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U.S. Dept. of Agriculture goes to bat for farmers over ethanol

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will go to bat today (Thursday) for corn farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who've taken a public relations beating over ethanol.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and other top agency officials will hold a news conference to make the case for corn-based fuel.

Twenty-six Republican senators want to cut this year's ethanol production mandate in half, and scrap higher standards for 2022.

GOP presidential nominee John McCain says corn for ethanol results in higher grocery prices here, and food shortages overseas.

A Wall Street Journal editorial Wednesday said the product joins the pesticide Alar and silicone breast implants as "the greatest scams of the age."

But South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson says gasoline would cost 50 cents more if ethanol was not around.

He and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley have asked the EPA to maintain the corn ethanol production goals.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle's administration continues to push for bio-fuels. They say today's problems can eventually be solved without rejecting a legitimate alternative to foreign oil.

As for the rising food prices, Wisconsin Senate Democrat Herb Kohl says one factor might be consolidation in the meat industry.

He wants the General Accounting Office to investigate, as JBS Swift seeks to acquire two other meat-packers.