It was not a surprise that many Iowa Caucus candidates pandered to Big Corn and the ethanol lobby in the lead-up to February 1. For several presidential cycles, kissing up to King Corn has been considered a necessary part of the Iowa political calculus, right up there with visiting the State Fair. But this year turned conventional wisdom on its head.
All eyes were on Iowa this weekend for the Iowa Agriculture Summit, with speculation flying around whether presidential hopefuls would bow to the pressure of Big Ethanol.
Increased fertilizer runoff is just another unintended consequence of the Renewable Fuel Standard that’s doing more harm to the environment that good. As the level of ethanol mandated grows each year, more land acreage is devoted to grow corn to make it.
In order to prevent Americans from hitting the blend wall, the EPA proposed lowering the 2014 mandate. With this proposal came major political pressure from ethanol makers and now the EPA is considering backing down.
Approximately 40 percent of American corn crops are blended in ethanol. For poultry and livestock farmers, this creates a serious problem: the market price of corn – the necessary staple in animals’ feed – experiences unpredictability due to changes in the crops supply and price due to the mandate.
Agrichemical companies mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms are run by independent operators.
As conservation lands disappear, animal habitats vanish with them. Since the ethanol mandate went into effect, in 2005, the Corn Belt states alone have lost 2.8 million acres from the conservation reserve program. Over the same period, pheasant harvests in those six states dropped by 44 percent.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a Field of Dreams-like policy. It was created with the belief that if the government built a market for biofuels, the demand and technologies to support production would magically come, like Shoeless Joe Jackson emerging from an Iowa cornfield.
The corn-based fuel has long been subsidized by the government, which should rankle Republicans. It's worse for the environment than gasoline, which should irk Democrats. And ethanol has been shown to drive up food prices, because farmers are devoting more acreage to corn for fuel instead of food.
A Congress Blog post explained how the RFS effectively established corn ethanol as the “practical” fuel of choice for RFS compliance, and then proceeded to slam those who coped with the policy as best they could by making that very choice.
Iowa, the nation’s king of corn production, will have to import some of the prized kernels because this season’s dicey crop won’t meet demand, an analyst said Tuesday. A couple obig reasons: ethanol plants are returning to full production and livestock operations are growing and need more feed.
The chemical energy added to soil by intensive ammonia-based fertilization has been directly responsible for increasing Iowa corn yields by a factor of 6 since the 1930s.