Combines, corn and contributions

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

With combines running in the fields from daybreak to well after sundown, it feels right to talk about food this time of year. In fact, in the early evening hours, these lumbering machines look a little eerie as they march across the land with their floodlights illuminating the crops; they were well suited for Halloween. With the holidays approaching, favorite recipes are being pulled out in preparation for celebrations. These mechanical giants will be back in sheds by then, but Missouri's farmers continue to contribute. Their contribution puts food on the table in many ways.

Let's use corn as an example. In 2012, Missouri farmers harvested 3.3 million acres of corn in a drought year; that's the equivalent of 3 million football fields. Missouri ranks 10th in the nation in the production of field corn. Last year, Missouri farmers produced 248,000,000 bushels of corn. That's a lot of zeroes. This year's harvest is going better than expected across much of the state.

All that corn has to go somewhere, and much of it ends up in everyday items you use.

There are more than 4,200 different uses for corn. It can be found in biodegradable plastics, chemicals, synthetic fibers and pharmaceuticals--everything from chewing gum to cardboard...and candy. One bushel of corn can provide 33 pounds of sweetener, not only for the candy treats you're still enjoying, but for many other food items, like your favorite carbonated beverage. Corn is also used for animal feed and fuel among a plethora of non-food uses.

What corn provides is only part of a very large economic engine more powerful than those combines in the field. Corn alone provides a crop value of $2.24 billion to Missouri's economy. Imagine what Missouri farmers contribute when the rest of the crops they grow and raise are added in. It's actually quite staggering; no wonder agriculture is Missouri's number one industry.

So, as you're raiding what's left of your child's candy stash from Halloween (admit it, we're all guilty) or you're sitting down later this month to enjoy Aunt Sandy's pumpkin pie or the roast turkey on your holiday table (Missouri ranks 4th in the nation in turkey production, by the way.), give some thought to where it came from, who produced the ingredients in it, how much you're enjoying it and remember to thank farmers.