The AP reported yesterday that, “Illinois
farmers launched a new public relations campaign Tuesday to improve
their image after research showed that consumers like farmers but have
doubts about modern farming methods.

“Groups representing corn, soybean and livestock farmers announced
the campaign at the Illinois State Fair. Representatives said they’re
particularly concerned about the effect movies such as ‘King Corn’ And
‘Food, Inc.’ – both critical of large-scale farming practices – on
public perceptions about food safety and environmental damage to land
and water.”

The article noted that, “The campaign financed by the Illinois Beef
Association, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association
and other groups is based on research conducted by the Milwaukee-based
firm Morgan & Myres. It found people in Illinois generally
look favorably on farmers but they question farming methods used in
large-scale production and the use of genetically modified crops.

“Consumers appear particularly concerned about ‘factory farms’ and
the idea that more of their food comes from a smaller and smaller number
of very large farms, the farm groups said.

“Less than 6 percent of farms nationwide – those that bring in more
than $1 million a year – accounted for nearly 60 percent of farm sales
in 2007.”

Meanwhile, Emily Bryson York reported yesterday at the Chicago Tribune Online that, “First it was calories, then it was fat and sodium. The latest health concern: high-fructose corn syrup, and the trend is accelerating.

“As the country struggles with obesity issues, ingredients in food
have been under increasing scrutiny, bringing some confusion to the
marketplace but also opportunities for companies as they try to
differentiate themselves in a competitive grocery store.

“Consumer concern has been getting a quick response from food
companies, as many remove high-fructose corn syrup from well-known
products, replacing it with cane or beet sugar. Downers Grove-based Sara
Lee Corp. is the latest to jump on board, removing the sweetener from
its two best-selling breads.”

The article stated that, “High-fructose corn syrup, the widely used
and historically inexpensive sweetener, has been getting a critical look
from food scientists and many American families, thanks at least in
part to books, movies and studies looking at why Americans continue to
gain weight. First lady Michelle Obama, meantime, has said that she won’t feed her daughters products containing the ingredient.

“Many medical and nutritional professionals, as well as the Corn Refiners Association, contend that all sweeteners are metabolized the same way.”

Yesterday’s article quoted Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn
Refiners Association, as saying, “‘When consumers are armed with facts
about high-fructose corn syrup, they often view food companies that
market products as ‘high-fructose corn syrup-free’ more negatively,’ she
said, citing a survey that said only 3.6 percent of consumers are
concerned about high-fructose corn syrup. ‘A sugar is a sugar, whether
it’s corn sugar or cane sugar.’

“It’s unclear whether any marketer has lost sales as a result of
removing high-fructose corn syrup from a product. However, some
companies have cited improved sales after removing it as part of a
broader overhaul to respond to consumers’ requests.

“Production of high-fructose corn syrup has been on the
decline over the past few years. And that’s putting pressure on the
corn-growing industry.”