Leroy Perkins is “a white-haired, 66-year-old farmer in denim overalls” who is “agonizing” over whether he should put the “91 acres that he set aside for conservation years ago” into corn production. That is according to an Associated Press “investigative report” on the environmental impact of ethanol being released this week that features Leroy and Wayne County Iowa where he lives.
That’s not the story Leroy thought they were doing when he was contacted by AP reporters in July to talk about “the county fair, along with absentee, out-of-state state landlords and of course, water quality.” During the course of the interview, one of the reporters asked him what he thought about ethanol. “I told them I was for ethanol, I believe in it and we use it in our vehicles and equipment all the time … because it’s a product of the land,” he said. He never expected his interview would be for a “story to put down ethanol.”
The AP print and broadcast story is scheduled for publication after midnight November 12, but a draft copy for promotional purposes was circulated on the internet last week and seen by industry stakeholders and people like Leroy who were quoted in the piece.
Much of the pre-released article is focused on making the case for how ethanol policy is “raping the land” by encouraging more corn acreage. “The AP article tried to paint Wayne County as a poster child for cropland expansion under the RFS but they … omitted some key facts,” said Geoff Cooper, Vice President of Research and Analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Farmers in Wayne County Iowa planted far more corn in the past than they do today,” he added, noting that 88,000 acres were planted in 1985 compares to 58,000 last year.
Cooper and the RFA have put together a Counterpoint Fact Sheet on AP story which refutes at least 16 direct quotes from the draft article and he says industry representatives have been in touch with the news agency. “There has been some effort to get these factual inaccuracies corrected,” said Cooper. “If the story we saw that was posted last week is the same story that gets rolled out tomorrow morning, that tells us the AP just isn’t concerned about running a factual story.”
The Associated Press supplies content to thousands of print, internet, radio and television outlets around the world.
Listen to the call with Leroy and Geoff here:AP ethanol story fact check call