The names read like a "Who's Who" list of American food production. But the "Food before Fuel Coalition" also counts representatives of the Environmental Community, Anti-Hunger Advocates and Government Watchdogs among its membership.
Joel Brandenberger, President, National Turkey Federation: "The Food before Fuel Coalition is made up of groups that don't always see eye-to-eye on many issues. But we're in agreement on one: that the nation's renewable fuels policy – especially as it applies to ethanol -- is in need of significant reform and redirection."
Noting that November marks the 30th anniversary of the first government subsidies for ethanol, the Coalition called for the elimination of government subsidies, import tariffs and renewable fuel production mandates. And, once again the groups alleged ethanol is directly responsible for higher food prices.
Joel Brandenberger, President, National Turkey Federation: "Seventy percent of the cost of bringing a turkey to market is feed. Corn makes up, essentially, two-thirds of our feed ration. So when the price of corn goes up that means the cost of raising a turkey goes up and that means the cost ultimately to the American Consumer goes up."
Ron Litterer, Chairman, National Corn Growers Association: "Well, you know, the livestock guys do use more corn than other segments of the food industry and so, you know, it's right that they are more concerned about it than others, but still, you know, today, we're at prices half what they were a year ago, we're starting to see some profitability starting to come back in the livestock sector, so we think they need to reevaluate this situation long term."
National Corn Growers Association Chairman Ron Litterer of Greene, Iowa disagrees with conclusions drawn by the Food before Fuel Coalition. He points to the 12 percent reduction in the blender's credit scheduled to be implemented next year as a sign the industry is reducing its dependence on government support. And, responding to coalition charges that too much of the nation's corn is committed to ethanol production, Litterer says America's growers are more than capable of meeting the challenge.
Ron Litterer, Chairman, National Corn Growers Association: "We are providing enough corn for both markets. And I think it's quite apparent, you know, this year producing 12 billion bushel, second highest on record, last year we produced over 13 billion bushel, the highest on record. Corn yields are not static, they are going up, production is going up and we can meet the needs of both markets."
Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group: "Congress has been drunk on ethanol, but there are signs of sobering up…"
Environmental working group President, Ken Cook, also blasted U.S. ethanol policy. While questioning the renewable fuel's impact on the environment, Cook also linked ethanol to higher food prices.
Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group: "Why do we not know, for certain, what the impacts of ethanol are on food prices? Why are there estimates out there, including some by some very distinguished authorities that suggest ethanol is in fact fairly significantly increasing food prices.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: "They needed a scape goat, that scape goat was ethanol as intellectually dishonest as that argument is..."
Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa compared the criticisms raised this week to similar charges made last spring by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Grassley claims the fact that food prices are still high despite corn prices that have fallen precipitously from last summer's record highs, reveals the true cause of higher food prices.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: "All you have to do is look at the profit of Kraft and a lot of other companies to know they're making big money and they got nothing to cry about. And, they could reduce the price of food."