Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is joining other ethanol supporters in criticizing an Associated Press story that focuses on the negative side of growing an increasing amount of corn for fuel in Iowa and across the Midwest. The report accuses farmers of polluting water supplies with fertilizers and rolling over millions of acres of conservation land, while destroying wildlife habitats.

Grassley, who has farmed for decades in northeast Iowa, defends the profession and the corn-based fuel. “Ethanol has been a bright spot in our American energy policy,” Grassley says. “For instance, I filled up my flex-fuel car yesterday for $2.39 with 85% ethanol.”

The national average for regular unleaded gas is $3.17 a gallon, and it’s $3.03 in Iowa. Officials at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association call the AP report inaccurate and misleading. Grassley agrees, particularly with the claim about so much fertilizer that’s allowed to runoff into our waterways. “You don’t put all those ingredients into the soil with the idea you want it to end up down in the Gulf of Mexico,” Grassley says. “You can’t afford that.”

He takes exception to the allegations farmers are poor stewards of the environment or are wasteful or negligent with chemicals and their conservation practices. Grassley says, “Farmers take all kinds of precautions to keep the investment they have in producing a crop or raising livestock to make sure it’s done in an economical way because they’re not going to be in farming if they don’t do that.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association called the AP story a “smear of ethanol” which “misrepresents” Iowa farmers “with a hidden anti-ethanol agenda.” Grassley agrees.

“You’ve got to remember that farmers drink the water, eat the same food as the city people do,” Grassley says. “They’re going to want to make sure that it’s safe for themselves as well as for everybody else.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal mandate that more and more ethanol is blended into our gasoline as the years pass. Grassley, a Republican, says, “Big oil is using its power and money to try to get rid of this Renewable Fuel Standard because it likes crushing its competition.” He adds, “Affordable and abundant energy is fundamental to America’s economic strength, economic security, and even our national security.”

Other critics of the AP story include U.S. Ag Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who says some elements of the report are simply “not true” and are “inaccurate.”