In response to Troy Marshall's article on accepting ethanol (February 2008, “Should we just accept and adapt?”), I absolutely agree. While I know I'm preaching to the choir, having an extra direct subsidy for ethanol benefits one crop (which happens to be the largest acreage in the country). The benefits have good intentions, but the effect on many other areas is devastating. Byproducts are a wonderful option for feed, but will be priced as close to corn as the market can bear.
When the entire industry seems to be based on corn, the ethanol subsidy could be considered a cattleman's tax. Recent talk about a shifting in the industry to forage-based programs is excellent until you consider the price of land. Land that brought $2,000/acre just a few years ago has blown right past $5,000/acre. Where does that leave us? Extremely high overhead cost, extremely high inputs and shrinking margins.
The cattle industry has prided itself for years on its independence; a review of farm-bill proposals and mandates seemingly covers every single industry but cattle. Do we want government intervention? Absolutely not. Do we need some fairness in agriculture? Yes. The cattle industry is not going to just survive, it's going to thrive.
As markets reopen, the cowherd shrinks and cattle continue to convert forage, byproducts and industry leftovers to the best-tasting and healthy eating experience the world population wants and needs, we will move forward. It's clear, however, that the cattle industry has no voice and power.
Read more “Reader's Viewpoint,” on the BEEF Mailbag.