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PNS Daily Newscast - October 18, 2019 


Baltimore mourns Rep. Elijah Cummings, who 'Fought for All.' Also on our rundown: Rick Perry headed for door as Energy Secretary; and EPA holds its only hearing on rolling back methane regulations.

2020Talks - October 18, 2019 


While controversy swirls at the White House, Chicago teachers go on strike and Democratic primary contender retired Admiral Joe Sestak walks 105 miles across New Hampshire.

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Report: Renewable-Fuel Standards Bad for Farmers, Environment

As Nebraska farmers have increased corn and soy production to reach goals set by the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Ogalala aquifer has rapidly decreased due to irrigation needs. (Pixabay)
As Nebraska farmers have increased corn and soy production to reach goals set by the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Ogalala aquifer has rapidly decreased due to irrigation needs. (Pixabay)
March 8, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – A new report says the Renewable Fuel Standard, designed in part to reduce air pollution through the use of biofuels, has created a host of negative environmental impacts, including a rapid draining of aquifers Nebraska farmers rely on.

University of Wisconsin Associate Researcher Tyler Lark says the standard, or RFS, sparked a surge in corn and soybean prices, which incentivized reduced-yield monoculture production. The move also led to widespread loss of critical habitat for wildlife.

"In places like Nebraska, we're really seeing less rotation of corn with other crops,” says Lark. “Had the RFS not skewed markets as it did, more diverse crop rotations might have been more viable, and that could have led to more resilience to both farmers and on the landscape and habitat."

The RFS raised corn prices 31 percent and soybean prices 19 percent, which led to the conversion of 1.6 million acres of grasslands, wetlands and forests between 2009 and 2016.

In addition to cutting air pollution, proponents of the RFS hoped that increased domestic corn and soybean production for ethanol would help replace at least a part of the nation's consumption of fossil fuels from unstable regions.

David DeGennaro, agriculture policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, says the new research eliminates any remaining doubt that U.S. biofuels policy is making the environment worse, not better. He says the RFS has resulted in a total loss of nearly three million acres – roughly the size of Delaware – that would otherwise be wildlife habitat or non-farm lands to corn and soybean production.

"And putting that into industrial crop production, you release a huge amount of carbon from the soil that has been stored there for decades, you destroy wildlife habitat, and the process of farming sends a lot of fertilizers and soil and other pollution downstream,” says DeGennaro.

Public officials are preparing to rewrite national biofuel policy because of a mandated "re-set" of the law. DeGennaro says he hopes the new research will help move the nation closer to solutions to promote clean fuels in a way that works for farmers, communities and wildlife.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE