US Agriculture bills, history and future

The US agriculture bill 2007/2008 will have a dramatic impact on the biofuels and food landscape the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has a very readable document looking at the history of this iconic piece of American Legislation.

I am sure it was behind this quote from Catch 22 (thanks to Webcurrent)

“His specialty was alfalfa and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. … He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap,’ he counseled one and all, and everyone said, ‘Amen.’ “

Bringing this back to biofuels. There are a couple of takeaways from IATP

Stunning growth in the ethanol market poses both threats and opportunities. The Farm Bill will help determine who will be the winners and losers in the fast growing bioenergy
markets. Ethanol has had a tremendous impact on corn prices and availability and subsequently has had a ripple effect on other crops and the livestock industry. Ethanol is helping to revive what had been a struggling rural economy in the Midwest and shifted the focus of the Farm Bill from exports to domestic uses of commodities.

There is no discussion about whether it is better to use relatively inefficent grain to produce ethanol or to import sugar or ethanol from the tropics where it would be cheaper to produce.

The IATP would like to see Reform commodity programs to establish a fair market price floor so that food companies, not taxpayers, pay their fair share to farmers.
Develop a renewable energy title that prioritizes rural development, supports local ownership and promotes sustainably produced feedstocks

It would be hard to disagree with either of these points. Whether we get them is another thing. What is sure is that about the only people not affected, even in directly by the Farm bill are likely to be Eskimo, but they’d be more interested in fuel from whale blubber.

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