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Farmers: Biofuels Quota Exacerbating 'Food Crisis'

EPA's requirements for corn ethanol will drive food prices even higher after an already distressed harvest, growers warn

by Suzanne Goldenberg

Some of the largest farmers in the US are warning the government that the mandated biofuels provisions that demand grain crops to be converted into ethanol for gasoline will make an impending "food crisis" much worse.

Keith Beall harvests drought-stressed corn beyond the reach of the field's irrigation system, in Eatonton, Georgia. (Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA) The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg reports that "the country's meat, dairy and poultry producers called on the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend this year's quotas for corn ethanol production" because the requirement for corn ethanol production "was further beating up corn prices, which were already at record levels because of the drought in the mid-west."

"The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored," said the petition to the EPA's administrator Lisa Jackson.

Goldenberg also cites research published last week by the New England Complex Systems Institute warning of an "imminent food crisis" because of the diversion of corn stocks to ethanol.

"Necsi has warned for months that misguided food-to-ethanol conversion programs and rampant commodity speculation have created a food price bubble, leading to an inevitable spike in prices by 2013. Now it appears the "crop shock" will arrive even sooner due to drought, unless measures to curb ethanol production and rein in speculators are adopted immediately," the researchers warned.

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