Ethanol continues to get more than its fair share of blame for higher food prices, but Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns urges people to look at the whole picture.
Speaking to farm broadcasters in Washington D.C. recently, Johanns said that he hates to pick out one item in the food chain and start blaming it for rising costs. “Look at how much diesel fuel has gone up recently,” he said. “What’s a significant piece of the food chain? It’s moving that commodity from farm to table.”
The latest forecast for food price increases this year is between three and four percent. Beef and poultry are up already over 4.5% from last year. But the largest increases are in fresh fruits and vegetables, which are up six to eight percent over 2006. According to USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag, “Part of this is due to weather damage, but also we just have seen higher production costs overall and higher costs of transportation coming into the system more fully.”
So, when it comes to reports that increased ethanol production is the cause of increased food prices, Johanns said, “Again, I would just urge people to be very cautious about this story. It tends to be an interesting story but it may not have the significance that one would argue. We need to tell the whole story.”
Listen to Johanns’ comments here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/audio/dc-johanns.mp3] 1:20 mp3