Corn Commentary

American Ethanol and NASCAR A Natural Partnership

Something momentous happened in Las Vegas yesterday and no dice or chips were involved. The National Corn Growers Association’s landmark partnership with NASCAR® and Growth Energy was announced and with it the arrival of ethanol on the NASCAR® stage.

This development during NASCAR’s annual awards program is extremely meaningful not only because of the size of the fan base and NASCAR’s marketing clout but because there is nothing like real world rubber meeting the road to counter ethanol naysayers.

Despite years of proven performance and use ethanol still takes the occasional cheap shot from critics like Big Oil who offer an alternative product or corn users who want access to cheap corn. Many of the myths and much of the misinformation they foster will get eclipsed by the raw performance that ethanol will bring to NASCAR®.

Led by Growth Energy, more than 100 different entities – from farmers and state corn grower boards to ethanol producers and biotech companies – are working with NASCAR to introduce a cleaner-burning fuel to America. E15 fuels like Sunoco Green E15, which is unleaded gasoline blended with 15% ethanol, will support jobs in America’s heartland.

In the words of one Corn Grower, “This alliance will shine a light on ethanol’s many benefits and do it on a large national stage. Ethanol has long been overshadowed by misinformation but NASCAR’s endorsement should blow the doors off of the critics.”

The transition partnership with American Ethanol takes NASCAR’s environmental commitment to the next level. American Ethanol, a renewable source of cleaner burning energy from the bounty of America’s farmers, helps create new green jobs and a renewed sense of pride for the American worker, while helping to achieve greater energy security for our country.

Starting with the 2011 season, American Ethanol will be an integral partner in NASCAR green efforts, linking millions of American farmers with the sport of NASCAR.

  • By using American Ethanol, NASCAR will demonstrate ethanol’s superior performance not only to the NASCAR audience, but to the broader public as well.
  • A 15% blend of ethanol uses 50% more homegrown fuel than the current E10 standard blend in the U.S. NASCAR is leading by example by utilizing Sunoco Green E15 race fuel, showing that American ethanol-blended fuel works.
  • NASCAR is going green. And ethanol is the only commercially viable alternative to gasoline. We are honored to partner with NASCAR to show Americans that ethanol is clean, green and homegrown.
  • For the first time ever, starting in 2011 in Daytona, the NASCAR Green Flag will be branded with American Ethanol, representing the continued efforts of NASCAR and its commitment to environmental responsibility.
  • Also premiering in 2011, every lap of every NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be fueled by Sunoco Green E15 -– a fuel that includes 15% renewable American Ethanol, which is produced from corn grown and harvested on family farms across our country.
  • NASCAR fans will see the same great racing they have come to expect, but powered with a new, greener fuel.

How Many Farmers Does it Take to Be “Big Ag?”

 It is interesting to note the group, on their “Sustainable Food” web site takes issue with the new CommonGround campaign which seeks to give exposure to family farmers and their efforts to educate the public about food and the people who raise/grow it.

It is also ironic that if three “foodies” get together to offer their advice on how we should grow food in this country it is advocacy…a movement if you will. However, if a group of family farmers of all sizes and persuasions get together it instantly becomes that nebulous and evil “Big Ag.”

Chris Wilson, president of American Agri-Women, describes the effort well saying, “CommonGround is a program that builds bridges between the passionate women of America’s farms and their counterparts in America’s cities to dispel the misconceptions about our food and the people who grow it.”

There are numerous efforts today like Common Ground (from the Corn Farmers Coalition to The Hands That Feed Us) that seek to give a voice to family farmers. Doing so in an organized fashion and giving farm women an opportunity to be heard makes perfect sense. This public outreach effort is neither anti-sustainability, against social change or antagonistic. 

Traditional farming is driving social change and has made incredible gains in environmental improvement and sustainability. In fact, all segments of Ag are moving more to the middle - saving soil, cutting pesticide and fertilizer applications, reducing carbon footprint - so it is really the rate of change that is at issue.

To continue to feed an additional 9 billion people by 2050 this speed of change will be critical to nourishing an expanding world population. Safe, abundant and affordable food is something that we can all agreement upon and is a core goal for all of the farmers supporting CommonGround.

“There are many misconceptions about agriculture in the media today, and we are working, as we have over the past 35 years, to be a voice for truth in communicating to others about agriculture,” Wilson says, so maybe it is the organized effort and the amplification of the message that is disturbing some who are used to dominating the conversation about food in this nation.

Thanks American Agri-Women for showing continued leadership and thanks for all the farmers supporting this important effort by contributing your hard-earned dollars.

Education is Evergreen and Critical For Ag


Is it just me or are homosapiens the king of the jungle when it comes to complicating life and twisting simple things? Is there some direct connection between having opposable thumbs and not being able to accept things at face value?

Ok, I am admittedly a huge skeptic about many things but one thing I have firm convictions about is the ongoing effort by farmers and ranchers to share their positive story with the non-farm public. So I take exception to a couple of reactions to last week’s announcement of the formation of a group called the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).

Put simply, the USFRA is a unified attempt to bring the many types of farmers and ranchers together to work on their most valuable common commodity…their image. Make no mistake, farmers have an incredibly positive image, despite the public’s growing distance from modern agriculture. It is also undoubtedly true that thanks to some fundraising machines like the Humane Society of the United States and food elitists who want to tell us how to grow food that this image is battered.

One media outlet referred to the 20-organization effort as an attempt to “burnish the public image of agri-business.” Well, that’s just plain wrong because the effort is about “farmer image” not agri-business. Farmer’s meaning the guys on the tractor planting the corn, soybeans and wheat, the person in the front ranks breeding and feeding some of the best meat producing animals in the world, the people providing the wool for the sweater you broke out as fall arrived in earnest. And these family farmers still constitute a major contributor to our food, fuel and fiber.

Another critic said the formation of USFRA is really a prepatory salvo to position farmers for the writing of the new farm bill next year in what is arguably the tightest budget environment ever. Wrong once again. As someone who has been involved in telling farmer’s story for more than three decades I can say with conviction that what USFRA is trying to accomplish is not novel, although the scale and support is new and fortuitous.

Some 16 years ago a major agricultural coalition under the moniker of FoodWatch emerged with the goal of reconnecting with consumers and putting them in touch with all of the things that are right with US agriculture. Despite its high quality the campaign failed to get the inertia needed to launch such a major undertaking. However, times seem to have changed given the frequency and intensity of the attacks on farmers.

To see how much times have changed just look scan a few of these web sites. Farmers are increasingly bonding together to tell this message of productivity, technology at its best, increasing environmental stewardship and the massive economic contribution made by farmers. All of these educational efforts are about keeping facts about the industry at the heart of any public dialogue about our food production system. That process has been going on for decades and has will continue long after the latest farm bill is written.

Corn Farmer Coalition

Common Ground

The Hand That Feeds Us

International Food Information Council

Center for Food Integrity

Farmers Feed US

Global Harvest Initiative

Farmers Feeding the World

American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology

Truth About Trade and Technology

Animal Agriculture Alliance

AgChat Foundation

Center for Consumer Freedom

Oil Execs Say the Darndest Things!

“You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” George Bush

If you are a Bill Cosby fan you probably have fond memories of his show “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” I would suggest the networks might want to consider a new program entitled “Leaders and Captains of Industry Say the Darndest Thing.”  And let’s start with oil executives who say the most amazing things including bashing any competitive technology that displaces their market share.

The petro industry is so entrenched and powerful they regularly make clarion call comments in public that are equal parts frustrating, comical and transparent. For example at a recent Oil & Gas Conference in Bakersfield, CA an oil industry high-roller complained about “unrealistic and unnecessary policies aimed at gradually weaning the nation of its dependence on oil and natural gas.”

The event’s keynote speaker, John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, drove this point home by calling on attendees to spread the message that the Obama administration’s push for greater use of renewable energy, as well as its attempts to reduce subsidies to the industry, are disingenuous, delusional and dangerous.

If oil industry execs are making such comments in a public forum it makes me really want to be a mouse in the boardroom to hear the really good stuff. My guess is they would really like the unwashed masses to just send them their paychecks and shut-up.

Felmy not only criticized the push for greater use of biofuels but took issue with claims that electric vehicles represent a viable option to internal combustion engines. “For the lifetimes of everybody in this room, we’re going to be using oil. No doubt about it,” he said.

Now there is a man with an open mind and vision. All told the tax deductions, credits and other public benefits the oil industry receives, U.S. taxpayers support oil to the tune of between $133.2 billion and $280.8 billion annually. Considering the direct and indirect costs of our oil addiction I hope Mr. Felmy is wrong.

Ironically, American oil companies would likely benefit dramatically from President Obama’s clean energy agenda. They have the capital, the manufacturing capacity, and the engineering wherewithal to dominate the clean energy economy

In the mean time here is an Irish proverb for our leaders to contemplate”

“You never miss the water till the well has run dry.”


New Way to Help Chickens Cross to the Other Side

Years ago I wrote a blog asking what “happy chicken” tastes like. It was in response to a small but growing number of people who preferred free range chicken. The theory being that it was more humane letting them roam and fend for themselves than living in a building or in a cage.

Funny thing is that chickens have a pretty strong menu avoidance mechanism. In much of farm country free range chickens are referred to as coyote hors d’oeuvres. Most are smart enough not to wander to far from people and they head for the chicken house before dark because of the aforementioned coyote and or fox. And truth is we can’t feed a hungry world with these old school methods.

In today’s New York Times William Neuman says, “shoppers in the supermarket today can buy chicken free of nearly everything but adjectives… free-range, cage-free, antibiotic-free, raised on vegetarian feed, organic, even air-chilled….coming soon stress free.”

The stress is eliminated by a new process that puts them to sleep with carbon dioxide prior to slaughter. My immediate reaction was to think of about three inappropriate jokes/references but then I read further to see that Temple Grandin, a renowned professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a prominent livestock expert,  helped design the system.

There are other experts who note most of the time people don’t want to think about where their food comes from or how the animal was killed which may in itself be a problem. In fact those opposed to animal agriculture use this as a tool to shackle and inhibit the industry. They show video footage of inhumane examples of animal treatment and slaughter that are not the norm.

The same experts argue to fight back in this image war we should show consumers a real farm, a real high-tech and modern slaughter facility. Research does show that this kind of exposure might make someone stop eating hamburgers or chicken but they get over it in a matter of days. Afterwards they get inoculated to future attempts to shock them by these animal rights groups.

This I do know; with few exceptions livestock from hogs to chickens are cared for well and humanely. Many live in climate controlled environments, they see a doctor/vet more than I do, and humane husbandry is the rule. This too I know; if our trend towards food with lots of adjectives describing it continues you will pay lots more for food.

Oxford “Leader” Should Apologize for Comments

Food prices did not go up much in 2010 and anticipated increases for the remainder of the year and next should also be about 1 percent, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Ephraim Leibtag, of ERS, says food prices should remain weak and fairly stable across the board even into 2011 when a food price increase of 2 to 3 percent is anticipated through next spring.  This is on a par with historical norms, he says, noting that modest inflation is actually a positive indicator of an improving economy.

The irony of the release of the USDA data and video was not missed by those in agriculture who were troubled by comments yesterday coming from what was billed as a global leadership conference.  Speaking in Naples, Florida Ian Goldin of Oxford University blamed corn prices and increased ethanol usage specifically for higher food prices.

Goldin, a former vice president of the World Bank, proved to be the loosest cannon on the conference’s  energy panel at what was billed as a global leadership conference. “Former” is the key word in his title here because it was a bogus World Bank report that set off the food vs. fuel media hysteria in 2008 that tried to finger corn and ethanol for higher consumer prices. 

World Bank later recanted saying that the report was mistaken and not properly fact-checked,  and it was soaring petroleum prices and wild speculation in the markets topping the list of food price drivers. Apparently Mr. Goldin missed the memo.

Given the rational and thorough debunking of the original World Bank report and their own weak but transparent apology it is bad form for this so called global leader” to continue to disseminate this drivel. It is unthinkable that he did so in such an irresponsible and incendiary manner blaming corn ethanol for causing “people to die of starvation.”

Oil a Black Hole for Taxpayer Dollars

For years discovering how many perks, incentives and subsidies the global oil industry receives has been the Holy Grail of biofuels supporters. They are so numerous and come from so many places it is mind boggling, troubling and something akin to finding the Loch Ness monster. Thanks to Todd Neeley of DTN a hint of our true exposure is surfacing in part one of a new “must read” series.

This is critical information because consumers should know what their addiction to imported petroleum is really costing them and Big Oil has never been shy about bashing incentives for the domestic ethanol industry, the only real competition they face in the marketplace. They try to be-little the contributions of family farmers and the American ethanol industry that now produce as much ethanol as what we currently import from Saudi Arabia.

At the end of the day you have to question why a century old industry like oil, whose major players consistently rank in the Fortune 100 companies, conservatively receive 10 times the incentives received by ethanol. As Neeley says, “Using the most liberal definition of public financial support, including tax breaks on equipment depreciation and foreign investments, oil’s total benefit from the public treasury can be as much as 10 times that of ethanol.”

DTN’s tally for state and federal tax incentives for oil comes to $17.9 billion annually. All told the tax deductions, credits and other public benefits the oil industry receives, U.S. taxpayers support oil to the tune of between $133.2 billion and $280.8 billion annually. “The comparable figure exclusively for ethanol is $7.1 billion. This does not include tax credits and other incentives that both industries share, such as the blenders’ credit or VEETC”…or the roughly $7 billion to $28 billion in military costs to protect oil supplies. Let’s not forget the White Elephant of lives lost either.

Interestingly, oil interests say they need the taxpayer largesse to do research and explore for more petroleum to continue our legacy of dependence. Makes you wonder what the impact would be if they invested the $200 billion oil says they spend on research in making ethanol more efficiently and from even more sources.

And as for oil exploration, I would rather invest my money in ethanol. . We know where farmers live and what their productive capabilities are when they are challenged to meet market demand. Eight record crops in the last eight years prove it.

Response to PETA Article in Sacramento Bee

 Today’s guest blogger is Jeff Fowle a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He also writes a blog called Common Sense Agriculture.

 I am writing in response to the opinion piece that was published in your Lifestyle section on October 11, 2010. It is sad that you would publish an article by an animal rights activist that paints every farm, ranch and animal facility with one broad brush of inaccuracy and fallacy. The vast majority of farmers and ranchers treat their animals humanely and respectfully. As a rancher and an active animal welfarist, I would like to share the following thoughts.

First, this is a personal issue for family farmers and ranchers like me. We consider our animals a part of our family and often spend more time caring for our animals than we spend with our families. We make sure our animals have the highest quality food, water and veterinary care; health is paramount. We also do our best to protect our animals from disease, competition, injury and predators.

Second, the writer makes it sound as though these practices are typical. Those of us involved in farming and ranching know that is not so. Without healthy, content animals, farmers and ranchers could not stay in business. We understand the importance of animal care in assuring safe and high-quality meat, milk and eggs for our communities. Some of us personally know our consumers, others do not, but we always make it a priority to ensure that the food we are raising is the best cared for and of the highest quality.

Third, farmers and ranchers are as disgusted as anyone by the abuse alleged in this opinion piece. If people are abusing animals, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. One incident of mishandling is one too many. There must be zero tolerance for inhumane animal treatment, period.

There are a lot of dedicated people who specialize in animal care, people like veterinarians, animal scientists and experts on animal well-being. Farmers and ranchers have been actively working with them to create quality-assurance programs that set guidelines for animal handling to eliminate stress, decrease risk of injury (to both animal and human) and ensure the highest quality of animal products for American consumers.

In closing, as a family rancher, I thank you for the opportunity to respond as an individual who depends on ensuring the health and welfare of the livestock I raise to be able to continue to provide a high quality, safe, wholesome and nutritious product.

Farmers and ranchers across the United States are telling their stories through videos, blogging and photos. Consumers can connect with them to see how they care for their animals and raise the safest food possible at You can contact Jeff here.

Tired of Being Scammed and Squeezed? Say ‘Yes’ to Tested E-15

 Our dependence on foreign oil has a cost. It is an enormous cost and the drain on our nation’s economy creates all kinds of issues for our society that nobody wants to talk about. And the oil companies least of all.

Big oil spends millions annually attempting to give alternative sources of energy a black eye, while some few in that industry see benefits and are investing in things like ethanol production. But most are avoiding engaging in a real dialogue regarding consumer’s future fuel needs, growing environmental concerns, and our national security.

 It’s not really a stretch to find a motivation considering the enormous profits these multi-national oil giants have squeezed from Americans as a result of their absolute control of the market. Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey has been a big ethanol supporter for one primary reason - it diverts dollars to US energy producers otherwise being sent to the Middle East for imported oil.

He says $3-4 billion of the $160 billion we send the Saudi’s every year ends up with the “bad guys.” We subsidize our enemies with every barrel of oil that we import.

We now appear to be days away from an announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the approval of up to E15 (15% ethanol mixed with gasoline) in our cars. The blend has been thoroughly tested for motor vehicles yet the anti ethanol forces such as big oil and some curious minions like the Grocery Manufacturers Association (the cheap corn fan club) are asking people to write President Obama asking him to stop impending EPA approval of E15.

Groups such as FollowtheScience and Energy Citizens are really nothing but fronts for organizations like National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

Large numbers of Americans strongly supports the EPA’s approval of E-15 for motor vehicles mainly based on their positive experiences with E10. EPA has the information it needs to act. So if you want to counteract the naysayers email the president and tell him “yes, for tested and proven E15.” Or call the White House at 202-456-1414.

U.S. ethanol production currently eliminates the need for 98.6% of Venezuelan crude oil imports, or 95.7% of crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia. It is representative of 55.6% of total Persian Gulf crude oil imports. I’d say the ethanol industry has provided a good start to negating the National Security risks associated with our dependence on foreign oil.

World Vegetarian Day? Who Knew?

Ribeyes and bacon and wings oh my! In case you missed it, today is World Vegetarian Day, the annual kick off of Vegetarian Month. The effort even has a web site to try to convince you of the benefits of the practice of going meatless.

There they say vegetarianism helps to create a better world because vegetarian diets have proven health benefits, save animals’ lives and help to preserve the Earth. I won’t debate the obvious holes in this sweeping litany of benefits but rather just say since when did my hamburger become a social issue?

They are even offering prizes of up to $1,000 to try to go meat free for a month. The web site comes complete with sign up cards to give to your friends. Have to admit I stopped and thought about it for a second. That much scratch would buy a lot or pork chops and filets.

Some people agree with a few of these vegetarian contentions and continue to eat meat for the simple reason that meat is good and provides pleasure at a very fundamental level.

Personally, I have the physical tools from teeth to the appropriate omnivorous body parts to eat meat and two millions years of experience in my genes so I think I will spend my energy trying to eat the balanced diet nature intended including meat and more fruits and vegetables.

Page 2 of 161234510...Last »