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Corn+Soybean Digest

Wrongfully Accused: Corn Industry Speaks Out About Increasing Meat Prices

Corn production is not to blame for increasing meat prices at the local grocery store and butcher shop.

Though that’s what the meat industry would like consumers to believe.

An April news release issued by the American Meat Institute (AMI) attributes support of corn ethanol with an increase in livestock production costs.

As executive director of the Ohio Corn Growers Association, I take offense to the recent media coverage that has falsely accused the corn industry for stimulating a rise in the cost of meat and that has also misrepresented facts about corn-ethanol production.

The production of corn ethanol, an American-made, sustainable fuel source, does not affect the cost of a summer barbecue. It does, however, support the economic and environmental vitality of our country, because it is cleaner burning than standard petroleum and provides thousands of jobs to stimulate communities nationwide. It also supports America’s energy independence to decrease our reliance on foreign oil.

But, some have reported that corn-ethanol production has both raised the cost of corn and diverted its use from food and animal-feed purposes. Because corn is a primary source in animal feed, they claim that these inaccuracies instigated a jump in the price of meat to make animal feed more costly to livestock producers. Meat-industry leaders are using this deceptive logic to rationalize increased meat costs to the consumer.

This is simply not true. There has never been a shortage of corn caused by the production of domestically produced, renewable biofuels like ethanol. In reality, there is a surplus of corn for all market sectors – food, animal feed, fuel and even exports. U.S. corn farmers produced a record 13 billion bushels of corn last year.

Another fact, corn today is priced at less than half of what it was during the summer of 2008. Therefore, the cost of corn has not affected the cost of animal feed for livestock farmers. Fault cannot be placed upon increased feed costs as a cause of increased meat prices, especially because feed expenses have fallen $3.7 billion (7.9%), according to the USDA.

Moreover, one third of what is left from processed corn used in ethanol production is fed to livestock in the form of distillers’ grain to further supplement the animal-feed supply.

I take pride in working on behalf of Ohio’s 26,000 corn farmers. It’s unnerving to be wrongly criticized and tainted in the media when our farmers provide an affordable food source and a commendable fuel alternative.

While it’s easy to blame farmers, it’s important to note that increased food costs are the result of several related issues such as oil prices, global demand and weather, not to mention product marketing and labor expenses.

What complicates the issue further is that meat prices are up 5% this year, even as food costs have decreased 5.8%, so why are AMI and Grocery Manufacturers Association pointing fingers? Rather than wrongfully accuse the corn industry, a question is raised as to why meat retailers aren’t held responsible for taking larger margins of profit amidst the influx of consumers’ meat costs?

It’s beyond frustrating to continually correct some media and organizations. I cannot reiterate enough that ethanol production has no bearing on the corn supply for its use in other markets. There is no competition for corn.

It’s unfortunate that a fellow industry group, that should be our ally, is throwing corn farmers under the bus. I can only hope that livestock farmers aren’t supportive of AMI’s irresponsible tactics, and I invite them to begin participation in this discussion.

Rather then seeking something to blame for increasing meat costs at the checkout line – corn in this instance – America’s meat-industry leaders should re-evaluate their rationale. They are disrespecting Americans’ intelligence by attempting to manipulate reason and are punishing the U.S. corn industry, a valuable sector of the national economy, not to mention the image of American agriculture, in their wake.

Corn-ethanol production is an environmental, economical and energy-security benefit to consumers. It has not influenced changes in the prices of meat products and is undeserving of a defective smear campaign.

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