January 8, 2010

Tolman urges farmers to help clear industry misconceptions

Rick Tolman’s message about the considerable amount of misinformation concerning agriculture rang loud and clear to more than 150 corn producers and agribusiness exhibitors alike at this week's Freemont Corn Expo.

Tolman, National Corn Growers Association’s chief executive officer, braved the ice, snow and wind to present about the future of farming at the expo.

“The bad news is, agriculture is getting blamed for soil erosion, overuse of chemicals, air pollution, worldwide hunger, obesity, animal welfare, environmental regulations, taxes, 'industrial farms,' subsidies, sustainability, and on and on,” said Tolman. “However, the good news is that you as farmers can help inform the public and consumers about ag’s truth, and NCGA can help.”

He explained that NCGA is a corn focused, grassroots organization that covers the entire spectrum of corn issues every day. Checkoff dollars earned from raising corn are highly leveraged and efficiently used to promoting the industry the entire audience is involved in.

Tolman further focused on how these checkoff dollars are allowing U.S. corn exported around the world, where the demand for U.S. corn is very high.

In an article in the Fremont Tribune, Tolman talked about a misconception that corn is being diverted from the world food supply to provide ethanol, thereby shortchanging people around the world and a cause to world hunger:

That’s not reality, he said, due to the tremendous productivity that exists today.

“The pie is getting bigger because of increased productivity,” he said.

The ethanol boom occurred between 2005 and 2008, but in 2007 the U.S. exported more corn than it ever had.

“If we’re taking more corn from starving people, how could we have record exports?” he asked. “The facts don’t support the emotion.”

Tolman also showed reports from a NCGA consumer research survey, where a strong support for farmers was noted. Nearly all Americans (90 percent) have a positive image of farmers. Looking even further at what consumers view as a trusted news source on issues such as agriculture, farm subsidies, corn products and ethanol, family farmers ranked the highest trusted source (95 percent) followed by doctors, nutritionists and researchers.

“Take this information and use it to promote agriculture,” said Tolman. “Join your ag associations, stay informed as someone heavily invested in production agriculture, and speak out when called on to do so.”

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