With the 2007 farm bill on the horizon, speakers at the 2007 AgOutlook conference in Baton Rouge on Jan. 23, 2007, talked about issues the new bill may involve as it makes its way through Congress this year.
The AgOutlook conference had its genesis following the widespread drought in 2003 and has become an annual event sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Louisiana Farm Bureau and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Issues include the Conservation Reserve Program, payment limitations and extending the 2002 farm bill, said David Orden of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech University and a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
“We have to remind ourselves that today’s policy issues are not unique or new,” Orden said. “Extending the 2002 farm bill could save money.”
Orden pointed to ethanol as a fairly heavily subsidized industry, and those subsidies create what economists would call a “distorting policy.” Ethanol could drive up commodity prices, he said.
“If we’re going to be a major producer, we’re going to need more feedstocks than corn for ethanol,” said Jamey Cline, an ethanol plant feasibility consultant with BBI International.
Ethanol production is “a growth industry,” said John Urbanchuk, director of LECG, a global expert services firm that provides independent expert testimony, original authoritative studies and strategic advisory services.
Calling the ethanol industry “one of the most interesting case studies in American industry,” Urbanchuk said the benefits of ethanol production include renewability and its environmental benefits, improvements to farm income and reduced dependence on imported oil.
He also cited significant advantages to rural communities from ethanol plants.
(This article was published in the winter 2007 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)