Commentary: 12 half-baked ideas for improving agriculture
11. Re-evaluating ethanol subsidies: Although ethanol's share of U.S. gasoline is still relatively small (projected at 15-17 percent by 2030), in 2009 the Congressional Budget Office reported that increased demand for corn ethanol has, at times, contributed to 10-15 percent of the rise in food prices. Encouraging clean energy alternatives to crop-based biofuels will increase the amount of food available for consumption, both at home and abroad. (There is constant discussion about how much different prices of food would be and the amount of food that would actually go to other countries if less corn was used for ethanol. It is a good thing that large-scale cellulosic ethanol production is just around the corner.)
12. Agricultural Research and Development (R&D): The share of agricultural R&D undertaken by the U.S. public sector fell from 54 percent in 1986 to 28 percent in 2009, and private research has filled the gap. Private companies, however, are often legally bound to maximize economic returns for investors, raising concerns over scientific independence and integrity. Increased government funding and support for agricultural research, development, and training programs can help address issues such as hunger, malnutrition, and poverty without being compromised by corporate objectives. (You’ll never get an argument with me about the government continuing to invest in agricultural research. That investment is needed.)
Although food prices will certainly continue to rise as the current drought runs its course, it is clear that the United States has the knowledge and the know-how to make its agricultural system more sustainable and food secure. It's now a question of putting these innovations to work. (I am in agreement with the first sentence, but I don’t believe the solution is putting Worldwatch’s “innovations to work.”)
Self-contained hydraulic system with power cables (hydraulic). Tandem Henschen axles (hydraulic). Hydraulic fenders. Manual or hydraulic tilt. 6,500-gallon tank.
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