Corn Commentary

Ken McCauley Talks Corn, Ethanol in Power Trip

It’s really fun when you have a brush with greatness and it is no more apropos than when you run into a celebrity in Anaheim during Commodity Classic. Well the celebrity I’m referring to is our very own NCGA past president Ken McCauley, who was featured in the book Power Trip. Now Ken is quite modest and didn’t really tell people that he made it into the book. From start to finish it took more than two years from the time the author Amanda Little visited his farm in White Cloud, Kansas to the time it made it to the book shelves (Fall of ‘09).

Needless to say, as soon as I saw Ken I told him I’d read (and reviewed) the book and he was, well, flabbergasted after he got over being shocked. But he shouldn’t be shocked - the book is very good and Ken did an amazing job of getting out a strong American agricultural message. The book is about how tied our world is to fossil fuels. From transportation to medicines, to plastic to agriculture, fossil fuels are a part of our everyday lives, and Little helps us understand how embedded they are, and addresses the question of how we move away from them.

In an recent blog from Mark, he celebrated that fact that Food Inc. didn’t win an Oscar. Unfortunately you can’t mention that “documentary” without thinking of Michael Pollan who wrote Omnivore’s Dilemma and promotes a world of organic farming. When on Ken’s farm, Little asks him about Pollan to which he replied, “It’s not a way to maximize production.”

Ken explained that the drawback of these organic methods is that they require more labor and time, and in turn generate lower profits. Organic farmers also tend to have lower yields per acre and higher prices.

The question Little didn’t ask him: How is the world going to feed 9 billion people without production agriculture? It’s not.

Ken is very conscientious about sustainable farming since his land, puts food on his table too. Farmers understand more than most that they must take care of the land that feeds them. I just wish consumers understood that better.

Well, to better understand our addiction to oil and the need for production agriculture through the eyes of a great man, Ken McCauley, then be sure to read Power Trip.