Can we please avoid corntroversy-style gimmicks this Super Bowl?

Our work shouldn't be an afterthought in a marketing gimmick, says Kevin Ross, a corn farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Kevin Ross, National Corn Growers Association. Courtesy: National Corn Growers Association
Kevin Ross, National Corn Growers Association. Courtesy: National Corn Growers Association

There are two Super Bowl commercials most farmers will never forget. One praised farmers in order to sell trucks. The other demonized farm products in order to sell beer.

I’ll remember both for as long as I live; Ram’s famous, "So God Made a Farmer," ad because of how Paul Harvey’s booming voice portrayed farmers to the rest of the world and Bud Light’s infamous corn syrup ad because of the way it trashed a corn product in a misguided — and apparently unlawful — attempt to differentiate.

As I look back on the great "corntroversy" of 2019, I see it wasn’t all bad for corn farmers. We formed a friendship with Molson Coors that continues to this day. We sparked a conversation about the impacts of misleading consumers. And we stood up for farmers who can be over-looked by advertisers.

Take for example, Chipotle’s GMO campaign which they all but acknowledged, back then, that they couldn’t deliver on, and the grain-free pet food trend which science says may not be so healthy for pets.

Representatives of Anheuser-Busch Inbev told us shortly after this all began that they never intended to offend corn farmers. I believe that’s probably true. But what that also revealed to me is they planned this without any consideration of corn farmers as constituents of their supply chain.

As one of those farmers, that’s frustrating to acknowledge.

We’re business owners too and all of us are marketers to some extent. We compete globally for markets and locally for assets like labor and land. That competition requires us to position our farms differently to stay ahead.

And we’d love to help your brands compete more successfully down the road.

Want to be more sustainable? We can help you do that. Want to be more local? We can help you do that too. Want to offer certain ingredient qualities? We can help you source that.

Ultimately, what we want is a seat at the table when brands make promises that implicate the entire supply chain. More than anything else, we don’t want to be a regrettable afterthought in another marketing gimmick.

On behalf of America’s corn farmers, thanks for listening. Here’s to a Super Bowl full of fun and football, one that’s free of silly food fights but full of advertisements promoting corn products.

Kevin Ross, is a corn farmer in Iowa and president of the National Corn Growers Association.

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