New Ethanol Coalition Goes After Big Food

Companies want to set the record straight on food prices.

Published on: Nov 11, 2008

Growth Energy, a new coalition of ethanol producers, led by ICM Inc., Poet Ethanol, Green Plains Renewable Energy and Hawkeye Energy made its debut in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning.

In announcing the new organization, Growth Energy released a policy brief and the launch of an ad campaign designed to set the record straight on food prices. The group says that former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be its spokesman.

"Big Food and their Washington lobbyists have been trying to blame the rising cost of food on American ethanol producers and the cost of corn. Well, now that the price of corn has dropped more than 50 percent since the summer, we ask the Big Food industry to explain to the American people why food prices are still so high," said Jeff Broin, chief executive of Poet. "The lies the Big Food lobby has been spreading about clean, green biofuels have finally been exposed as an intellectually dishonest smear campaign. It’s wrong and we’re coming together to ask Big Food to give struggling Americans a break."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association hired a public relations firm last spring to mount advertising and media campaigns aimed at blaming increased food costs on biofuels production, centering their premise on a claim that the increased price of corn forced food producers to raise food prices.

Growth Energy however, says the campaign has simply been used to deflect attention from Big Food’s profit growth. Kraft revenues have increased nearly 20 percent this year and net income shot up to $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sales at Kellogg’s climbed 9.5 percent and third-quarter net income increase from $305 million last year to $342 million this year, the group says.

Joining Broin in making the announcement were Dave VanderGriend, chief executive of ICM; Wayne Hoovestol, chief executive of Green Plains; and Bruce Rastetter, chief executive of Hawkeye.

Rastetter said ethanol is helping America solve some of its greatest challenges.

"The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every one billion gallons of ethanol produced, 10,000 to 20,000 jobs will be added," Rastetter said. "In 2007, the ethanol industry contributed $47.6 billion to the nation’s GDP, created more than 200,000 jobs and generated an estimated $4.6 billion in revenues for the federal government."

The new group says it is committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy. The group has also launched a web site where more information can be found. It is at www.growthenergy.org.