We’re finally onto PART THREE of our shindig on sustainable agriculture in Iowa— digging into the depths of cornfields in Iowa to get to the root of the seemingly-random water-quality problems. In this section we get to talk about 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 what the difference is between Cornucopians and Environmentalists), feel free to scan through Part 1 (on the Raw History) and Part 2 (on Environmentalist Stakeholders) of this series again! (Here’s a little chart to keep things easy, too.)
Is “Big Ag” a “Big Enemy”?
To keep things short, the Cornucopian side of the picture is muddled with industry mixed with 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 providing oh-so-many things to help produce (or encourage others to consume) the yellow grain— which is 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” section in and of itself is a hefty list of Cornucopian groups, but together they make a cornucopian conglomerate. Some of these “partners” seem random and first, but their corn-connection becomes more apparent when a closer look gets taken.
An example for how Cornucopian industries might benefit from these policies can be tricky to to think of (there are lots of layers), but bear with me. Agricultural policies that encourage nitrogen fertilizer are usually favored and supported by specific types of industries. For instance, the industry creating animal-based products tends to be in favor of subsidies and other policies that encourage the fertilizer use. These policies tend to have the effect of artificially depreciating the price of animal feed (much of which is 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 were put in place that gave farmers benefits specifically for using practices instead of using nitrogen-based fertilizers, it would be these fertilizer-organizations that would lose money. Obviously, these groups advocate the continuation of current policy and “responsible” nitrogen use— but we know that basically means more of the same. Basically, though, by teaming up with other groups of Cornucopians and lobbying, they have formed a coalition that has made legislation very difficult to amend.