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Long Distance Corn


I was involved in a conversation a while back which I would like to share. Myself and 2 or 3 other guys were in the shop trading stories, when the subject of Walmart came up. The consensus was we all hated Walmart and its business practices, and avoided shopping there if at all possible. One guy then told about the last time his wife was able to drag him to Walmart to get groceries. Being a union guy, he likes to check products to see where they are made (buy American, buy union, etc.). He picked up a can of corn and looked at the back of the can, which said “Product of China”. Corn, brought halfway around the world and sold in Rochester, Minnesota, which is located in what I am pretty sure is the largest corn production region in the world, the upper Midwest. But wait, there’s more. The particular Walmart store we were discussing is located less than 400 feet from a huge Seneca Foods warehouse complex, which contains large quantities of locally grown canned and frozen corn, along with other vegetables. About ten blocks from this warehouse complex is the plant where these vegetables are processed, which actually has a water tower shaped and painted like an ear of corn. (This was a Libby’s plant before Seneca took it over.)  I get the financial aspect of this whole situation. Walmart would most likely not be selling corn produced in China if they were not making a profit doing it. That being said, it is still illogical, and a waste of resources to ship corn halfway around the world, when over a billion bushels of corn grown in the U.S. is exported each year. (See chart below.) If money is the only good reason for doing something, and there are several good reasons not to do it (wasted fuel and labor for transport, pollution of said transport, etc.), is it in the best interests of the planet and its inhabitants to continue doing it?


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