The diversion of crops for biofuels has contributed to global feed and food prices hitting record highs, according to experts.
Corn prices in the U.S. rose by 73% during the second half of 2010, and the proportion of Chinese cassava going to ethanol jumped to 52% from just 10% in 2008. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has reported that its index of food prices is showing the highest numbers ever, with prices rising 15% from October to January.
In the U.S., Congress has mandated that biofuel use must reach 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. The European Union has stipulated that 10% of transportation fuel must come from renewable sources such as biofuel or wind power by 2020. Countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Thailand have also adopted biofuel targets.
With so many factors affecting food prices and availability, experts say it's difficult to assign a hard number representing precisely what role biofuels play in the statistics. “The problem is complex, so it is hard to come up with sweeping statements like biofuels are good or bad,” said Oliver Dubois, a bioenergy expert at the FAO in Rome. “But what is certain is that biofuels are playing a role. Is it 20 or 30 or 40%? That depends on your modeling.”
Dubois and other food experts say they would like to see countries revise their policies so that rigid fuel mandates can be suspended when food stocks get low or prices become too high. “The policy really has to be food first,” said Hans Timmer, director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. “The problems occur when you set targets for biofuels irrespective of the prices of other commodities.”
Webinar discuss feed enzymes for poultry feed millers
extension outreach appointment, Dr. Tom Overton, professor of dairy management
within Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, spends much of his time
working with NY dairies, their nutritionists and vets on issues related to
transition cow management. In his opinion, one of the areas of opportunity for
dairy farms can be found in the management of the pre-calving diet. With
his team, Overton is currently involved in a commercial research study involving
55 farms focused on the influence of particle size on dry cow diets. “We’re
finding that diets are quite sortable with large differences in particle size
distribution,” Overton explains. “[The industry] needs to do a better job in
terms of particle size to make [the rations] less sortable.” In a
total mixed ration, sorting is problematic because cows tend to favor the grain
component and therefor may not consume the necessary fiber and nutrients. In
this video, Overton discusses his team’s research involving pre-calving dairy
diets at the World Dairy Expo. The 2014 edition of
the World Dairy Expo, which was held in early October in Madison,
WI, drew more than
300,000 visitors from roughly 90 countries. The event featured 2,500 head of
dairy cattle and more than 250 exhibitors.
Near-record meat prices spur demand for animal feed
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