Wednesday, February 15, 2017

U.S. sells more corn than anybody; guess who buys it?

     It's time to play The Fact Game!
     How do we play? First, throw out a fact:
     Corn is a kind of grass.
     Just like rice, wheat, oats, or other cereal grains. Don't let the large seed head — the corn cob — fool you.
     Is that true? Untrue? Well, I read it in a book, Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland by Cynthia Clampitt.
     "Corn is big grass," writes Clampitt, early in her charming, engrossing book. "It grows faster than other grasses. Its large leaves make it better at capturing sunlight than other grasses. . . . So it's really impressive grass, but it's still grass."
     It sounds right, is written by a noted food historian and printed in a book published by University of Illinois Press, confirmed by a second source (". . . of the grass family" says the Enyclopaedia Britannica).
     I'd say: Fact!
     Again, again! Let's have another "fact":
     The United States is the No. 1 producer of corn in the world.
     Do we accept that as fact? It's good to be No. 1. So yes, we do!

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  1. An excellent article, with many important points. The damage caused by the sugar tariffs supporting a few sugar beet growers can't be stressed enough. If Mexico passes laws restricting corn imports from the United States, it will raise livestock feed costs, and the cost of processed corn food products, thus penalizing Mexican consumers.
    Our corn prices are not as cheap as they could be, or used to be. According to the NY Times and other sources, the ethanol fuel mandates have distorted the market. The current total U.S. corn production is as follows: 40% is used to produce ethanol, 33% to feed local livestock, 13% exported, most of it to feed livestock as well, the remainder goes toward food and beverage production. With an energy balance of 1.3, the benefits of ethanol fuel production are marginal at best, and the mandates raises the cost of meat products for consumers here and abroad.

  2. Not a serious comment on a good article... just came to mind a little when I was reading it... I remember an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies and after dinner at a restaurant someone said to Jethro. "it's customary to leave a tip with the waiter" So Jethro looks at the waiter and says "Plant your corn early!"

  3. People who are so big on trade barriers never stop to think of the harm they cause.

    One of the first bright ideas by the geniuses in the Trump administration is paying for his famous wall with a 10 percent (or 20, or 30, who knows) tariff on Mexican imports (or all imports maybe). Whom do they think will pay the tariff? Americans, who need and want the goods that Mexico and other nations sell here.

  4. You are trying to confuse us with facts Neil. An act of effrontery in the age of Trump. All good stuff though.

    It can be a confusing topic if you get into details, but the general impression I got attending that bastion of left wing economics, the University of Chicago School of Business, that 99 percent of serious economists believe everybody looses in a trade war.

    Tom Evans

    1. University of Chicago, bastion of left wing economics? I wasted time trying to puzzle out the insider joke or irony you were referring to. Ah ha! I'm thinking of the world class University of Chicago Economics department and their world changing, for the better, "Chicago school of economics." What is the count now? It's 12 Nobel Prizes in Economics among their professors to date, far more than any other University.

    2. The Chicago school of economics furthered the laissez-faire, free-market nonsense that has enshrined hideous disparities in income and the permanent stagnation of the middle and working classes. They're not worth the Lake Michigan water to drown them in.

      Bitter Scribe

    3. Look at South America. Years ago Chile followed the advice of the Chicago Boys, who were taught by Milton Friedman, and embraced a free market economy. These days their GDP per capita outperforms any other South American country. I bet most Chileans think your opinion is silly. Venezuela is a country where equality of income is enforced by the military. The results are not very pretty, at all.

    4. I'd rather look at the United States, which is where I live.

  5. A touch of irony in the night.

    Pinning a label on a great university is actually a fraught enterprise. My first attendance at the U.of C, was in the sociology department, which was also acclaimed academically but thought by Illinois politicians of the McCarthy era to be dominated by left wing subversives, if not outright commies. My second visit was in the Graduate School of Business, which was pretty much under the academic thumb of the Economics Department, because of its free market emphasis thought to be very right wing. But when you get into the weeds that's a considerable oversimplification.

    The place has also been influential in political theory, but on all sides of the political spectrum.


  6. Thanks for the info. When I think of U. of C. and economics, I think of Milton Friedman, who some might say was on all sides of the political spectrum himself.


  7. too bad the reader column cant go in the ST where more can see it


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