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Goldenberg writes: "The Obama administration was urged on Monday to stop diverting grain to gas amid warnings of an 'imminent food crisis' caused by America's drought."

Farmers have warned the Obama administration that ethanol quotas threaten the food supply. (photo: ecowatch)
Farmers have warned the Obama administration that ethanol quotas threaten the food supply. (photo: ecowatch)


US Farmers Urge Obama Administration to Suspend Ethanol Quota Amid Drought

By Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian UK

31 July 12

 

EPA's requirements for corn ethanol will drive food prices even higher after an already distressed harvest, growers warn.

he Obama administration was urged on Monday to stop diverting grain to gas amid warnings of an "imminent food crisis" caused by America's drought.

US government forecasts of a 4% rise in food prices for US consumers because of the drought have sharpened criticism of supports for producing fuel from corn-based ethanol.

Meanwhile, research published last week by the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of an "imminent food crisis" because of the diversion of corn stocks to ethanol.

"Necsi has warned for months that misguided food-to-ethanol conversion programs and rampant commodity speculation have created a food price bubble, leading to an inevitable spike in prices by 2013. Now it appears the "crop shock" will arrive even sooner due to drought, unless measures to curb ethanol production and rein in speculators are adopted immediately," the researchers warned.

In the latest move, the country's meat, dairy and poultry producers called on the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend this year's quotas for corn ethanol production.

"The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored," said the petition to the EPA's administrator Lisa Jackson.

It went on to warn that the requirement for corn ethanol production was further beating up corn prices, which were already at record levels because of the drought in the mid-west.

"We are worried about having enough corn, soybean and other crops at any price to feed our animals," Randy Spronk, the president of the National Pork Producers Association told a conference call with reporters.

Producers were already scaling back production, and some could be forced out of business entirely, said John Burkel, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers' Association. "Even the most prudent and cautious producer could be put out of business," he said.

Under the EPA's renewable fuel standard programme, oil companies are required to dilute their gasoline with increasing amounts of biofuel every year. This year's mandate calls for the production of 13.2bn gallons of biofuels – almost all of it produced from corn.

Food security experts and international aid organisations have also warned that ethanol could be tightening up supplies and pushing up prices in the global food market during the drought.

Demand for corn ethanol was seen as a key driver of the 2007 and 2008 global food crisis.

About 40% of America's corn crop went for ethanol last year – although the refineries then sell on "distillers' grain" as animal feed.

But with expectations for a smaller harvest this year, there are fears ethanol will consume an even bigger share of the crop.

That will price corn out of reach of livestock producers as well as countries which rely heavily on imported grains, food security experts say.

Ethanol producers have already reduced production by more than 15% this year, and many refineries across the mid-west have closed because of high corn prices.

The National Corn Growers Association, which supports corn ethanol production, said in a statement that it was "premature" to suspend the incentive. "With the crop still in the field, it is too early to determine this year's final corn supply," it said in a statement.

 

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+17 # mackochee 2012-07-31 20:47
On a recent summer trip back to my birthplace in rural Ohio after a ten-year absence, I was amazed at the transformation of agricultural land with which I had been very familiar. All fences were gone because every acre of pastureland had been converted to corn. The only crop I could see groaning anywhere was corn. The Marysville, Ohio, Honda plant, a few miles away, had transformed the economy by employing everyone, which led to hundreds upon hundreds of new and renovated homes filling every spare woodlot and field not planted with corn. Old fencerows that nurtured wildlife were bulldozed to create mega fields more suitable to gigantic farm equipment. I realized that the area's largest employer was making cars, and the fields were filled with car food.

When one reads the preceding article, the "take away" point is that livestock farmers are worried about running out of corn to use for animal feed, while fellow crop farmers are growing nothing but corn. Both are being threatened by drought.

There is something mindlessly stupid about this entire scenario. How long can we go on feeding cars and animals used for slaughter instead of growing grain for people? Why does not even a drought bring the need to feed people to the forefront of agricultural policy?
 
 
+13 # Greenery 2012-08-01 00:47
Hemp is a great source of biofuel and grows easily with few resources needed. Legalize it already.
 
 
+1 # mdhome 2012-08-01 07:00
Looking at the corn and soy growing and dying around southern Maryland, it looks scary
 
 
+3 # HowardMH 2012-08-01 07:14
I wonder who donates more money to Congress, the farmers struggling to feed the cows and pigs or the Ethenol companies that are making millions and millions. Hmmm I wonder ??
 
 
+5 # patmonk 2012-08-01 08:07
90%+ of the corn and soy grown in the USA is loaded with GMO toxins, it is unfit for human consumption. even when consumed in the form of meat products from animals fed this stuff.
Monsanto, Dow, Cargill etc. LABEL GMO FOODS.
PROPOSITION 37 on California ballot in November
www.carighttoknow.org
www.labelgmos.org
 
 
+2 # julileegal 2012-08-01 11:36
You are so right. I don't want to feed my livestock the Gmo toxins. Keep it for the cars.
 
 
+2 # aj616 2012-08-01 13:14
The making of ethanol makes as much pollution as gasoline, we can make clean biodiesel out of hemp which will grow pretty much anywhere under any conditions.

This corn shouldn't even be grown to begin with, GMO corn is full of toxins and carcinogens and wreaks havoc on the environment.

I also fail to see how in a country that throws 30% of it's food away, shortage makes an impact. Are people going to complain that they don't have enough corn to throw out?

Oh but we need it for livestock.... go vegan you won't have these problems.
 
 
0 # nealjking 2012-08-03 08:16
I am as anti-oil as anyone, but my impression is that so much petroleum is used to grow corn for ethanol that the "green-ness" involved is minimal.

The push for ethanol is just another farm-support subsidy, with no significant benefit for reduction in fossil-fuel use or in carbon-dioxide production. Let it die.
 

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