Corn ad

The debate around the farm bill, and its generous support for corn production, is already heating up. Long-enshrined subsidies for ethanol production stand on the verge of being phased out. The EPA is mulling whether the nation’s auto fleet can handle more ethanol to be blended into the gasoline supply.

In other words, the exalted status of corn — which dominates U.S. agriculture the way Europe’s royals once ruled their domains — is under question in Washington, D.C.

And his Majesty, King Corn, is getting nervous. Time for a charm offensive!

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The Capitol’s residents are suddenly being bombarded by pro-corn propaganda. “Corn Farmers Coalition to Provide Facts on Modern Family Farms,” declares a press release from the Corn Farmers Coalition. These “facts” will be broadcast via “Capital Hill publications, radio, frequently used web sites, the Metro and Reagan National Airport,” the press release states.

And what, precisely, is the Corn Farmers Coalition? According to its website, “The Corn Farmers Coalition is an alliance of the National Corn Growers Association and 14 state corn associations representing tens of thousands of dues-paying farmers.” But those 14 state associations exist under the National Corn Growers Association umbrella. In other words, the Corn Farmers Coalition is really just the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) by a different name.

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And the NCGA is notorious for being aligned with — and funded by — the big agribusiness companies that sell farmers their inputs and buy their corn. NCGA’s website lists “key industries that help you by helping the NCGA.” They are the companies that dominate the global agrichemical, seed, and grain trades: Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer CropSciences, and Dupont’s Pioneer agrichemical/seed business.

Of course, NCGA’s ads will display the friendly grinning visages of farmers, not the logos of its not-so-cuddly corporate backers.

The NCGA isn’t the only corn-soaked group haranguing D.C. residents about the awesomeness of their product. A lobbying group called Growth Energy — closely aligned with Poet, the self-described “world’s largest ethanol producer — has staged what it calls a “takeover” of D.C.’s Capitol South Metro station. By “takeover,” of course, it means an ad blitz.

Why that particular Metro station? Because it’s “the closest stop to the U.S. Capitol, the offices of the House of Representatives, and the headquarters of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee,” a Growth Energy press release states. (Blogger Jill Richardson has an eye-witness account, complete with pictures, of what Capitol South Metro looks like under Growth Energy’s influence.)

Don’t think that you’ll escape the propaganda effort just because you don’t work on Capitol Hill. Growth Energy is also dropping a cool $2.5 million for spots on four networks geared to political junkies: Fox, MSNBC, CNN and HLN (formerly Headline News).

Here’s one:

So should we stop worrying and learn to love industrial corn? Per Growth Energy’s propaganda, should we embrace corn-based ethanol as a “clean,” “renewable,” “sensible” fuel that will bring us “peace” and energy “independence” — if we just lavish enough government cash upon it?

Um, no.

Grist readers have read my harangues about the depredations of industrial corn production for years now. I summed them up in a recent post, “Why are we propping up corn production, again?” Over at Environmental Working Group’s blog, Don Carr ably skewers the case for corn as a “green crop.”

Surely the Congressional staffers, journalists, think-tank employees, and party apparatchiks can see through this empty exercise in marketing.