The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Illinois Farmers Reaping What They Sow, Seriously

By Timmy Watson in News on Mar 31, 2007 9:48PM

Were you aware that our state is the 2nd largest corn producer in the United States? According to Chicago Public Radio, the price of corn has doubled since this time last year and Illinois farmers are taking full advantage of it. Chris Gould, an Illinois farmer profiled in the story, said that normally during harvest season the price starts to drop and farmers are paid to hang on to the corn until the buyers need more. This year, he said, the prices have stayed up and the corn keeps going out of the door.

Corn, for the most part, is in high demand due to the increasing use of Ethanol. Ethanol, which has many uses, can be used as a motor fuel and fuel additive. Per unit volume, Ethanol burns at 30% less energy than gasoline. While the country trends towards conservation and environmental awareness politicians are pushing for more Ethanol use. In addition to conservation, the public consistently hears talk of Ethanol and corn use prior to a Presidential primaries. 07_03_31_corn.jpegIowa, who is number one in corn production, is usually the decider of which Presidential contender will win his or her party's primary. The Iowa caucus, set for January 14th, selects delegates for the national conventions and those delegates pledge support for a particular candidate. Corn is the economic anchor of Iowa, candidates who come out in strong support of Ethanol are more likely to receive a pledge of support. Once a candidate is supported in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the rest of the states traditionally follow. Zogby held a poll in Iowa in January (that's right, a full year before the caucus and almost two years prior to the election, but we love it) which showed that John Edwards for the Democratic Party and Rudy Giuliani for the Republican Party are leading. Both candidates have come been strong supporters of the use of Ethanol. Barack Obama, with 17% in the poll, is second to Edwards. All three men have praised the use of Ethanol and encouraged the construction of new ethanol plants. Hillary Clinton recently reversed her long held opposition to ethanol production, she was fourth in the poll.

The controversy surrounding ethanol production, which is rarely talked about by Presidential candidates, is the energy returned on energy factor. The energy that is consumed in the production of ethanol is just about the same amount of energy that is used by the product. Strictly focusing on opening more ethanol plants as opposed to researching new ways of conserving energy may not best serve the country. Regardless of the lack of debate by Presidential hopefuls on the use of ethanol, we are happy for our farmers in Illinois. For so long the cost of producing corn didn't pay off for them, finally they can reap what they sow.