8 May 2011 - "HERE WE GO AGAIN"

"Here we go again!...cattlemen wanting to take money away from corn farmers and keep us from making a better living."

That was the opening line in an e-mail I received a few days ago from a Midwest corn farmer who occasionally shares with me his thoughts on various issues. He was referring to the statement made recently by Bill Donald, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, supporting a Senate bill that "would end 30 years and more than $30-billion of taxpayer support for the corn-related ethanol industry and would finally level the playing field for all commodities relying on corn as a major input". If passed, the bill would end the ethanol tax credit and the tariff on imported ethanol no later that June 30th this year.

The corn farmer’s e-mail ended this way. "I repeat what I told you three years ago when I was selling my corn out of the field at less than $1.50 a bushel; I don’t hear any cattlemen saying thank you or feeling sorry for me. So why all the tears from cattlemen now when they are getting record high prices for their cattle? Why shouldn’t corn farmers be able to enjoy record high prices, too? Cattlemen say their feed costs have gone up; what about my costs for seed, fertilizer and fuel? They are all sharply higher, too."

Both sides state their feelings well and certainly with emotion. But you know what bothers me about this exchange. Here we go again with producers shooting at each other, when all of us in the agriculture family need to be working together. There are more than enough organizations and individuals outside agriculture shooting at us and that’s where we should be directing our time, energy and emotion; responding to charges from them that have little or no factual or scientific basis, but if enacted, would impose new regulations that would greatly curtail the way you produce food, fiber and energy.

While I’m talking about information that is not factual, here is another example. The Director General of the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization recently stated "The rising output of biofuels is contributing to global food shortages, consuming more than 100-million tons a year of cereal grains that would otherwise be used in food production." Once again, he is fostering the illusion that once we produce the ethanol, we throw the rest of the bushel of corn away. That is simply not true and we need to hammer home what I said in this column in January. After we get the 2.8 gallons of ethanol, we get 18 pounds of livestock and poultry feed, corn oil that is used in many human foods as well as several other products.

I hope the next time I say "here we go again" I’ll be referring to a unified agriculture speaking with one voice to preserve and enhance the most efficient food production system on the planet.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.