Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ethanol and The Dust Bowl

Lisa and I recently watched the Ken Burns' documentary "The Dust Bowl". It was very interesting, very informative and very moving. The stories featured told of the causes of that environmental catastrophe, the impact of the event on the people in the area and the fragility of the land. It featured a lot from Timothy Eagan's wonderfully written book on the subject "The Worst Hard Time" - I highly recommend reading it.

Today I read this article "The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama's Green Power Push" which details how the EPA, Department of Agriculture and the White House have pursued pushing ethanol as a sustainable biofuel, when the evidence is more and more to the contrary.

There are several things stated in the article that brought to mind the Dust Bowl, but this one really stood out to me:
Investors from as far away as Maryland and Pennsylvania have bought thousands of acres in Wayne County, sending prices skyrocketing from $350 per acre a decade ago to $5,000 today.
One in every four acres of in the county is now owned by an out-of-towner.
Those who still own land often rent it to farming companies offering $300 or more per acre. Perkins could make perhaps $27,000 a year if he let somebody plant corn on his land. That's nothing to dismiss in a county where typical household income is $36,000.
But he knows what that means. He sees the black streaks in his neighbor's cornfields, knowing the topsoil washes away with every rain. He doesn't want that for his family's land.
This is similar to what happened in the 1920s when the cost of grain skyrocketed and the government expanded homestead settlement programs. Investors from the big city or even out of state would purchase acreage or pay to farm someone's previously untouched existing acreage. The land hadn't previously been planted with crops because it was unsuitable for that type of farming. The huge increase in demand and price led to a boom of converting prairie land to farm land. Yet the fact remained, the newly converted land was historically known as not being suitable for crops. When the unusually wet years turned back to the normal dry years, the ground dried out and the soil began to erode and blow. When the drought of the 30s hit the former prairie lands, there was nothing to hold the soil down and it literally took off with the wind.

It would behoove us to learn from past mistakes and not farm land that is not meant to be farmed. It would be wise for our government to eliminate subsidies for programs that produce little benefit, encourage a misuse of the land and place us in a position that could lead to another environmental disaster.

In short, it would be beneficial for us as a country to learn from our own not-too-distant history.

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