Poultry producers paying attention to the recent G20 agricultural ministers meeting may have sensed a momentary breeze of support from an unusual source in their opposition to corn-ethanol mandates. French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed that the governments of the world’s wealthiest nations end biofuel subsidies and mandates because of their role in raising food prices, but the U.S. and Brazilian delegations blocked the proposal. Sadly, U.S. poultry producers can expect more support from the president of France on an issue critical to their economic survival than from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
Sarkozy currently holds the presidency of the G20 group, which commissioned a report that among other things called for a reduction in the use of biofuels. Instead, the ag ministers meeting in Paris merely called for further analysis of the impact of biofuels on food availability and prices.
Another proposal rejected at the Paris meeting reflects the Obama administration’s all-and-nothing approach to biofuels policy. (That’s granting all consideration for the position of corn-ethanol production and nothing for food production.) It was a proposal to study the feasibility of flexible mandates, which would link the production of biofuels, such as ethanol, to the price of the commodity. The proposal was dropped after strong lobbying from the U.S. and Brazilian delegations.
The U.S. government should end its all-and-nothing approach to biofuels policy. The ethanol industry has no more right to an absolute concession to its interests than does any other industry sector. Balance in U.S. policies involving food and fuel production not only is in the interest of the nation but is crucial to the survival of the meat and poultry industries. Reducing overall mandates for corn-ethanol and adopting flexible mandates would be a good start to a more balanced and rational policy.