A lot of people are hanging their hats on the growth and production of ethanol to replace the United States' reliance on foreign oil. Of course, it's deep into the future, if ever, before we'll see substantial results.
A national survey recently found that given some "relevant information about ethanol" their interest to purchase increased by nearly 20 percent. Of course, the relevant information came from the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. While it undoubtedly was accurate information, it just might have been a bit limited in scope.
Among the survey's findings: a majority of Americans reject the food versus fuel debate concerning ethanol. Only 10 percent of respondents agreed with the argument that using corn for ethanol will limit the food supply.
“From our research It appears that consumers are taking a very common sense approach to food versus fuel,” says Tom Slunecka, executive director for EPIC. “When explained how agriculture and the production of corn is advancing in this country, few people feel there is any concern of a loss of the availability of food or fiber to consumers.”
Of course, the livestock sector, which is already feeling a significant pinch, has a different perspective. Discussions are surfacing that 10 percent to 20 percent of pork producers could end up walking away from pork production. That's likely to come from what's typically referred to as "mid-sized, family operations." Large production systems will get some relief from buying power, but they are not immune to price pressures that are sure to deepen.
The survey showed that "ethanol’s impact on the economy and the environment struck a chord with respondents." A strong majority — 61 percent — considered it a positive that ethanol benefits the American economy. Fifty-eight percent believe that ethanol-enriched gasoline is better for the environment than standard gasoline, which they cited as ethanol's most relevant benefit.
Of course there will be a lot of growing pains as all sectors of agriculture sort through the impact, benefits and limitations of ethanol production. Certainly, it's good to know what consumers think about the prospects, but their knowledge about the potential yin and yang of agriculture does not run deep enough to provide much comfort — or insight.