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

InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybeans
July 16, 2014
The INTEGO SUITE System contains the first new, novel seed protection fungicide chemistry registered in 30 years by the EPA for protection against Pythium and Phytophthora. Read More
InsecticidesEPA Grants Besiege Insecticide Additional Approvals
June 18, 2014
EPA has granted additional registration approvals for the use of Syngenta's Besiege insecticide on sorghum, cereal grains and peanuts. Read More
HerbicidesArysta Touts Burndown Herbicide For Brome Management In Wheat
June 4, 2014
Arysta LifeScience North America recommends PRE-PARE Burndown Herbicide for effective brome management in winter wheat. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More