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'King Corn' goes to Washington

(article, Curt Ellis)

The Henry A. Wallace Center invited "King Corn" to screen in Washington D.C. several weeks ago, and after doing our best to rustle up some clean shirts, we showed the film Tuesday night on Capitol Hill. 

Ian drove down from Boston in the old Dodge truck we had in Iowa, winding along the New Jersey Turnpike with the truck bed full of corn. The Capitol police seemed a little confused as to what we were up to, but we thought lawmakers 1,000 miles from Iowa might want to take a closer look at what all those farm subsidies are buying: truckload after truckload of yellow dent corn. 

"King Corn" is still very much a grassroots operation, so we spent the day renting audio speakers and setting up chairs . . . and the room was still pretty much in chaos when our first guest arrived: the Chief Scientific and Medical Officer for the American Diabetes Association. I snuck down the hall to put on my tie, and re-hydrated with (shhh!) a few sips of high-fructose lemonade from a soda machine. 

When start-time rolled around, the room filled up, the crowd laughed, and people from both sides of the political aisle stuck around for questions. We were especially happy to have two participants from the film in the audience. Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, came from her Washington office. And Chuck Pyatt, our landlord and mentor on the farm, came from Iowa with his wife, Hattie.

[%image "promo-image" float=left width=300 caption="Farm subsidies are buying mountains of yellow dent corn."]While it was a real honor to see congresspeople watching the film, there were a lot of people our age in the room, too — their aides. Looking around, I began to realize that in many ways those young people might be just as important to reach as the lawmakers they work for. They’re the line cooks in the congressional kitchen, the ones who’ll be drawing up the final language for the Farm Bill we’ll all be eating from for the next five years. And they know what it’s like to grow up in a food system fueled by cheap corn. With the Farm Bill due for a committee vote in the Senate next week, we’re very, very glad they came.

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