A new rural Iowa?

Those of us old enough to list “The Graduate” as one of our favorite movies can remember the famous piece of advice from old Mr. Robinson to young Dustin Hoffman: “Plastics.” The future was in plastics, the businessman told the young college bachelor. If we were sipping on that Manhattan poolside, we probably would say: “plant science.”

It is a recurring theme for us as we consider the myriad ways in which Iowa has not fully realized the opportunities it can grow. We are reminded with the dedication July 29 of a new phase of cellulosic ethanol production at Quad County Corn processors at Galva. The plant will now be able to produce ethanol from corn slurry, a byproduct of the conventional ethanol production process. Quad County will be able to boost its ethanol production by 6%, and now can produce three gallons of fuel from a bushel of corn (as opposed to the previous 2.7-gallon standard). Poet is building an innovative cellulosic ethanol plant at Emmetsburg.

American Soy in Cherokee is involved in helping to derive oils from algae that can be used to power jet aircraft for the Navy. Rembrandt Enterprises is extruding plant oils for sale or further processing and figuring out how to use renewable fuel byproducts for poultry consumption. TransOva is involved in cutting edge genetic research in Sioux Center.

Iowa State University is one of the best research centers in the world for plant science.

Iowa might be at the dawn of a new era that vaults the state forward in ways we cannot imagine.

World population continues to grow. Arable land is declining. Crop yields presumably reach a point of diminishing returns. We must find new ways to feed and power a world that demands more from less land at a lower cost. Iowa is at the center of this quest.

Young people have been fleeing rural Iowa since its population peaked in about 1922. These forlorn places could see quite a rejuvenation as bioscience research is applied into production from the four corners of the state.

Storm Lake is the leading protein production center in Iowa thanks to pork, turkeys and eggs. It is the hub of the Midwest’s biggest wind energy complex. It is surrounded by renewable fuels plants that are morphing into biorefineries capable of spinning off all sorts of new products.

Plastics, even.

These are great days to be living in Iowa.

Resume horse slaughter

Several horse-loving interest groups, including the US Humane Society, won a temporary injunction last week that prohibits the slaughter of horses in Roswell, NM, and Sigourney, Iowa. The US Department of Agriculture in June lifted a national ban on horse slaughter as a humane way to treat old bowback horses whose better days are behind them. The very thought of slaughtering Trigger is abhorrent to many. But maybe not to Trigger once the Lone Ranger can’t take care of him anymore.

The ban on horse slaughter destroyed the US market for horses. The only place to go with a nag was to pay a renderer. Killing a horse at a rendering plant was okay; making food out of the horse was verboten. As a result, more horses starved and suffered abuse at the hands of people who did not want them. The ban also destroyed the business of horse breeders and traders as their market was glutted. That’s a form of cruelty to struggling ranchers.

Americans love their pork, beef, chicken and turkey but horses have a special place in our nation’s mythology. The French, masters of cuisine, are not so encumbered. They eat horsemeat. So do Canadians. Latinos love goat meat, and each stubborn Billy has a mother.

Hindus don’t believe in eating beef. Muslims consider pork unclean. That does not stop us from serving up what others find culturally acceptable.

It is beyond us how a judge might determine that a horse holds an elevated place on the food hierarchy over a steer. The injunction should be lifted and the horse slaughter business should be resumed before more beasts of burden and their caretakers suffer.