The latest is out from the Center for Rural Affairs. This November 2006 issue is particularly good, with several articles on ethanol issues. Also “corporate farming notes,” “top 10 reasons why small schools work better,” among other topics. It’s currently available here, but soon will be archived here. Some highlights:
Now is the time to ask critical questions and set farsighted strategies to develop ethanol production in a way that serves the common good.
High oil prices are driving a dramatic increase in ethanol production that will reshape agriculture and rural economies (see article front page). We need to steer it in the right direction. >> PROFIT – We should help beginning farmers, family farmers, and workers in ethanol plants become the owners. Keeping the profits in rural America in many hands will increase the benefit to rural communities…. >> CONSERVATION – If land is removed from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to feed ethanol plants, will the conservation benefits be maintained? There should be incentives to leave parts of fields in contour grass strips, grass windbreaks, grass waterways, and buffer strips…. >> LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION – Ethanol production has already contributed positively to the reemergence of farmer cattle feeding in states like Iowa, prompted by availability of feed byproducts. However, one proposed model for ethanol production would do just the opposite. Some propose co-locating ethanol plants with big feedlots and using the manure to power the ethanol plant while feeding the byproducts on site. Publicly funded research institutions should focus on developing models that integrate ethanol production with dispersed family farm based livestock production…. >> FOOD SECURITY – There is no direct tradeoff between hunger and ethanol production. Hunger is largely not the result of insufficient grain supplies. Nonetheless, extreme shortages prompted by increased ethanol production could contribute to world hunger. USDA projects much more volatile markets in which a severe drought could prompt severe shortages.