A Flawed Concept

Corn meal, Ethanol plant

Agriculture has been an unsung hero of the American economy for generations — an industry that is rooted in America’s very existence, going back to the Founding Fathers, many of whom were growers themselves. Farming built this country, and today quietly adds billions of dollars a year to the national economy.

At Growth Energy, a coalition of U.S. ethanol supporters founded last November, we see agriculture as our natural partner. Renewable fuels are a valuable market for growers, with potential for growth. And we see the productivity of U.S. growers as the key to making our nation more energy independent — and revitalizing our rural communities.

But agriculture and renewable fuels have many opponents. Both ethanol and agriculture were the targets of a multimillion-dollar smear campaign in the “food vs. fuel” debate. Big oil companies want to sell fuel and fertilizer to the grower, but don’t want the grower to grow crops for fuel. Some misinformed people on the coasts don’t understand the potential of biofuels like ethanol and would oppose an increase in the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline.

But nowhere do we have a more potent threat to U.S. farming than with the concept of “international indirect land use (ILUC)” change. If you aren’t familiar with this concept, the flawed theory is that any acre of cropland diverted to fuel in the U.S. forces a grower overseas to plow under a rain forest to plant their own crops. That doesn’t make any sense on its face. But worse, our industry’s opponents want to assess additional “carbon penalties” against biofuels producers and growers calculated on the ILUC theory. The provision to assess ILUC penalties against renewable fuels makers was slipped into the 2007 Energy Act, and has been considered by EPA as a part of the newly-amended Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

Meeting Low-Carbon Standards

The additional carbon penalties under ILUC would prevent low-carbon ethanol from meeting low-carbon fuel standards. This has enormous implications for agriculture because it would block demand for ethanol and strangle the market for corn and other ethanol feedstock.

Growth Energy is firmly opposed to assessing growers and ethanol producers an ILUC penalty. Why should an Iowa corn grower or an Illinois soybean grower be forced to make planting decisions based on the moves of foreign growers or the farm policies of other nations? This puts our nation’s agriculture economy and our renewable fuels industry at grave risk.

What ILUC really attempts to do is shift the responsibility for emitting pollution away from the polluter. ILUC’s position is that he U.S. grower should be held to account for the actions of a polluter half a world away.

Growth Energy is committed to finding a legislative solution to ILUC. Our association is working with key allies on Capitol Hill to introduce new legislation that would end any chance of seeing ILUC become law. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, amended the House Climate Change bill this spring so it would include language postponing any ILUC penalties until the completion of a thorough study by the National Academy of Sciences.

Our association welcomes the opportunity to debate this issue in the U.S. Senate, where we are working to see legislation introduced that mirrors the House bill. Recently, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) filed a bill that would have blocked EPA from using any appropriated funds to calculate ILUC penalties against U.S. biofuels producers — and won an important admission from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, conceding uncertainties about the science behind ILUC.

More Uncertainties

In fact, there are great uncertainties and outright flaws in the concept of ILUC. Growth Energy included many of these in the technical and economic modeling data our group filed as part of our comments to EPA on RFS2 and with the California Air Resources Board, the two major regulatory arenas in which we have fought ILUC.

First, the argument that we don’t have enough crop yields to meet both food and fuel needs is false. Average yield for corn is expected to double by 2030 — possibly as much as 300 bushels of corn from one acre. That is more than enough grain to meet our demand for renewable fuels as well as provide the food necessary without plowing one additional acre of land in the U.S. This year, corn growers are expected to produce the same amount of corn as two years ago on 5 million fewer acres.

Second, the architects behind ILUC neglect to mention the fact that most of the arable land planted in the U.S. goes to produce animal feed, not food for humans. About 6% of the arable land in the U.S. is needed to produce food directly for human consumption, whereas about 90% goes to produce livestock feed. Therefore, the claim that growing some U.S. grain for fuel instead of food is leaving others hungry and forcing new land into production in other countries is unfounded.

Third, a July analysis by Dr. Robert Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University, examined soybean and corn prices on the Index Mundi and data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He found no correlation between Brazilian deforestation and the price of either soybeans or corn.

Most bizarre in the thinking of those behind ILUC is the idea that only biofuel producers — and by extension the growers who look to renewable fuels as a market — are to be assessed with the ILUC penalties, not the polluters and fossil fuel producers. This makes no sense. This essentially says that biofuel production is not a sustainable practice, but converting land to new housing or cutting down the rain forest to harvest timber or plant tobacco (practices that are directly threatening the Amazonian rain forest) are somehow sustainable practices.

Getting Involved

This is a serious debate. American agriculture would be making a serious mistake to not fight ILUC with every ounce of strength it has. If ILUC becomes reality, it would mean an end to the U.S. renewable fuels industry, devastating a crucial and growing market.

Growth Energy looks forward to working with any individual or group that shares the vision of an America that is more energy independent. We want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing our use of domestic, renewable fuels such as ethanol. Doing so would revitalize rural communities, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and reinforce America’s economic and national security.

In my lifetime, I have never seen another opportunity for rural America like I see in renewable fuels. The opportunity to make America more energy independent by growing our fuel is not only a potential economic boon for farming, but it is the right thing to do for our country’s future.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More

Trending Articles

HerbicidesAdjusting To The New Reality Of Weed Control
November 4, 2014
Even with new cropping systems being readied for market introductions, weed control will remain a challenge for many. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More

Latest News

soybean field
Crop InputsABM Patents Microbial R&D Technique
November 25, 2014
Focused Microbial Diversity (FMD) is a newly patented technique employed by Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) to research and develop microbials that will be used in ABM products Read More
Crop InputsStorage Options Help Grain Growers Go To Market
November 24, 2014
While on-farm storage in a traditional upright storage bin is one possibility for storing grain, it may not be for everyone. Read More
Eric SfiligojGiving Thanks For Another Great Year
November 24, 2014
As Thanksgiving Day 2014 arrives, agriculture has plenty to be thankful for. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Cost-Cutting Program To Affect 1,800 Jobs
November 24, 2014
The company's Accelerating Operational Leverage program will result in job reductions and relocations totaling around 1,800 across the company, the majority of which will occur in 2015. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More