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Ethanol Boom Aids Farmers, but Stirs Environmental Concerns

The high cost of oil and a national push toward alternative fuels has pushed ethanol production and corn prices to skyrocket. In eastern Colorado, corn farmers and other stakeholders contemplate the future of ethanol, which some researchers fear may not be the ideal alternative to gasoline.

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  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    For Ruben Richardson, this year's corn crop is golden.

  • RUBEN RICHARDSON, Farmer:

    Corn at one time was two dollars more a bushel than it was a year ago. You know, that's 100 percent increase. So, therefore, we're planting a lot more corn acres. I've changed probably 20 percent, 25 percent of my farm over to corn.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Richardson is a third-generation farmer in Yuma County in eastern Colorado. He says high prices and excellent yields have made this a great time to be a farmer.

  • RUBEN RICHARDSON:

    It's an achievement that my dad would have — he's passed now — but this is what he would have lived for, something like this. This is — you know, farmers have kind of been known as the extreme optimists. "There's always next year." You get hailed out, wiped out two or three years in a row, and there's always next year. It's just what keeps us going.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    And next year finally came.

  • RUBEN RICHARDSON:

    Next year, it appears to be here.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Corn prices have shot up as the country turns to ethanol to stretch gasoline to counter soaring prices. Feed corn, like the kind Richardson grows, is the main ingredient used to produce ethanol. And Richardson is betting that both oil and corn prices will stay high by investing in a new ethanol processing plant near his field.

  • He’s not alone:

    Ethanol plants are springing up all over the rural Midwest, many backed by local farmers. The Yuma plant went online in early September. Dave Kramer is the president and general manager.

  • DAVE KRAMER, Yuma Ethanol LLC:

    Eighty-five percent of the investment came right in this local community in northwestern Nebraska and eastern Colorado. The majority of them are large corn farmers; that will bring their corn product to the plant.

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