Kennewick, Wash., agriculture consultant Michael Massey said some U.S. environmentalists believe that producing ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane is more efficient than making it from corn.

Massey disagrees with the analysis, saying it's based on rain-fed Iowa corn yields, typically 150 to 160 bushels per acre.

Farmers on the irrigated Columbia Basin Project in Eastern Washington have netted corn yields beyond 250 to 260 bushels per acre, Massey said.

"We're using a renewable irrigation resource from the Columbia River," Massey said. "Just like they do anywhere else there's a large river and arid conditions, where you can grow phenomenal yields."

It refutes the argument that U.S. corn ethanol will never approach Brazilian sugar cane ethanol efficiency, Massey said.

Massey said the next step is to complete the irrigation project. Completion would lead to a "truly huge" agriculture industry to export potato products and increase corn production, he said.

"That means putting another 600,000 acres in irrigation and there's no reason why we shouldn't do it," he said.

-- Matthew Weaver

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