At least that’s the message that a new coalition, including the American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council Coalition members, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Grocery Manufactures/Food Products Association, want to get out. The group sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addressing a new Senate bill -- S. 1419, known as the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. It includes a 36-billion gallon renewable fuels standard by 2022, of which 15 billion gallons must come from corn ethanol. The remainder must come from cellulosic sources such as corn stover and fiber.

The coalition argues that it would “significantly impact food and feed production, public health and [the environment]" unless there are proper safeguards. The coalition reiterates that it supports growth of renewable and alternative fuels, but that the United States is pushing the limit on corn-based ethanol. It emphasizes the need to look at other long-term solutions such as cellulosic ethanol. The letter contends, "Rapid development of the corn-based ethanol industry is already having adverse impacts on food supplies and prices, a major concern for consumers."

Richard Bernstein, a Merrill Lynch Chief Investment Strategist, conducted a review and found that food prices have risen at annualized rate of 7.3 percent through the first three months of 2007. The coalition points this out and more.

Of course, the National Corn Growers Association see things differently. “The legislation moves toward diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio and growing the biofuels industry,” says Ken McCauley, NCGA president.

NCGA is encouraging senators to support the bill in its current form and to strongly oppose amendments that seek to limit the potential of grain-based ethanol or put restrictions on production agriculture.

McCauley contends that corn growers can produce 15 billion bushels of corn by 2015, which would allow the stated 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol without affecting other corn markets.

The legislation also authorizes an ethanol pipeline feasibility study, flex fuel vehicle optimization research, higher ethanol blend level studies, cellulosic feedstock pilot programs, as well as loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy producers.  

The coalition has launched a Web site, www.balancedfoodandfuel.org, geared toward policy makers, the media and the public about the impact of national ethanol policy on industry and consumers.