I am compelled to write in response to a recent Omaha World Herald report regarding the future of ethanol and renewable energy potential in the state. The report cited possible actions by the Nebraska Cattlemen's Association to eliminate the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), the ethanol tax incentive and the import duties on non-American ethanol. I strongly feel that the group's actions reveal a lack of any vision. Without imagination and vision in regards to our energy supplies in this country we will never improve our nation's energy independence, nor can we address current climate change concerns.
There are many of us that can see that vision, and what we see is an unprecedented economic and societal potential for all of agriculture as we enter one of the most significant revolutions in our 220 year history as a nation.
In December 2006, the Nebraska Cattleman's Association voted to support elimination of all tax incentives for ethanol production and instead encouraging "free market" practices in deciding whether a renewable energy supply can stand on its own or not. If there were truly a free market, without any governmental involvement in energy production, we might be faced with 200 to 300 dollar per barrel oil today! Current and past administrations have placed a priority on ensuring access to Middle Eastern oil at any cost including our children's lives. Hundreds of billions are being spent to ensure oil prices at even today's high levels. The Nebraska Cattlemen shouldn't think for a moment that the fuel they put in their trucks isn't subsidized. In fact it is probably the most subsidized commodity on the face of the earth.
The Cattleman's concern about access to cheap feedgrains is without vision as well. For many years they have been buying their feed stuffs at heavily subsidized levels, given the system of farm programs in place that encourages high volumes of cheap commodities. As a corn farmer and past cattle producer, I have no greater wish than to be profitable on a regular and long-term basis and to see my rancher counterpart be profitable as well. This scenario is entirely possible.
Cattleman need not fear for their businesses because of renewable energy. They will have access to huge amounts of distiller grains that is a perfect match for their operations. They will have lower energy costs and will benefit from the fact that grassland will be worth more as all biomass becomes more valuable, which is what ranchers produce first. In the end, anything produced on the farm or ranch will be worth more as the demand for our production increases, be it from the food or energy sector. Certainly we may be in an adjustment period which can cause significant pain, but rebalance will occur.
What we all must embrace is an imagination to see what is possible, and to reach out for it; instead of just hoping that some invisible hand will make it happen. If given the opportunity, that hand will most likely not only force us into greater conflict overseas in a chase for the last available barrel of oil, but it will also make sure that the free market moves our crop and livestock production to countries that have much lower costs than the United States.
The American Corn Growers Association was started nearly twenty years ago because some corn producers were not satisfied with the organization that represented them. Today many Nebraska cattle producers face a similar problem, and low and behold a new organization has sprung up, The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska. Possibly these two new organizations foster a new competition in farm organizations that will only make each one better. And possibly because of the vision of some organizations we may end up having more of our rural sons and daughters serving our nation by producing food and fiber in the Midwest instead of serving up bullets in the Middle East.