Food Costs Fuel Senate Hearing

The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing May 12 to examine if the emphasis on food-based fuels is causing food prices to increase. The result? U.S. policy will be revisited.

The committee, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), held a hearing titled, "Fuel Subsidies: Is there an Impact on Food Supply and Prices?"

Witnesses testified that the increasing price of food is causing an increase in the number of hungry and poverty stricken individuals in the U.S. and throughout the world, and that the rising demand for ethanol is likely a contributing factor in the increased price of food. The committee examined whether U.S. policy, such as that which encourages the production of corn for use in biofuels such as ethanol, should be revisited.

Witnesses explained that there are a number of reasons why food prices have increased so dramatically — such as higher food demand in developing countries, higher energy costs, and drought in Australia and the Ukraine — but that the increased demand for corn-based ethanol is also a factor and one that could be addressed through revised government policy.

According to the World Bank, global food prices have increased by 83 percent in the past three years.

The witnesses included: Andrew Siegel, vice president and treasurer, When Pigs Fly Bakery in Maine; Dr. Bruce Babcock, director, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University; Rev. David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World; and Dr. Mark Rosegrant, director, Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing entitled "Food Prices and Small Businesses" this Thursday (May 15). The committee will examine the issue of food prices from the perspective of small food retailers, farmers, and food manufacturers.

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