While you're smiling at corn prices today take a deep breath and ponder this:
Picture this hypothetical situation.Ah yes, living and perishing by the sword of our own choice - the mandate.
It is early 2009 and corn prices edge up to near $7 a bushel as U.S. ethanol plants and Asian traders bid for grain that is scarcer than expected after a disappointing 2008 harvest.
Responding to protests from U.S. consumers, the livestock industry and Asian customers, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Democrat, takes decisive action.
Using her broad authority under the 2007 energy bill, she waives the requirement that gasoline blenders use 11.1 billion gallons of corn ethanol in 2009. Unpopular as the action is in the Midwest, it breaks the corn price and eases inflationary pressures that are playing havoc with the U.S. economy.
Granted, it’s unlikely. The political consequences would be far reaching. Midwest voters still haven’t forgotten, or forgiven, Jimmy Carter’s 1979 grain embargo. And such dramatic action would scare off Wall Street investors needed to underwrite Washington’s huge bet on “advanced” biodiesel fuels.
But it isn’t entirely implausible, either.
American agriculture still hasn’t fully grasped the extent to which the energy bill shifted power over the farm economy to a corner of the executive branch where “production agriculture” has limited influence. In a Democratic administration attuned to the concerns of poor urban consumers and environmental groups, moderating food prices and protecting soil, water and air could take priority over hitting the ambitious biofuels targets in the energy bill. [More]
While this possibility is pretty remote, I am not mentioning this for hysteria-engendering purposes, but to point out something I think is emerging as a huge responsibility for my farm and yours.
We can't have a small corn crop this year. And it won't matter if it's the fault of weather, either. After years of braying about how good we are and how everyone needs us, it is time to make good on those assertions.
This year we have to farm like the world depends on it.