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UK Guardian Misunderstands Ethanol


 

Ok here's the video in question:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2008/oct/29/corn-farmers-ethanol

 The title is "We're not robbing food from people's mouths,' and it's part of a series, "On the road to the White House."

First you see an interview with Corky Jones.  For those of us who understand both Corky and Ed, and the perspectives they represent,  it's easy to what's happening.

Ed has the standard perspective you see on progressive and leftist web sites.  Great values, but, as is especially true with progresssives, missing key facts to  understand the issues.

Corky is identified as a member of the corn growers association.  That says nothing crucial about US farm politics.  In actual fact, Corky is a member of the American Corn Growers Association, and NOT the National Corn Growers Organization.  The first group only started because of the failure of the second group.  They oppose each others.  Don't lump them.  Ok See my criticism of the NCGA and of people like Ed Pilkington here:  "The Farmie Foodie Coalition:  A Winner for Agribusiness."  NCGA are the "Farmie's."  Pilkington speaks for the Foodies.  Corky Jones is neither, and he means it.

I've linked both the ACGA and the American Agriculture Movement (Corky's farm cap) in my Farm Bill Primer.  Both see through the subsidy myth to the deeper issue of low prices caused by a lack of price floors and supply management, etc.   ACGA, for example, in giving testimony on the last US farm bill advocated for Global Farmer, for strong antidumping policies.

Pilkington, in contrast, criticizes higher farm prices as bad for the world's poor.  That's the point of his title:  "We're not robbing food from people's mouths."  

But the poorest countries, Least Developed Countries, are 70% rural.  They're poor because of low farm prices.  That's the long term cause of their poverty, which is the cause of their hunger.  (This is, of course, a generalization, part [with WTO/trade issues] of the biggest cause overall, but there are many qualifiying factors and differences between countries, their politics, etc.)  Our policy in the US and in the European CAP has been to lose money on farm exports.  To help the poor in LDCs we'd have to make the sacrifice of making a profit per unit on farm exports.  We don't do that because the big agribusinesses oppose it, especially the buyers of farm grains and cotton (hog and poultry factories and cattle feedlots, ethanol, food and feed mills, exporters).  

Ok, USDA-ERS found that US farmers lost money vs full costs every year 1981-2006 (except 1996, a good corn year) for the big five (corn, wheat, rice, cotton, soybeans) plus these feedgrains (oats, barley, grain sorghum).  Losses per acre times acres harvested for a sum of these 8 crops give losses in the hundreds of billions.  

In contrast, in the 1941 Steagall Amendment, the US raised prices as an economic stimulus.  Also in contrast, OPEC raised oil prices and took in a lot more money.  At one time a barrel of oil was about the same as a bushel of wheat, but when oil hit $91 (2008 average) wheat did not hit $91!  Wheat was way down at $6.80.  The same for 2.5 bushels of corn.  At one time oil was several times the rice cwt price.  Not in 2008!  So this is part of the context Pilkington totally misses, as do most others.

Ok, AAM supports "parity," the traditional standard for a fair trade, living wage farm price.  Ed Pilkington argued against it, and in favor of export dumping on LDCs.  He didn't mean to, surely, he just didn't know any better.

Ok, so ethanol, in raising farm prices, helps rural countries, ie. LDC's, which are 70% rural.  But BIG ETHANOL, is a huge lobby for LOW farm prices, for export dumping, for the U.S. losing money on farm exports.  They're not playing both sides like Corky Jones.  But they are playing the farm subsidy smokescreen, and the ethanol vs. hunger smokescreen.  Believe it!  They want people to believe that farm prices should be low, for the hungry, just as Pilkington has called for.  They want what they've always wanted, policies of dumping on LDCs, and on U.S. and EU farmers.

There is, of course, a dilemma here.  LDC's need fair trade farm prices, but for a quarter century they were devastated with poverty prices.  In truth, many of their people now can't even afford the cost of dumped food prices.  So that needs to be addressed also.  

Ok, farmers in AAM and ACGA lost politically over many decades.  Now, finally, others int he media and progressive groups are paying a little attention, though they're still getting it wrong and are inadvertently siding with agribusiness.  Thus Pilkington inadvertently sides with ethanol, with cheap grain prices as ADM wants for ethanol.  Ethanol was built upon US and EU policies of losing money on exports.

Corky is no ADM advocate, however, far from it!  Unlike Pilkington he's an ADM opponent.  Corky  and his groups went to ethanol to not give up in the fight against export dumping and low farm prices.  If Corky loses on corn, he makes some money on his ethanol investments.  If he loses on ethanol with high corn prices, it's visa versa.  Pilkington doesn't get this.

Ok, the politics.  Remember, the series is "On the road to the White House."  So is it McCain or Obama?  Note that there is no input from Corky Jones!  Either he wasn't asked, or he was edited out.  The ethanol guy, Roger Hill was asked.  Carl Pope of the Sierra Club was asked.  Neither gave answers demonstrating the kind of understanding Corky Jones would have.  In fact, both Obama and McCain support zero price floors, export dumping, losing money on US farm exports most of the time (though we're again in a bit of a price spike as I write).  That is, in terms of policy, they offered no price floors, no supply management, the positions strongly supported by both of Corky Jones' organizations.  And no reserves and price ceilings on the top side to protect the hungry from price spikes!  Both AAM and ACGA support these top side policies, so both are strongly there FOR the hungry in LDCs (both long term with price floors and short term with price ceilings and reserves for the food crisis).  

Pilkington shows no support for these crucial top side policies, and no understanding that they exist.  He could have learned about them from Jones.  He did not.  This is much the same as the failure of the food films to listen to lGeorge Naylor, and the failure of Church and hunger groups to listen to the National Family Farm Coalition.

Hey folks, look at my many blogs and comments on these matters (ie. google "Brad Wilson" and "price floors" or "food crisis," etc.)  Isn't it about time someone helped me out and helped us to stop the spread of all of this false information.  Here we have huge movements around the world claiming support against hunger, but inadvertently supporting corporate agribusiness against the poor and hungry rural people of the world!  

Enough already!  Europe, you're just as bad as many in the U.S.

Online References.

Much of the good info on these matters is off line, pre internet.  I've linked the best materials I could find in my Farm Bill Primer and Food Crisis Primer.  I show broad US and world support for what I argue here.  

See also my historic farm bill videos and food movement reviews.

 

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