A coalition of 34 U.S. governors from Washington to New York to Texas have called on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to alter the way his department reports the use of corn for ethanol production. They argue that it downplays the growing importance of distillers grains to meet livestock feed demand and provides an inaccurate rhetorical weapon for ethanol opponents.
"In recent days, some pundits have even gone so far as to blame ethanol for the destabilization in Egypt," Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton write in a March 15 letter representing the Governor's Biofuels Coalition. "Unfortunately, USDA's monthly corn supply and demand reports provide support for this sensationalized reporting because they identify "corn demand for ethanol" without immediately noting this is gross demand, and not the net use of the starch portion of the corn kernel. This overstates the use of corn for ethanol by as much as a factor of two or more, and fails to inform the public about what is truly happening in the food and fuel supply chain."
National Corn Growers Association President Bart Schott agrees with the governors' assessment.
"People are exaggerating the amount of corn that goes into ethanol," Schott said. "While we are proud of the role ethanol plays in creating jobs, improving the environment and growing energy independence, we want to ensure that an accurate representation is made of the important work our growers are doing to meet all needs - for feed and food as well as for fuel."
Schott noted how the ProExporter Network estimates that the ethanol industry will provide the equivalent of approximately 1.2 billion bushels of livestock feed, in the form of dried distillers grains and corn gluten feed.
"The livestock industry, which provides healthy meat for consumers around the globe, remains our top customer," Schott said. "Factoring in the distillers grains means that we're providing 6.1 billion bushels to the livestock industry here, and 2.25 billion to export markets, the bulk of which is for livestock feed."