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Katie Pinke

Corn farmers and vegans are both upset this week

What do corn farmers and vegans have in common this week? They were both upset with commercials during the Super Bowl.

Corn farmers are upset with Bud Light's "no corn syrup" ads, insinuating corn syrup in beer is a bad thing. Vegans and PETA didn't like Hyundai's "Elevator" car shopping ad referencing a vegan dinner party with a "beet loaf."

I laughed out loud at the Hyundai ad. I reacted as an agriculturalist to the Bud Light ad and knew instantly corn farmers were going to be ticked and react.

The most boring Super Bowl of my lifetime had me jumping on Twitter to see the agriculture reaction. Then, my Facebook feed lit up with farmer reaction. Clearly, I am not connected to many vegans because I had to read news articles to find their reactions.

To me, the bottom line is, if you want to be mad you can always find something to be mad about. There are often brands that portray conventional agriculture negatively and I can choose to not support them. The world is full of reasons to be angry. I choose to not spend my energy being too upset about a Super Bowl commercial.

If you are a corn farmer and you were mad at Bud Light because they said there's no corn syrup in their beer, you get to be upset at how it was portrayed negatively. However, if you are a barley farmer contracting barley with Anheuser-Busch that makes Bud Light, you probably already know there is no corn syrup in their beer. Barley, rice, and hops are in Bud Light is what I thought.

We need to remember: this is marketing. This is advertising. Good advertising is risky.

I called my barley and corn farmer father. For full disclosure, my dad has contracted barley with Anheuser Busch to make Bud Light and other Budweiser beers for decades and is the only farmer I know who has a graduate degree in communications and previously owned an advertising agency. His perspective on agriculture and advertising is unique and one I greatly value.

My dad reminded me for the first time in as long we can remember that there were no Clydesdales in a Super Bowl commercial. Bud Light reframed the conversation. It might not be a conversation the mainstream agriculture community liked but we are not their target audience. I think the millennials who love labels were the target audience. And Bud Light needs to compete with the craft beers the millennials are drinking.

Corn syrup in beer? Did anyone care before? I don't think so. It makes zero difference in the taste of beer. Ask a brewer. Personally, I love corn syrup. It's an affordable, safe sweetener and my favorite way to use it is in pecan pie. But if you want it in your beer, drink up.

Bud Light's marketing worked. They're being talked about in mainstream media, in this little column and getting a lot of social media attention. Hyundai's commercial worked too because for the first time in, maybe ever, they are a car brand being discussed long after the Super Bowl. The vegan and PETA reaction directed more traffic to their ad. It still makes me laugh and, more than likely, they are more top of mind with potential car buyers.

The post-Super Bowl corn syrup reaction reminded me of a lesson I learned a long time ago: promote what you love rather than promote what you hate. If you want to create a social media fire, pour more gasoline on the fire by talking about boycotting Bud Light. If you want to put water on a social media fire, share about raising corn to produce ethanol. Share why more of us should be filling our vehicles with E85 or why we should get the E15 mandate done.

I'm not a beer connoisseur but I know enough to know all beer uses agriculture products. I love agriculture and all types of farmers.

Barley makes beer. Rice makes beer. Hops make beer. If corn syrup helps makes beer, that's great too. To celebrate corn farmers, I put E15, E30 or E85 into my gas tank any time I can. It's my way of promoting what I love, farmers and agriculture products.