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ISA:?Don’t blame biofuels for rising food costs

By Staff | Mar 11, 2011

By LARRY KERSHNER Farm News news editor FORT DODGE — Media and consumer groups are blaming the rising cost of food on biofuels, but that’s just not the case, according to Grant Kimberley, director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association, especially for biodiesel. Kimberley was addressing an audience at an all-day biodiesel symposium Tuesday at Iowa Central Community College. Kimberley said that the U.S. soybean growing industry produces more soy oil than it needs. Even if the biodiesel industry reaches its mandated goal of manufacturing 800 million gallons in 2011, there will still be an excess of soy oil in stock. Citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Kimberley said commodity prices are still less than 20 percent of the overall food costs, with labor accounting for 39 percent transportation another 4 percent. Food costs, he said, are projected to rise 2 to 3 percent in the U.S. during 2011. He cited a number of impacts that applies pressure to food costs including a weakening dollar, regional and global weather problems, a stronger demand from China and India as their middle classes grow, and political uncertainty in North Africa that puts pressure on crude oil supplies. “There are many factors at work when it comes to commodity prices,” Kimberley said. “It’s too simplistic to blame biofuels.” In addition, he said that direct land use for biofuels has not changed in this country since 1959. He credited better hybrids and farm technology “that allows growers to get bigger yields on the same or fewer acres.” He said that in soybeans, the national average yield per acre in has been climbing by .41 bushels for each of the past 35 years. Technology has also improved the refining of biofuels, Kimberley said. In 1998 the industry was getting 3.2 units of energy for every one unit spent in producing it. The ration has improved to 4.56 units of energy in 2011 and is expected to increase to 5.44 units by 2015. “That’s really much higher than other fuel sources,” Kimberley said. Higher even than gasoline. These efficiencies are reached through improved precision farming techniques including energy efficient machines, no-till and strip-till soil management and GPS technology. “So we can still feed the world and fuel the world and do it on the same acres,” Kimberley said.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or at kersh@farm-news.com.

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