Representatives from both sides of the food versus fuel debate discussed the issue on Friday in Kansas City during a forum held by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.
Speakers included USDA Undersecretary Tom Dorr; editor Morton Sosland of Sosland Publishing Co.; and Randy Schnepf, agricultural economist with the Congressional Research Service.
The panel moderated by Mike Adams of Agri-Talk included two farmers – Blake Hurst, vice president of Missouri Farm Bureau and Ken McCauley, past chairman of the National Corn Growers Association – who represented the fuel perspective. On the food side were Robb MacKie, president of the American Bakers Association, and Dan Gustafson of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Notably, all four panel members made the point that biofuels are not the main culprit for rising food prices and agreed that major factors behind rising food costs include tight global grain stocks, export bans, and record energy costs. “It appears the volatile corn and wheat markets have adjusted down, for now. The key constraints on global grain stocks remain to be land available for agricultural production and crop yields,” said Schnepf.
McCauley noted that crop yields may double by the year 2030. “We are currently using all available technology to significantly increase corn production, and there is more technology in the pipeline that will boost yields even more,” McCauley said. “Likewise, we can find new markets for corn while still meeting all traditional needs and being responsible stewards of the natural resources we’ve been given.”