06 January, 2014
From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.
Farmers in the United States are concerned about a possible decrease in the use of ethanol. Ethanol is a liquid fuel made from plants, such as corn.
Last November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed lowering the required amount of ethanol mixture in the nation's gasoline supply. The required use of ethanol in fuel began in 2007. The requirement was part of a law called the Energy Independence and Security Act.
The law established a Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. The RFS ordered fuel refineries to mix ethanol into their gasoline to cut the use of non-renewable fuels. The required amount was to increase over time. That requirement was good news for corn growers like Brian Duncan of Polo, Illinois.
He thinks the proposed changes will hurt corn sales. He says that after a poor harvest in 2012, farmers enjoyed some of their best corn harvests in 2013.
"As we look at the increased bushels, our inventories are gonna be worth $3 a bushel less than what they were valued at a year ago," said Duncan.
The price of corn continues to drop, from a high of more than $7 a bushel. A bushel is equal to about 35.2 litre of dry goods. Corn prices rose in 2012, that year the corn crop suffered because of a lack of rain. Yet the demand for corn in ethanol production continued.
"Four-dollar corn in this environment is tough enough, let alone $2.50 or $2.75 corn, which is what we could be looking at with another big crop, which is why we needed higher blend rates of ethanol," said Duncan.
Craig Turner works for the website GrainAnalyst.com. He says the United States is using around 9% less gasoline than we used in 2008.
"We can only use 10 percent of ethanol in a gallon of gasoline [before it harms some engines], and we basically hit that wall. So we can't produce any more ethanol; we have to stay the same, and if fuel efficiency even gets better, then the ethanol mandate could come down even further," said Turner.
Craig Turner says less ethanol is needed as sales of energy-saving automobiles increase. These vehicles, such as hybrid or electric cars, use less fuel.
"Every year we take older cars off the road and replace them with more fuel-efficient cars, we're going to be using less gasoline, so now that we've reached this peak in corn ethanol it's actually hurting farmers," said Turner.
But farmers like Brian Duncan depended on selling their corn to ethanol producers.
"We're happy for the market, but we have ever increasing yields, and ever increasing production capabilities, for ethanol, and we were kind of planning on the EPA following through with their increase and inclusion of green fuels," he said.
Years ago, the weather was the biggest concern for farmers. But these days, they have more to be concerned about. These issues include changing ethanol requirements, falling corn prices, and the lack of action in the U.S. Congress on a new farm bill.
And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Special English. For more stories about agriculture, go to our website 51voa.com. I'm Christopher Cruise.