STU ELLIS For the Herald & Review

In 1984, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for the Presidency, one of his frequent debate responses to Carter was, “There you go, again.”

It would prepare the listener for Reagan’s response that would instantly characterize Carter as trying to hoodwink the American voter.

And currently the American agriculture needs a Reaganesque retort to prevent the American populace from being hoodwinked by the agriculturally unwashed. The latter is frequently heard touting a food versus fuel debate and telling farmers to raise crops for food because it is not needed for motor fuel.

The ethanol and soydiesel opponents seem to be using inflation as the reason to turn off the biofuels industry, and totally rechannel corn and soybeans back into food to prevent food prices from climbing any further. It would be hard for any economist to demonstrate how a single resource such as food could avoid being caught up in an inflationary economy.

If the US economy was approaching a food deficit level, as many underdeveloped nations of the world are, US farmers would not be producing enough food and have some for export and use for non-food products.

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Consider corn. We will raise 15 billion bushels this year – 5.65 billion of that will be fed to livestock; 5.32 billion of that will be converted into ethanol; 2.4 billion of that will be exported to feed livestock in other nations and be a feed stock for their industrial products. About 1.5 billion will be left over, after seed and other US industrial demands are met.

There is nothing allocated for grocery stores, because consumers do not buy corn, other than two ears for $ 5 to feed the local squirrel.

If the 5.65 billion bushels were not used for ethanol, it would be part of the surplus, since there are not enough squirrels to eat that much corn out of the bird feeder.

Instead, the local gas station, that dispenses ethanol blends of 10% or more, is able to sell gas for less than one has to pay for a non-ethanol blend. There is a reason that ethanol blends are cheaper than non-ethanol blends and that is because ethanol does not cost $ 100-plus per barrel.

Although a close friend from an oil family will be angered with this column, oil is a finite element, and someday oil wells will stop. Corn and soybean fields will continue to produce biofuels. And if you have not watched, yields for both have continued to grow, acres produce more and more on average yearly, and industry invents more products to make from the surplus.

Yet, the grocery stores have not closed because there is a lack of corn and soybeans to produce food. Food is more expensive, whether it originates in a local farm field, or in the ocean, or whether it is grown in a microbiotic petri dish and molded into a “meat” patty.

There is plenty of food. No shortages have caused price spikes. Higher costs have resulted from the forces of inflation and get your high school student to explain that.

Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.


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