Merry economy and happy free market


Despite overt hints to Santa’s elves that I own enough dress shirts and too many ties for someone who works at home, chances are nearly 100 percent that a swell new shirt and a very understated tie are in my immediate future.
But hey, as Mick Jagger might say, you don’t always get what you want.
Then again, sometimes you get more than you ask for, as the American Soybean Association discovered to its dismay a month ago.
Once upon a time… The story actually began Aug. 8 when, after “more than a decade of farmer-directed grassroots policy work,” crowed an ASA press release, President Bush inked (a “momentous signing,” raved ASA) the 2005 Energy Bill.
The Soy Boys swooned (“a crowning achievement for the ASA and its 25 state affiliates”) because the legislation extended the $1 per gallon tax credit for “agri-biodiesel made from products like soybeans” and a 50-cents per gallon tax credit for “biodiesel made from other inputs such as recycled cooking oil” through Dec. 31, 2008.
On Nov. 8, however, ASA was fuming as 267,790 gallons of biodiesel made from Ecuadorian palm oil landed in Tampa, Fla. All of it, surprise!, floated in on the $1 a gallon federal grease ASA had gladly smeared over itself in August.
Outraged. ASA, a strong supporter of free trade and free markets, issued another press release. It was “outraged” that the world might take advantage of the Congressional lard and – wait for it – free trade to make a buck.
Even worse, EarthFirst Americas Inc., the Tampa firm that both produced and imported the Ecuadorian palm diesel, announced Nov. 9 that the biofuel tax breaks were so lucrative the firm planned to import “up to 45 million gallons” of foreign made biodiesel in 2006 and “over 100 million gallons in 2007.”
That’s a lot of coconuts.
Look at the numbers. According to ASA’s own numbers, 45 million gallons is 50 percent more biodiesel than was produced in the U.S. in 2005 and 100 million gallons is about one-half of all the biodiesel to be made in the U.S. in 2007.
Of course, 200 million gallons of biofuel won’t be made in the U.S. in 2007 if it can be made cheaper with Central American palm, Canadian canola or Brazilian soy.
Most likely, it will be made offshore and exported to the U.S. And all of it will flow through the tax break pipeline that looked so sweet to ASA at summer’s end.
Well, says ASA, not if it can convince Congress and the White House to “act immediately


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.