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Ethanol supporters say numbers support the industry

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 11:32 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (MCT) — Proponents of ethanol have a four-letter response for critics of biofuel: “Bunk.”

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Des Moines-based Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, is among a number of vocal ethanol defenders leading the counter-charge.

Critics say ethanol is more damaging to the environment than politicians, including President Barack Obama, have let on. They say farmers rushing to get in on the rush to ethanol, have wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) pay U.S. producers to retire cropland in order to protect soil, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and otherwise safeguard environmental quality, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency said projected land retirement payments of $13 billion between 2008 and 2012 would represent about half of USDA conservation spending.

USDA notes that while CRP acreage was slated to get smaller, acreage in restored wetlands and other “high-value practices” is likely to increase. A growing portion of CRP acres, over 4 million acres in 2008, are enrolled via “continuous” signups that target more environmentally sensitive lands, such as streamside buffers, farmable wetlands, prairie potholes, and upland bird habitat. The 2008 farm act increased the WRP acreage cap from 2.275 to 3.041 million acres--just over 1 million acres more than the current cap.

So, the claims that ethanol is responsible for any shrinkage in CRP land is wrong, Shaw said.

“This is inaccurate rhetoric,” Shaw said, responding to an Associated Press story that claimed ethanol had caused 5 million acres of land to be removed from CRP since 2009.

“In fact, the 2008 Farm Bill removed funding for roughly 7 million acres of CRP land,”


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