It was heard quietly at first, but the chatter is growing like crickets on a summer night. Iowa's corn farmers are talking louder and prouder about growing corn to feed and fuel a growing population, even among mounting misinformation and political attacks that are being aimed at corn production and new uses.
In 2008, corn prices jumped to a history making price. Fuel prices mirrored the jump and we soon saw an escalator on your grocery store receipt.
"Food vs. fuel and corn's role in rising grocery store prices were not correlated and consumers soon saw the real culprit when corn prices leveled out and prices on the shelf remained the same," says Dick Gallagher, Iowa Corn Promotion Board chairman and a farmer from Washington, Iowa. "Farmers were caught in the cross fire and were eventually able to help consumers understand, but not until a little misinformation and confusion ran wild."
Farmers found they need to talk to consumers about growing corn
This experience left farmers across the country realizing their need to talk to the public about how farmers are growing corn. How they do it, why they do it, and how that relates to the consumer who picks up the end product.
Today, two-way dialogue is taking place on other corn issues, such as; climate change, corn ethanol, environment and high fructose corn syrup. The growing chatter behind the sturdy stalks, coming from the tractor cabs and rolling from the combines, is part of Corn's Comeback. The Corn Comeback is growing like the crops planted each year, and this is where you can find it.
Corn Farmers Coalition was formed to help counter the attacks
The Corn Farmers Coalition Campaign literally plastered corn grower images and messages on the walls throughout the Washington D.C. subway system. The messages were science-based numbers with farmer images sharing the facts.
The messages from corn farmers were amplified through the website http://www.cornfarmerscoalition.org/, through a National Press Club media event, advertising and more. The campaign, in its second year in 2010, reached an estimated 60 million people.
Discovery Tour also worked to help educate consumers about corn
Not everyone knows about agriculture or growing corn. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association worked with the Center for Food Integrity to bring in 7 bloggers for 2 intense days on a "behind the scenes" tour of Iowa agriculture.
"From the past to the present, we shared with them what we do every day and how we are able to share that with the world," says Kevin Rempp, a farmer from Montezuma in east central Iowa, and a participant on the tour. "What we were able to share with these people by sitting down to meals and answering their questions was what they valued. It seems simple, but it is what we take for granted, and they want to know the truth about what is going on."
The participants were from different areas across the country and their online presence scanned thousands and thousands of readers. Many of these bloggers are still talking about their experience and 100% of the participants said they would come back again.
Common Ground: Common Ground is based on the idea that we need to make food and farming personal. When consumers understand that real families are raising their food and that they share common values and expectations, they have more trust in farming.
This program is a joint partnership between the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn, the National Corn Growers Association, and the United Soybean Board. Four women have been chosen to represent Iowa in this national campaign to talk to the consumer. The goal is to create awareness and put a face to farm families, while talking to women who are purchasing the food for their families.
GameDay promotion: Millions of Iowans follow the University of Iowa or Iowa State University athletics; it is just how you grow up. Because of the audience that can be reached, Iowa Corn in 2009 and 2010 joined with both schools to promote the Iowa CornFed GameDay, a promotion through football, basketball, and wrestling match ups.
In 2010, the second year of the promotion, Iowa Corn has run 6,000 radio ads; 4,000 live mentions; 2,000 Drive of the Game messages and totaled over 100 million radio impressions. The promotion has also had 30 on-site marketing opportunities in both, Ames and Iowa City as well as 2 million in-stadium impressions. Overall, the campaign has reached over 120 million impressions in 2009 and 2010.
Iowa Corn Indy 250: Iowa corn grower leaders and over 2,200 members witnessed the fourth running of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer at the Iowa Speedway in Newton in June of 2010. In 2011, the race will still run on 100% corn ethanol, but you will witness the power of ethanol under the lights. It will be a nighttime race on June 25, 2010.
"Iowa Corn is proud to sponsor the Iowa Corn Indy 250 to celebrate the power and performance of fuel from corn-based ethanol," says Tim Burrack, past chair of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB). "We think it is important for consumers to know we have a renewable fuel resource that is grown here in Iowa and if 100% corn-based ethanol is good for Indy racers, then it's good for consumers and everyday automobiles, the only difference is the speed limit."
NASCAR partnership: The Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association in conjunction with the National Corn Growers Association are among the organizations backing American Ethanol, a partnership including Growth Energy and NASCAR. This partnership was announced in late 2010.
"This partnership is an opportunity to communicate to a whole new audience, about American corn-based ethanol," says Dick Gallagher, Iowa Corn Promotion Board chairman. Gallagher says, "NASCAR is literally driving the positive ethanol story into thousands of households across the U.S. and we hope consumers will continue to drive with it to work and the grocery store, just like the pros do."
"Today, America's sport and America's fuel have kicked-off one of the most exciting partnerships in the history of NASCAR," says NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace. "This is a great moment for our sport and a great moment for the hardworking men and women across the country who help make and produce this great fuel."
"There is nothing more American than NASCAR, and there is no fuel more American than ethanol. This is a perfect partnership," says Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "We are so proud that the bounty which America's farmers produce throughout the week will be used in NASCAR racing on Sundays throughout the racing season."
The Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board have also been working on issues such as water quality and high fructose corn syrup. For the latest information on corn and its uses, visit www.iowacorn.org
The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, works to develop and defend markets, fund research, and provide education about corn and corn products. The Iowa Corn Growers Association is a membership organization lobbying on ag issues on behalf of its 6,400 farmer members. Both organizations work on the joint mission to create opportunities for long-term corn grower profitability.