The RFS Has Little Impact On Land Use Changes

  • Monday, 15 August 2016 14:35

A new report by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) says the RFS has a minimal impact on land use changes contrary to accusations by some environmental groups. 

In the report, EESI says land convertion at the national level is stable and a model developed by the Argonne National Laboratory shows land use change estiamtes due to the RFS have dropped significantly since 2010 as focus has shifted towards using of land under cultivation more intensely instead of expanding land to grow more corn.

"While crop acreage increased 2 percent between 2006 and 2009, total crop area has fallen from 350 million acres to 311 acres between 1980 and 2011. Land conversion is not limited to agriculture; forest or agriculture land conversion to urban use is occuring rapidly," EESI said.

Furthermore, it said pinning land use changes squarely on the RFS is hyperbolic. 

"In a 2015 survey of 1,026 Dakota farmers conducted by South Dakota State University, the top three factors were : changing crop prices, changing input prices and increased crop yields, with changing weather and climate a distant fourth. The decreasing acreage covered by the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) program may also be playing a role in land use decisions at a regional level," it said.

As for corn prices, it said some 35 percent of corn price increases between 2006 and 2012 can be correlated with expansion of biofuels production. But, it added, growing feed demand for a rise in global meat consumption, input prices and yield improvements have led to corn price increases. 

"Additionally, the role of ethanol co-products in land use is important, particularly distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGs), a high-value, high-protein animal feed, as well as corn oil. The net effect of the production of co-products is an offsetting of the need to devote acres for feed and oil production," EESI said. 

Read the rest of the report here.