Biodiesel Helping Food and Feed Prices

John Davis

So often lately, we’ve heard from biofuels naysayers who make all kinds of outrageous charges about how biodiesel and ethanol are pushing prices for human and livestock food through the roof. Too many times those complaints are coming from folks in the agriculture community, especially cattle and hog producers. But some are starting to recognize that biodiesel could actually help the price of livestock feed.

Recently at a hearing before the Missouri House’s Transportation Committee on a pending 5 percent biodiesel mandate in the Show-Me State, members of the Missouri Dairy Association spoke up about the benefits of the green fuel:

“The Missouri Dairy Association supports biodiesel and this bill,” said [executive director Dave] Drennan. “As more soybeans are crushed to meet the demands of biodiesel producers, more soybean meal is made available to livestock producers in greater quantities. Affordable feed is important to maintaining any dairy operation. By increasing the supply of soybean meal, biodiesel helps dairy producers keep costs down.”

High fuel prices have also impacted dairy prices. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, 85 percent of all products that are produced and purchased in the state are shipped by diesel-powered trucks. Despite local dairy production, Missouri is a milk-deficit state and imports 1.7 billion pounds of milk from other states each year.

“If you put that much milk in tanker trucks end-to-end, the line would stretch westward from downtown St. Louis past Salina, Kansas,” said Drennan. “We are talking millions of dollars in transportation costs alone. We could put that money to work in Missouri if we could grow our dairy industry and use more biodiesel.”

Research from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri says that while soybean oil prices have been strengthened by biodiesel production, the process has meant more soybean meal, and thus, lower prices for the livestock feed.

So the next time someone tries to blame biodiesel for the high cost of feed, you’ll have one more fact… and another group of livestock producers… to prove them wrong.