Archive for December, 2009

OCGA Will Continue To Provide Factual, Unbiased Information in 2010

December 29, 2009

Corn farmers experienced a number of highs and lows in 2009 and have much to look forward to in 2010. OCGA vows to continue to be the voice of corn farmers in Ohio throughout all modes of communication, through personal visits with lawmakers to blogs, e-newsletters and district meetings.

The organization has established a track record of being a reputable source of information on a multitude of topics and we will continue to provide quality data analysis and information to lawmakers, media and consumers. (See our updated Reports Downloads section for even more information on our industry.)

I bring this up as OCGA was recently questioned in an e-mail about statements we have made in the press regarding ethanol’s impact on food prices. The sender of the e-mail cited a recent blog that contradicted OCGA’s statement: The blog author reported that the Congressional Budget Office found that ethanol raised food prices 10 – 15%, which contradicts OCGA’s statements of 0.5 – 0.8%. The e-mail asked who should people believe and where do we get our information to make such statements.

Here was our response: The blog you cited seemed to conveniently leave out the CBO number of 5.1%, which happens to be the percentage rise in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008 … this is the timeline the report focused on. Based on the entire data, expanded ethanol production during this time contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index. In comparison, the CBO found that the increase in the CPI attributed to increase in energy prices, specifically crude oil, was more than double corn ethanol’s impact.

Our assessment of the CBO report was based on its entirety, whereas the blogger misinterpreted the information to fit his own agenda. Our goal is to provide factual, constructive information for our farmers, consumers and lawmakers. We work closely with government offices, universities and those in the industry to better educate our members and friends.

The e-mail did bring a couple of observations to the forefront: Who should people trust for information, and are blogs just a convenient method of finding “facts” to support one’s personal views?

The staff at OCGA and at the National Corn Growers Association will continue to provide analysis on trends, data, markets and economics without personal opinion sprinkled in and you can continue to count on our organizations to share quality information based on facts.

OCGA has become a reputable source for information, with quotes in large daily newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch, and many have acknowledged that OCGA does not revert to inserting personal opinions in information but does utilize the sound data analysis with reputable sources throughout the world.

I will continue to discuss agriculture issues in this blog on a regular basis, so I encourage you to check back. I also hope that you take the time to comment below to promote constructive discourse.

OCGA wishes everyone a Happy New Year.

Dwayne

Overlooked: Copenhagen’s Ag Day Similar To Heisman Trophy Presentation

December 13, 2009

For those not familiar with Denmark’s time zone, it is six hours ahead of Ohio’s eastern time. So when I wanted to watch the Heisman Trophy announcement, I realized I had to stay up until 3 a.m. to see if my choice, Ndamokong Suh (I am a Cornhusker fan), pulled off an upset.

Although I have no problem with Mark Ingram winning the award, I can’t understand how Colt McCoy finished a close third and far ahead of the player who dominated him in a head-to-head matchup. Mr. Suh, the most dominant player in college football this year in my opinion, was simply ignored by a vast majority of voters. Do Heisman voters actually watch the games? Do they understand what they are watching?

The entire Heisman voting process reminded me of the COP 15 Ag Day that I participated in yesterday here in Copenhagen. Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) brought together policy makers, climate-change negotiators, rural-development practitioners, farmers, civil society, scientific community and academia.

From the outset of ARDD, it was obvious that U.S. agriculture, the most dominant “player,” was not being looked at by the rest of the world as being a leader in terms of providing opportunities for farmers in this new arena. My observation was that the participants of ARDD believe the focus should be on farmers in developing countries that have struggled for decades in producing food and feed and criticizing Western Civilization agriculture for being too productive.

I was shocked, to say the least. Here we have the world’s leader in producing food, feed and fuel from crops, the world’s leader in utilization of new technology and the world’s leader in efficient production practices that offer the best bet for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Sadly, the ARDD participants (much like Heisman voters) decided to ignore the obvious.

Worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture account for 14 percent of all GHG emissions, but of that 14 percent, over 74 percent of the agriculture-based GHG emissions come from developing countries. It is obvious that U.S. farmers have been and will continue to do their job, but the rest of the world believes the U.S. should pay to bring everyone to their level. Fred Yoder and I had a chance to meet one on one with a U.S. negotiator and it became clear that developing countries want the U.S. to shoulder much of the load in GHG mitigation.

With that being said, the U.S. agriculture sector was not engaged as the most “dominant” player at this conference. Although U.S. agriculture interests from a small number of sectors participated, much of U.S. agriculture (like Heisman voters) decided to take the safe path and continue playing (voting) as if the playing field hasn’t changed, instead of taking a hard and bold look (voting) at how U.S. farmers can play in the new worldwide arena. Shame on us.

One segment I was surprised to learn that has realized the time is now to learn how to function in this new environment was the fertilizer industry. Representatives of the fertilizer industry shared with me their development of nitrous oxide emission-reduction protocols for farmers as well as other GHG mitigation tools for farmers. OCGA will continue to learn more and share this development.

One speaker, Tim Searchinger, who has often maligned corn farmers and corn ethanol, had a chance to present his latest paper in a mini-session. Corn farmers should note that two of your leaders, Darin Ihnen, NCGA President, and Fred Yoder, both spoke out against Mr. Searchinger’s  data and conclusions in his session, and their comments were roundly echoed by other scientists in the room.

As I sign off, I’d like to congratulate Ndomakong Suh for an excellent season and to say to Colt McCoy … Roll Tide!

Dwayne

Greetings from COP 15

December 12, 2009

For those of you wondering what COP 15 stands for, it is simply the United Nations designation for Conference of the People … the meeting in Copenhagen happens to be the 15th Conference of the People for the U.N.

Our day at COP 15 focused on Indirect Land Use Change and deforestation in the Amazon: Two topics that on the surface do not seem to be connected to Ohio corn farmers, but over the last couple of years, much of the blame has been placed on the backs of corn farmers in the U.S. Blame that has not been based on facts, but instead has been based on fear.

John Cain Carter of Allianca de Terra, a Mato Grosso, Brazil land alliance, has been front and center on the debate of Amazon deforestation and the principle reasons why it is happening. Mr. Carter, a former U.S. Army Ranger, is not shy about dispelling myths of corn and corn ethanol’s role in deforestation.

His simple and direct answer is “the notion that the U.S. corn farmer is playing a role in the deforestation of the Amazon is asinine. No one in Brazil makes decisions based on how much ethanol is produced from corn in the U.S.”

Mr. Carter goes on to explain it is simply a case of economics: The land is more valuable economically than the trees and much of the damage is created by illegal land grabbers. The Allianca de Terra is focused on changing that dynamic by participating in offset programs to increase the economic value of keeping the Amazon forest vibrant.

He makes a good case that U.S. agriculture should participate in this discussion. OCGA will continue to work with Mr. Carter and discover ways to further our partnership.

Today is Ag Day for COP 15. OCGA Board Member Fred Yoder and I will be participating in this event featuring breakout sessions on Biochar, Solutions to deforestation and managing soils and verification systems for GHG mitigation. USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be the featured speaker at noon. I’ll post a more detailed report tomorrow as Ohio agriculture steps up to the stage with world leaders in discussing what the future holds.

Dwayne

Our First Day in Copenhagen

December 11, 2009

I want to start off today by thanking the city of Copenhagen and its people for their hospitality and warm welcome. Everyone has been very helpful and extremely friendly.

The talk of the conference on my first day in attendance has been the
U.S. EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, specifically
cardon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. EPA’s ruling did
not come as a surprise to me and the Ohio Corn Growers Association as
this direction has been put in place since the Supreme Court ruling in
April of 2007. The Clean Air Act and its amendments provide a “clear
statutory command,” the majority of the Justices said, and “Greenhouse
gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of air
pollutant,” ruled Justice Stevens.

It seems that EPA’s decision has caught everyone off guard, when in
reality, the decision was just a matter of time. Many attendees are
wondering if legislation in the U.S. will gain momentum now. That
remains to be seen, of course. Regardless, agriculture can play a
substantial role in greenhouse gas reductions as farmers continue to
utilize new technology and new methods of producing corn. The last few
years are proof that farmers will continue to produce more with less
land, fewer inputs and emissions and less water consumption per bushel.

This ruling has been the catalyst for OCGA’s involvement in carbon
sequestration efforts with no-till and researching future agriculture
offset economic opportunities for farmers. If the U.S. follows EPA’s
path, agriculture has much to lose and costs will skyrocket across the
board with no opportunity to be a part of an offset market.

Friday’s agenda includes roundtable discussions with our counterparts
in Brazil as we continue to develop new ways to partner. John Carter
of Allianca de Terra will be joining OCGA Board Member Fred Yoder and I in a
presentation on our mission to Brazil and John’s mission to Ohio this
past August.

More to come soon…

Dwayne



Greetings from Copenhagen

December 7, 2009

Welcome to the Ohio Corn Blog.

As executive director of the Ohio Corn Growers Association (OCGA), I am thrilled to offer you this regular blog to offer our insight into some of the most pressing issues facing today’s corn farmer and modern agriculture. OCGA is active in several issues regarding the environment, energy and the economy, so this provides a great arena for discussion and information sharing.

Starting Thursday, I’ll be blogging from the Copenhagen Climate Conference. I am honored to represent the American corn industry at the international Copenhagen Climate Conference. Along with OCGA board member Fred Yoder, we are part of a six-person delegation from the National Corn Growers Association who have been given a seat at the table on how discussions about environmental issues impact the agriculture community in the U.S. and abroad, including the Waxman-Markey energy, climate and cap-and-trade bill and many other issues that will have long term implications for corn farmers. Today’s corn farmer invests a lot of time and resources into environmentally responsible farming technology and techniques, so we’re glad we have the opportunity to participate along with other U.S. agriculture interests from the dairy industry and the American Farm Bureau Federation in these far-reaching discussions that will impact farmers in Ohio.

With upcoming posts to this blog, I am happy to give you a summary about the developments that occur each day we’re at the conference. This blog will offer you an insider’s look at these high-level discussions, as well as some other observations from the conference.

I hope my posts inspire dialogue among everyone who takes an interest in energy, the environment and agriculture.

Talk to you soon.

Dwayne Siekman
Executive Director
Ohio Corn Growers Association