Farmers angry over proposed ethanol cut

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The federal government wants to cut the amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels sold in the United States.

Farmers say reducing the ethanol mandate would devastate midwestern small towns.

Corn already is selling for about half of what it used to just a year or so ago. Some fear turning less corn into fuel will depress prices even further.

When the government implemented a renewable fuels standard and mandated that billions of gallons of biofuels be sold in this country, corn prices skyrocketed and rural economies that were losing population started opening ethanol plants and providing good jobs.

Kevin Hurst is a third generation corn grower near Tarkio, Missouri. He doesn't want to see our nation put foreign oil ahead of rural America.

"It's important because we are trying to make a living on the farm," Hurst said. "When the price of corn goes down, our prices, inputs have not gone down. So it's squeezing our margins and when you squeeze margins you don't make as much money, and it's harder for us to make a living."

But consumer demand for ethanol is not keeping up with government projections.

"It doesn't recognize consumer choice," said Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute. "People want that clear gasoline with no ethanol in it. We need rule making that allows ethanol to be blended at appropriate levels, while also preserving consumer choice and the ability to get clear gasoline."

The oil industry claims consumers want 100 percent petroleum for small engines, boats and other equipment. Without cutting the ethanol mandate, the industry claims it will be forced to sell gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, which some say can damage cars and trucks currently on the roads.

Supporters of ethanol claim it helps keep the price of fuel down for consumers. But oil prices have been dropping with or without ethanol, in part because the United States is producing more of its own oil than we've seen since 1972.