Over at the ever-delightful Big Stone Bounty, Rebecca Terk writes in Farmers [Should] Do That:
Discussion over on Facebook this morning about a District 27A candidate who believes farmers ought to be able to drain wetlands because they pay taxes on them (read the full post on Bluestem Prairie) led to a critique of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s new billboard campaign: Farmers Do That.
The focus is basically the same as that cringe-worthy South Dakota Corn Growers Association “True Environmentalists” campaign, but this one’s a little more straightforward to pick apart based on the concrete statements the billboards make coupled with an observation of the landscape surrounding them.
For example, in eastern Chippewa County, an area referred to by many who live here as “the black desert” for its complete lack of ground cover except during the growing season, this billboard appears [see top of our post]
The message: Leave crop residue in fields to secure soil [Farmers do that]. Terk approves of the practice, but questions the reality.
A second story, New ethanol plants to make fuel from 'biomass', made us wonder what the take-away should be from messaging from farm country about ag best practices. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Mark Steil writes:
After years of being on the drawing board, the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plants are scheduled to start operation next year. . . .
One of the first cellulosic ethanol plants is nearing completion just 30 miles south of the Minnesota border in northwest Iowa, where more than 300 construction workers are building a facility for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels.
. . . Much of the biomass from area farms already is stored near the plant in huge piles, ready to be turned into ethanol. It largely consists of six foot high round bales of corn stalks, husks and cobs. Merritt said the operation will extract sugar from the plant material, and then ferment the sugar into ethanol.
. . . Leading the effort to reduce the renewable fuel standard is a coalition of groups that oppose the policy. Oil industry leaders say the standard is unrealistic because it requires more ethanol usage than there's demand for. Many livestock farmers don't like it because it's helped boost corn feed prices to record levels. Environmental organizations say ethanol-related demand for corn has prompted farmers to grow the grain on marginal land, like erosion-prone acres.
Is that crop residue that was left on the fields to secure soil? Is it better gathered and fermented for ethanol? Is the corn ethanol industry a bridge to cellulosic ethanol plants, as the industry claims--and if so, is hoovering "waste" after harvest a net gain for soil and water health?
Or is there just a piece of the puzzle that the corn growers and ethanol industry has neglected to include in their narratives?
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