By Rick Tolman
CEO, National Corn Growers Association

On Friday, the American Meat Institute posted an aggressive statement on "corn ethanol" on their Web site, apparently in response to our request that they disassociate themselves from radical groups who oppose not only corn and soybean production in the United States but also oppose the meat industry.

Privately and now publicly, we have told AMI that this is not about ethanol. While we strongly disagree with their statement and commentary on "corn ethanol" and feel that it has more holes in it than the St. Louis Rams Run Defense did last year, that is not the focus of our dismay and issue with them. Our simple request of AMI remains, let's agree to disagree on ethanol policy and not let our differences of opinion define our relationship. There are too many far bigger and much more important issues in agriculture in general and in the meat and grain production industries in particular to deal with. There are an abundance of outside critics spinning myth and misinformation that threaten all of our livelihoods. We need to work together and not against each other.

In particular, while we disagree with AMI on their anti-ethanol policy, we have not asked them to change that nor to necessarily quit their efforts in opposition. We respect their right to disagree. Our request is that they get out of the partnership they have formed with radical environmental groups who use reactionary tactics and misinformation to attack corn and soybean production on the basis of environmental devastation. In some cases, these groups have allied with the Humane Society of the United States and espouse radical change and regulation of animal livestock agriculture and openly promote vegetarianism and veganism. How is it that a trade association composed of meat companies can justify working with groups like that?

Our concern, and our members' outrage, is with the choice of allies and the tactics being employed. For example, here is one of their statements:

"More corn ethanol is bad for the environment. Producing more corn ethanol could threaten air quality in many communities, destroy millions of acres of forests around the world, and increase emissions of greenhouse gases. In particular, plowing up forests to grow more corn could increase farmland runoff, expanding low-oxygen dead zones that hurt commercial fishermen."

That statement is really about the radical environmental groups view about corn production. Think of the damage these and other statements make to the image of hard-working corn producers. One would think that the members of AMI -- companies such as Smithfield, Tyson and Hormel -- support corn production. Substitute the phrase "corn-fed beef" instead of "corn ethanol" and you can easily see the danger.

Perhaps the AMI members have never read the story of the scorpion and the frog. The frog agrees to carry the scorpion across the river on his back. Once across the river, the scorpion stings the frog and kills him. As he is dying, the frog says, "But I carried you across the river! Why did you sting me?" The scorpion replies that the frog knew he was a scorpion, and that's what scorpions do.

It is time for AMI to rejoin the rest of agriculture. We are in a crisis and need to pull together. We need to learn to agree to disagree and avoid at all cost scorched earth tactics and unholy alliances. AMI -- it is time to step away from these tactics and disassociate yourself from those who ultimately want to put you out of business.

In the closing comment of their statement last week, AMI said, "American ranchers and livestock producers are the best in the world at what they do -- they can compete with anyone on the planet."

We agree with that wholeheartedly. But AMI does not speak for American ranchers and livestock producers. They speak for the large corporate-owned meat packers and meat companies. The groups that do speak for American ranchers and livestock producers are not part of AMI's coalition. The groups that do represent America's ranchers and livetock producers have quietly stepped away from this "unholy alliance" and have agreed with the rest of agriculture that it is time for us to pull together instead of apart and to not let a few differences overshadow the many things that we agree on and the critical things that we need to work together on.

AMI, the ball is in your court. Rejoin the rest of agriculture and step away from the scorpion.

SOURCE: National Corn Growers Association.