USDA will give corn growers and the ethanol industry more support in the food versus fuel fight, says Thomas Dorr, under secretary for rural development at USDA, who spoke Monday at the "New Horizons Corn Utilization and Technology conference in Kansas City Mo., last night.
Perhaps the agency was slow to respond, Dorr acknowledges. But it was studying the issue and – unlike ethanol's critics -- wanted to have the facts before it entered the debate, Dorr says. Now, the agency is ready to act.
Dorr says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and other USDA officials will be talking about how ethanol has actually reduced gasoline prices and how the price of corn accounts for just .25 percentage points of the 4.5% increase in wholesale food prices last year.
Officials hope they can "deflate the claims" of the ethanol critics, prompt "sober second and third looks" at the issue and that, in the end, "good data will prevail," Dorr says.
Dorr gave the kickoff speech at the New Horizons conference where the corn refinery industry is gathering to share technical information on new corn processing methods and new uses for corn and corn processing byproducts.
High corn prices are actually a success story, Dorr says.
It means that the farmers and processors succeeded in creating new demand for corn. It means the U.S. won the Cold War and unleashed pent up consumer demand in Eastern Europe and other countries. It means millions of people are in the process of joining the middle class and improving their lives – including their diets.
Higher prices are causing "some pain," Dorr says. He describes it as "transition turbulence."
"In the end, economic growth is a good thing," he says.
The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference continues Tuesday and Wednesday. It is sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association.