In light of dramatic increases in food prices and the environmental costs of fuels derived from food crops, Congress should revisit federal food-to-fuel mandates and subsidies, a top official of a Pennsylvania-based snack foods company told Congress today.
"Although many factors are contributing to the sharp increase in food prices, the only factor affecting food and feed prices that is under the control of Congress is federal food-to-fuel mandates and subsidies diverting food into fuel production,"Daryl Thomas, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Herr Foods Inc., Nottingham, PA, told the House Small Business Committee during a hearing on the impact of food prices on small business. Thomas is chairman of the Snack Food Association (SFA).
Thomas told committee members that snack food manufacturers like Herr's have seen production costs rise by at least 15 percent due to the skyrocketing costs of commodities. Farm-level corn prices have increased more than 150 percent, and soybean prices have jumped more than 100 percent, he said.
"Congress should reduce our reliance on food as an energy feedstock and should instead accelerate the development of fuels that do not pit our energy needs against the needs of the hungry or the environment,"Thomas said, noting that food prices rose by 4.9 percent during 2007 - the largest increase in 17 years - and the domestic price of basic staples such as eggs, milk, meat and eggs have increased even more dramatically in the last three years.
"In particular,"he stressed, "we believe that Congress should accelerate the development of cellulosic ethanol derived from crop wastes, grasses and other materials that do not increase food prices, hold significantly greater promise to displace traditional sources of gasoline, and could have less impact on the environment."
Thomas predicted that food prices will continue to rise as more corn and soy oils are diverted for fuel, only worsening a situation that hits the poorest and most vulnerable Americans the hardest.
"Food inflation will rise by 7 to 8 percent over the next few years, as up to 40 percent of our corn and 30 percent of our vegetable oils are diverted from our food supplies,"he predicted. "What's more, food-to-fuel mandates increase greenhouse gas emissions and pose other environmental challenges, including poor air and water quality and water shortages."
Thomas said that in addition to reducing the nation's reliance on food as an energy feedstock, Congress should accelerate the development "of fuels that do not pit our energy needs against the needs of the hungry or the environment."
Thomas' testimony capped a three-day initiative by SFA member company executives who participated in the association's Day in D.C. Spring Summit, during which they met with dozens of members of the House and Senate and their key staff representatives to discuss their concerns about high commodity prices and other key issues of concern.