Ethanol is homegrown patriotism

Farm Forum

On several occasions over the past several months, our patriotism has been challenged. In a “Letter to the Editor” in the Watertown Public Opinion late last fall, a writer from Iowa disputed my statements about whether our country’s need to be involved in the Middle East is related to the free flow of oil. In a similar instance more recently, an elected state Representative let us know that he was offended by the billboard placed along I-90 in western South Dakota on our behalf by the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association. The message on the billboard depicts a uniformed soldier with the phrase, “I Don’t Have to Fight for Cornfields… Use Ethanol”.

The gentlemen from Iowa attempted to correct my “short memory and misunderstanding” that our military presence in the Middle East is not about the free flow of oil, rather, it is about freedom for the oppressed and a response to the 9/11 attacks. He went on to state that Afghanistan doesn’t produce oil and is in no position to affect the free flow of oil. While I cannot disagree with the last statement, I will challenge his failure to recognize that the free flow of oil is not a major part of the problem. Although I do not consider myself a geopolitical expert, it is my belief (as well as that of our industry) that our heavy and continued dependence upon foreign oil from unfriendly locales brings us too close to those parts of the world and, from that, springs hatred for both the American way of life and the freedoms we enjoy and promote. This gentleman also alleges that I have failed “to recognize the service of America’s best citizens for what it is: voluntary sacrifice to maintain freedom from international terrorists and to protect our many vital interests around the world”. Wait a minute… did he really admit that our military is sent to “protect our many vital interests?” Isn’t one of our primary “vital interests” the free flow of oil? Perhaps he just made my case!

I take great exception to the allegation that I have failed to recognize the service of America’s best. Since he states he is a veteran and no doubt has bravely served, I sincerely thank him for his service. My deep-seated patriotism also motivates me to point out that I am quick to support foreign actions by our military whenever it becomes necessary. Having said this, I also believe that we should aggressively seek and implement whatever domestic solutions are available to keep our fine military men and women out of harm’s way. I see ethanol as a domestic product that works and is a viable and proven replacement for the oil we buy from these radicals. In short, our industry (U.S. agriculture) has an answer for this problem—a solution that is very beneficial to South Dakota and its residents in all reaches of our state.

Although the elected representative from western South Dakota makes the same claim as the gentlemen from Iowa, he also fails to place value on the $3.8 billion economic impact that ethanol brings to all parts of our state including the area he represents. Speaking just for Glacial Lakes Energy which produces 20% of the ethanol in South Dakota, we will proudly claim our $750 million share of this impact. Additionally, with plants in Codington County and Edmunds County, we pay nearly $4.0 million annually in state and local sales taxes most of which is distributed statewide. With numbers like these, it goes without saying that anyone who claims to support agriculture in South Dakota as his website does, had better include corn ethanol and the ethanol industry into that equation.

I have something at stake here, too. Recently, I became part of the military family as my son joined the U.S. Army, and I couldn’t be a prouder Dad! The last thing I wish for my soldier is that his military career will be defined by continued conflicts over the “free flow of oil.” If this becomes the case, will I support him and the Army’s mission? Absolutely. Without question! Will I also continue to fight and “preach” the benefits of domestic and homegrown solutions such as ethanol that will keep these fine men and women home? You can bet on it, especially when a product such as ethanol is so readily available!