23 January 2011 - Here Are the Facts!

While the internet makes it easy to find a great deal of useful information; it also makes it easy to find a great deal of misinformation or in some cases, outright false information. Anyone can put anything on the internet and someone will read it and believe it without checking other sources to confirm the information.

Judging from my recent e-mails, there are two agricultural issues coming under attack by groups or individuals that have little or no basis in fact...the size of the USDA farm budget and why it should be eliminated to help solve our national debt crisis; and stop making ethanol from corn, the food vs. fuel argument. So let me steal a line used many times by Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet. “Here are the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

First, let’s put budgets in perspective. The Federal budget is three- trillion-eight-hundred-thirty-billion dollars. This is what it looks like in numbers - $3,830,000,000,000.00. The U. S. Department of Agriculture budget is one-hundred-forty-nine-billion dollars or $149,000,000,000.00. Yes, that is a lot of money, but it is less than 1% of the total Federal budget. Where does the money go? Seventy-percent of the USDA budget goes to Nutrition Assistance which includes the old food stamp program, now called SNAP, and other nutrition programs; seventeen- percent goes to Farm & Commodity Programs to actually benefit the nation’s farmers and ranchers; only 7% goes to Conservation & Forestry; the other 6% goes to Research, Food Safety, and other programs administered by the USDA. Just remember, the USDA budget accounts for less than 1% of the Federal budget; eliminating it wouldn’t even make a blip on the Federal budget radar screen.

Then, the argument over ‘Food vs Fuel’ is heating up again and several of you have told me about a blog that states it is absolutely sinful to take ethanol out of a bushel of corn and throw the rest away. First, let me say that simply is not true, we get a lot more than fuel and that’s why I call it ‘Food & Fuel’. Again, here are the facts.

From one bushel of corn, we get 2.8 gallons of ethanol, but as my friend, the late Paul Harvey would say “This is the rest of the story.” We get 18 lbs. of feed for livestock and poultry; we get corn oil that is used in many foods for human consumption and we get other products like CO2 that makes bubbles in your soft drinks and dry ice. No, we do not throw away the rest of the bushel after we make ethanol and that’s why it’s ‘Food & Fuel’, not ‘Food vs. Fuel’.

Thanks for bringing these stories to my attention and you may want to adopt my policy on internet stories, check at least three other sources to verify the information. After all, it is very important to get “the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.