Prairies vanish as U.S. pushes ethanol policy

A combine works its way through one of Robert Malsom’s fields near Roscoe, S.D. Malsam nearly went broke in the 1980s when corn was cheap. So now that prices are high and he can finally make a profit, he’s not about to apologize for ripping up prairie land to plant corn. Doug Dreyer/The Associated Press

ROSCOE, S.D. — Robert Malsam nearly went broke in the 1980s when corn was cheap. So now that prices are high and he can finally make a profit, he’s not about to apologize for ripping up prairie land to plant corn.

Across the Dakotas and Nebraska, more than 1 million acres of the Great Plains are giving way to cornfields as farmers transform the wild expanse that once served as the backdrop for American pioneers.

This expansion of the Corn Belt is fueled in part by America’s green energy policy, which requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline. Ethanol has become the No. 1 use for corn in America, helping keep prices high.

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