WHAM13 has just posted an excellent special report on Ethanol. Money quote:

Here are the facts: The net energy contribution of corn ethanol is debatable, the environmental consequences of devoting more land to corn are clearly negative, ethanol subsidies are draining the federal treasury during a period of fiscal distress AND we’re adding to the burdens of the world’s poor. Why do we persist? We need only look at agricultural-industrial complex to find the answer—agribusiness (which now includes biofuels investors in our own state), farmers (large and small), farm state voters and their representatives in Congress, and USDA are driving this policy. Consumers, both here and abroad, and taxpayers outside the farm belt are simply outgunned.

Ethanol is a great example of dysfunctional bi-partisanship. Food processing interests like ADM loved ethanol because they could build new factories to create it from corn. Farmers liked it because it gave them a market for their surplus corn. With the family farmer and ag industry on board, both Democrats and Republicans funded ethanol for years because it appeased two interest groups. It didn't matter that corn-based ethanol was a energy-wasting dead end. Now, we have poor people starving in part because of our decision that funding ethanol was a harmless boondoggle.

Yesterday and today, a couple of progressive blogs (The Albany Project and Rochesterturning) lauded the new Farm Bill because it includes big handouts for New York farmers. This is short-sighted. In a time when we're facing record deficits, both Republicans and Democrats have come to a Farm Bill "compromise" where interest groups loyal to either party get big handouts. Our children will pay for those handouts, just as we are all paying higher food prices today, in part because of similar ethanol "compromises" in the past.


Senator Schumer said: “This farm bill is one of the best things to happen to Northeast agriculture in a very long time. Our two biggest products–dairy, and fruits and vegetables–take giant steps forward under its provisions.


Besides providing important support for dairy farmers, the Farm Bill also helps fruit and vegetable farmers by including about 3.5 billion in new money for specialty crops programs. In addition, the Bill includes block grants to states, conservation programs, disaster relief funding, programs to combat pests and disease, including invasives like PPV, and funding for the Tree Assistance Program. The Bill also contains new programs to assist organic farmers, provide funding for organic farming research, and help conventional farms that desire to transition to organic farming.

Rotten-I don't see anything about Ethanol here, or even corn (unless that's considered a vegetable-but I think it's a grain) I also did not laud the farm bill, I just pointed out how it affected upstate and Schumer's response. I'll let people draw their own conclusions, but I'm not sure it's right to throw the whole bill under the bus for the ethanol/corn portion of the bill.

My point wasn't specifically about Ethanol. It's about how a bill that might do a few good things for farmers in our area contains a number of ill-conceived handouts for millionaire farmers who don't need them. The comparison to Ethanol is that our Ethanol policy of the last 20 years came from the same bi-partisan process where each side throws money at interest groups instead of legislating solid policy.

Chuck Schumer -- or any other politician for that matter -- will certainly cherry-pick the good parts of any bill for which they've voted. That doesn't mean it's a good bill.

Here's a Time article about it from last Fall, but this was just the first one I found. Money quote:

It redistributes our taxes to millionaire farmers as well as to millionaire "farmers" like David Letterman, David Rockefeller and the owners of the Utah Jazz. It contributes to our obesity and illegal-immigration epidemics and to our water and energy shortages. It helps degrade rivers, deplete aquifers, eliminate grasslands, concentrate food-processing conglomerates and inundate our fast-food nation with high-fructose corn syrup. Our farm policy is supposed to save small farmers and small towns. Instead it fuels the expansion of industrial megafarms and the depopulation of rural America. It hurts Third World farmers, violates international trade deals and paralyzes our efforts to open foreign markets to the nonagricultural goods and services that make up the remaining 99% of our economy.