September 25, 2009

GMA and AMI: Astroturffed fools

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and American Meat Institute – and their merry band of partners collectively known as the Grocery Gang -- are back. Yet this time in their newspaper ads and radio interviews they look even more foolish then before.


Because when they started the incredibly false (astroturf) food/fuel debate 18 months ago they at least had rising corn prices to point to in support up their argument. Now, though, corn prices less than half they were at the highs last year. In fact, cash corn is below $3 in many places. Yet ethanol production is way up. Hmmm.

Apparently the drop in corn prices hasn’t made it’s way to AMI spokesman Dave Ray, who was quoted in Brownfield complaining that ethanol has led to “double or triple” price increases in corn. If he’s buying corn today at $6 or $9, I know a few farmers who are selling.

Ray also foolishly tries to put a wedge between livestock producers and corn farmers -- as if one is better or more important than the other. The truth is, both are vital and both need each other to succeed. In fact, cattle producers and ranchers and corn farmers agree on a lot more issues than they may disagree on -- with a basic premise is both need to be profitable over the long haul.

The Grocery Gang also completely ignores another important product produced by ethanol plants -- that being distillers grains. While you often hear that one-third of a bushel of corn that goes through an ethanol plant comes back as distillers grains, it’s value is actually much more than that.

Distillers grains helps cattle producers and others in the livestock sector to reduce costs and improve performance. (Check out this post on some calculations showing profit opportunities thanks to distillers grains.)

But worst of all, the Grocery Gang’s shooting off at the mouth by falsely claiming corn ethanol is bad for the environment my put themselves in the spot light answering questions about their own environmental performance.

Specifically, of course, is the Gang’s charge that increasing the ethanol blend rate will “destroy millions of acres of forests.” While not naming Brazil, that is exactly what they are talking about – that corn ethanol will lead to the rain forest being stripped.

Yet, by far, the biggest contributor to deforestation is illegal harvesting of wood and cattle production. Yes – beef – the very product AMI and the Gang promote.

The Gang also makes an argument on greenhouse gas emissions. But perhaps some looking in the mirror would be good here. The last thing anyone needs is for livestock production to get hit over the head with tough greenhouse gas rules. Yet if they argue that corn and ethanol have a significant impact on greenhouse gases all the people they are trying to rile up will look at them, too.

In fact, many of the anti-corn ethanol folks are also anti-big meat. Connecting dots really isn’t all that difficult. Why stir the pot with myths and lies?

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