The company you keep says it all


In the long, expensive battle fought by U.S. farmers to make corn-based ethanol the premier alternative fuel in America, few Washington influence peddlers fought harder and spent more in opposition to it than the American Petroleum Institute.

In fact, you name the biofuel issue and API and its fat checkbook made it into a bare-knuckle brawl.

More than curious

Given that nasty history, it’s more than curious that the American Farm Bureau Federation, and, to date, seven of its state affiliates, are fronting for API to sponsor “energy citizen” rallies around the nation this fall to fight climate change legislation.

Golly, it’s one thing to oppose the recently passed House of Representative’s carbon “cap-and-trade” plan or, despite scientific evidence, even deny the existence of global warming.

Honorable, fair-minded people disagree on both issues every day. But it’s entirely different for the nation’s largest farm group, the self-described national “Voice of Agriculture,” to partner up with the most rabidly anti-ethanol lobby to conduct phony anti-cap-and-trade rallies — complete with phony crowds and phony “facts” — in nearly every ethanol-producing state in America.


According to an August memo sent by API President and CEO Jack Gerard to surrogates to plan the fake “rallies,” the effort is 100 percent astro-turf.

Political theater

The memo, made public by the environmental group Greenpeace, makes it clear that the rallies are political theater, complete with captive audiences. (The memo, and Greenpeace’s reply, can be found at

“(O)ur member company local leadership — including your facility manager’s commitment to provide significant attendance” at the rallies will “(achieve) the participation level that Senators cannot ignore.”

And API will supply cash, expertise and message, Gerard continues.

“To be clear, API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company…providing a field coordinator in each state, conducting a comprehensive communications and advocacy activation plan for each, and serving as central manager for all the events.”

Get out of the way

So, farm and ranch yokels, get out of the way and let Big Oil and its billions kill climate legislation because we know what we’re doing. After all, we kept ethanol bottled up for decades, didn’t we?

Or, at least, until crude oil hit $140 a barrel and gasoline topped $4 a gallon.

Anyway, turn out those fake crowds: “Please indicate to your company leadership your strong support for employee participation in the rallies.”

And, ssshhhh….”Please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well…. we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”

That’s right; it’s just a political game.

“Hey, depending on the issue, politics makes strange bedfellows,” said an AFBF Washington spokesman Aug. 25 when asked to comment on AFBF’s climbing in bed — his metaphor, not mine — with API. “What can I say?”

You could say that the American Farm Bureau has more principle than to front for the richest, rottenest anti-biofuel gang in the world — on anything.

Could say

You could say, in complete honesty, that many state Farm Bureaus have energy subsidiaries that could get nicked under cap-and-trade and that’s why they’re maybe fighting for their narrow, short-term interests instead of the broad, long-term interests of rural America.

You could say AFBF is putting together a bold plan that will lead American farmers and ranchers to greater energy sustainability a generation from now rather than being bought-and-paid-for mercenaries to fight climate change, an issue it has yet to even take a public stand on.

Save the hot air

There’s a lotta’ things you could say. But hey, save the hot air. Your actions, like the company you keep, says it all.

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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.



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