Biofuels To The Rescue

April 2, 2008

April 2, 2008

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This John Block Commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association and Wal-Mart Stores -- both regarded with respect, admiration, and appreciation in rural America.

Do you remember the good old days when corn, soybeans, and wheat were cheap? There weren't any articles slamming the farmer for high food prices. We weren't being blamed for anything then. We were subsidizing the consumer with the least expensive, highest quality food in the world.

And then almost overnight prices of corn and other commodities shot up. We are on the radar screen now. We are on the cover of Time magazine -- "The Clean Energy Scam." "Ethanol is a Farce." Blame ethanol for higher corn prices. Even our own livestock industry is complaining about the cost of feed .

This kind of inaccurate, inflammatory publicity can hurt our cause. In the first place, any country that spends less than 10% of family income to put food on the table has a real bargain. We need to stand our ground. The U.S. food industry is second to none. Yes, food prices are up maybe 6%. That's only about 3% above inflation. Keep in mind that our cost of raising a crop has jumped by perhaps 40%. And that is mostly driven by the cost of energy.

Don't forget our biofuels are helping to hold down the cost of fuel. A recent study tells us gas would be $4.00 per gallon now if it were not for ethanol.

Most studies that I have read confirm the primary driving force pushing up food prices is global demand for meat. To produce meat it takes grain.

Market forces are setting prices and no one can do much about it. Nor should we.

In spite of the hail of criticism coming down on the biofuels industry, I think we are in a pretty strong position. Our citizens accept the reality that we need to reduce our energy dependence on the Middle East and Venezuela. Why should we continue to transfer our wealth to unfriendly countries? Let's keep it here at home. We can grow it. We have sun and wind.

The whole food industry needs to stand together, including grain, livestock, processors, wholesalers and retailers. The rising tide will lift all boats and the U.S. will be stronger and more secure.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.