Vilsack Disputes AP Ethanol Report

President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are under fire in an AP report that questions the benefits of ethanol mandates. (National Journal)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack takes issue with an AP report on ethanol released Tuesday that has drawn fire from the biofuels industry.

The report, which was accidentally released briefly last week, says expansion of corn production to meet ethanol mandates has harmed the environment and cut into land-conservation efforts. Vilsack, a biofuels defender, is also quoted in the report. "I don't know whether I can make the environmental argument, or the economic argument [for ethanol]," he said.

But in an interview with The Des Moines Register, Vilsack pushed back, echoing concerns that have been raised by some in the biofuels industry. "There are a number of errors and inaccuracies in that article," Vilsack said. "It's inaccurate to suggest that because one program has declined, all of conservation has declined. It has not."

Reductions in the Conservation Reserve Program, Vilsack said, should not be extrapolated to indicate an abandonment of conservation in general. "There's just a lot of activity in this space that doesn't get a lot of play, doesn't get a lot of press, isn't fancy and sensational to write about it, but it is producers going in and understanding the benefits of conservation and embracing conservation," Vilsack said.