Over the weekend, Family Farmers spokesperson Kenny Wallace took some heat on his Facebook and Twitter pages for supporting farmers and corn ethanol. As you probably know, Wallace and every other NASCAR driver are running on E-15 now after NASCAR made the switch to Sunoco Green E-15. Kenny handled the criticism with his typical flair. The good news is that the detractors are playing from the same play book they always have. They don't have any new “game.”
It's a tough time of year as farmers are anxious to get in the field, Congress is anxious to pass a budget resolution, the Illinois General Assembly has their own budget woes, and everyone's looking to cut costs. Just where exactly those cuts will occur is anyone's guess at this point. But some would have much of those cuts hit in the agriculture budgets.
As ethanol and farm subsidies come under fire, are you prepared to answer the criticisms like Kenny did? Our policy indicates we will explore transitioning away from some current programs. In the mean time, are your ducks in a row to have that conversation?
Here's a little bit of information on ethanol, just in case this topic comes up in your circles, like it did in Kenny's over the weekend.
- If federal ethanol production incentives were removed and acres used to grow corn for ethanol production were diverted to other uses (including direct food production), consumer food expenditures would drop by 0.3%. That means a $5.00 food item would be $0.015 cents cheaper, and a $400-per-month grocery bill would drop by $1.20 (Source: Food Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), 2009).
- Without ethanol, gasoline would cost $0.20-$0.35 cents more per gallon. That translates into an additional $6.00-$10.50 to purchase 30 gallons a month. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2008)
- The U.S. Ethanol industry accounts for only 3% of the world’s grain supply on a net basis, and none of its food supply. (Source: USDA and Renewable Fuels Association)
- In the U.S., only about 1% of the corn grown is needed to meet the demand for direct human consumption (sweet corn). Less than 10% of the field corn grown is needed for processing for food uses. Sweet corn, in fact, is consumed in only a small percentage of the world’s countries.
- One-third of the corn that goes into ethanol production is recycled into the food chain as ready-made livestock feed, a byproduct called Dried Distillers Grains (DDGS). DDGS has a higher protein concentration than pre-ethanol corn, making it more efficient as animal feed.
- Corn is not the sole food source for livestock. Up to 25% of swine feed and up to 30% of cattle feed is comprised of soybean meal. 94% of U.S. soybeans are made into animal feed, but only about 40% of U.S. corn goes to animals.