Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
Let's see — nutrition, cleaner burning blended fuel, environmentally-friendly packing peanuts, seasonal home decor … that's more of a use, um … I need a little help. So, I'd like to take the National Corn Growers Association up on the offer they made to educate Bud Light on the benefits of corn. The beer company ticked off the lobby group with the debut of a commercial during the Superb Owl (wouldn't want to get sued for using a term I'm not officially licensed to use).
In said debut, Bud Light's cast of medieval mascots goes from one competitor's castle to another trying to find whose comically large barrel of corn syrup was mistakenly delivered to the Bud Light castle, because Bud Light isn't brewed with corn syrup.
I just saved you the trouble of watching it, and it wasn't that funny — just ask the corn growers association. They responded on Twitter by telling Bud Light, "America's corn farmers are disappointed in you. Our office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits of corn. Thanks Miller Light and Coors Lite for supporting our industry."
Fun fact — the corn growers meant to tag beer company Miller Lite in their post, but ended up tagging one Twitter user named Allen Miller, who appears to do something with digital marketing in Bangkok, Thailand, and hasn't tweeted since Aug. 30, 2017. Oh well.
Now, all Iowans know our corn is everywhere (I say 'our' like I had anything to do with it). We're reminded of it all the time. In fact, as I'm typing this column, a statement from the Iowa Corn Growers Association responding to the "beer wars" (which the Iowa association wants no part of) just landed in the newsroom's inbox.
"I am proud of generations of farmers that grow corn that is used in over 4,000 everyday products, from corn fed beef to ethanol to makeup," Mark Recker of the Iowa Corn Growers Association wrote.
So, yeah, it's everywhere from the pumps to our pop — from our silage bins to our cereal bowls. We eat it. We drink it. We burn it. We buy it back again in other forms. It's true. There are tons of uses for corn.
Remember now, the original claim was there are many benefits of corn, and a use is not the same as a benefit. While it's true corn syrup is among the plethora of corn's uses, I don't know that it's a benefit. That would be like saying chlorine gas is a benefit of bleach and ammonia. Simply being the product of a process does not qualify something as a benefit.
Now, I'm an Iowan — born and raised, so don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to corn or agriculture. I eat, drink and pump as much corn into my car as the next guy. What I'm saying is that being an ingredient in beer is perhaps not the noblest and beneficial use of our golden waves of grain. Beer isn't exactly health food. It calls to mind images of Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Hank Hill and the rest of an archetype oddly dominated by animated fathers. Yet, lobbyists are upset when a commercial makes plain there's no corn in a something blamed for the beer belly.
I say let them keep it corn-free. Honestly, we don't need more people to use corn. Instead, we need more people to benefit from corn. The kernels have saturated the food and drink market pretty well already — so well and so cheaply in fact that impoverished populations in the U.S. can often only afford corn-ful food and become obese as a result. So, instead of pushing for more corn in our consumables, let's push for its other innovative uses. Let's push for more biodegradable plastics (already one of corn's uses). Let's push for cleaner refining processes for an already cleaner-burning ethanol (one more step toward a better environment). Let's push for research into whether corn starch could be used as an emergency spray foam to quickly seal wounds in trauma situations (yeah, it sounds crazy, but so does a car that runs on corn).
What we don't want is to grow so much corn that we're stuck with piles and piles of it while we figure out new new markets in which to use it all. In other words, we don't want supply to drive demand, quite the opposite. Production shouldn't force-feed innovation. Innovation should be so prolific it pulls production along with it like a magnet over iron shavings. Eventually, something better always comes along, as the adage goes. If we don't focus on developing new and truly beneficial uses for corn, somebody else's grain wagon is going to beat us to market, and we'll be left with a crib full of a yesterday's grain. So, let's put down the beer (the issue more than actual beer, but whatever it takes), and let's intentionally use our corn as a tool to tackle tomorrow's problems before they get here.