By Doug Sombke, president, South Dakota Farmers Union
For most of my life, making a living as a farmer meant trying to make ends meet knowing that commodity prices were almost always going to be relatively flat, while production costs rose yearly. The price of a bushel of corn was stuck in the $2.00 range for so long that it almost seemed like it had been etched in stone and would never move.
But things for farmers and rural America in general, dramatically changed for the better in 2007 when Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a law that mandated that 36 billion gallons of ethanol be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply by 2022.
The RFS, in essence, created a new domestic market for corn, almost instantly increasing demand by one-third. As the RFS kicked in and large sums of corn began being purchased by the ethanol industry, corn prices responded in kind, doubling between 2008 and 2012. As corn prices rose, the prices of other major commodities rose, and it was suddenly springtime in rural America.
Both cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels have now reached commercial status and offer the greatest potential for environmental benefits, but delays in issuing volume targets have caused an estimated $13.7 billion gap in capital investment needed to comply with the volume targets set in the statutes that enacted the RFS.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to adhere to the RFS targets as set forth by Congress and not impede the economic miracle in rural America that is taking place right before our very eyes.