The Washington Post: The Post’s View: Congress’s Wrongheaded Approach to Drought Relief

August 5, 2012

Congress's response to the drought afflicting the farm belt gets curiouser and curiouser. By now it’s clear that the main impact is on the corn crop, about 40 percent of which usually goes to feed cows, pigs and chickens. As supply shrinks, prices spike, and producers of meat and poultry get hit.

The House of Representatives has responded with $383 million in aid to cattle producers, paid for by cutting back soil conservation programs. In short, the plan would bail out businesses hurt by the current natural disaster — at the risk of rendering America’s farmland a bit more vulnerable to future ones.

There’s a better way. Instead of handing animal producers cash compensation for higher corn prices, why not take action to reduce prices in the first place? There’s not much the federal government can do about the weather, but it can adjust policies that artificially boost the demand for corn, sticking traditional users like livestock with higher prices, which they pass on to grocery shoppers. We refer to the Renewable Fuel Standard, the program that requires blending 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into motor fuels this year.