On Tuesday several industry groups held a press conference calling for the end of tax incentives, import tariffs and biofuel mandates for ethanol. The event was sponsored by the Food Before Fuel campaign, a coalition of more than 20 groups that includes the National Turkey Federation, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Chicken Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
"The nation's renewable fuels standard, especially as it relates to corn-based ethanol, is in need of reform," said National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, who led the press conference. The coalition has asked that ethanol policy be revisited and rethought and were major backers of requests for a reduction of the RFS earlier this year.
Corn and ethanol industry leaders were quick to respond to the group's press event. National Corn Growers Association President Bob Dickey says he is terribly disappointed in the myths that are being put forward as fact blaming high food prices on corn and ethanol.
"It is a fact that corn prices have come down dramatically," Dickey says. "Yet food prices haven't budged, they are still at the high levels that we've seen in recent months."
Dickey noted that the price of corn has fallen by more than $4 since June. He also said that with the nation's economy hurting and people losing their jobs, their homes, and their life savings, it is the wrong time to attack an industry so important to rural America. NCGA was not alone in his criticism of the Food Before Fuel campaign.
"It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that the Grocery Manufacturers Association PR attack machine has convinced agricultural groups to join in the negative campaign to try and discredit ethanol," said American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. "Americans deserve an honest and straightforward discussion about these critical matters, not some expensive and orchestrated effort to tarnish America's most successful and important renewable fuel."
A report was released Tuesday that had been commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association that showed that each dollar invested in America's ethanol industry in the form of the federal excise tax credit returned nearly $5 to federal, state and local government and the economy as a whole. According to the analysis, the tax provision has not only increased federal tax revenues, but also reduced imported oil expenditures and put more money into consumer pockets.
"This front group has made repeated erroneous and scurrilous charges against the ethanol industry that have been proven false time and time again," says RFA spokesman Matt Hartwig. "They failed to repeal the RFS because their arguments were found to be false, they have now switched gears to attack the tax incentive. When this effort fails for the same reason, no doubt they will move on to something else. It is time this bait and switch campaign is put to end."
Dickey says that facts are on corn and ethanol's side and it is important to get those facts out and let people know the truth.
"There we're many myths floating around this summer about the food and fuel issue and I think that time has proven they were wrong," Dickey says. "The very fact of where we see corn prices today, down dramatically. Food prices are not down dramatically, so I don't understand how they can blame the corn farmer for the high food prices we've had."