Friday, January 17, 2003

The squeaky farmer gets the gasohol 

Minnesota is going through some tough budgetary times, like anyplace else in the US, and Governor Pawlenty's plan to balance the budget ending June 30, 2003 has to shave off nearly $400 million. As we've mentioned, the university system (MnSCU) is up for a cut of $25 million, and probably we at SCSU would have to lose $2.2 million. Another of the cuts Pawlenty has proposed has been to gasohol. According to this report (new rule: I will never link to the RedStarTribune when I can link to some other paper instead) the farmers responded by coming down by the busloads to the state capitol to protest. The subsidy is to processing plants that take in corn and produce alcohol, which is used to dilute gasoline and burns cleaner.

According to the article, the Dept. of Agriculture says that this subsidy of $27 million creates 1000 jobs and reflows $15 million to the budget. That therefore works out to a subsidy of $12,000 annually to those 1000 farmers. Wouldn't it make more sense to just spend $13 million to buy off these farmers and kill the subsidy? In year one it's revenue neutral, and in years 2 and 3 (where we have more than $4 billion to slash) we save $24 million.

Of course that won't happen. Corn farmers are a small, well-organized lobby with little to do in January beyond taking a bus ride to St. Paul. And the legislature, weak-kneed as they are, all but rejected the governor's plan. The faculty union is now sending urgent reminders for us to lobby hard like the farmers -- but for us it's first week of classes, sort of like planting season.