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
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
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
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
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
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