FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is part of the Corn Farmers Coalition along with several other state corn grower groups and the National Corn Growers Association. Earlier this week, they launched a new phase of their educational campaign that started last year, whose goal is to let policy makers – and those who influence them from think tanks to environmental groups in Washington, DC – know that corn farmers really are environmental stewards, conscious about food safety, and enjoying every minute of life on the farm with their family at their side.

We covered the launch on our website if you’d like to read more.

The thing is the Environmental Working Group is calling our campaign “Greenwashing,” meaning that we’re trying to paint our industry as an environmentally friendly industry even though it’s not. Well, call me old fashioned, but when someone I love is attacked, it ruffles my feathers a bit and this blatant disregard for facts about corn farmers just doesn’t sit well with me.

The FACT is farmers are green.

CFC ads report data like “Thanks to new, innovative fertilization methods, today’s American corn farmers are producing 70% more corn per pound of fertilizer.” That data comes straight from the USDA and that data reflects an industry that is conscious of what they are using and placing on the land in their care. Show me another industry that is so environmentally conscious or has such a great story to tell.

The FACT is farmers are operating family (not corporate) farms.

I’ll speak from experience here; I know a lot of farmers. Every single one of them is just a regular, down home guy – the sort that would wave at a stranger from the cab of their pick-up truck, the sort that would stop and help you if you had car trouble, the sort that jumps from the tractor to the shower and speeds into town to watch their son’s t-ball game or their daughter’s dance recital.

EWG says that “There are thousands of large, plantation-scale corn factories dotting the American landscape, family-owned or not. And family ownership does not necessarily equal small. Agricultural supply giant Cargill is family-owned. So are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Twins.”

To compare the family farm I grew up on to the Minnesota Twins is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. My dad farms a lot of acres – some his own, some his brother’s, and some his neighbor’s that retired from farming. To the local farmer’s market consumer, I know he looks like a plantation owner. But he’s the one driving the tractor. He’s the one stressing over marketing decisions. He’s the one dealing with environmental regulations that EPA bureaucrats decide are relevant. He’s the one trying to make his small business work with only the help of a wife at home to support him and his dad at the end of the row to bring him a drink. I doubt Cargill and the Minnesota Twins are operated in the same manner.

And he’s not unique.

The FACT is farmers are using less land, not more.

EWG says that “According to a National Wildlife Federation report this year, the corn ethanol gold rush has been responsible for plowing up thousands of acres of pristine wildlife habitat (and prime carbon sequestration vegetation) and converting it to corn production.”

Well, I suppose that depends on who you feel is the authority.

Our federal government (the USDA), who runs the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) indicated that from 1982 to 2007, cropland acreage declined from about 420 million acres to 357 million acres. CRP, or acres returned their natural state, reflects more than half of that diverted acreage.

There are multiple other facts that EWG has gotten wrong, but you can read those for yourself.

At the end of the day, I’d say the only “greenwashing” we’re trying to accomplish is to make every other industry in the country green with envy at the wholesome, slow-paced, family environment in which we get to work and the fabulous story we have to tell about corn farmers that are conscious stewards of the land.

Eat your heart out, EWG.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

Thank Farmers for Role in Conserving Resources

Happy Earth Day to everyone! Here is a great letter to the editor that was featured in the Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) today. Unfortunately, the comments on it show the lack of knowledge that people have about farming, even ones that live right in the middle of the largest corn producing county in the U.S. Go add your comment today and don’t forget to come back and let us know!

Don’t forget to include farmers as we celebrate the 40th annual Earth Day this week. Farmers have a direct daily interface with the Earth. They are literally getting their hands dirty caring for livestock, tending the soil and growing crops.

While most people only connect with food and fuel at the point of purchase, farmers face the reality of producing it each day.

The next time you hear an expert who gained their knowledge from afar rather than a field, ask yourself, “Who might have better solutions for agriculture — someone who has skin in the game or their head in the clouds?”

 Like all farmers, corn farmers rely on an intimate understanding of the environment while also playing a significant role in modern production agriculture. Corn is the world’s largest crop, a staple of U.S. agriculture and a cornerstone of our national economy. It touches our lives in many ways every day. So, it’s not surprising that this versatile crop is often in the news.

Corn is in the food we eat, cars we drive, packages we open, fabrics we wear and medicines we take. Our ability to feed and fuel a world population that will double in the next 20 to 40 years is in the hands of a small, but dedicated pool of professionals.

So the next time you meet a farmer, thank them for the hard work, knowledge and skills that help us conserve our natural resources. We’re going to need them.
 Ron Fitchhorn, Rural McLean

FAPRI Response to “Stop Big Corn” in Washington Times

Ethanol Fumes

The editorial “Stop ‘Big Corn’ ” (Opinion, Monday) did not accurately describe the analysis of ethanol policy conducted by our institute.

The editorial says we at the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute estimate that the ethanol blender’s tax credit increases the price of corn by “18 cents per barrel.” This appears to be a reference to a report we issued in March that looked at the impact of extending the 45-cents-per-gallon ethanol tax credit, the 54-cents-per-gallon ethanol tariff and the $1-per-gallon biodiesel credit. We estimated that the combined effect of these three policies would be to raise the average producer price of corn by 18 cents per bushel during the 2011-12 corn-marketing year. Individually, each of these policies would have a smaller impact on corn prices.

In addition, the editorial says the Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether to “boost existing requirements that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent.” The EPA is actually considering whether to allow 15 percent blends, not whether to require them.

Finally, you cite the cost of the blender’s tax credit as $16 billion per year. That would be the eventual cost of the credit if ethanol consumption reached 36 billion gallons per year and the tax credit were maintained at its current level. We project actual ethanol use in 2010 to be a little more than 12 billion gallons, suggesting that the direct fiscal cost of the credit this year will be less than $6 billion. Without legislative action, the blender’s credit will expire at the end of 2010.

PATRICK WESTHOFF
Co-director, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute
University of Missouri
Columbia, Mo.

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