Enlarge Nati Harnik/AP
Stunted corn grows in a field next to a cattle feed lot in rural Springfield, Omaha, Neb.
We often talk about the "farm lobby" as though farmers spoke with a unified voice. And it's true, they usually try to.
an unusually bitter and public fight is breaking out right now between
the farmers who grow corn and other farmers who need to buy that corn.
There are two reasons. The first is the drought
that's killing corn and soybean fields across the Midwest, sending feed
prices are soaring and fraying the nerves of livestock producers, who
are wondering whether they'll even manage to stay in business.
The second reason is ethanol.
who raise America's cattle, hogs, and chickens never appreciated
Washington's infatuation with biofuels — especially ethanol that's
produced from corn. After all, when the government nudges more corn
toward ethanol factories, it means that there's less available for
animals. Last year, in fact, 40 percent of the country's corn harvest
went to ethanol production.
In good years, when corn is plentiful and prices stay low, no one complains too much.
bad years, though .... well, this morning, a coalition of groups
representing America's livestock and chicken farmers delivered an angry attack on the "Renewable Fuel Standard," which requires gasoline companies to buy a minimum amount of ethanol — 13 billion gallons this year — and blend it into gasoline supplies. The groups released a new study
that argues that this ethanol mandate does very little good: It
increases the cost of gasoline and makes the country no less dependent
on energy imports.
Even worse, the meat
producers say, it creates unfair competition for corn. The mandate
forces gasoline companies to buF