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Rice farmers talking corn in US
ANGLETON — The room was full of rice farmers, but some of the conversation dealt a lot more with corn.

Farmers and agriculture extension agents talked Thursday evening about corn and grain sorghum as the future of fuel in America during the annual Rice Producer’s Dinner at the Agricultural Extension office in Angleton.

Ethanol, which can be used as an additive in gasoline, is made from corn and sorghum. Production of ethanol doubled between 2001 and 2005, said speaker Larry Falconer, a Texas A&M University researcher.

“Production will double again by 2008,” he said.

Falconer explained the possibilities for the farmers if they go into growing corn or sorghum.

With oil prices going up, demand for ethanol in fuel will go up thus increasing the demand for corn and sorghum, said Mike Wollam, a rice farmer with a farm between Alvin and Danbury.

“Some way or another, we’re going to blended fuels,” he said. “We’re going to be seeing more ethanol.”

Corn does not grow well in the southern portions of Brazoria County due to drainage, said Corrie Bowman, extension agent for the county. That lack of drainage is precisely why rice grows well, he said.

“I don’t see any increases in corn for Brazoria County,” he said. “Your average land that can support corn crops is limited.”

But sorghum can grow rather well in the county, and many farmers might be tempted to switch once they seen the price of it go up in the markets, he said.

Rice farmers in Arkansas already are Planted acres of corn increased from 78.6 million acres in 2006-07 to 85.6 million acres in 2007-08, according to statistics from A&M’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center.

What’s better for farmers is that prices for corn and sorghum are going up because of the ethanol demand, but production costs are remaining stable, Falconer said.

If ethanol production is increased and more farmers jump to corn or sorghum production, prices for the two crops would become volatile, just as the price of oil, Wollam said.

“American agriculture is now an energy source,” he said.

State Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, filed a bill in the 80th Legislature on Monday that would create incentives for construction of power plants that generate electricity from biomass, which is organic matter such as animal waste, crop stalks and wood that is processed into energy.

If enacted, Senate Bill 357 would create a program within the Texas Department of Agriculture that would give up to $30 million in grants to encourage construction of biomass-based power plants.

Each farmer would be eligible for a grant that would equal $20 for each dry ton of qualified agricultural biomass, forest wood waste, urban wood waste or storm-generated biomass debris that could be used by a biomass plant.
MGR Archive 5.2.2007
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