Corn farmers and two veteran corn-state congressmen asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider new rules on ethanol in light of the phenomenal productivity and declining environmental impact of America's largest crop.



Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said farmers don't get enough credit for growing more corn every year on the same amount of land with less energy and fewer resources.



The congressmen spoke at a Capitol briefing sponsored by the Corn Farmers Coalition, an alliance of national and state corn-grower groups.



Boswell, chairman of a House Agriculture subcommittee that oversees commodities exchanges, called on the Agriculture Department to resume measuring how much pesticide and fertilizer farmers use in their fields. The federal agency suspended its authoritative annual Chemical Usage Survey after 2005 in a budget cut. The survey found the amounts per bushel had been declining for years.



"The Agriculture Department does a good job of collecting some data we need to make policy on energy and environmental issues," said Boswell. "But in other areas, we're flying blind, including the use of nitrogen fertilizer -- a number which figures prominently in the crucial debates we've having about the environmental benefit of making ethanol from corn. We shouldn't have to guess."



Shimkus, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called on the EPA and the California Air Resources Board to carefully weigh corn's explosive productivity while using the same amount of land and fewer chemicals per bushel as these agencies calculate the environmental impact of growing corn for ethanol in their biofuel regulations.



"I see farmers constantly boosting their production on the same amount of land," Shimkus said. "So I have to wonder whether EPA and the California Air Resources Board are carefully considering the latest yield trends in their land-use calculations. I think we need to take a careful look at that."



Having the correct information, good models and current data will assure we don't make unwarranted decisions that hurt family farmers. Specifically, agencies need to know about corn's declining environmental impact, said Mark Lambert, director of the Corn Farmers Coalition.



"There is a quiet technological revolution happening at every stage of the growing cycle -- from the advanced equipment and new planting techniques farmers use to cut energy use and preserve the soil to the bioengineered seeds that require fewer pesticides and less water.



"But policy-makers can only make the right decisions about food, fuel and the environment if they have all these facts."



For more about the coalition: www.cornfarmerscoalition.org



SOURCE: Corn Farmers Coalition