USDA publishes report ‘The Ethanol Decade’ (2000-2009)

Life-cycle analyses

The #USDA has looked at the responses in American agriculture 2000-2009 to the rapid expansion of corn #ethanol production. They note that land-use decisions by farmers can be very complex. They find that both corn acreage and yield increased in that period, while soybean production was displaced by expanding corn, but in turn displaced other crops to maintain production levels. According to the report, US cropland acreage was expanded by shifts from hay, #CRP land and grazing land, as well as reduced idle land and increase in double cropping (although the point about double-cropping is largely based on a significant spike in 2008). It doesn’t discuss forest loss. The report notes that ethanol demand may have contributed to both ‘expanded’ acreage and ‘maintained’ acreage (land that would otherwise have gone out of production or shifted use) – against the baselines used in iLUC modelling, both expanded and maintained areas would count as indirect land use change.

The report concludes (excerpt only, see report for full conclusion:

“Our findings partially support previous predictions about the indirect impacts of bioenergy policies … Reduced acreage of other crops and increased harvested acreage have been important sources for the … expansion of corn and soybean production. Several sources for corn (and soybean) acreage expansion—increases in double cropping, conversion of uncultivated hay, and reductions in cotton acreage—could have unintended consequences that differ from those suggested by earlier simulation studies. In addition … future farm-sector and farm-level adjustments to increased ethanol production could differ from those reported here.”