Monday, February 25, 2008

Dinner on Capitol Hill

So tonight I had a wonderful wiener schnitzel for dinner at the Cafe Berlin, a terrific German restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washinton, D.C., while trading gossip with a friend about the latest back-room maneuverings over the Farm Bill while sipping a very dry riesling from Alsace. Talk has it that the Farm Bill, a fascinatingly-complex legislative behemoth spending billions of dollars over ten years that has been stuck for months in House-Senate negotiations, is now likely to pass some time in March.

I just thought you might like to know. All the best. --KenA


Unknown said...

Please tell us how much ethanol is going to cost us in additional subsidies for the poor starting large farmers.

Ken Ackerman said...

Hi Lew--

Greet6ings from the starving large farmers.

How much is ethanol going to cost you (taxpayers & consumers) in subsidies? I don't know if there is enough space in this Blogosphere for me to list it all.

Ethanol subsidies come in two forms: First are subsidies for growing the corn itself (despite corn prices closing Friday at a healthy $5.47 per bushel). These include: direct payments, countercyclical payments, loan deficiency payments, conservation payments, subsidized crop insurance and disaster aid, so on.
I don't know the exact annual total, but I'd guess it takes at least ten finger to count it up.

Then come special subsidies for turning the corn (or sugar, with its own system) into ethanol. These include tax incentives, mandated market targets, import controls, so on. Of course, it's not that oil, gas, and coal don't receive their own subsidies in the form of depletion and other tax breaks, exploration incentives, and occasional use of the US army to help negotiate with stubborn foreign sources. You taxpayers are wonderfully friendly, generous people.

Does this mean ethanol is bad? Certainly not. It's grown here in the USA. And in a few years, once science advances to allow production from cellulosic sources on commercial scale, it will even be cheaper.

Thanks for the note, and hope things are well.

All the best. --KenA

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