Corn demand because of ethanol will affect consumer food prices
A recent letter to the editor (Aug. 12) by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson disputed claims that the demand for corn for ethanol is driving up food costs. "Now, the anti-ethanol chorus wants us to believe the demand for corn fo...
A recent letter to the editor (Aug. 12) by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson disputed claims that the demand for corn for ethanol is driving up food costs. "Now, the anti-ethanol chorus wants us to believe the demand for corn for ethanol production is solely responsible for driving up the cost of food. Call it the 'Food versus Fuel Blues.' "
A recent article "Do Biofuels Mean Inexpensive Food Is a Thing of the Past?" by Iowa State University economists Bruce Babcock and Helen Jensen, based on research conducted at the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, (published in Iowa Ag Review, Summer 2007, Vol. 13. No. 3. http://www.card.iastate.edu/iowa_ag_review/summer_07/article2.aspx ) indicates that higher corn prices will have a slight to modest effect on the prices of foods containing corn products or on the prices of pork, beef and poultry, which are fed corn.
In their online article they state that "Because corn and soybean meal prices largely determine the price of feeding hogs, poultry and cattle, increased feed costs will eventually result in higher market prices for pork, beef, chicken and dairy products. Corn is also used widely as an ingredient in many processed foods. Thus, higher corn prices will also affect the cost of soft drinks, snack foods, baked goods and many other food items."
The particular price increase in food will depend on the value of corn incorporated into the product in comparison to the price of the product. The economists state:
"In a recent study, CARD researchers estimated that a
30 percent increase in the price of corn, and associated increases in the prices of wheat and soybeans, would increase egg prices by 8.1 percent, poultry prices by 5.1 percent, pork prices by 4.5 percent, beef prices by 4.1 percent, and milk prices by 2.7 percent. For all food consumed at home, average prices would increase by 1.3 percent. For food consumed away from home, average prices were estimated to increase by 0.9 percent. So, across all food consumed,
30 percent higher corn prices increase all average food prices by 1.1 percent, according to our estimates."
They continue that price increases, while probably not being noticed by most consumers, will adversely affect low-income consumers. "For most Americans, though, the higher prices caused by ethanol will hardly be noticeable. However, low-income U.S. consumers spend a much greater proportion of their income on food than high-income consumers do. Their large share combined with less flexibility to adjust expenditures in other budget areas means that any increase in food prices will cause hardship."
Stofferahn, Ph.D., is co-director,
Center for Rural Studies,
Grand Forks, N.D. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org