DEAR NEW FARM:
I am on a 50-state road trip talking to Americans about environmental
sustainability. We have run into many conflicting opinions
about whether or not growing crops for fuel is a good idea.
There are questions about:
- the viability of growing enough crops for the amount of
fuel that America requires (especially if the CAFE standards
do not decrease);
- the likelihood of farmers switching to fuel crops due
to subsidies and creating a food deficit; and,
- those same farmers caring little about what kind of herbicides/pesticides
they are putting into the soil to get a better yield for
I think this is a really important issue in this country,
especially as water is running low in many areas and population
is always increasing steadily. I want to be able to address
this issue when asked about it - so that I can at least send
people in the right direction for really honest, true-cost
There certainly are a lot of conflicting opinions surrounding
the ethanol issue. We hope that you’ll find the following
articles to be helpful: Turning
crops to ethanol fuel: on the road to energy independence,
clean energy for profit, Corn
ethanol takes more energy than it makes, Pursuing
a new vision for agricultural policy, U.S.
corn exports to drop dramatically due to ethanol growth
high corn prices create ripple effect that touches organic
grain outlook. There’s also this New Farm Reader
Mail from September, Is
it profitable for me to grow corn for ethanol?
One concern within the sustainable farming community is that
farmers are taking marginal lands out of conservation programs
and planting them in corn to get in on the “gold rush.”
And we believe corn-based ethanol is just that. Where will
these farmers be three to five years down the road when the
bottom falls out? At the very least, they’ll be out
a lot of valuable organic matter. This has global warming
implications as well, both because organic matter stores carbon
and because conventional corn requires vast amounts of synthetic
nitrogen (which requires natural gas to produce).
For another word or two on the subject, please read (or reread)
New Farm Managing Editor
Greg Bowman’s Editor's
Note from our September 2007 newsletter.
We hope this helps further your discussion. Thank you for
your good work, and thanks for reading New Farm.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.