The Democratic candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, Francis Thicke, unveiled plans Wednesday that he says will make agriculture more self-sufficient. The Fairfield resident says when oil prices skyrocket, then plummet, it causes a whipsaw affect for farmers.
The cost of fuel and fertilizer triples, corn prices spike and then fall and ethanol plants go bankrupt trying to weather the storm. So, Thicke proposes a transition from farmer owned ethanol plants to farmer owned bio-oil production facilities.
“I would like to see us stop any state subsidies for new corn ethanol plants. Instead, we’d use that resource we have available for the next generation of bio-fuels development,” Thicke said. “That doesn’t mean I’m against what we have already. Corn ethanol has provided some economic development in Iowa and it has provided markets for Iowa crop farmers. So, we don’t want to see that industry implode.”
Thicke says he supports renewing the federal tax subsidies for ethanol but believes the state should use the Iowa Power Fund to invest in bio-mass. He says the perennial crops used in bio-mass, like switch grass and native prairie grass, reduce soil erosion and ground water contamination. Thicke also proposes the state create incentives for farmers to purchase mid-sized wind turbines that generate enough electricity needed to run the farm.
“Now, when farmers have wind farms on their land, corporate owned turbines, they still pay retail rates for electricity. So they sell cheap and buy high. So we need to look at how this process can be farmer owned,” Thicke said. In reaction to Thicke’s plan, Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey released a statement saying while he is hopeful for the next generation of renewable fuels, he believes it is wrong to abandon the current technologies.