We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Farming is a big industry today, thriving on government handouts. Thus the citizen pays twice for food: once in taxes and once in the store. Why is Big Ag insulated from supply and demand (I know - politics). Must be nice to be an industry for which supply and demand do not exist. Nice, but degrading.
Ethanol production is attacked and defended on the energy side, but little mention is made of the 25% of our corn production going into ethanol. Current production methods of ethanol takes about a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol. Food prices are up. I should not be paying $5/pound for bacon.
Just drove through Iowa and Nebraska on I-80. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye! And right in the middle of those corn fields are wind turbines. So appears as if they are farming more than the ethanol subsidy. And the ethanol fuel they sell in those states guarantees you a 20% reduction in mpg so don't take the bait.
Milwaukee above: I believe the corn production % to ethanol is much higher and it is documented that it takes more energy to produce the ethanol than is available at the end. So the question is Food or Fuel?
Agriculture is perhaps the only major economic sector for which a good argument can be made in support of government price supports. (Note that I say "a good argument," which is not necessarily the same as a convincing argument.) The problem is simply a matter of time. It takes a year to replace a shortfall in available crops, and two to three years (minimum) to recover from a shortfall in available livestock. If agriculture were subject to the swings of an uncontrolled free market, we could easily find ourselves facing a situation where so many farmers, ranchers, what-have-you have been driven out of business by market forces that there literally aren't enough left to supply the rest of us with sufficient food.
Your small, independent farmer isn't getting rich on these "handouts". Most have family members with outside jobs in order to keep health insurance and utilities paid and food on their own table. Even the Amish are hurting and they have a larger work base (kids til they are 14) and lower tax burden (no mandatory social security/medicare payments).
Livestock owners are significantly hurt by ethanol because it distorts the price of corn and other feed sources that have to be purchased.
We made a decision long ago to insure a cheap stable supply of food. We do that through price supports.
Do large farmers benefit from this? In my neck of the woods large farmers work thousands of acres and are corporations but aren't corporate farms.
Ethanol subsidies are a perversion of the price supports designed to maintain a stable food supply.