What is in this article?:
- On Ethanol: There They Go Again
- Food vs. fuel
One of the great lines of the 1980 presidential debate between President Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan was the Gipper’s “There you go again.” There’s a reason why this phrase has become a political staple. Sometimes it’s just so apt.
And that’s the way we feel about our ethanol opponents. They keep repeating the same complaints without any thought to whether they have been disproven. We and our allies in American agriculture and the ethanol industry have spilled a lot of digital ink trying to set the record straight.
While we’ve treated it numerous times, let’s talk for a minute, again, about the phony “food versus fuel” debate. There are two reasons why we needn’t be concerned about ethanol’s impact on the corn supply and food prices.
First, we are growing more corn on each acre, thanks to technology in the seed and practices on the farm. And we will do so for years to come.
In 2010, U.S. growers reached an average yield of 152.8 bu./acre. In 2000, it was 136.9 bu. and in 1990 the average yield was 118.5. Some seed companies and others think we can reach 300 bu./acre, which has already been surpassed numerous times over the past several years by participants in our National Corn Yield Contest. There remains a great amount of yield potential to be explored. Informa Economics estimates that long-run corn yields will continue to increase, reaching 189 bu./acre in 2020. Applying that to the acres expected to be harvested later this year means we could see a corn crop of more than 16 billion bushels in 2020.
Second, at the same time, while the ethanol market has been our “growth sector” for corn demand, its growth is slowing down because we are reaching the limit of how much ethanol can be utilized. More traditional uses, such as for feed and food, have not been rising as quickly as ethanol, and meeting these needs has also been a side benefit of ethanol production, which results in corn oil for a number of uses and various forms of distillers’ grains for livestock feed. In fact, the ProExporter Network estimates that distillers’ grains will provide the equivalent of 1.2 billion bushels of corn livestock feed this year.