Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HFCS and the farmers' perspective

So many of us have rejoiced when we hear about the removal of HFCS from various product lines.  While I knew there were folks who were not pleased (oh, say Audrae Erickson? and there's always Rick Berman, Mr invent-a-Nonprofit, run by a for profit, lobbyist), I hadn't thought much about the impact on farmers.  Sure, I knew that if King Corn were suddenly to be dethroned,  the Archer Daniels Midland bosses and Mr Berman wouldn't suffer actual losses and would instead pass on the pain to the farmers.  But I thought it would take more than a couple companies shifting recipes to make a dent in Corn-related profit.

But Ohio headlines present a sad state of affairs for the Corn farmers of this nation.  Here's an example:
Corn Syrup Dispute
By: Emily Baird
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 7:16pm
High fructose corn syrup is an important by-product of the corn crop, but some companies are thinking of replacing that ingredient with a cane sugar substitute in some of its products.
"There's been some research, and it's disputed by some, that high fructose corn syrup has led to some obesity problems here in the country, " says Mark Mechling of the OSU Extension Program.
That switch could prove to be a big deal for farmers, especially in Ohio where it's ranked seventh in the country for corn production
"It makes it less marketable. It basically reduces some demand, not a lot of demand, but some demand. The bottom line for farmers is they probably wouldn't get as much per bushel, " says Mechling.
Mechling says in the long-run that could potentially lead to less corn production. So, he says the Ohio Corn Growers Association is lobbing to keep high fructose corn syrup in these products to prevent a huge blow to farmers.

On the one hand I think: ok, companies are switching back to sugar because that's what the US population apparently wants (setting aside for a moment all the health-related issues and studies whether you believe them or not...) but this Mechling guy wants companies to go back to HFCS because of farmers? Farmers who are PAID by the government to overproduce enormous quantities of corn that everyone knows could never even possibly be used? Who cares what consumers want... 

Well apparently only 4.1% (according to 2007 information) of Corn grow in the US is used in HFCS.  So, blaming the economic woes faced by Corn Farmers on the switch only a handful of companies have made back to sugar is really not a very convincing argument. 

Well what else is there that might be having an effect on King Corn's profit margins?  Oh, let's see....  Ethanol?  Percentage-wise considerably more US corn ends up in Ethanol than in HFCS.  And at least today corn futures are up anyway. 

So yeah. 

(Cartoon Source)

"The United States is the largest corn producer in the world."

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