As far as the eye can see (
by Dan Burns
Aug 24, 2020, 6:00 PM

Trump has screwed farmers in Minnesota, and elsewhere, big time

You probably saw, not long ago, that corn farmers are going to lose money, again, despite great yields. That was before the mega-windstorm hit Iowa, and wiped out some of that state’s projected crop. You’d think that would have made a difference, because, supply and demand, right? Actually, futures didn’t move much. The “supply” part of the aforementioned is in fact massive built-in oversupply, because that’s how Big Ag wants it.

(I had occasion, last week, to drive the back roads between Princeton and St. Cloud, and the many corn fields that I passed did look bountiful. The area also happens to be part of what some of us still call “Bachmann Country,” and there were indeed Trump signs and flags here and there, though not many. Which is not a significant data point, in any case.)

Also, as far as the efforts of the greatest dealmaker of all time go:

China bought less than one-fourth of its promised $36.6 billion yearly U.S. agriculture import target in the first half of 2020, China customs data showed…

“Fulfilling the agreement at this late stage of the year will be difficult, but not impossible,” S&P Global Platts analyst Peter Meyer said in an email. “It would appear by recent comments, that the U.S. administration has resigned itself to the possibility that the deal may not get fulfilled.

Don’t pay much attention to the contrived happy talk that makes up the bulk of that article, if you want any advice from me. Believe it if you see it. And bear in mind that, except for more handouts to the super-rich, Trump has delivered on nothing that he’s promised.

Of course the #1 immediate problem is the pandemic, or more precisely the Trump administration’s and the U.S. Senate’s pitiably incompetent, corrupt reaction to it. But the biggest problem overall remains U.S. federal ag policy, beloved of electeds of both parties.

A worthy first step toward a fix would be to start phasing out ethanol as fuel, now. None of the following is my brainstorm. It’s all been out there for a while.

The whole idea has been a farce from the beginning. It takes way more energy to produce ethanol, than it produces. (If you do a search, and read some stuff, you’ll find legitimate research from actual scientists proving that, and superficial tripe from industry flacks and others “proving” otherwise. Trust me, on that.) And despite all the drivel about ethanol being key to our “energy independence,” the U.S. still imports vast quantities of crude, even as it purportedly became a “net exporter” sometime last year.

Estimates vary somewhat, but I’m going with that about 35% of the U.S. corn crop goes for ethanol fuel. As ethanol is phased out over, say, five years, or better yet less, that land should mostly be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and at a considerably higher rate of compensation than is currently the case. Our insane military budget would be the place to go, to pay for that.

35% less corn means 35% less fertilizer, herbicide, and insecticide use than is currently the case for corn in this country. I’m aware that that would mean a corresponding reduction in the gross revenues of companies that make and sell that shit. In a word, tough.

(The above is of course just a partial outline. Things in the real world are always more messy and complicated. The real key is to have intelligent people, ready and able to handle the unexpected and not just in it for themselves, in charge. That is unfortunately all-too-rare.)

And instead of rarely being off of their tractors, combines, and so on, practically every damn day, sunup to sundown, from Easter to Thanksgiving, many farmers could actually, you know, have lives. That would be some real change for the better.

Comment from Steve Timmer: Regarding the production of ethanol:

The whole idea has been a farce from the beginning. It takes way more energy to produce ethanol, than it produces.

And never mind the stupidity of taking all of that topsoil and blowing it out our tailpipes.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.