Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't Blame Ethanol

Don't blame ethanol for high food prices, lower gas prices, or the dead zone in the Gulf.

"Every year, nitrogen used to fertilize corn fields in the Midwest leaches into the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Experts say the fertilizer feeds a giant algae bloom, which eventually dies and settles to the Gulf floor, consuming oxygen and suffocating marine life. The area is known as a “dead zone,” and some say the federal government’s ethanol policies are to blame.

"There is a correlation between the increased acreage of corn being planted and fertilized in the Midwest and the size and persistence of areas of hypoxia off the Mississippi River, commonly known as the “dead zone," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico studies at Texas A& M University-Corpus Christi.

There is a false assumption that ethanol production is the reason that farmers in the Midwest are growing so much corn. It is much more complicated than that and all centers around economics. Corn production went high when crop prices soared, and corn was the best return on investment for farmers."

If corn is the highest revenue crop a farmer can grow, who can fault him for raising more of it?  Here, I find wheat and soybeans are very profitable in rotation so I let the corn farmers grow corn and I raise it when it fits my rotation.

If you can grow corn profitably, then grow corn.  If wheat or soybeans or another crop are profitable for you, then grow them.

It's pretty simple to me.  Why do we have to complicate the issue by pointing fingers>

E-85 is near $2.50 per gallon today and I thank our corn farmers.

Ed Winkle


  1. At the current prices E-85 needs to sell at the pump at $2.25 to have a p;rice advantage compared to $3.00 gasoline.
    For me E-85 has a 25% reduction in miles per gallon.

    1. I understand. On our 3 vehicles we lose 1-2 MPG with a 30% mix of E-85 and 87 octane so I still use it. Use it or lose it is my philosophy. Most vehicles do quite well with this mix. I think all vehicles should be flex fuel, they could do it for a few dollars more per vehicle.

  2. I don't understand these high corn prices, if anything, farmers should be rewarded by a higher price per acre for human food, not animal feed or ethanol. I still think corn is a terribly inefficient plant to make ethanol from, but regardless of its origin, every drop reduces car engine pollution a bit. On the global scale though, the pollution might not balance out, because of what it takes to produce corn.

    Talking about nitrogen leaching, there was a great TED Talk yesterday on phosphorus, and the role of mycorhizal fungi to increase phosphorus fertilizer assimilation by the plant from 15% (and the rest leaching in the soil and reaching grroundwater at least 80 years after being sprayed) to over 90%. Nothing new to you, of course, you already know that microfungi are much more valuable than black truffles to the farmer...

  3. They are not high this year, Chimel! Corn is half the price I sold it for a year ago.

    That is a good ted talk, thank you!


  4. Ed with out ethanol we would not have had the explosion in corn acres,fertilizer use,high prices and disintegration of the farm communtiy ...history in time will judge ethanol as one of NA dark periods .....too say ethanol doesn't impact food prices is like saying $4 gas doesn't make owning or driving a car more expensive-kevin in Ontario

  5. Great Picture Ed I really enjoyed the corn palace when in SD this summer. I would encourage everyone to stop and leave enough time to fully understand what effort is put into that place on an annual basis.

    Phil A.

  6. I would love to go again, Phil! That is one of the neatest things about farming I ever saw and we've been there twice.

    Kevin, I often long for the old days, it was easier to farm when corn was $2. Life was easier. You make good points how ethanol upset the apple cart and may have not been good for the small family farm but nothing seems to be. It really advanced the era of the BTO, the curse of the small family farm.

    I can't deny that but since it happened I use it or lose it, I can't beat it.