Posted By Cindy August 4, 2014
Sefar is a precision weaving company out of Switzerland that provides fabrics for industrial uses, including corn milling and ethanol production.
Speaking at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, David Rechin of Sefar talked about fabric innovations that could help wet mills. “What we’re looking to do is reduce the amount of filtrate solids that get reintroduced into the system, which results in processing the same material twice and adding costs,” he said. “We’re trying to increased the longevity of the belts and we’re trying to lower the moisture content in the gluten to reduce utility costs at the drying end. Wherever we can help them reduce costs or increase throughput, that’s the goal.” Interview with David Rechin, Sefar
2014 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cathryn July 30, 2014
Let’s all admit it. Chuck Norris jokes are still funny. The idea that he is an unparalleled butt kicking machine elicits a fond memory and a good chuckle. He holds a soft spot in many hearts. My dear grandmother lusted after Walker Texas Ranger until her dying day. He holds a special spot in our nation’s popular culture.
So, it may sound blasphemous to some and dangerous to state to others, but Chuck Norris’s mental prowess does not equal his physical.
Like many elevated to celebrity by their appearance or a physical or artistic talent, Norris assumed the role of political activist this week. Blasting GMO’s in an op-ed published in a variety of newspapers and online, Norris sprayed clichés and echoed hollow arguments in an attempt to persuade his fellow countrymen to roundhouse kick ag biotechnology in the ballot box.
Spouting unconnected factoids like karate chops, the martial artist slays logic with a series of numbers and statements with clear sources and zero context. Referencing hard facts such as the number of biotech acres, he attempts to put his “deep knowledge” on display. It’s about as convincing as a guy at the bar asking if you like the “gun show.”
Norris belies the baseless nature of his beliefs in his inability to explain anything further than those factoids. He confuses discussions over regulatory controls for products with expiring patents with the idea that there would be no regulatory or approval process. Whether he does so due to lack of information or lack of verbal acumen is anyone’s guess.
He goes on to draw additional erroneous conclusions. Clearly, Norris does not understand the difference between the approval process for biotech traits in the United States and that used in Europe. In America, products are approved using only scientific criteria following a long and detailed rigorous scientific testing process. In Europe, biotech faces not only scientific hurdles when seeking approval but also political. Basically, one is based in real, factual information and one places a greater value on fear-based conjecture almost completely devoid of factual basis. Thus, while biotech events may have been approved under the Obama administration, Norris’s attempt to link a president which he opposes with the bureaucratic approvals of products which have been in development more than a decade makes little sense on this side of the Atlantic. Assuming the EU somehow gets labeling “right” just because they eschew science when confronted with emotionally-charged propaganda seems a bit less than brilliant too.
Yet, it makes perfect sense that Norris would draw such inaccurate conclusions given his utter confusion over the scientific facts important to this argument. No, “almost all genetically engineered foods” have not been “engineered for one purpose: to tolerate higher levels of pesticides.” Actually, one currently available trait has been developed to tolerate a pesticide. Why? Because the herbicide to which hea actually means to refer is less intense and spends a shorter time in the environment than its predecessors. In short, it is better for the environment.
Ridiculous rants about Monsanto and black helicopter conspiracy theories aside, Norris advocates for consumers to demand labeling without any reasonable argument as to why. He does not site a credible study showing a risk to human health. No such study exists. He does not cite additional information about nutritional content or allergenicity such a label would provide. As these are the two criteria used to determine mandatory labeling information in the United States, he would need to show the real benefit to consumers. He can’t.
Instead, he argues that all battles be fought in the arena of public opinion. He fears GMOs because he does not understand their safety or their benefits to the environment and human health. He wants a label that would create fear without increasing knowledge. Why? Because he is Chuck Norris, and Chuck Norris gets what Chuck Norris wants.
Humorous adages about Norris’s omnipotence aside, Americans need to tell Norris to either stay in the gym or do some serious academic conditioning. Using his celebrity to push poorly conceived policy makes U.S. consumers and family farmers into Chuck’s proverbial punching bag. Science-based policies benefit our water, our soil, our air, our health and our pocketbooks. Don’t get blindsided by the hit we will all take if we get in Norris’s corner.
Posted By Cindy July 23, 2014
Despite claims by detractors that ethanol makes the price of fuel more expensive, a new analysis released by the Renewable Fuels Association shows that over the past four years, ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel and octane source in the world.
The ABF Economics study found that even after accounting for transportation costs to the reference markets of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, ethanol came out far cheaper than gasoline blend stock, according to RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “The average over the past four years has been a 30-40 cent per gallon discount, and that’s been as high as a dollar in some cases,” he said.
Cooper says the study also found U.S. ethanol has been more cost competitive than Brazilian ethanol which has particular relevance in the California market. “Over the past four years, U.S. based ethanol has been 80 cents per gallon less expensive than ethanol imported from Brazil,” said Cooper, noting that Brazilian ethanol gets a lower carbon intensity score under California’s low carbon fuel standard. “So consumers in the California market place are bearing that cost,” he added.
Cooper adds that bigger corn crops and more efficient use of corn in making cellulosic ethanol will also contribute to lowering the cost of production.
Listen to Geoff explain the findings of the analysis here:
Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association
Posted By Cathryn July 22, 2014
Grist published another gripping piece today on the important role drones can play in the “fight against Big Ag.” The post, based on a blaring inaccuracy at its core, posited that “If you were privy to everything that went on inside a factory farm, you might never want to eat again.” Then, it proposed drones were the answer to getting behind those “closed doors.”
Putting aside the note that gates would create a more accurate analogy, let’s look at the base issues.
Gates paint a more accurate picture not only because they are what actually encompass most farms. They are also more similar in that you can see through them.
Farmers and ranchers across the country ARE opening their farms to show how they grow and raise our food. A wide array of groups, including programs like CommonGround, organize farm tours where bloggers, dietitians and just regular families can visit a wide array of farm and ranches to see ag in action. Simply pushing these efforts aside seems cynical or intentionally obtuse.
Next, the basic reasoning that agenda-driven cynics have a right to enter private property to see exactly what is “going on” makes little sense. In implying that anyone denying them immediate, complete access to the place where they not only work but also live, the author sets up a standard to which I doubt she would hold herself.
Simply, Samantha, do you ever write from home? As you work at home and I am skeptical of what may be “going on” there, may I come on over? Take a look around? I think people want to know if your work area creates mental confusion that comes through in your writing. Personally, I like to look through people’s medicine cabinets to get a clearer picture.
Better yet! Why not just have drones hover outside of your windows looking in at all times? That is what you propose for farmers and ranchers. Constant surveillance.
Farmers and ranchers do want to have a dialogue with the public about how food is grown and raised. They don’t want to invite people ideologically opposed to modern agriculture into the very place that they live. It isn’t because they have something to hide; it is because they know that their open, honest efforts are often met with closed minds and a blatant refusal to consider the validity of their statements.
Unless anti-ag activists feel perfectly comfortable being under constant drone surveillance themselves, it is radically hypocritical to promote doing so to someone else. And, for those who take this side of the argument, there is another question. How long until someone turns the drones on you?
Posted By Cathryn July 22, 2014
Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from Kansas Grains blogger and Kansas Corn Growers Association Director of Communications Sue Schulte. In this post, Schulte provides insight into the experience of attending Corn Congress. Don’t miss intern Paige McFarland’s post from the State and National Communications Summit last month too!
Random thoughts from Corn Congress and Washington DC
I was in Washington DC last week for the National Corn Growers Corn Congress. I extended my stay to do some sightseeing with my grown son, so I ended up spending 6 days in DC, which is way too long. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I returned home, just happy to be here, somewhere normal! It’s not my first trip to DC, but I did accumulate a lot of random observations.
I spent most of my time with farmers from Kansas and many other states. Words that describe my farmer friends include the following: kind, intelligent, polite, funny, sophisticated, outspoken, focused, professional, friendly, well-rounded, honest, informed. Our farmers sat through long committee meetings, two delegate sessions and visited every member of our Congressional Delegation. All the while, they were also using their smart phones and tablets to keep track of the markets, check email, and kept in contact with their families at home who were running the farm in their absence.
With Senator Roberts
With Congresswoman Jenkins
There were many farewell speeches at Corn Congress this year with NCGA Exec Rick Tolman retiring, as well as Nebraska Corn’s Don Hutchens, Monsanto’s Marsha Stanton and John Deere’s Don Borgman. Our own Jere White was honored at the March Corn Congress session for his retirement. New leaders will rise to take their places, but those are some big shoes to fill.
Speaking of leaders, I was so impressed with the members of the DuPont New Leaders Program offered through NCGA. Farm couples are encouraged to go through the program together. This cultivated two new leaders from Kansas: Tom and Sandy Tibbits of Minneapolis. The program’s final session was held around the Corn Congress event. We were happy to have them along on our Hill Visits and Tom was able to help Kansas Corn by serving as a delegate. Tom is already on the KCGA board and we have plans to use make use of Sandy’s skills as well as an advocate for agriculture.
Speaking of Hill Visits, many of the Congressional offices have offered Russell Stover candies to their visitors for years. With the new Mars candy factory in Topeka, many of our offices have candy bowls with Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars as well! And Cheezits. Did you know all Cheezits are made in Kansas?
I serve on the Corn Farmers Coalition steering committee, an image program that aims to educate and inform Washington DC decision makers about corn farmers. This year’s campaign has just begun and I saw our full page ad in The Hill newspaper, as well as ads online and intheMetro trains. This year’s ads have an innovation and technology theme because the focus groups we used when planning this year’s campaign were fascinated by the use of technology on our farms. I remember one focus group participant saying, “It’s kind of neat to think that those farmers are using the same iPad as me.” It is not always easy to overcome the stereotypes about farmers that many people have. On one hand, they are surprised to learn that 98 percent of all corn farms are family farms–many folks think that our farms are owned by big corporations. On the other hand, they think farmers look and work on the farms just like they did 50 years ago. When we talk to these people about GPS guidance and mapping, precision agriculture, they get really excited.
This Metro passenger was extremely interested in our CFC ad!
There is some corn planted in front of USDA. And the US Botanic Gardens is featuring a wheat display called Amber Waves of Grain.
I saw a lot of advertising in DC. I saw an excellent ad in a Metro train placed byHumane Watch. It explained that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, only gives 1 percent of its funding to local humane shelters and encourages people to donate to local humane society shelters instead.
On the Metro, we sat next to a woman holding a takeout bag from Chipotle. Over the years, I’ve discouraged my kids from eating at Chipotle for various reasons (primarily because it’s danged expensive!), but also because of how the corporate burrito company bashes farmers who grow the food. Sitting next to my son, who is a devout capitalist, I pointed to the bag in the woman’s lap and told him to read it. This quote is from Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought” Author Series.
If no one must work, who will make the burritos?
I’m all for love and peace, but just sitting around feeling love for one another might get a little boring after a while. More importantly, Chipotle, if no one works, where will all that free food come from? Who will make the burritos? I’m for free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and I enjoyed reading the bag that held a nine dollar burrito. But I do have the right to disagree. My capitalist son, who in the past has been disturbed by Chipotle’s anti-farmer statements but still ate the corporate burritos, was even more disturbed by that quote.
Norman Borlaug is the new guy in Statuary Hall at the Capitol.
We saw the new statue of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, during our tour of the Capitol. That an Iowa plant breeder is honored in this way Statuary Hall in the Capitol is significant. His work which created a high-yielding, disease resistant wheat is credited for saving a billion lives. Borlaug was a strong supporter of the promise of biotechnology and urged people to stand up to the anti-science crowd.
A corn capital at the Capitol
I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of Greek columns in DC? It made me remember the Architecture Appreciation class I took at K-State where we learned about Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Speaking of art and architecture, if you are a corn grower, look around in DC–there are many depictions of corn in the Capitol and many other places. In fact, the photo here shows a corn capital in the Capitol. A capital is the top of a column. According to the Architect of the Capitol: Carved by Giuseppe Franzoni from Aquia Creek sandstone, these columns were installed in the Hall of Columns of the U.S. Capitol in 1809. The fluting of a conventional shaft was recalled by bundled corn stalks. On the capital, husks were folded back to reveal the cob and kernels of corn.
I was struck by the friendliness of the people in DC on this trip. I think this was influenced by the unusually cool weather. One cab driver told us that the cooler weather was a disaster for cabbies because everyone wanted to walk instead of taking a cab. He joked that he would have to charge us double. Judging by his meandering route to our destination, I don’t think he was kidding.
Posted By Cindy July 21, 2014
Members of the National Corn Growers Association had a busy week in the nation’s capital last week – hearing from and meeting with administration officials and lawmakers, saying goodbye to retiring industry leaders, and inspiring new young leaders.
I talked with NCGA president Martin Barbre today about what all they did last week and we only scratched the surface. One of the highlights was an update from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe on the proposed Waters of the United States rule. “NCGA is taking the position that yes, we are opposed to the interpretive rule and yes, we think the rule itself needs to be changed immensely, but we want to work with EPA and see if we can’t put our stamp on that to make it better for farmers and still work for the environment,” said Barbre.
NCGA members also wanted to know when they might hear from EPA on a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “The number needs to be out,” Barbre said. “Hopefully it will be good for us when it comes down to it.”
The week in DC also included updates from NCGA action teams and committees on a variety of topics, such as ethanol, biotechnology, government regulation and trade. Delegates also re-elected four board members and elected one new one last week. Re-elected were Bob Bowman of Iowa, Lynn Chrisp of Nebraska, Kevin Skunes of North Dakota and Paul Taylor of Illinois and new to the board is Jim Zimmerman of Wisconsin. Jim is no relation to this Zimmerman, but I did interview him last October at the Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) Global Farmer Roundtable.
There were quite a few good-byes said to corn industry members who are retiring this year, including Don Hutchens of the Nebraska Corn Board, Marsha Stanton of Monsanto, and Don Borgman with John Deere – as well as NCGA CEO Rick Tolman, who received a special tribute.
NCGA members also spent some time on the Hill talking with their lawmakers about important issues and Barbre presented NCGA’s 2014 President’s Award to Representative John Shimkus (R-IL).
Finally, last week graduated the inaugural class of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program, which Barbre says included some enthusiastic new young people for the future of the industry.
Listen to my interview with Martin here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre
Check out pictures from the event in the NCGA Flickr photo album.
Posted By Cindy July 17, 2014
Sweet corn is a summer treat, but few people will go to the trouble of cooking corn on the cob for just themselves. This YouTube video showing a fast and easy way to make corn on the cob for one has gone viral this summer. I can’t wait to try it!
Posted By Chuck July 10, 2014
More and more research is being done on biological control of all forms of pests including in the agricultural market. Dr. Hamed Abbas, USDA, talked about “Bioplastics Made from Corn Starch as an Effective Biological Delivery Vehicle for Control of Agricultural Pests” at the recent Corn Utilization Technology Conference. Here’s another example of a new use for corn starch.
Before he got started I asked him to explain how bioplastics play a role and provide examples of the form they take. He says bioplastics make an excellent delivery system for biological controls. The beneficial fungus used in biologicals love bioplastic because it provides them with nutrition and it has longer shelf life.
Listen to my interview with Hamed here: Interview with Hamed Abbas
2014 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Mark July 10, 2014
Google “save the rainforest” and watch all the organizations that pop up; everything from the World Rainforest Fund to Kids Saving the Rainforest. I don’t have a problem with that because rainforests are a critical cog in the blue planet’s eco-system.
Rainforests provide incredible biodiversity and through the process of photosynthesis they also provide the duel function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to life-sustaining oxygen. Then I realized most the American public has a rudimentary understanding of the importance of the Amazon on another continent but has little understanding of the contributions our corn crop makes just from the process of simply growing. It was the accompany image that got me thinking.
The image from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center represents satellite measurements of plant fluorescence. It represents a compilation of data collected over a four year period. During photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in healthy plants absorbs light to be converted into energy, but it also emits a little bit of light that’s not visible to the human eye. Scientists have now figured out how to use that fluorescent glow to measure the productivity of plants in a given region.
What it reflects is a startling revelation even to a corn-o-phile like me. Using existing data from satellites designed for entirely different purposes, such as ozone monitoring, NASA scientists were able to show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwestern U.S. has more photosynthetic activity than anywhere else on the planet, including the Amazon rainforest. Nearly all of this can be attributed to agriculture, and much of it to corn.
So, feeding people aside, providing cleaner ethanol fuel aside, corn takes bad things out of the air much like a tree and gives us oxygen to breathe. So I want to start a new organization called Save the Corn….or maybe that should be corn farmers?
Posted By Cindy July 9, 2014
A final rule on the volume obligations for this year under the Renewable Fuel Standard is taking longer than expected, but Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy says they want to get it right.
“I’m hoping it will come out soon,” she said during a press conference on agricultural issues this week. Explaining about the delay in releasing the final rule, which was expected by the end of June, McCarthy said it has become clear that there is concern “not only about what the volumes of the fuels are but the way in which we are adjusting those volumes.”
McCarthy stressed that the administration “continues to have a strong commitment to biofuels” and they want to make sure the final rule “clearly reflects that interest.”
“My goal is always to make sure we get it right,” she concluded.
Listen to McCarthy explain here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on RFS rule release