Fall 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

Corn genetics: The savior, and the great destroyer
By Jim Youngquist

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[October 30, 2017]  The current problem in the corn market: too much corn. The result is low prices, unsustainable prices, prices which may lead to ruin. What we know is that something has to change!

This great, worldwide corn glut has been brought about by corn genetics. The Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seed has delivered the ability to produce a bumper crop of corn that has exceeded all expectations despite adverse local weather conditions. It has been both a savior to Logan County corn growers and the great destroyer in the worldwide market. Perhaps we wouldn’t be so excited about, or so devastated with, our ability to produce such vast amounts of corn if the price had it never approached $8 a bushel.

The world is swimming in a glut of corn. Producers do not set the price of their product. Corn prices are set by the consumers of the product, and the consumers don’t need as much corn as is being produced.

What is needed: new uses, new markets for corn. New ways of using corn, which would lead to consumption of a significant portion of the corn glut would likely bring about the shift that is needed to raise prices.

Researching what new markets are opening up for the use of corn turns up little news on the horizon.

The Iowa Corn Grower’s Association says that corn research right now is focusing on Isosorbide, a corn derivative that is used to improve the properties of plastics. Isosorbide will be used to replace BPA in plastics.

BPA is a petroleum based estrogenic compound, which is in everything from food storage containers to water bottles, tin can liners, and hygiene products. BPA containing plastics are used because they produce strong and resilient containers. But BPA may carry health risks with it because it is a synthetic hormone which influences bodily processes such as growth, cell repair, fetal development, energy levels and reproduction. BPA may cause cancer and infertility in men and women.

ADM (Archer Daniels Midland Company) has become the first North American company to offer renewable isosorbide on a commercial scale, to replace BPA in the plastics market.

An article in Farm Futures (June 8, 2017) says that the National Corn Growers Association and NineSigma launched a global competition to identify new and innovative uses for field corn to create significant market demand. Up to six winning proposals will be selected and winners will each receive $25,000. The entries were due in September 28, 2017, and the winners will be announced in February 2018.

While giving away $150,000 is not insignificant, it is a tiny offering in light of this multi-billion dollar yearly problem. Since the stakes are so high, why not make the prize higher as well? Offering a million dollars to the person/persons/ corporation who innovate a new significant market for corn might be motivation enough everyone to put on their thinking cap and come up with something worthwhile.

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Logan County farmers are surviving with today’s prices because they are producing over and above the national averages. By producing 225 – 260 bushels per acre, the extra bushels per acre are helping to pay the bills, while production in other areas of the country and the world where corn production is coming in around 120 bushels per acre is below subsistence levels. And yet every year farmers plant more corn.

Big Ag needs to step up to the plate, spend some Big Ag money, and come up with new uses and new markets for corn.

But rather than developing new corn products and increasing the market for corn, Big Ag has announced this fall that they are concentrating on developing new corn genetics to produce short-season corn. Their aim will be to increase the worldwide acreage that can be planted in corn, thereby increasing their profits.

Currently much of Western Canada grows canola seed for the production of canola oil and wheat for bread flour, etc. Big Ag wants them to be able to stop being enslaved to crops of canola and wheat, and be able to choose to grow corn instead. Europe grows more canola seed than Canada, and new short season corn varieties will open up much of Europe to grow corn instead of canola. GMO seed producers say that short season corn varieties will at best be capable of producing 120 bushels per acre, which at current corn prices won’t pay the bills for the producer.

So, rather than helping solve the great-corn-glut problem, Big Ag is planning on making the problem worse. The result for Big Ag will be more protected sales of GMO corn seed, reaping a premium price per acre for seed.

The result for the world: more corn for sale on an already bloated market.

Read all the articles in our new
Fall 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

Analysis of the 2017 Season 4
Weeds plentiful in the field this year 10
Developing smart drainage and its role in better productivity 15
Corn Genetics:  The savior and the great destroyer 20
Understanding "basis" and how it can improve profitablilty 24
Farm labor:  A growing problem everywhere 29
Selling direct offers producers new opportunities 33
Five critical areas to focus on with your lender 39
Low grain prices and stress on the family farm 44


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