Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack downplayed the effect of the drought on this year’s corn harvest during his keynote address today at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference in Omaha.
Vilsack said United States farmers have positioned themselves well to weather the effect of a drought that has spread over nearly the entire Corn Belt. Vilsack said the country is as prepared as it can be to suffer through the extreme dry and hot conditions of the summer of 2012.
“Fortunately, we planted nearly five million additional acres of corn. So, as a result of this, even with the drought, even with the challenges, even with the difficulties, we’re looking at the 8th largest corn crop in the history of this country,” Vilsack stated.
Some livestock groups have been expressing a growing concern that the requirement that a certain amount of the corn crop be set aside for ethanol production would greatly increase feed prices. The latest United States Drought Monitor map indicates conditions continue to deteriorate in Nebraska, which has been able to fight off some effects of the drought through irrigation.
So far, the Obama Administration has resisted any efforts to waive the production requirements for corn-based ethanol. Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005 and expanded it two years later. RFS requires that 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol be produced this year from corn.
Vilsack told the conference the ethanol industry deserves support, even in a time of drought.
“So whether it’s diversifying our fuel supply from a national security perspective, helping to create jobs, giving consumers choice and savings, developing new income sources for farmers or reducing our reliance on foreign oil; when you take a look at the total package, this is an industry that is worth supporting,” Vilsack stated.
The USDA has announced that the corn production forecast is 17% below original projections. The soybean harvest is projected to be the lowest since 2003.