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AgMag BLOG

Feeding your mind, saving the planet >>

Outlook says corn, faster approval for GMOs

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today is the annual US Department of Agriculture Outlook Forum. The department announced projections for the next crop year with 94 million acres devoted to corn - up 2 million acres from 2011, 58 million acres in wheat, 75 million acres in soybeans and just 13 million acres of cotton. But how much of the extra acreage will come from plowing up conservation land that protects water, soil and wildlife while sequestering carbon?

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Today is also the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida. In his prepared remarks, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen asserted:

Government payments that are a function of crop prices—such as countercyclical and loan deficiency payments—have dropped from $11 billion in 2005 (the year the Renewable Fuel Standard was enacted) to almost zero in 2011.

What’s missing from Dinneen’s statement is that the drop in price support subsidies was accomplished by a government mandate for corn ethanol and an additional ethanol subsidy called the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit that propped up the price of corn.  And every year farmers growing corn for ethanol still get millions through the farm bill in the form of direct payments -- $800 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies just for this year.

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Table Scraps:

-       Bloomberg reports that USDA intends to speed up the approval process for genetically modified crops. This occurs even while some scientists are concerned that GMO crops could cause cell damage in humans.

-       Kevin Giles writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “More streams and lakes in the vast St. Croix River watershed have landed on Minnesota's latest impaired waters list. Forty-two waterways were added this year, bringing the total to 174.”

-       In Maryland, where excess farm nutrients flowing into the Chesapeake Bay cause environmental damage, a new bill would ban spreading manure on fields in fall and winter.

-       Grist’s Tom Laskawy asks if the airing of the Chipotle Ad at the Grammys scared “Big Ag”?

-       USDA announced a new highly erodible cropland initiative for the conservation reserve program.

Tweet of the day

@michaelpollan Just posted a cool stop animation video on feeding the world, & food's enviro footprint. p2.to/1ir4

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