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More than 20 environmental, retail, hunger, Hispanic and food industry groups have joined together to launch the Food Before Fuel Campaign, a coalition effort urging Congress to revisit the nation's food-to-fuel policies, a key factor in the growing global food crisis.
Congressional policies mandate the conversion of more than one-third of all U.S. corn to ethanol, with additional subsidies and tariffs further promoting the diversion of food to fuel. Food policy experts broadly agree that these policies have contributed to record food price inflation, and the International Monetary Fund reports that U.S. food-to-fuel policy is responsible for more than 30 percent of food price inflation globally.
"There is certainly an ongoing debate over the best way forward on biofuels," said J. Patrick Boyle, president/c.e.o. of the American Meat Institute. "Our obligation as a nation must be to find fact-based policy answers that take the science and the economics into account. American consumers, our domestic food industry, and the environment we share depend on our being able to reexamine our policies and find the sustainable answer."
According to the campaign's statement of principles, the members will encourage policymakers to "revisit and restructure policies that have increased our reliance on food as an energy source, and to carefully address how to develop alternative fuels that do not pit our energy needs against affordable food and environmental sustainability."
"Increased use of biofuels from corn and soy seemed like a good idea when Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 as a way to lessen our dependence on foreign oil," said Gus West, National Hispanic Institute president. "Dig deeper, however, and it becomes apparent that diverting our food crops into the development of ethanol is bad for the economy, bad for our vulnerable populations and bad for the environment. Congress needs to reconsider this flawed energy policy that sacrifices food for fuel -- and damages our world in the bargain."
Cal Dooley, c.e.o. of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, concurred. "It is past time to acknowledge the reality of this problem and begin a serious, bipartisan effort to fix it. Our current policy is driving higher food prices around the globe and here at home, and while it's not the only factor at play, it is one we can do something about. This effort is designed to show that voices from around the nation and across the political spectrum are speaking together to call for change."
Other groups expressed concern over the biofuel policy's effect on high commodity prices, which in turn impact small businesses and livestock and poultry farmers.
The organizations supporting the Food Before Fuel Campaign are:
American Bakers Association
American Beverage Association
American Conservative Union
American Frozen Food Institute
American Meat Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Earth Policy Institute
Environmental Working Group
Food For All
Grocery Manufacturers Association
International Foodservice Distributors Association
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
National Chicken Council
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Turkey Federation
Pilgrim's Pride Corporation
Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits
Snack Food Association
The Hispanic Institute
Tortilla Industry Association
Women Impacting Public Policy