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19 April 2009 - A New Attack on Ethanol

I really must give credit to the opponents of ethanol for constantly finding new ways to attack the use of corn to produce energy in the form of ethanol; they are at it again.

Before we look at the latest approach, let’s remember what was happening a year ago right now when commodity prices escalated and food prices increased. When food prices move higher, we must find somebody or something to blame and in a matter of days, it seemed , ethanol became the center of blame. Because corn was diverted from livestock feed and human food to produce energy and cut our dependence on foreign oil, ethanol was blamed for driving food prices out of the reach of American families and causing hunger and starvation around the world. Ethanol truly became the Darth Vader of the Evil Empire, America’s corn growers.

A well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign was organized to cut ethanol production and convince the government and consumers that it was bad for everybody. What bothered me the most is that livestock groups were drawn into the fray and the agricultural community was divided; livestock producers against corn producers.

Now, the latest anti-ethanol move. A few days ago, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released the results of its study of the cause of higher food prices in the past 12 months. The CBO said corn for ethanol contributed 10-15% of the increase; 85% was caused by higher labor and processing costs and the sharply higher price of oil.

So how did a Washington reporter cover the story? The opening line of her story read “Because of higher food costs caused by using corn for ethanol, the food nutrition programs at USDA will cost taxpayers an additional $900-million this year.” In other words, because of ethanol, needy Americans may not get as much food assistance as needed.

The anti-ethanol lobby jumped on the story immediately and called on the government to reject any increase in the use of ethanol in the gasoline blend. Unfortunately, some livestock producers joined in the demand, again dividing the agricultural community.

A note to livestock producers...ethanol is not your enemy. Your attention should be focused on your biggest threat, the efforts of animal rights groups to totally shut down livestock and poultry production in this country. Their stated goal is to put an end to animal agriculture. We need a united agricultural community to fight this No. 1 threat!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.