“Corn Saves America” explores agriculture’s role in environmental solutions, then and now
Podcast Origin Story
In August 2020, as corn futures prices approached $3.00 per bushel, the AEI team was regularly asked: “Is this a repeat of the Farm Financial Crisis of the 1980s?” It was an important and relevant question but nearly impossible to answer. History – or, more broadly, informed extrapolations – can be an invaluable model for decision-makers. However, history – like all models – can have many limitations. As Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself, but often rhymes.”
Last year, we recognized an opportunity to use the frameworks of history, economics, and agriculture to help decision-makers critically review the 1970s and 1980s and consider insights that are applicable in 2020 and beyond. Little did we know the world in early 2021 would arguably look more like the 1970s than the 1980s, but that’s for another day.
In recording and publishing the eight-episode season of the Escaping 1980 podcast, we had no plans for a follow-up. One and done. But as we reflected on the project and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from listeners, we regrouped to consider if we could, once again, help agricultural professionals navigate a sector-wide challenge by considering the lessons at the intersection of history, agriculture, and economics.
Corn Saves America
While the idea of paying farmers to sequester and store carbon in the soil has been around for at least two decades, enthusiasm shot off the charts in early 2021. President Joe Biden even mentioned farmers getting paid to plant cover crops in his April 2021 address to Congress. But the rush of enthusiasm has been followed by significant confusion and countless questions. How do carbon markets work? What makes a good carbon credit? And, most relevant to agriculture, what are the implications for farmers?
While it’s nearly impossible to know what the future has in store for carbon markets, there is a historical parallel we can use as a guide: ethanol. Just 15 years ago, ethanol was poised to help solve a set of societal and economic challenges facing the country. As is the case today, policymakers, private businesses, and farmers pursued the opportunities of ethanol while working to solve significant issues.
Ethanol and carbon are not the same, probably more like apples and oranges. However, carefully reviewing the history of ethanol can help us navigate the uncertainties and future of carbon and carbon markets. We aren’t trying to change opinions about either, but our goal is to wade into the details and nuances to help listeners be more informed about what we know and, perhaps more importantly, what we don’t.
This year, the AEI team is proud to announce the nine-episode season of AEI.ag Presents: Corn Saves America. Join us are we dive into the history of ethanol and consider the implications for the future of carbon markets. New episodes will be released each week.
We hope you enjoy the season and that it challenges your thinking. In many places, you’ll probably think, “This is way more complicated than I thought” – and that’s exactly why the timing for this podcast season seemed ripe.
A Few More Details…
- More background reading and every episode will be available at https://aei.ag/season2.
- Listen to both seasons of the “AEI.ag Presents” podcast wherever you listen to podcasts: iTunes, Spotify, Podcast Addict, or Podcast Index.
- Share your questions with us on Twitter and Facebook.
- Sponsors: AEI Premium
- A special thanks to everyone who has made this season possible. First, Sarah Mock, the series co-host and producer. Second, the numerous experts we talked to and featured in this season. Finally, the entire AEI team. It takes a village to pull all this off, and we’re thankful for everyone.
- More questions? Learn more here, or check out our media page.