Does the nation value wildlife and environmental protection more than ethanol and meat producers? So asked an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Sunday.
A continuing claim of the anti-ethanol bunch is that the pressure to grow more corn for food and fuel would lead to using environmentally fragile land for crops. They point to the 36 million acres in the federal Conservation Reserve Program as an easy target.
So far, it’s not happening.
Last spring, as crop prices climbed, the Department of Agriculture surveyed growers whose CRP contracts were set to expire over the next three years. They asked whether the growers intended to re-enroll their land or put it back into production. “The percentage of landowners choosing to remain in CRP is consistent with what we have seen in the past, despite speculation that re-enrollment would drop significantly due to high corn prices,” the department said.
On Friday. Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced there will be no early release from current CRP contracts. “The potential exists for increased double-cropping and the planting of fallow ground,” Conner explained in a news release. “Overall, I expect that market signals will continue to provide adequate acres…”
In other words, both growers and the secretary believe there’s enough land in production to continue to meet the need for food and fuel – just as farmers have said all along. Farmers know better than to sacrifice environmentally sensitive land for a quick profit.
Too bad the Times-Picayune isn’t reporting that. Instead the paper has chosen to focus on the Conner’s statement earlier last week that he was considering early release from CRP contracts. Over the years growers have shown an amazing talent for continuing to produce more on fewer acres. This year was no exception. Next year, they’ll be challenged again, and we’re confident they’ll continue to meet the challenge.