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Karl Guenther Column: Ethanol using everything reminds Karl of "gobble" comment


Many years ago, as brothers Bill and Marvin DeWitt  were presented Michigan State University’s Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, they were, of course, interviewed.  Answering a question dealing with distribution of their products (poultry), Marv DeWitt responded with “. . . .we use everything but the gobble.”  The DeWitt brothers put together Bil-Mar Foods near Zeeland in 1938.  I didn’t ask the question, but I was among the reporters there, and I heard it and the response.  That exchange came back to me as I was considering possibilities for this commentary, and found my impetus in a report from the Renewable Fuels Association

What attracted me was a last paragraph, almost an afterthought, offered by RFA’s Geoff Cooper.  It was in the weekly ethanol production data for the week ending December 28th.  That last paragraph began: On the co-products side, ethanol producers were using 12.236 million bushels of corn to produce ethanol - - - and this is where it gets interesting, at least to me.  That paragraph continues with report of production also of 90,064 metric tons of livestock feed.  80,292 metric tons of that was distiller’s grain.  The rest of the livestock feed is corn gluten and corn gluten meal.  Beyond that, ethanol producers also cranked out 4.2 million pounds of corn oil daily.  That, I assume, is for human consumption.  So, to borrow from Marv DeWitt, I think it does no harm to remind ourselves that not all that now-expensive corn is going into fuel tanks of the big SUVs and Pickup trucks.

It’s also good to note that corn fed directly to livestock may be now taking a detour over to the ethanol refinery, but a lot of that corn, as byproduct, is still feeding livestock.  The ethanol folks, in other words, are using everything except - - well, I guess they’re using EVERYTHING!

The new Farm Bill - - if there ever is one - - will no doubt turn some new pages, with new information on them.  The one devised in the U.S. Senate, by the committee chaired by Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow spoke loudly about budget cuts, and about cutting subsidies.  Would that be fiscally painful for major crop producers?  Or specialty crop people?  It just could be that the higher prices going to corn producers these past few years because of ethanol demand will be a salvation.  Corn growers, and ethanol refiners also need to keep an eye and ear turned toward the Environmental Protection Agency. President Obama’s choice to head EPA in his first term, Lisa Jackson, has resigned.  EPA, personified by Ms. Jackson, was very much involved in the development of ethanol, and particularly in the development of E-15.

Presumably, her successor will follow the same general line - - but, ya never know! 

Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@charter.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.