In his “Eco Update” on ethanol demand for grain, Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute continues to foster fear and increase rhetoric, said Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association.
“Interestingly, Lester Brown has become an ‘expert’ on ethanol and biofuels yet he has failed to consult with the true experts in this dynamic field,” Tolman said. “Had he done so, he would know that indeed we have a very clear picture of the grain requirements for ethanol.”
Ethanol is not diverting corn from feed and food markets, he said. In 2006 corn growers produced the third-largest crop at 10.7 billion bushels.
“All demands for corn — food, feed, fuel and exports — are being met. Farmers have always responded to price signals from the marketplace and historically we have had much more challenge with over-production than shortage,” Tolman said. “As far as price goes, the market signals are pointed to higher corn production.”
Brown says converting the entire U.S. grain harvest to ethanol would satisfy only 16 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs. The reality is that the number would be in excess of 20 percent, however, had he contacted experts in the biofuels industry, including NCGA, he would know no one is suggesting the entire grain harvest, which includes corn and other crops, should be used for ethanol, Tolman added.
NCGA reminds consumers that:
• Field corn used for human consumption is less than 10 percent of the total supply. This includes high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, starches and cereals. It is important to note corn use for this market has remained flat.
• Ethanol demand has little or no impact on food prices. In the past five years, for example, there has been no correlation between average farm gate corn prices and retail meat prices. As just one example, a $2.79 box of corn flakes (12 oz.) uses less than a penny’s worth of corn.
• There is no shortage of corn. Increasing corn yields and acreage trends suggest there will be an adequate supply for all markets. U.S. farmers are very productive and are responding to market signals.
“Lester Brown continues to make headlines by instilling fear through rhetoric,” Tolman added. “Market forces, not broad assumptions, are driving the ethanol and corn markets. U.S. corn producers will continue to meet domestic and international demand for corn for use as food and feed and increasingly make a significant contribution to our quest for energy security. There is no conflict between the two, nor no pending crisis.”