Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Great Debate: Follow Up Part I

If you browse through my previous post, you'll discover that I recently took part in an invigorating debate with an intelligent urban resident who also happens to be a respected scientist (glaciologist) and researcher. While he may have some big letters behind his name (which, in urban society, is often taken as absolute equivalent to intelligence), I personally have some big core values and good intentions behind mine.  One of those core values is how much rural America means to the urban population.  I may not be a published researcher and might even be labeled as a simple worker bee here in the urban corporate landscape but I do have big intentions to dispel the constant attacks and misinformation being spread about agriculture and rural residents in general.  This reason is precisely why I don't mind going to task over the issues with people.  I think its fun, productive and hopefully fosters education in all parties involved.

So, how about an update on what I've learned in the wake of my Great Debate.  Today I'd like to take his main point that "King Corn" is taking over our country because "Iowa is basically one big corn field" and government subsidies for corn are ruining our national nutrition.

I like facts, so I'm going to use some to punch a hole right in the middle of these theories.  First of all, according to the Colorado Corn Growers on Rural Route radio a couple of weeks ago, Yuma County, Colorado was America's largest corn grower in 2008.  Wow! This this is really convinient since my fiancee's family farm and ranch is in that county and I've got firsthand perspective.  If the statement that Iowa is basically one big monoculture were true, than wouldn't Yuma County look similar?  From my perspective, NO!  Yuma County has a hugely diverse cross section of commodities and has some of the best cattle range in the state.  Sand hills roll for a great majority of the county and promote open space and a huge wildlife population. Slowly the hills die out into huge dry land wheat fields as well as irrigated corn, alfalfa, soybeans, millet, and sorghum fields.  Those are just a couple that I can name off the top of my head.  The point is that its wide open country out there and by no means would register as a top corn producer or monoculture to the normal urban on-looker.

Finally, the main point relates to corn subsidies.  Unfortunately he's got some steam behind his argument since corn is the largest subsidized commodity at 56 Billion dollars in 2006.  However, the true root of the argument remains that corn produces high fructose corn syrup, which is killing Americans because it is so readily available and cheap. No less than 10 seconds after I typed "2009 corn subsidies" into Google, I was reading this a study from Tufts University on corn subsidies.  The best part is that I didn't even have to search for something to prove my point, it was the first link! Follow the link to read the study HERE.

This article has some great numbers and research findings that give great incite into our commodity programs here in the US.  I don't particularly agree with some of the statements about the environment and crops in the article, but the findings are great.  What matters are the facts and numbers derived from both Tufts and the USDA.

In the end, I'm not arguing that high fructose corn syrup is good for you or that over production of one crop is a good thing.  To be honest, I don't really care as long as Americans and myself have the choice to eat and live our lives how we like.  Therefore, we can only blame ourselves if something goes wrong.  Urban health advocates and modern agriculture opponents need to take a good look at their criticisms before they tell rural agriculturalists what they should be producing.

What do you think?  Leave a comment and join in!

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