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current edition

The Lady is Right

The ethanol issue is one that, as we all know, is not favored by livestock producers but is welcomed by farmers who grow corn or have farmland in corn country. Corn is at six dollars a bushel now, and there is talk that if there are any hiccups in this summer’s growing season, $10 a bushel may be the norm.
At present, corn is the main source for ethanol, which is added to gasoline for fuel, and all the people who consider themselves “green” like it. I’m not in favor of it, mostly because every time I write about it someone calls me up and raises Cain with me for being so negative. I have to agree with them – if I raised corn for ethanol, I’d love it, too. But I raise livestock, and ethanol hurts feeding livestock and makes the price of food go up, and those are two very important reasons.
I was surprised when I came across a press release from Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from San Francisco, Calif. Most of the time her votes in Congress do not reflect Wyoming’s values, but I realize she is her own lady and people know when they are on her bad side. In other words, she is a tough lady who speaks her mind, but good for her. She has been a senator since 1992, and before that she was mayor of San Francisco. Who would want that job?
But anyway, here is what she said: “If the cattle industry received the same government support as the ethanol industry, ranchers would get generous subsidies to raise their stock, the American public would be mandated to consume certain amounts of beef and most foreign cattle would carry punitive import tariffs.” She continues, “Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from such a triple crown of government intervention: its use is mandated by law, oil companies are paid by the federal government to use it and it is protected by tariffs. I believe it is time to end this outdated policy that is fiscally irresponsible, environmentally unwise and makes our country more dependent on oil.”
As a result, last month she introduced legislation to repeal all she dislikes about ethanol. Way to go, Senator!
It is badly needed legislation. In the year 2000, about seven percent of our corn crop was used to produce ethanol. In 2010 that number rose to 39 percent. Senator Feinstein does like ethanol, but wants to import the low-carbon sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, India or Australia and other democratic countries and stop imports from the Middle East. She is also in favor of cellulosic ethanol, as most of us are. Ethanol is a great product – just produce it from something other than the corn that is badly needed for food and feed.
“The cost of ethanol subsidies and tariffs outweigh the benefits,” says the Senator, and I agree with her. I never thought I would agree with a Democrat from San Francisco – hell must be frozen over.
Dennis