The AP News Service created a stir in ag circles earlier this month when it released a story that attempted to slam ethanol for causing increased soil erosion in corn-growing states. This report came out just a few days before EPA announced it was cutting the mandatory requirement for biofuels.
The report insinuated that the decrease in acres in the Conservation Reserve program across the country was directly because farmers were pulling out land to put it into corn. The assumption in the story was that higher prices and demand fueled by ethanol plants needing corn to produce the alternative fuel were causing farmers to decide to return acres to production that had been in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.
The facts show that there are fewer acres nationally in CRP, but it is because funding was cut which affects the amount of acres that can be enrolled or re-enrolled. There is no proof it had anything to do with farmers pulling out more acres.
In fact, in Indiana, Megan Kuhn, Communications director for the Indiana Soybean Alliance, says the numbers simply don't match up. The data doesn't substantiate a drop in conservation reserve acres.
Dennis Maple, president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, says Indiana is one of the leading states in the country in promoting soil conservation and soil health. It also has about a dozen operating ethanol plants.
"There are lots of examples of conservation, even in our area, which is fairly flat," Maple, Greentown, relates. "Some people are starting to use cover crops. We're not because we like vertical tillage, and run a vertical tillage tool in spring and fall."
Maple was puzzled by the report. "I'm not sure why the AP chose to do the story," he says. "Saying that ground came out of the Conservation Reserve Program because of ethanol is simply not true."