In Washington, D.C., Associate Farm Editor, Reagan Calk visited with the CEO and president of the Corn Refiners Association, John Bode. Bode is originally from Geary, Oklahoma, where his family raised wheat and cattle.
“Products made from corn are all around us,” Bode said. “We know about the food, we know about the fuels, but do we know about pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and industrial materials? All the building materials in whatever building you are in; the adhesives are probably made from corn. Increasingly, renewable chemicals, including renewable plastics, are made from corn. It is all because American farmers are more efficient at producing carbohydrates than anyone in the world, and they support this industry of chemical engineering.”
As there are countless different uses for corn and other agricultural products today, Bode said the future holds even more opportunities for the industry.
“There is tremendous growth in renewables, and that is showing up in plastics, textiles and all kinds of things,” Bode said. “That is the big growth opportunity, but I want to emphasize it is not just corn. It is agricultural products broadly.”
While there is not an abundance of corn grown in the state of Oklahoma, Bode said many commodities hold tremendous promise for growth in different areas.
“The benefits reach far beyond the farm gate,” Bode said. “We have twice as many Americans working in manufacturing of agricultural products as automobiles.”
Bode also talked about the latest work CRA staff has been doing to help grow the bioeconomy.
“We work with the Plant Based Products Council, and that is focused on growing the bioeconomy basically by building the infrastructure,” Bode said. “We want to get the terminology that consumers use defined in a way that is nationally uniform throughout the country, so everybody knows what those terms mean, and it can be relied upon.”
As getting biomanufacturing off the ground is a big task, Bode said CRA would like to see the government offer some assistance. To increase manufacturing in the U.S., Bode said steps need to be taken to make those jobs available.
“When you look at Europe and Asia, they are far behind the U.S. in developing the basic science for these renewables, but they are far ahead of us in manufacturing,” Bode said. “The reason is, they do a better job of supporting this manufacturing.”
Looking into the 2023 Farm Bill, Bode said CRA would like to see a good risk management system to give producers the ability to manage risk, as well as conservation programs to work well for those producers who are the stewards of the soil.
“I am really proud of the fact that I am a fifth-generation farm family from Oklahoma, and I think throughout our country, farmers are focused on protecting their farms and preserving them for the future,” Bode said.
Bode said the Corn Refiners Association has also been working with a broad array of food and agriculture associations on an economic analysis that is updated each year called feedingtheeconomy.com. The website offers economic data, Bode said, on the impact of agriculture to America, the state of Oklahoma, and congressional districts.
“Pretty soon, we will be updating it down to the county level,” Bode said. “That is very important because many people do not understand the economic importance of agriculture. It is a foundational block for the American economy.”
Twenty percent of America, Bode said, is related to agriculture.
“My generation has seen a 28 percent loss in American agricultural lands, but a 400 percent increase in our agricultural productivity,” Bode said. “That is because of technology on the farm and technology after the farm gate.”
The report information at feedingtheeconomy.com is updated each agricultural day.
“National Ag Day, March 21, was the last update, but this year as a special feature for the farm bill year, we are going to add the county data,” Bode said.