RFA Says Ethanol's Bad Rap Unwarranted

Hartwig points to the amount of feed that is returned to the livestock sector following ethanol production.

Published on: Sep 15, 2011

Livestock and poultry producers are concerned about higher feed prices and tighter supplies, and ethanol continues to take much of the blame. However, Matt Hartwig with the Renewable Fuels Association says the ethanol industry will produce almost 40 million metric tons of livestock feed this year in the form of distillers grains, which is not accurately reflected in supply and demand statistics.

"We really are about producing a low carbon renewable fuel, a high value, high protein nutrient rich livestock feed," Hartwig said. "When a bushel of corn enters an ethanol plant, fully one-third of that bushel gets returned to the livestock feed market in the form of distillers grains. So when you hear numbers about the amount of corn used in ethanol production, you need to make sure that number is a net number."

Hartwig says ethanol has helped add value to corn, which should be positive for all of agriculture. He says many livestock producers who also raise grain understand the dynamics of it. Many of the corporate investors in livestock have been complaining because they want corn priced like it was 15 years ago. 

As livestock producers have approached Congress about the feed availability issue and raised the food versus fuel flag again, Hartwig encourages lawmakers to look at more than just the price of corn.

"Today a pound of pork chops retails for around $3.50," Hartwig said. "In that pound of pork chops there is roughly 30 cents worth of corn at today's corn price. That's less than 10% of the total price so there are other factors after that pig leaves the farm that influences the prices consumers pay at the retail level. It's time that we address those, things like high gasoline prices, high diesel prices, high energy prices, the labor and the manufacturing and the advertising. All of that helps bump up the price that consumers pay in the aisle far more than the price of corn."

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing Wednesday afternoon on the concerns of livestock and poultry producers about feed availability.