"If we didn't have any farmers we wouldn't have a community here. We wouldn't have a business. I wouldn't be sitting here. I wouldn't be able to feed my family," Rodgers said. "I think ethanol is a very good thing."
Jim Faulstich, president of the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition, said the nation's ethanol and crop insurance policies have encouraged the transformation of the land.
Faulstich, who farms and ranches in central South Dakota near Highmore, said much of the land being converted is not suited to crop production, and South Dakota's strong winds and rains will erode the topsoil.
"I guess a good motto would be to farm the best and leave the rest," he said.
Gillum reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report from Washington.