The Post’s Aug. 6 editorial “Bad Seeds” raised concerns about the recent House-passed disaster bill, which gets its funding from reductions in conservation programs.
Instead of this trade-off, the editorial argued, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ethanol mandate consuming one-third of the nation’s corn production should be relaxed, thereby freeing up corn for livestock and sparing the conservation programs. Since there are not yet any commercially viable substitutes for corn in ethanol production, the demand for corn for this purpose will continue indefinitely, and there will be political pressure not to reduce the EPA mandate.
This raises the question whether a strategic grain reserve needs to be established, much like the strategic petroleum reserve, for use in times of major supply disruptions. The United States maintained such reserve stocks of grains in the past. Over time, these grain reserve programs were discontinued largely because of cost and improved market efficiency. If future supply disruptions attributable to drought become more frequent, they may affect not only livestock production but human food consumption as well. Some type of a grain reserve may make sense in this changing environment.
W. Scott Steele, Falls Church
The writer retired from the Agriculture Department in 2010 after five years as budget director. He worked on world food security for the USDA in the late 1970s.