Branstad says folks being “bamboozled” about ethanol

Source: By O. Kay Henderson, Iowa Radio • Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Iowa’s governor says “folks on the east coast and west coast” don’t know enough about farming to know that ethanol plants are using “very little” of the U.S. corn supply.

Livestock producers last week petitioned the federal government to suspend the “renewable fuel standard” for ethanol, complaining that livestock farmers have to compete with ethanol plants for scarce and very expensive corn to feed their livestock. When a reporter asked Governor Terry Branstad about that complaint from livestock producers, Branstad pulled out a crumpled piece of paper that he’d been carrying in his pocket.

According to the calculations on Branstad’s piece of paper, the net amount of corn acres that went into ethanol production in the U.S. was 16 percent last year. And Branstad said ethanol production has declined by at least 12 percent since the drought. The governor maintained that a “small percentage” of the U.S. corn crop is being turned into ethanol.

“This is what a lot of the folks on the east coast and west coast that don’t know anything about food production (don’t realize): the corn that we raise is not sweet corn. It is not (for) human consumption. It goes to livestock. It goes to many other purposes,” Branstad said. “But the truth of the matter is they’ve been sold a bill of goods.”

More than 150 members of the U.S. House and seven United States senators co-authored a letter last week urging federal officials to waive the renewable fuels standard — and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Turkey Federation, the Meat Institute and other livestock groups have praised the effort. Iowa’s governor is siding with corn farmers and blasting the idea.

“We’ve just got to get the facts out and not let people be bamboozled by misinformation by people that don’t have any knowledge of where food comes from and how it’s produced,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “…I just think we need to do a better job of informing and educating people so they don’t panic over something like this drought situation and do something stupid like reducing our production of alternative fuels that have made a difference in reducing our dependency on foreign oil.”

Last week Branstad blasted “a bunch of east coast people” on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign for steering Romney to oppose extending the wind production tax credit. Today, Branstad said loss of that tax credit would stop the “momentum” in Iowa that has led to reducing the cost of producing wind energy “dramatically.”

“We’ve been working hard over the last several decades to try to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and have more domestic production and that includes renewable energy and Iowa is a leader in that,” Branstad said. “We’re a leader in ethanol. We’re a leader in biodiesel. We’re a leader in wind energy.”

Branstad told reporters he is trying to “talk personally” with Romney about the wind production tax credit extension – but Branstad will not attend the private fundraiser in West Des Moines tomorrow where Romney is scheduled to appear. The governor said he has appointments in northwest Iowa that were scheduled long ago and he plans to keep.

Branstad discussed these topics near the end of his weekly news conference. Find the audio of his remarks to reporters here.