Iowa farmers blast AP ethanol story, allege bias, misrepresentation

November 11, 2013 |

In Iowa, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association responded to an Associated Press ethanol story that’s set to be published in news outlets around the country tomorrow. The IRFA was able to view an early version of the story, and speak with Wayne County residents who felt they were misrepresented by the AP in the story. 

“The AP story is more like an extended Environmental Working Group blog post under the guise of investigative journalism,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The AP reporters obviously went in to Iowa with a hidden anti-ethanol agenda, and simply spoke with enough people to cherry-pick half-sentence quotes to meet their agenda regardless of the facts. Unlike this AP story would have you believe, the vast majority of Iowa’s farmers are incredible stewards of the land and work to improve every year.  Isolated reports of poor environmental practices should not divert attention from the overall positive land stewardship being implemented by Iowa’s farmers today.”

IRFA staff traveled to Wayne County to speak to those quoted in the story. Not surprisingly, given the enormous amount of factual inaccuracies in the AP article, these farmers felt misled and that the AP misrepresented several issues.

Wayne County Supervisor Bill Alley told IRFA:  “They went a different direction than we [were] led to believe they were going in…To me as I read through this, it was a personal attack on ethanol…Some oil company got a hold of these people and said, you know, let’s hammer ethanol.”

Wayne County farmer and retired Methodist minister Leroy Perkins stated:  “My understanding was they were going to touch on the water issues with our Rathburn Lake watershed, but they were leaning more in Wayne County to the absentee landlords that are out of state…Not once was I led to believe they were going to do a wham-bang on ethanol…And so as I read this, I’m wondering, I’m looking at it saying, where are the oil companies in this?”
 
If the AP reporters had been upfront and asked Perkins what he thought of ethanol’s impact on Wayne County environmental practices, he would have told them:  “I think it’s been wonderful.  I don’t have a problem with that, because the average farmer’s going to take care of his farm.  The ones that don’t, and you’ve got a percentage, not a large percentage, but you have a percentage that aren’t going to.  They won’t do it regardless of what the price was, what it is.  They’re going to do what they’re going to do, and that’s the way it’s going to be.  Because of the extra income, [the average farmer is] going to take care of their land.  They’re going to have the conservation, and I’ve seen an awful lot.”

Despite corn prices falling by literally fifty percent since their drought induced high, the AP story attempted to link ethanol with high corn prices.  Alley noted:  “Another thing in this article that I really strongly disagree is the price of corn…There’s a lot of factors that causes the price of grain to go up or down…If you have a drought year, why, you just take ethanol aside and forget ethanol even exists, your crop is going to go up quite extensively…To me, this article is just directly hitting ethanol…there’s a lot more factors that affects the price of corn than ethanol itself.”

Recognizing how far corn prices have dropped this year, Perkins added:  “What I don’t want to see is that corn prices go down to the point where we have the ‘80s return.

Because if we have the ‘80s return, that’s bad for the whole country.  It’s terrible for southern Iowa, because we are a farming area community.”

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