NCGA: Hunger survey misleads public

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has strongly criticized a recent survey on public attitudes toward hunger as just another “PR opportunity” created to slam corn-based ethanol at a time when the farming and food industries especially need to work together to lower food prices for Americans.

“We recognize some industries feel threatened when farmers find new markets for their corn, even though there will continue to be enough corn for all markets in an era of higher yields and production,” wrote NCGA President Bob Dickey and CEO Rick Tolman in a letter to Hormel Foods Chairman, President and CEO Jeffrey Ettinger. “But we cannot countenance efforts to use false or outdated information to sway the American public against American agriculture, and we will speak out loud in defense of the truth.”

In its survey on hunger, Hormel Foods specifically asked those being surveyed how they felt about corn ethanol’s impact on food prices, using leading questions even though the connection between ethanol demand and food’s retail prices is minimal or non-existent, Dickey and Tolman said. “The fact that corn prices, for example, are now significantly lower while ethanol demand remains high shows there is not much of a connection between the two.”

The letter noted that Hormel’s Ettinger sits on the board of two associations that have been extremely critical of ethanol: the American Meat Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The NCGA leaders noted GMA had not kept its promise of last summer that Americans would see “immediately” lower food prices. Instead, GMA is still defending higher prices for food — even though corn prices and gasoline are nearly half the cost they were last summer.

“When the Environmental Protection Agency rejected a bid to cut the renewable fuels standard in August, we said it was time for U.S. agriculture and food interests to collaborate on solutions for the real causes of high prices and hunger here and abroad,” Dickey and Tolman wrote. “That is even more true in today’s time of economic uncertainty.”

Dickey and Tolman said that, with corn prices down, NCGA’s members want to know when GMA is going to keep its end of the agreement and cut food prices to help economically strapped Americans.

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