INTERESTING AG NEWS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY WEEKEND

Every once in a while, there are simply too many small little interesting pieces of information scattered all over the web and not nearly enough “news” to make a full blog post.  My solution is simply to provide you with all the information and let you educate yourself!

A pastor writes an editorial in the USA Today asking the age old question “What would Jesus do?” and relating it to animal welfare.  I think this heads in a direction that might surprise many of you.

The Illinois Farm Bureau issues a rebuttal to the above story.  I challenge you to bring these points up as you visit with friends in your church meetings, softball games, and grocery stores.

Check out this video/article on Crain’s to hear what the media is reporting about ethanol as relates to the oil spill in the Gulf … and don’t forget to check out the comments to see consumer reactions!

NCGA has released a new video about ethanol as an alternative to our country’s oil addiction.  The video is featured here.

And, of course, a landmark decision was announced late yesterday regarding Ohio agriculture’s battle against the Humane Society of the US.  I’m disappointed.  Here’s Humane Watch’s perspective on the deal … and you might find something else interesting on this blog as well if you do a little extra reading.

HONORING THOSE WHO MOBILIZE TO FEED THE WORLD

Farmers feed the world, but growing food is only one part of the hunger equation. Once food is harvested, it must make its way to consumers, whether they shop at the local roadside stand or at grocery stores on the other side of the planet.

Success requires effective channels of distribution–everything from competitive markets to sound infrastructure to free-trade agreements. Yet sometimes it also depends on the heroic efforts of humanitarians.

This year’s World Food Prize recognizes a pair of grassroots warriors who have made it their mission to fight hunger through charity. David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of Heifer International will share a $250,000 award for advances in food production. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over the announcement on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Beckmann and Luck will formally accept their honors this October at an annual conference in Des Moines.

The World Food Prize usually goes to research scientists or more rarely to public officials. As leading members of non-governmental organizations, Beckmann and Luck are different kinds of laureates–but they’re also critically important partners in the ongoing struggle to feed impoverished people. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger.

Nebraska native Beckmann is a Lutheran pastor who has led the Washington, D.C.-based Bread for the World since 1991. His Christian organization mobilizes activists on behalf of the hungry. Under his leadership, more than 72,000 active members who represent 5,000 local church congregations have leveraged the volunteer efforts of more than a million people. They’ve rallied public support behind increasing U.S. efforts to reduce hunger and fund development efforts in poor countries.

“Bread’s army of citizen advocates has engaged an ever-expanding network of concerned people urging support for legislation to change the policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist,” says a statement released by organizers of the World Food Prize.

Jo Luck of Arkansas became CEO of Heifer International in 1992. From its offices in Little Rock, she took a group with about 20,000 supporters and a budget of $7 million and turned it into a $130 million organization with half a million backers as well as a global presence. Last year, Heifer International supplied food to more than 1.5 million needy people around the world. Earlier this year, she stepped down as Heifer’s CEO but will remain president until 2011.

“A strong impact of Jo Luck’s legacy as the leader of Heifer is the binding together of people emotionally and economically, enabling them to envision and create a better life for themselves and their children,” says a World Food Prize release.

In addition to sharing our food and resources with the less fortunate, we must share our knowledge as well. Clinton made this point explicitly at the State Department: “Using science to feed the world is not only an imperative–it is a thrilling opportunity.”

Norman Borlaug certainly understood this sentiment. The “Father of the Green Revolution,” who died last year at the age of 95, founded the World Food Prize in 1986. His efforts to improve crop varieties as well as access to fertilizer and pesticides have allowed farmers to feed untold numbers of people who otherwise would not have had enough to eat.

As we transition from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution, (with Borlaug’s support), we’ll need to share our science and technology with people in developing countries. If we’re to realize the goals of groups such as Bread for Life and Heifer International and truly eradicate hunger, then we’ll have to make sure that farmers in nations with poor food security have the ability to take advantage of the world’s most promising agricultural methods.

One of them is biotechnology. Millions of farmers already make use of it–but millions more could still benefit.

This is the very best kind of humanitarianism: helping people help themselves grow the food they need.

Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer
                        Council of Advisors Emeritus for the World Food Prize Foundation and
                        Chair of Truth About Trade & Technology

FOOD POLICY, NOT FOOD PRODUCTION, CAUSES WORLD HUNGER

Assuming most of you are corn farmers or have an interest in producing corn, it’s no secret that corn prices are significantly lower than the high we saw in 2008. In fact, right now, corn is barely $3 when 2008 prices were $7.

Other prices were high in 2008 – wheat was around $6.50 when it’s now $4.30. Freight was extremely high compared to what we see today.

Yet, according to this article, food costs are so extremely high that poorer countries have hungry citizens in droves.

“With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition, while inflation stays moderate in the United States and Europe,” Joe McDonald, author, says.

We need to fix world trade. Market distortions obviously exist that prevent food from flowing into regions of the world when it makes economic sense. We have corn in the US. In fact, carryout of world grains are steadily increasing, so I see little reason for the bag of flour to cost three times what it did two years ago, as a Pakistani mother of five mentions in the article.

In addition, media and humanitarian efforts are consistently calling on corn farmers for increased productivity even as the elitists in the US pursue policies that will stagnate productivity or even cause it to decline. Obviously these people need food and a food policy that focuses around lower productivity doesn’t make sense.

The food is there and it’s less expensive than it has been in recent times, but due to artificial trade barriers, and to some extent the overall economy, the people who need the food can’t get the food.

Prices, policies, and productivity – they are things we seriously need to consider if we are to tackle the growing world hunger problem.
Rodney M. Weinzierl, Executive Director,
ICGA/ICMB

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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