ETHANOL: FOREVER A SCAPEGOAT AND CONNECTED TO UKRAINIAN UNREST

What’s next? Will high health insurance prices be blamed on ethanol?

What about your kids’ grades in school? Is that ethanol’s fault, too?

Yes, these examples are definitely a bit of a stretch, but seriously. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear it.

A recent example of “it’s ethanol’s fault” was when Trilby Lundberg reported that ethanol is causing gas prices to rise because there is unrest in Ukraine and Ukraine grows corn and the U.S. ethanol supply is primarily produced from corn and so ethanol is more expensive so gas is more expensive. Run on sentence? Definitely. But that’s the point. It’s like a game of 6 degrees of separation. In a desperate bid to be relevant to the news of the day, ethanol comes up in the same news headline as Ukrainian unrest.

It’s exhausting.

Want to know the real story? Jump on over to this blog at A Farm Girl’s Guide to Agriculture. Gracie does a good job debunking this myth. It’s busted.

As Gracie wrote, “…the United States is a huge exporter of corn. According to the U.S. Grains Council, the United States supplies 50% of the exported corn supply while the Ukraine provides a mere 5.5%. In addition, the United States will import zero bushels of corn in 2014. That’s right- nothing.

The petroleum industry is blaming this rise in gas prices on the ethanol industry. Because the national average for gasoline is $3.51 (as of 3/10/14)- which is the highest it’s been since September- it’s automatically ethanol’s fault. Probably because they want to increase the ethanol blend in regular gasoline from 10% to 15% [insert sarcasm here].

Guess what? Ethanol actually LOWERS gasoline prices! If you were to buy ethanol (85% blend) at retail, it’s about $2.89/gallon in central Illinois (as of 3/10/14). That’s compared to the $3.48/gallon gasoline at the same gas station this morning. So yes, ethanol is definitely causing higher gasoline prices [insert more sarcasm here].”

Tricia Braid
Illinois Corn Communications Director

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AND ON THE FIFTEENTH, WE GET NEWS ABOUT E-15

We couldn’t have scripted it better had this been the story line of a movie. Here on the 15th day of January, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied petitions for rehearing in the case of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, et al. v. EPA, which challenged the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to permit the commercial use of E15. Get it? News about E-15 on the 15th? Yup, we’re pretty easy to entertain here at the IL Corn offices!

All that legalese up above boils down to this: another court threw out the nonsensical challenges to E-15, a blend of fuel made from 15% ethanol and 85% petroleum based fuels. In the late summer of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved E-15 as a new fuel for cars and light trucks, model years 2001 and newer, along with flex-fuel vehicles.

In this case, there were those in the food industry that unsuccessfully tried to resurrect the worn-out argument that ethanol raises food prices. Although one can understand how someone might come to that conclusion based on so much bad information that is available on the topic, it doesn’t make it right.

Wasn’t it Mark Twain that said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Boy, that’s appropriate in the case of ethanol, for sure.

Here are some great points to keep in mind if you hear arguments against ethanol, its performance, its ability to lessen our dependence on foreign energy, its benefits to the local economy, and the fact that it’s renewable.

  • Without ethanol, gasoline would cost $0.20-$0.35 cents more per gallon.  That      translates into an additional $6.00-$10.50 to purchase 30 gallons a month. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2008)
  • The U.S. Ethanol industry accounts for only 3% of the world’s grain supply on a net basis, and none of its food supply. (Source: USDA and Renewable Fuels Association)
  • In the U.S., only about 1% of the corn  grown is needed to meet the demand for direct human consumption (sweet corn).  Less than 10% of the field corn grown is needed for processing for food uses.  Sweet corn, in fact, is consumed in only a small percentage of the world’s countries.
  • One-third of the corn that goes into  ethanol production is recycled into the food chain as ready-made livestock  feed, a byproduct called Dried Distillers Grains (DDGS).  DDGS has a higher protein concentration  than pre-ethanol corn, making it more efficient as animal feed.
  • Corn is not the sole food source for  livestock.  Up to 25% of swine feed and up to 30% of cattle feed is comprised of soybean meal.  94% of U.S. soybeans are made into      animal feed, but only about 40% of U.S. corn goes to animals.

1-15-13 pie charts

Braid Terry_Tricia  mugshotTricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: 2012 CORN EDITION

The good: Most of Illinois got some rain this weekend! Nearly 2 inches reported in some parts of the state.

The bad: That storm also produced some brutal 50mph winds, knocking down many acres of corn in the southern part of the state.

The ugly: Corn after the storm.

A few farmers are beginning to harvest their corn already. So far, there have been reports of yields ranging from 0-130 bushels per acre at best. ICMB board member Jim Raben has been hearing of yields between 0 and 40 bushels per acre in non-irrigated fields and higher yields of about 130 bushel in irrigated fields. On average, most southern Illinois counties are expecting a 50 bu/acre yield.

Yield isn’t the only number farmers are keeping an eye on. Early harvest brings with it the threat of high moisture ratings. Of those farmers beginning harvest early, the current range is 18-30% moisture. Grain elevators want to see corn coming in at less than 15% moisture, so this means more drying cost and/or premium reduction for these farmers.

If nothing else, this year has been a prime example of the volatile nature of being a crop farmer. No matter how much time, money, and work a farmer puts into their crop, the weather gets the final say in how productive a field will be. Last year, farmers were celebrating yields approaching 200 bushels per acre, and this year most are just hoping for their average to be 50 bushels per acre! Calling this a “tough year for corn farmers” seems to be an understatement throughout most of the Midwest.

Interested in seeing more drought pictures?  Check out our flickr page, here.

Rosalie Sanderson

Membership Administrative Assistant ICGA/ICMB