How many Farm Press readers cut back on the amount of food they consumed for their Thanksgiving dinner? Like me, some may have tried to exercise restraint to stop their waistlines from expanding even further.
But I seriously doubt many readers scrimped on the turkey or the dressing or the pumpkin pie as food company executives warned they might because of rising food costs. (The price of the average Thanksgiving dinner was up 14 percent — mostly for the turkey.)
In the weeks leading up to this year's annual feast day, grocery manufacturing companies and livestock producer groups kept up a steady barrage of criticism of the nation's corn farmers, trying to shift the blame to them and the demand for corn for ethanol for the increase in food prices.
In October, Hormel Foods Corp. released the results of “The 2008 Hormel Hunger Survey,” which it said found that 61 percent of us have had to cut back on the quantity or quality of food we buy because of increasing prices. “Most Americans say food prices have increased a lot since last year, and six out of 10 say corn-based ethanol is partly responsible for higher food prices,” the company noted.
A press release said 57 percent “agreed with a statement that using corn to produce ethanol makes the hunger problem worse, and slightly more agreed we should reconsider the role of ethanol as a fuel because of the impact on food prices. More than half believe using corn to make ethanol is a good idea but that ethanol subsidies waste tax dollars.”
A few days before Thanksgiving, the National Turkey Federation said turkey processing facilities were closed down in light of high corn prices caused by ethanol, and that ethanol was to blame for the higher price of this year's Thanksgiving dinner.
I'm sure the folks at Hormel and at the Turkey Federation believe what they say, but you have to wonder how many consumers would even consider ethanol as contributing to higher food prices if it hadn't been shoved down their throats for months by food processors?
The National Corn Growers Association criticized the Hormel survey as just another “PR opportunity” created to slam corn-based ethanol at a time when commodity and ethanol prices have been declining steadily.
“We recognize that some industries feel threatened when farmers find new markets for corn,” NCGA officials said in a letter to Jeffrey Ettinger, the chairman and CEO of Hormel. “But we cannot countenance efforts to use false or outdated information to sway the American public against American agriculture.”
NCGA leaders said they'd like to know when the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose board Ettinger sits on, is going to make good on its promise that food prices will fall since corn and gasoline prices are half what they were last summer.
We've asked Hormel and other organizations that same question. We're still waiting for an answer.