Coalition of ranchers and farmers fights subsidies for corn ethanol

It’s one thing when dirty hippies oppose your energy-independence scheme, but when ranchers, chicken farmers, and pork producers pile on the hate, that’s trouble. An ad hoc coalition is opposing U.S. corn ethanol subsidies and pushing to end U.S. tariffs on Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. “This [corn] ethanol binge is insane,” says Oklahoma rancher Paul Hitch, president-elect of the coalition-cobbling National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “This talk about energy independence and wrapping yourself in the flag and singing ‘God Bless America’ — all that’s going to come at a severe cost.” Critics say federal and state ethanol subsidies — which hit $5 billion to $7 billion in 2006 — are sending corn prices sky-high, with effects rippling through the farming world. While fuel fans say cellulosic ethanol will begin to ease that frenzy by 2012, Hitch and others worry. “This ethanol thing is driving everybody half nuts,” he says. “As far as presenting a united front … we certainly can and will.”