We’re finally onto PART THREE of diving into Iow’s agriculture policy! We’ve slowly been digging our way through the depths of the state’s cornfields with the goal of discovering the root cause of the seemingly-random water-quality problems.
In Part 3— we’ll discuss the “Cornucopian” side of the story, and what this specific stakeholder group has to say about the issue!
If you can’t remember what the heck a stakeholder is (or the difference between Cornucopians and Environmentalists), I suggest you scan through Part 1— The Raw History of Corn and Conservation Agriculture Policy in Iowa, and Part 2—What do Iowan Environmentalists Say about Corn Policy? . While reading, please be mindful that I do have environmental bias!
Is “Big Ag” a “Big Enemy”?
To keep things short, the Cornucopian side of the picture has ample influence from industry and farming traditions. In 2012, The U.S. Census Bureau said farms in Iowa decreased by more than fifty percent. BUT… “Iowa Corn,” (a group of a bunch of corn-junkies like the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association), doesn’t attribute the falling farm number to a “Big Agriculture” takeover. Iowa Corn cites a U.S. economic research service statistic and concludes that 97 percent of farms are owned by families. They say that that farming only seems more factory-esque because families tend to take a more corporate approach now-a-days. Marketers of Iowa Corn seem to prefer the image of traditional family farms in Iowa’s current situation, where “Big Ag” is a “big enemy” (because of the contaminated water supply and public health threat).
Corn Partner Coalition
The industry in business of marketing corn teams up with many-an-industry in businesses of providing things to help produce (or encourage others to consume) the yellow grain. These partnerships are especially apparent in Iowa Corn’s long list of “Corn Partners” (including, but not limited to: American Ethanol, Fuels America, Iowa Agribusiness Association, Iowa Pork Producers’ Association, and the Meat Exportation Association). The “Corn Partners” list is, itself— a fabulous example of Cornucopian-oriented groups. In total, the partnership of growers and partners creates a cornucopian conglomerate. Some of the “partners” seem random and first, but their corn-connection is more apparent with a closer look.
Agricultural policies which encourage nitrogen fertilizer are usually favored and supported by specific types of industries. For example, the industry producing animal-based products tends to be in favor of subsidies and other policies that encourage the fertilizer use. These policies often have the effect of artificially depreciating the price of animal feed (consisting of large amounts of corn) because the corn has a lower set price point (cost) than market value. The same goes for ethanol manufacturers— a less expensive raw material makes product manufacturing less expensive. Crazy stuff!
The Cornucopian industry of direct interest in this scenario is the fertilizer industry, which is prolifically visible amongst Iowans. Nitrogen fertilizer providers like Agrotain, ESN, MFA, and Nutrien (“Buyer’s Guide” and Butzen) are not on board with the “stop-using-nitrogen-fertilizers” movement. Why would they be?!… They’re the ones who would see economic losses directly! If agricultural policies are instituted that give farmers benefits specifically for using practices instead of using nitrogen-based fertilizers, these fertilizer-organizations would lose money.
Obviously, these groups advocate the continuation of current policy and “responsible” nitrogen use— which (in my mind) translates to “business as usual”. By teaming up with other groups of Cornucopians and simultaneously and/or collectively lobbying policymakers— Cornucopians can form coalitions that make legislation difficult to amend.
Be sure to refresh your brain on Part 1— The Raw History of Corn and Conservation Agriculture Policy in Iowa, and Part 2—What do Iowan Environmentalists Say about Corn Policy?.