Sunday, April 10, 2016

Corn and CAFOs Harm Lake Erie

An alternative to the corn-manure-phosphorus-algae cycle that plagues Lake Erie and other water bodies 

Critics who have studied the matter closely say that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal and state agencies with a corn-crazy agenda depend on unreliable data to justify continuing massive farm subsidies for corn production.

Most corn grown in the U.S. is used (1) to produce ethanol to supplement gasoline as fuel for automobiles and (2) to feed cattle, hogs and poultry.

Now that the U.S. is approaching energy independence (domestic oil and gas, solar, wind, etc.), there is less justification to distill ethanol from corn and every reason to produce ethanol in the near- and mid-term from a perennial like switchgrass, which saves the expense of annual plowing and planting. Switchgrass is suitable fodder for cattle, as well.

The grass soaks up phosphorus remaining in the soil from excessive fertilization of corn and bean crops. Its perennial nature and deep roots inhibit soil erosion.

The premier of Ontario and the governors of Michigan and Ohio together have pledged to reduce the phosphorus in the western Lake Erie basin by 40% in 10 years. That won't happen without a dramatic change in agronomy, especially in the Maumee River watershed.

What switchgrass can’t compete against is the full array of corn subsidies.

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