October 15, 2008

Big Chicken Little cries wolf

Five months ago this week, news broke that the Grocery Gang had declared war corn based ethanol - claiming the sky was falling because corn prices were higher than the historical average. They ignored record oil and fuel prices at the time and how that impacted their bottom line and every product on every shelf in the country.

As reported in this post, the Gang - a wealthy lobby of more than 300 food and beverage makers and marketers like Kraft Foods, Miller Brewing, Dean Foods and ConAgra - made and marketed, a "highly believable yet highly fake food vs. fuel debate." Part of the Gang was Big Chicken, which this post pointed out provided the seed money in the form of a $100,000 donation and a first class plane ticket for Texas Governor Rick Perry to challenge the Renewable Fuels Standard. Fortunately, EPA saw through the Gang’s stack of half-truths and denied the waiver.

Back when the Grocery Gang’s campaign was made public it fueled considerable attention to ethanol and corn production, with the anti-ethanol crowd inexcusably (and irresponsibly) blaming ethanol and corn for food riots, a lack of food in developing countries and more. Over time these positions softened as people learned the truth about ethanol - but challenges remain yet today. And, of course, all of this ignored the fact that the Grocery Gang continued to make pretty darn good profits. Not a bad PR move on their part - blame ethanol while you continue to rake it in.

But here we are today, Oct. 15, and December corn futures closed at $3.88, with cash prices in the countryside well below that and likely below the cost of production for many corn growers. If Big Chicken Little isn’t buying all the corn it can, well, that’s their problem. But they certainly shouldn’t be pointing fingers - unless they’re looking in a mirror.

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