Big Corn vs. Little Shrimp

Ethanol production is helping to kill marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, as nitrogen fertilizers make their way down the Mighty Mississippi:

“Corn agriculture practices release a lot of nitrogen,” said Donald Scavia, a University of Michigan professor who has studied corn fertilizer’s effect on the dead zone. “More corn equals more nitrogen pollution.”

Farmers realize the connection between their crop and problems downstream, but with the price of corn soaring, it doesn’t make sense to grow anything else. And growing corn isn’t profitable without nitrogen-based fertilizer.

“I think you have to try to be a good steward of the land,” said Jerry Peckumn, who farms corn and soybeans on about 2,000 acres he owns or leases near the Iowa community of Jefferson. “But on the other hand, you can’t ignore the price of corn.”

Jerry Peckumn, of course, lives in Iowa, so he gets to pick the next president. New Orleans fisherman, of course, do not. Guess who’s going to win this fight?

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