The Corner

Let Them Eat Rice?

Here’s Senator Grassley on the food crunch:

If part of our problem is that the Chinese are going to eat meat and you’ve got to have corn and soybeans to feed the Chinese their meat, then why isn’t it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat rice as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?

Well, I’m not quite sure I’d put it that way, but Sen. Grassley is, of course, quite correct to say that the U.S. has the right to use its crops for whatever it wants. It’s also important, however, to remember that the increase in food prices made worse by the bio-ethanol splurge has hurt Americans too, and it is hurting the poorest Americans the most.

This report from Reuters (I know, I know, but they aren’t always wrong) makes interesting reading:

The American Bakers Association has been lobbying Congress to open up “non-environmentally sensitive” land in the Conservation Reserve Program for production to help increase supply. The group is also advocating elimination of the ethanol import tariff and temporarily waiving ethanol production limits. “We need to make sure there is good balance between traditional agriculture and ethanol policies,” Sanders said. With the supply issue looming, commodity prices are still hitting U.S. bakers hard.

Diversification away from the current over-reliance on oil is essential for this country’s security. Bio-ethanol can be part of that strategy, but boosting U.S. use of that fuel could be better achieved by lifting the tariff on imported ethanol (which could come from Brazil, and would be based on sugar rather than corn), which would in turn free up more American farmland for food production.

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