Sunday, November 19, 2006

Will There Be Enough Corn?

The top story in the Sunday Des Moines Register questions if Iowa will have enough corn to fuel the ethanol boom and still provide food. The Register discusses higher farm incomes and the increase in pollution when taking land out of set aside.

The state's farmers already produce about 20 percent of the nation's corn. But they will have to grow a lot more to keep up with the booming demand for fuel ethanol and maintain affordable supplies of corn for all its traditional uses, from livestock feed to tortillas, breakfast cereal and sweeteners.

Iowa has 25 ethanol plants in operation, some of which are expanding. The state has 11 new plants under construction, plus a couple dozen on the drawing boards.

If all of those are built, Iowa farmers would have to plant an additional 8 million acres of corn - nearly two-thirds more than they harvested this year - to make ethanol and still feed the millions of hogs, chickens and turkeys produced here, according to estimates developed by Iowa State University grain economist Robert Wisner.
I have heard some people say that using corn for fuel is immoral with so many people in the world going hungry. That might be a simplistic view of food markets and distribution, but this article gives a glimpse at some possible problems in the future.

I feel the answer to this issue is clear...diversity. If Iowa uses all available land to grow corn, problems can arrise. However, if they diversify and plant switchgrass and other crops to make ethanol we will all be better off. Unfortanately, I don't know if newly elected Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey knows how to grow anything other than corn.

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