Want to Know Your Food? Friend A Farmer
Written by Robyn O’Brien and Brian Scott
“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” ~Charles F. Kettering, American inventor of the electric starter.
With the Internet and social media, the sky is the limit when it comes to meeting interesting people and learning new things.
And with the landscape of food and farming changing so quickly, at AllergyKids, we believe that it is absolutely vital to engage in a vibrant dialogue with all stakeholders in the food supply, and especially with farmers. Farmers whose families have been feeding our country for four and five generations. Their wisdom is hard-earned and their insight invaluable.
So when we recently pushed out a New York Times article on Twitter called “The Great Corn Con” that addressed the fact that 4 out of every 10 ears of corn grown in the United States are being turned into ethanol, converting food crops to fuel, we immediately heard from one of our farming friends.
According to the New York Times, “Corn is hardly some minor agricultural product for breakfast cereal. It’s America’s largest crop, dwarfing wheat and soybeans. A small portion of production goes for human consumption; about 40 percent feeds cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens. Diverting 40 percent to ethanol has disagreeable consequences for food. In just a year, the price of bacon has soared by 24 percent.”
And the price of corn has doubled in less than a year to a record $7.87 per bushel in early June.
So when this friend and farmer reached out informing us that the byproducts of the corn used for ethanol finds its way back into our food, we listened.
His family farms 2300 acres of mostly corn and soybeans, but they also grow about 150 of popcorn a year, and 80-120 acres of winter wheat which we will double crop with beans after harvest. In his words, “My dad and grandpa are still working on the farm and we have one hired hand. Grandpa is 84 years old.”
In other words, he’s got some hard-earned wisdom. And as he shed light on ethanol production and how the corn used for it is repurposed back into the food supply, we felt compelled to share his insight because since this corn is unlabeled as to whether it has been genetically modified to contain insecticidal toxins, there is no way of knowing what is in the corn byproducts that we are feeding our families.
So at AllergyKids, we are proud to highlight the following article which is written by Brian Scott. Follow him on Twitter @thefarmerslife and join the #agchat. Because it’s important that, as stakeholders in the food supply, we work together to create a food system that we can all believe in.
High commodity prices have reignited the food versus fuel debate. Not that it ever really went away, but with farmers reaping high prices for several months now you can see how it’s easy for those who don’t have the right information to make the connection that high commodity prices directly lead to high food prices. Makes sense right? If the price of ingredients go up, then the price of food must go up too? Well, it’s not that simple.
Let’s talk about corn because it’s the one crop that is at the heart of this debate. If you follow any discussion about the price of corn it won’t take long before you find talk of the price of oil. Corn prices follow the same trends as oil, and at the same time corn will do the opposite of what the value of the American dollar is doing. Those are two of the biggest reasons corn prices are so high right now. Another problem is we’ve have a couple years of tough weather robbing some yield which puts in a situation today where we have tight carry over stocks of corn. The Middle East, source of much of the world’s oil supply, is going through some significant political shifts in many countries and it’s affecting the flow of oil out of those countries. At the same time the value of the dollar is dropping.
Now that we have a very basic understanding of why commodity prices are soaring let’s get back to the food versus fuel deal. Proponents and opponents of ethanol often agree that 40% of US grown corn goes to ethanol production. I was at a marketing meeting a while back and the speaker put it another way. Four out of every ten rows of the corn we grow is taken to an ethanol plant. That statement allowed me to visualize that statistic in a very real way. Four out of every ten? That sounds like a lot!
OK, you probably think that sounds like a lot too, and I won’t argue with you, because I think it does too, at least on the surface. Critics of biofuels will often stop their argument right here. 40% of the crop going to ethanol, no wonder food prices are rising! Once again it’s not that easy. Ever heard of dried distiller’s grains or DDGs? This is the by-product of corn ethanol production. It’s a concentrated feed stock that is sold to the livestock industry. When you take into account the amount of DDGs going to livestock, therefore putting that corn back into the food market you bring that 40% of corn going to fuel down to 23%. So we’ve cut that usage number nearly in half, and we’re just talking about the United States.
If we look at grain use on a global scale, only 3% of grain is going to ethanol production. And don’t forget, we export corn in this country, which means we’ve got product left over after we get what we want out of it to sell to countries all over the world.
To continue this important and respectful dialogue around modern-day farming from friends and farmers like Brian Scott since conditions like autism, cancer and allergies are also affecting our farmers’ families, please visit The Farmer’s Life because in the words of Charles F. Kettering, an American engineer who invented the electric starter:
“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”