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NCGA challenges Jennings claims

“This report was little more than a subjective attack on the tens of thousands of hard-working Americans in the corn growing and refining industries who provide our families with the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world,” said CRA President Audrae Erickson.

“In addition to containing numerous factual errors about refined corn products, this television program overlooked the importance of achieving a balance between fitness and nutrition to combat the problems of overweight and obesity.”

“Farmers have long taken pride in their ability to provide a diverse, safe, and wholesome food supply to the consumer,” said NCGA President Dee Vaughan. “Our efficiency has enabled Americans to spend much less of their disposable income for food than citizens of other nations.

“Instead of being thanked for our contribution to the nation’s economy, we now find ourselves being blamed for not only providing too much food at affordable prices but also for the choices the consumer makes in regards to diet and exercise. What has happened to taking personal responsibility for choices made?”

Following is an issue-by-issue response to the program by CRA and NCGA:

  1. The program asserts government agriculture programs result in low commodity prices, which translates into “cheap” food prices and, thus, an overweight population.

    The assertion that food is too inexpensive would most likely draw sharp disagreement from the average American family of four whose two parents both work full-time jobs to afford a mortgage, car payment(s), insurance, education, clothing, personal necessities and grocery bills. It is hard to fathom how that hard-working family would benefit from an increase in food prices. In fact, such an increased economic burden may sharply augment the need for longer work hours, thus decreasing the amount of time the average American has available to engage in physical exercise – a necessary component to resolving America’s obesity problem.

    Furthermore, the program’s discussion of “overproduction” lacked a basic understanding of economics and modern farming practices. Under current farm support programs, the government has actually restored fiscal discipline by limiting economic assistance to producers when aid is most needed. Direct and counter-cyclical payments are now tied to past production history and planting flexibility and limit incentives for producers to overproduce.

    Contrary to claims that farm supports distort markets and planting decisions, analysis by the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute concludes there are "relatively minor impacts on current U.S. commodity production, agricultural prices and world trade" because two- thirds of the additional payments are not linked to current levels of production.

  2. The program insinuates that increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) over sugar directly contributes to America’s rising obesity rates.

    HFCS consumption has increased during the past two decades while there has been a concurrent decrease in sugar consumption during that same time period. This would not contribute to rising obesity rates, however, because there is very little difference between HFCS and sugar.

    Both HFCS and sugar are composed of about equal parts fructose and glucose, both contain 4 calories per gram, and both contain about an equal amount of sweetness. In fact, according to Guy H. Johnson of Johnson Nutrition Solutions, LLC, "Once absorbed, the body has no way of knowing whether a molecule of fructose came from sucrose, HFCS, honey or fruit. Since the proportion of glucose and fructose in HFCS and sucrose are similar, these two sweeteners are virtually indistinguishable by the body."

  3. 3. The program overlooks the importance of achieving a balance between fitness and nutrition in favor of engaging in a ‘good food/bad food’ debate.

    America’s obesity problem is a complex issue that can be traced to numerous factors, the most important of which are a major lack of physical activity concurrent with a large increase in daily consumption of calories.

    "Physical activity and eating prudently are both essential to weight control," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine, in a recent news interview. "The reason we're getting fat is on both sides of the energy balance equation: We're eating too much and doing too little. That is the answer."

According to the American Dietetic Association, ‘Excess body fat (obesity) arises from the energy imbalance caused by taking in too much energy and using too little ... Obesity is a complex problem and its cause cannot be simply attributed to any one component of the food supply.’

While choosing to engage in the ‘good food/bad food debate,’ the program overlooked some very important statistics that have accompanied the rise in overweight and obesity in this country:

  • Between 1977 and 1995, individual caloric intake increased by almost 200 calories per day, from 1,876 calories to 2,043 calories. Theoretically, consuming an extra 100 calories a day for a year can lead to a gain of 10 pounds.
  • At the same time Americans are consuming more calories, they have become physically inactive. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, nearly half (four in 10) of all American adults engage in no daily physical activity. Only about one-half of U.S. young people (ages 12-21 years) regularly participate in vigorous physical activity, and one-fourth reported no vigorous physical activity at all. On the flip side, one-quarter of U.S. children spend four hours or more watching television daily.
In other words, too much of any food or nutrient can have negative effects on the human body. The best way for Americans to combat obesity is to substantially increase physical activity while enjoying balanced diets and moderate consumption of all foods and beverages.”

For more information on high fructose corn syrup, agriculture subsidies and corn, please visit the CRA web site at and NCGA at

e-mail: [email protected]

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