Corn Ethanol: Food as Fuel Controversy.
Corn Ethanol- Corn for Food Not Fuel?
Even as another winter storm makes its way across the plains, through the Midwest and on to the eastern shore, the farming community is looking beyond this last gasp of winter and preparing for the spring planting season. In less than ten weeks farmers in every state where corn is a cash crop will be tilling soil and sowing seed.
The economics of farming get increasing more difficult each year as the prices of fertilizer, fuel, seed and equipment continue to escalate. Federal agricultural regulations require more attention than ever. The current Farm Bill was enacted in 2008 and recently extended to September 2013 to avoid drastic reductions required in sequestration; that, coupled with the demands of the Ever Powerful Agency aka the EPA, and you wonder why they still bother to farm at all.
But my interest in this annual rite has less to do with farming and much more to do with the use of maize in the production of ethanol. The droughts of the past two summer’s have driven the cost of food higher and if the overall lack of snow in much of the corn belt is any indication, summer rains may be light which will increase prices even more. Feed, one of the prime uses of corn has driven cattle prices up as well as reduced the overall population of cattle nationally. According to AllGov, (www.allgov.com) cattle and calve numbers are at their lowest since 1949/1950.
In an attempt to reduce foreign dependence on oil, stimulate the national economy and protect the environment ( now there’s a trifecta for you! ) the production of ethanol has become central to the worlds of agriculture, energy and environmental policy. According to a New York Times article published in February of 2011, jointly by Colin Carter, UC, Davis and Henry Miller MD, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 40% of the annual corn harvest now goes to the production of ethanol, making it the number one use of corn produced in the country.
The issue as I see it is a moral one as well as one that impacts the poor economic conditions facing the country. With nearly 48,000,000 on food stamps , the cost of providing groceries could be reduced if fuel standards were reduced, requiring less, or the total elimination of ethanol. By redirecting corn to traditional use as foodstuff, beef and poultry prices would decline and corn be made available for other forms of human consumption. Of course politicians from agricultural states , heavily influenced by the ethanol lobby might throw a hissy fit. But as the Carter-Miller article claims, the decision is one the EPA could make with “the stroke of a pen.”
The other issue of world wide hunger, just makes me irate. As we export military hardware around the world, in many cases to less than dependable allies, i.e. Egypt, would it not be better to make any surplus we have as a result of actions I have suggested, available to impoverished nations? Or to simply add to the worldwide food supply available at any price.?
Consider the implications and possibilities next time you burn gasoline on the way to the mall.