Ethanol ‘Smear Campaign’ Angers Farm Bureau

The Illinois Farm Bureau is asking its 80,000 members to contact large food companies about an alleged ‘smear campaign’ organized by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

“In a nutshell, the hired-gun (Washington) DC spinmeisters suggest ignoring the facts and drawing a direct link between corn-based ethanol and food prices,” writes Adam Neilson, Farm Bureau legislative director, in the latest issue of Farm Week. According to the Rockford Register Star, the newsletter calls on Illinois farmers to send letters and e-mails to the food company members of GMA questioning why the companies would essentially bite the hand that feeds their customers.

A spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based GMA says the trade group is not behind a Web site, www.foodb4fuel.com, that has particularly angered farm groups. But he says there are legitimate questions about the wisdom of using corn for fuel. “By no means have we ever said biofuel is the only cause of rising corn prices and rising food prices, but it is the one cause that Congress can control,’” Scott Openshaw tells the Rockford Register Star. Openshaw said he could not discuss specifics, but GMA does plan a campaign this summer to convince members of Congress it is time to reconsider mandates in a 2007 energy bill that ethanol production total 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, or nearly six times the current annual production."

DTN’s Todd Neeley notes that “according to one particular document released by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), GMA made a request for proposals from companies to direct a public relations campaign against ethanol mandates in March 2007. While Scott Openshaw is quoted as saying that GMA knows ethanol is not the only cause of rising food prices, in the GMA’s request for proposals it states ‘Food prices are rising twice as fast as inflation. Although there are several factors, a mandate in the 2007 Energy Bill requiring gasoline refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply by 2015 is the primary reason.’”

Neeley adds that “since this campaign was made public even USDA has come out defending ethanol, pointing out that the fuel’s demand for corn is one small part of the bigger picture that includes higher crude oil prices, the continued devaluation of the U.S. dollar, increased food and fuel demand coming from the growing economies of China and India, and drought in numerous parts of the world that has led to wheat shortages worldwide, to name a few. In addition to USDA, other independent analyses have supported the notion that corn-based ethanol accounts for a tiny fraction of world food price increases.”

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