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August 2009 Archive for Top of Mind

RSS By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer

Jeanne, Top Producer Editor, grew up on a beef cattle operation in Southwest Missouri and now writes from the heart of corn country in Eastern Iowa.

Land Use Change....huh?

Aug 27, 2009

Do you understand this land use change stuff?

That’s the question I'm getting from farmers, ethanol plant managers and even a major seed company representative during the Land Use and Carbon Impacts of Corn-Based Ethanol conference hosted by the National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis.
 
My answer is: Of course! Well, sort-of. Um, maybe. Heck, I don’t know.
 
It is a very confusing topic. The gist of the land use change debate is whether corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. for biofuels production is causing land use changes around the world; i.e. Brazil plowing up virgin rainforest to plant more soybeans to replace U.S. crops grown for biofuels.
 
But how do we really account for changes in land use halfway around the world? How do we know the TRUE reason behind a shift in land use?
 
Even the leading ag economists of our day are scratching their heads on this issue (read Land Use Change Tricky to Measure). They claim it is simply impossible to verify why land use changes occur.
 
“We are trying to measure the unmeasurable,” says Bruce Babcock, ag economist with Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD). “We would never really be able to verify why those acres changed production plans. Annual agricultural land use is flux, and largely variable.”
 
Interpretation: No one really knows what influences land use change. Farmers make planting decisions in the U.S. and around the world based on a multitude of factors (weather, markets, weed and insect pressure), not just one factor like increased biofuels production in the U.S.
 
What I do know is this: legislation is barreling down the pipe based on land use change, and it could impact how farmers produce food and fuel. Someone better figure out the answers to this stuff sooner than later…..


For More Information
Bias Against Biofuels, Summer Issue of Farm Journal

Foxes Guarding the Hen House

Aug 11, 2009
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the much anticipated peer reviews of the agency’s analysis for the proposed Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) rule. Now, some in the ethanol industry believe the EPA is stacking the deck against ethanol.
 
Why? Because among the peer reviews are several noted anti-ethanol activists, including environmental lawyer Timothy Searchinger, who helped develop the theory of indirect land use change (this theory predicts that using biofuels made from U.S. corn and soybeans causes a farmer halfway around the world to make a land use decision to plow up virgin land to replace feed).
 
“EPA has asked the foxes to guard the hen house on this issue,” says Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen. “By adding lawyers and advocates to a scientific review panel, EPA bureaucrats have made a mockery of the Administration’s commitment to sound science.”
 
Many of the reviewers have repeatedly and openly demonstrated politically-motivated biases against biofuels in the past, says Dineen.
 
“These reviews absolutely cannot be viewed as objective or unbiased,” adds Dineen.
 
You be the judge. The comments of the review panels are available online at the EPA’s renewable fuels standard program page.
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