Food & Fuel

July 4, 2007

July 4, 2007

Is it food or fuel or food and fuel? That's the question. Opponents of the effort to use farm grov,rn products as fuel to reduce our reliance on oil imports have been raising their voices. They are complaining about the rising cost of food .

Well, I tend to agree with House Ag Committee Chairman Peterson, who recently remarked that maybe food has been too cheap anyway. A family in the U.S. pays only 10% of disposahle income on food. Countries around the world pay from 20% to 50%. Just think how much money (not spent on food in this country) is left over to buy expensive sneakers, I-pods, flat screen TVs, and bottled water. We are spoiled thanks in part to the American farmer. Back in 1950, we were spending more than 20% of our family income on food.

A big article in the Washington Post entitled "The Rising Tide of Corn" trumpets the increases in food prices -- all foods are up an average of 3 .6% -- that's really not a lot. Beefup 4.7%, poultry up 4.6%, eggs up 18%, milk up 3.2%, etc. But the article does acknowledge that energy prices are another driver along with global demand for our farm exports. Corn seems to be getting most of the blame, and there are a lot of scare tactics employed to hype the issue.

It can be argued that energy costs prohably have a greater impact on food prices than corn. Think of it this way. Higher energy prices affect every single food product. Corn prices impact only a small segment of our food supply.

The debate isn't over, but I have confidence that farmers will respond to the market. We already have by planting 90.5 million acres of corn this year -more than any year since 1945. In considering yield potential in the future, Monsanto predicts 30 bushels per acre higher average yield in the next 10 years.

Don't underestimate the American Ag industry. We can deliver both food and fuel.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.