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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Does corn demand more than its fair share of space?

The unique topography of the Great Northern Plains was formed over 10,000 years ago, when ice-age glaciers scoured the terrain and, when retreating, left behind thousands of indentations, many of which can be called lakes. Today the area is known as the Pothole Prairies region. For many centuries, it has been the nesting and breeding grounds for millions of birds, including many that we see in north Texas during the birds' "off season".

The region covers the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota, plus bits of several other states. It also includes portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba in Canada. But it's being diminished in size, due mainly to corn growing.

Tax subsidies promoting corn-based ethanol are hastening the area's destruction. Source: a recent study released by the National Wildlife Federation, with data gathered by researchers at the University of Michigan.

More than 3.2 million acres of the Prairie Pothole region in the U.S. have been plowed under in order to make room to grow more corn. Much of that corn is grown to meet America's questionable need for ethanol, an ingredient in fuel that allegedly creates cleaner combustion and lowers emissions when blended into real gasoline.

Eastern Meadowlark
Grasshopper Sparrow
The habitat's conversion to corn growing, however, comes at a very high price. In some areas the decline in bird populations has reached 30% - and it's still climbing. Seriously declining species include Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers and Grasshopper Sparrows (you can occasionally see a Meadowlark near Lake Ray Roberts Park, but it's rare).

The USDA provides corn-growing incentives, such as tax breaks, crop insurance and low-interest loans which virtually guarantee a grower's profit regardless of the crop yield. If the demand for ethanol remains steady, an additional 10.6 million acres of corn could be planted in the next year. Grower's will reap a profit without taking any risk, and bird populations will keep declining.


NOTE: I've used the term "grower" instead of "farmer" because most entities that now grow corn are corporations.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy, is this your only domain or you also have some more?

    ReplyDelete