across the country eliminating staff with any ag knowledge, this problem may seem endemic. Other times, it becomes evident that controversy sells and, should it not appear organically, some journalists happily create it.
Corn farmers have an unlikely ally in correcting the fallacies surrounding high fructose corn syrup though – Michael Pollan. Often viewed as an enemy of modern production agriculture, Pollan has come out clarifying statements he made that, in his own opinion, portray the sweetener unfairly.
This week, his rebuttals once again took center stage with websites highlighting a recent interview in which Pollan told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, that his problem with sweetener in the American diet is based upon the amount consumed, not the type.
This statement is completely in line with earlier expressions of his viewpoint, such as that in his popular work Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual. While he does caution readers to cut down on their overall sugar intake, he pointedly notes that this includes sweetener of any kind and not just HFCS.
“Don’t fall for the food industry’s latest scam: products reformulated to contain ‘no HFCS’ or ‘real cane sugar,’” he states. “These claims imply these foods are somehow healthier, but they’re not. Sugar is sugar.”
Yet again, Pollan confirms the idea that a balanced diet leads to good health. It may be simpler to demonize a single ingredient, but the results of doing so will not be as effective. Instead, make healthy eating simple by moderating sugar intake without wasting time worrying about which specific sweetener it is.
Posted By Cathryn November 1, 2011
For more than a month and a half now, Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken over city parks and the national news programs protesting social and economic inequality and corporate greed and power. Within weeks of its beginning, the movement grew not just geographically, with satellite protests springing up across the nation, but also internally. By now, some protesters even carry signs with such articulate messaging as “I AM VERY UPSET,” as seen on the front page of a recent New York Times
Guess what? A lot of people are upset about a lot of things. But, as the many causes associated with the demonstrations multiply, some food elitists have started joining the “99%” while pushing an agenda that is not supported by the masses. Delivering misconstrued messaging that purportedly promotes democracy and touting dubitable sources, these fear mongers hype a plight that does not exist.
A recent blog post on Civil Eats outlines what the food-motivated occupiers actually want. The outcome of their desires would effectively squelch the freedom of average Americans to select the diet they prefer in favor of dictating a “healthier” America. By painting a seriously skewed picture of American agriculture, the elitist radicals deny the basic tenets of capitalism, an idea most Americans closely link with freedom. They condescend, offering only scant information provided by sources which either speak out of their field of expertise or have been debunked time and time again. Relying on a conception that Americans will embrace this emotionally charged propaganda without meaningful consideration, they aim to dictate both the choices of consumers and the ability of farmers to produce an abundant supply of healthy food choices.
Since an early age, children learn that they can “vote with their pocketbooks” as, in a free society the laws of supply and demand provide a tool with which they affect corporate America directly through their purchasing decisions. Yet, these protesters instead pose the idea that “75 percent of the population are obese or overweight and many are chronically ill with diet-related diseases” because of a corporate-controlled food supply. In doing so, they offer the easy out to anyone who makes poor choices by denying the long-valued ideal of personal responsibility.
Americans are not spoon-fed or force-fed the oversized portions of high-calorie foods that lead to weight gain. Instead, they choose a diet that they enjoy. Average Americans may not make the same choices as these activists, or even base them upon the same values, but that does not discount their opinions.
That argument sounds strangely familiar…
Many people take the easy academic out and blame corporations for producing the choices that they secretly favor. So, the protesters validate them. By blaming obesity on the corporations, these master debaters place the blame on faceless, callous mental images of corporations. These arguments further disguise an elitist agenda under the blanket of anger against corporations spun with the threads of discontent with financial entities whose corporate irresponsibility pushed our nation toward recession.
While these protestors claim to stand up to corporate farming, they rage against a corporate machine that doesn’t exist in the way they portray it. g. In all reality, 95 percent of all farms in America are still family owned. These growers, most often the descendants of a proud tradition of the rugged individualists who first made farming flourish here, make informed decisions every year on what to put in their fields. Farmers understand what types of climates and soil produce certain crops. They know first-hand that selecting seeds that can resist stressors common in their area will increase the chance of a successful harvest. They study their land, growing the most abundant crop possible in a way that preserves the environment- the single greatest resource as growers.
Pushing this reality aside, the blog post in particular jumps to the idea many espouse: somehow, big companies are behind what farmers produce. While a variety of companies do sell seeds, as consumers farmers select what they see as the product that will grow the best crop given their particular circumstances. If they did not see value in biotech, they wouldn’t pay for it.
Pointing to the rapid growth of sales for corn seeds with the Roundup Ready trait, the blog implies that, in order to achieve this type of success, the seed provider must be exercising some sort of secret power. In a way, successful seed providers are exercising a power that may be mysterious to the protestors. They make effective, proven, safe products that farmers like. Most average citizens understand that, when you make something that people like instead of just empty rhetoric, it tends to become popular quickly. Mystery solved.
The activists cite self-proclaimed “experts.” Again relying on the inaccurate assumption that the average Americans they claim to represent will be too lazy to examine these experts credibility, their arguments rely heavily on the claims made in the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. (To read up on the problems of the documentary, read American Agri-Women’s Food Inc Analysis.)
The aforementioned blog post in particular also cites a doctorate. Instead of the logical selection of citing a medical doctor for information on human health, or even a biologist, nutritionist or dietician, the information sourced are the opinions of a physicist. While a doctorate requires mental aptitude and dedication, it seems like a large leap to place trust in someone speaking so far outside of their area of expertise. If a physicist is in no way licensed to practice medicine or dispense dietary advice, it might appear more credible if the expert cited in these areas were thus raising the question of how the author made such a selection. The word “desperation” comes to mind…
Opponents rely on inaccurate data and select seemingly odd sources only when no better choices exist. This proves true yet again with the implication that Americans chose processed foods because they are cheaper. Looking at the research shows, cooking homemade meals from the ingredients that they deem healthy, albeit produced using more modern practices, actually saves money. Again, food choice has not been obliterated by a corporate plot. The average American simply does not chose the foods that the protestors’ agenda would dictate.
Instead of occupying a park only to spout propaganda, those seeking to occupy our nation’s fields and stomachs should face reality. The food system, while as much of a work-in-progress as any other human endeavor, is functional. Every year, farmers provide an abundant supply of quality food. They do so at prices lower than anywhere else in the developed world. They do so despite challenges both from the weather and from the very people eating the food they grow.
Do not let the occupiers win. The monopoly they seek to create would take away choice, push up prices and kill the efficiency that allows farmers to feed the actually impoverished, hungry masses they pretend to represent.
Posted By Cathryn October 31, 2011
In the world of communications, it is understood that if you don’t tell your own story, someone else will tell it for you. Being as what this other person says may not be accurate or fair, it is generally accepted that telling your story first in a clear, concise manner is crucial.
Over the past decade, social media has revolutionized communications. Now, anyone on Facebook, Twitter or even newer platforms like Google+ acts as a communications professional every day as they share their lives, stories and opinions with an ever-growing audience. In establishing a personal connection, social media allows for authentic interaction and relationship building in a way that was previously unimaginable.
Farmers across the country harnessed the power of this platform during harvest. Allowing anyone interested a glance into their operation, farmers showcased the amazing advances of modern agriculture by actually sharing a little bit of themselves.
Many of the problems facing modern agriculture stem from a lack of communication. By helping the people outside of agriculture, 98.5 of the U.S. population currently, see how safely and effectively family farmers grow a quality product year-after-year, many of the anxieties and concerns surrounding our food supply will dissipate.
Farmers have always embraced new technology and change. From more advanced equipment to improved seed varieties, they innately understand the importance of adopting the best possible tools. This year, why not view social media as an investment also. Just a few minutes a day spent telling the story of your farm on a YouTube video, through Facebook or just tweeting from the combine can help form relationships and shape opinions.
Every citizen has a voice. Make sure that yours is heard before it is too late.
Posted By Cathryn October 26, 2011
In a summer plagued by extreme weather, farmers along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers watched as water swelled from its banks and, eventually, covered many of their fields. These farmers continue working to salvage the 400,000 acres lost to the flood. This is about more than flooded farms and homes though– this is about people’s lives and livelihoods.
2011 has been a devastating year for farmers along the rivers. In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up three levees in southeast Missouri, flooding 200 square miles of homes, fields and businesses along the banks of the Mississippi River. Shortly thereafter, they released historic amounts of water from the Missouri River Reservoir System, flooding an estimated 400,000 acres of prime farmland for four months. Stress, frustration and a sense of hopeless rolled in with the water.
The Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council are working along these growers that the government does not turn its back on the farms that they chose to flood. Through a new documentary, Underwater and Overlooked: Crisis on the Missouri River, the groups bring the facts to the forefront, holding the Corps accountable for the 2011 flood along the Missouri River banks and pushing them to take steps to ensure this never happens again.
The Army Corps of Engineers made the decisions that changed the lives of Missouri farmers. Now is the time to hear their stories, understand this tragedy and join with those supporting the victims as they rebuild. Click here to see what actually happened in Missouri’s farmlands as they sat flooded for 16 weeks. When the water goes down, the cameras go away and the spotlight dims, keep this story in the public eye until the levees are repaired and flood management is recognized as the top priority by the Corps.