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USDA Secretary Not Worried about Meeting Ethanol Demands

Administration won't drop conservation acres for corn acreage right now, Johanns says.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said Tuesday that U.S. farmers should be able to meet the booming corn demands of the ethanol industry.

Meat industry and environmental leaders have expressed concerns in potential reactions to rising demands for corn from the ethanol industry. Tyson, the country's largest protein company, and other poultry industry leaders have raised concerns that already high corn prices will go through the roof as feed mills have to bid with ethanol plants. This week, Ken Cook, president of Environment Working Group, said he worried that Conservation Reserve Program land might be redirected to accommodate corn demand.

Johanns says 4 to 7 million idled CRP acres are viable for corn production, but stresses that corn production is at near-record levels. He also says that new biotechnology will help corn yield meet rising demands.

"We have companies out there telling us that they are very, very close in their research to having more drought-resistant, more pest-resistant, more disease-resistant corn hybrids," Johanns says.

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