BIG OIL AND THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

In response to our Top Ten Enemies of Ethanol post where we reported that Ed Wallace, Robert Rapier, and Mark Perry were among the biggest enemies of ethanol, folks commented against ethanol by the dozens. I can only assume the new readers were driven by the link offered us by Inside Automotive, but all the comments did for me was make me question the American spirit that used to pervade our country and now seems markedly absent.

The news this week is peppered with stories about Thailand’s increasing use of ethanol. In fact, Ford, an American company, wants to become “Thailand’s foremost leader in ethanol technology.” This article mentions that 300,000 E20-compatible vehicles have been sold in Thailand since their introduction in 2006.

In similar fashion, Keith Good made mention in his news summary on Tuesday that “as for performance and durability, Brazilian engineers say local cars that run on E20-E25 gasoline are in no way inferior to their North American counterparts.” This is a direct quote from the Reuter’s article on the US EPA’s delay to approve e15 in the US.

The two articles collectively made me think. If a developed country and an underdeveloped country can pull together and find resources to make domestic, renewable fuels work, why can’t we?

The US used to be a world leader and our entrepreneurship, innovation, and vision were celebrated worldwide. Are we now so dependent on foreign oil that our addiction is clouding the view and inhibiting the exact things that made the US great?

Is the oil addiction so heavy that we are unwilling or unable to change?

I can tell you; it’s not that we’re unable to change. We are changing. US foreign oil imports have gone from 40% to over 60% in the last two decades. Now, the EPA is considering a move from e10 to e15 – a 5% change – and we somehow think that this 5% change towards domestic, renewable fuels is worse than the 20% change in the other direction? I’m not sure I call this progress.

And I’m not sure what we’re fighting. Brazilian engineers are comfortable with the changes to higher ethanol concentrations and notice no difference in performance. Our leaders who have traveled to Brazil and seen and spoken to small engine manufacturers can’t understand why it works so well there and we can’t make it work here. Where’s the battle? Brazilians have been using ethanol for years and if a large problem existed, we’d have heard about it by now.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only solution to our problem. But what it represents is a solution we have available now. We have corn, we have the technology to make corn-based ethanol, and we need domestic, renewable fuel.

No argument in the world changes those facts.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICMB, ICGA Executive Director

FAMILY FARMERS ARE THE FACE OF AGRICULTURE

Recent research and focus groups tell us that the average Joe on the street in Illinois believes that more than half of his food is grown by corporations. Of course, that prompted Illinois Corn and other state corn associations to come up with messaging like this that focuses on the fact of this matter:

Still, this doesn’t prevent critics from simply not believing what is true.

 

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

This weekend, while at a graduation party in a friend’s garage, I had an interesting conversation about corn. It’s the sort of conversation that I know is happening all over our state, at graduation parties and little league games and the local watering hole. The highly educated, extremely intelligent man that I was chatting with, someone that I look up to and listen to, doesn’t really like corn all that much.

He doesn’t like corn-based ethanol because he believes we’re taking food out of people’s mouths to make it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. He didn’t believe me when I said that 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.

His own experience has taught him otherwise. He works for a university who has increasing interest in agriculture because more and more of their endowments are coming via crop land. He sees the farms owned by the University and wrongfully assumes that corporate owned farms are the new face of agriculture.

To him and to anyone else that questions the family farm facts Illinois Corn provides, I say this: even the farms owned by the University are farmed, operated, and managed by family farmers.

Let me make this more clear. The University owns the farm, but they rent it to a family farmer who makes a payment for use of the land and then tries to make a living growing a crop on it. The University doesn’t decide to put more or less chemicals on the ground regardless of environmental impact. The University isn’t dictating tillage methodology that would cause increasing soil erosion. The University isn’t asking that only GMO seed be used on this land to increase profits. The University is only interested in receiving the rent and the farmer is making every decision to raise the best crop he can, to conserve the natural resources that will allow him to raise a crop next year and the next on that land, without corporate oversight.

To say that the University was managing that land poorly with only profit in mind would be similar to saying that the landlord that owns your apartment is managing your household and telling you what groceries to buy or what cleaners to use.

My point? Even land that is not owned by a family farmer, like University endowment land, is still FARMED AND MANAGED by a family farmer. And the family farmers that rent this sort of land are still living nearby, drinking the water and raising their families off that land. They are good stewards of land that they farm, even if it doesn’t belong to them.

Family farms are the face of corn production in America. They are trustworthy men and women who do their very best every day to provide food and fuel for our country in a sustainable manner.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

Many farmers have a steady chant of “Rain makes grain” to utilize when the rains are a little too heavy and they start to stress about the crop. In the past couple of years, this motto seems a little soggy because of the massive amounts of precipitation farmers have had to deal with.

During a series of short crop updates provided by Illinois Corn leadership, former Illinois Corn Growers Association President Rob Elliott pretty much summed it up when he commented, “The arc has sunk” on Sunday.

Len Corzine, Assumption, IL offered that he was sharing Rob’s pain.

We had 4.5 to 5.5 for the week. Most fields are ok, but a few are suffering. Some fields may be the best ever and are tasseling right now. The excess moisture may bring additional diseases, so we will fungicide most fields.

In East Central Illinois, Roger Sy, a former ICGA leader, has literally been drowned out.

In Edgar County on two farms only four miles apart east to west, I have received over 17 inches on one and 12 inches on the other in the last month. The rest of my farms have around eight inches for the same time frame. Getting rain again this morning.
 I got everything planted the first time, but have had no chance for any replant. The crops did look great, but we are now seeing yellow spots and streaks in the corn where water is standing or has been flowing through the fields.

It will easily be a week or more before farmers can get back into the fields to protect their crops from diseases, weeds, or simply replant corn that has been drowned or destroyed from our crazy spring/summer weather. And that’s if the rain stops, which isn’t looking likely if the weathermen are correct.

Farming is risky, WET business.

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

ALL THIS HEAD BANGING IS GIVING ME A HEADACHE

No, I’m not hanging out with the 80’s hair bands at the local watering hole, I’m banging my head against the wall. And it’s not a good look for me.

Yesterday it was an email, today it’s a comment on an article in the St Louis Post Dispatch, tomorrow it will be the tweet that is re-tweeted until it twitters out. And then the next day it will be the link on my news feed in facebook. What am I talking about? The never ending variations of the questions/claims that making ethanol from U.S. corn starves children in the poorest nations and converts land that would otherwise grow “food” to corn acreage.

But that’s okay, because one more question, email, tweet or status update is another opportunity to share accurate information regarding ethanol.

In short:

• Is there enough corn? Yes.

• Does making ethanol mean I won’t have corn to eat? No.

• Does growing corn for ethanol mean we won’t grow food? No.

• That’s not what other people say. I know.

There are all kinds of reasons the people will blog, write, say, tweet, youtube or status update that ethanol is bad. The corn industry is often criticized as an information provider about ethanol because we have something to gain. Um, ya, we don’t grow corn for free. But why would we cut off our nose (feeding livestock, exports to other countries, human food uses, industrial applications) to spite our face (ethanol)?

In case that reference didn’t make sense, let me say it more plainly. Does it make sense that corn farmers would forsake one or many market opportunities just to add another? No. Does it make sense that corn farmers are growing more corn using less land, chemicals, fertilizer, water, time and fuel? Yes. So does it make sense that they would continue to look for ways to use corn? Yes.

Well motivation is a two way street, folks. The naysayers have their own personal motivations and opportunities to gain. (Can you say resume padding, book deals, feature films, and speaking engagements?)

And FYI, being against something, in this case ethanol, doesn’t ordain you with some sort of “hall pass” to make claims that are irrelevant, irreverent, and irresponsible.

Here are some facts about ethanol and facts about corn. And before you go criticizing the source or calling me a liar, consider that these numbers come from the United States Department of Agriculture and their National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s USDA NASS for short. Other numbers come from the U.S Energy Information Administration or USEIA.

Tricia Braid Terry
ICGA/ICMBA Communications Director

Discussing New Research At CUTC

David LoosAt the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference our very own David Loos, Technology and Business Development Director, moderated a panel titled, “Life Cycle Analyses Applications to New Technologies.”  One of the issues that takes up a lot of his time is ethanol.  And ethanol was a big part of the conversation at the CUTC as you might imagine.  I spoke with David during a break.

Dave says that new technologies that are increasing production while reducing inputs are proving that corn can be very sustainable.  I asked him what he’s working on that needs to become better known by the public.  He says that science is “on our side” on issues like yield increases, inputs, green house gas emissions from growing corn or producing ethanol.  He says it’s our job to make sure the research gets done, is documented and delivered to audiences like EPA.  He pointed to new research by the University of Illinois-Chicago which found that energy consumption by ethanol plants is down about 30 percent.  I’ll have more on that in another interview with one of Dave’s panelists.  Dave also talks about his goal of having EPA recognize corn ethanol as an advanced biofuel.  The research and science backs it up.  The challenge is getting regulators to recognize it!

You can listen to my interview with David here: download (mp3).

Here’s a link to a bunch of photos from the conference: CUTC Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman
AgWired

TILING OFFERS QUICK RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Two years ago when the a 42 inch natural gass pipeline was installed running across some of my acreage, I had no idea I had a problem. In fact, I watched and watched that field hoping not to notice even a hint of standing water. And I didn’t for a while.

But you may remember that we’ve had three pretty wet seasons – last spring the crop was very late getting into the ground because of rain and we were even later getting it out of the ground because of rain. This year, the past couple of weeks have been filled with one downpour after another.

All that rain revealed a tiling problem. And since the rain still isn’t showing any signs of stopping, I’ve been two years trying to get it fixed. Finally, this month I was able to secure both the tiling company AND a dry enough day to get it done.

We didn’t figure this out until nearly the end of the process, but here is the problem. When the natural gas pipeline was installed, this section of older clay tile was broken and was not reconnected to the tiling system in this field.

So we started in to fix it, essentially digging a trench that would hold the tile to drain water from the field. Next to fertilizer, tiling a field is one of the most profitable things you can do and will quickly earn you complete return on your investment. In fact, the absence of this particular section of tile yielded me two complete acres of drowned crops, five acres that were two wet to apply fertilizer, and reduced yield on about twenty acres surrounding it all because of excess moisture.

We are installing five inch, black plastic tile because it is quicker and cheaper. The alternative is the clay tile that you saw in the picture above and it must be hand placed in the ground as opposed to the black plastic tile that comes on a large roll and just flows right into the trench that we dug. The tile is about three feet deep, and most tiles are set between 75 and 90 feet apart parallel throughout a field depending on soil type.

In the end, this is what I have. I lost a sixteen foot swath of emerging corn through my field that I won’t be able to replace. Typically, farmers don’t tile in the middle of the growing season and disrupt their crops, but the losses I’ve sustained over the past two years made the timing this year necessary.

Bring on the rain!

Garry Niemeyer
former ICGA Board member
current NCGA Board member

KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER

There’s a new movement afoot in the US and it goes something like this: if corn is bad, corn-based ethanol is worse.

We receive a publication here in the office called The Ethanol Monitor and Friday’s edition featured a front page story by Editor and Publisher Tom Waterman that named the top 10 enemies of ethanol. Some of the listed enemies are blogs and authors I wasn’t well acquainted with and I bet you aren’t either.

This further drives home the message that conversations are happening every hour of every day that agriculture isn’t a part of, so I’d encourage you to click through some of these links and educate yourself. It is raining out there after all.

GRIST is an environmental blog that hits number nine on the countdown and according to Waterman, if you enter “ethanol” in the search button, you will find more than 1,100 entries, not including comments, that are 100% negative. He also mentions that this blog carries a lot of weight with the environmental community and that they could easily be ranked higher than number nine.

Robert Rapier and his blog, R Squared Energy Blog, is ranked as the number five worst enemy of ethanol for time spent discrediting every positive development in the ethanol industry. He is a big fan of the indirect land use theory and according to Waterman is very influential. Also, he’s a former Conoco Phillips employee and is definitely a Big Oil fan.

An Honorable Mention went to Mark Perry whose blog, Carpe Diem, highlights other articles against ethanol like that of fellow Honorable Mention, Robert Bryce. Scroll down to June 10 and June 11 dates to get a flavor of the position he’s pushing.

And because I can’t link to the article or republish without author consent, I wanted to offer to you the entire Top Ten enemies of ethanol according to Tom Waterman.

#10: Business Week/Ed Wallace (Bloomberg)
#9: GRIST
#8: “Big Oil”
#7: Grocery Manufacturers Association
#6: David Pimentel
#5: Robert Rapier
#4: Tim Searchinger
#3: Wall Street Journal (editorial board)
#2: California Air Resources Board
#1: Time Magazine (Michael Grunwald)

Waterman also notes that the number one slot could have easily gone to “mainstream media” who publish uninformed articles and are too lazy to complete adequate research, but he was trying to be more specific.

To obtain a copy of this article, Ethanol’s Top 10 Enemies, email info@oilintel.com or call 732-222-5578.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

MORE NORMAL CORNBELTERS

CornBeltersIt may not be opening night at the Corn Crib but I still had a couple of short interviews to share with you from that night.  It was a great game and this bat boy is just one of the thousands of people who enjoyed it.  Fans will get to see the team in action at the Corn Crib again this week.

The Normal CornBelters, presented by the Illinois Corn Farmers, will host the second home stand of their inaugural season at the Corn Crib from Monday, June 14 through Saturday, June 19. They will play the Florence Freedom on June 14, Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16. Following, they will host the Evansville Otters on Thursday, June 17, Friday, June 18 and June 19. All games begin at 7 p.m. and gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available for each of the six games!

One of the people I met was Normal CornBelters Field Manager Hal Lanier.  Hal says the Corn Crib is a little different from what you normally see in professional baseball.  He says the fans will see some very exciting baseball and we sure did on opening night.  You can listen to my interview with Hal here (mp3).

I also spoke with Normal CornBelters Reliever Steve Raburn.  Steve says that “at first it was a little different” in referring to the team’s support from Illinois corn growers.  You can listen to my interview with Steve here (mp3).

Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman
AgWired