Farmers must make marketing, planting and stewardship decisions that keep their operation financially sound and productive from crop year to crop year. Even more importantly, these decisions must be environmentally sustainable for the long haul. Let’s be clear. Farmers simply can’t afford not to take scrupulous care of the land that sustains their livelihoods.
Fact: Fertilizer use is on the decline. Compare application per bushel in 1980 versus 2010 — nitrogen is down 43 percent; phosphate is down 58 percent; and potash is down 64 percent.
Fact: Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline. If the oil industry wants to talk about the environment, let’s not forget the 1989 Exxon Valdez and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spills.
Critics also say the RFS is driving more acres into corn production. In reality, the RFS is driving significant investment in higher-yielding, drought-resistant seed technology. This is a win-win scenario to cultivate good-paying jobs and to harvest better yields on less land.
Fact: The total cropland planted to corn in the United States is decreasing. In 2013, U.S. farmers planted 97 million corn acres. In the 1930s, farmers planted 103 million acres of corn. Farmers have increased the corn harvest through higher yields, not more acres.
Critics contend the nation’s corn crop is diverted for fuel use at the expense of feed for livestock and higher prices at the grocery store.
Fact: In reality, the value of corn increases during ethanol production. One-third of the corn processed to make ethanol re-enters the marketplace as high value animal feed called dried distillers grain. Livestock feed remains the largest end-user of corn. When co-products such as dried distillers grains are factored in, ethanol consumes only 27 percent of the whole corn crop by volume; livestock feed uses 50 percent of the crop.