Chinese Should Stick to Rice, Says Sen. Ethanol (R-Iowa)

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Some stories just speak for themselves. From the Des Moines Register:

"If part of our problem is that the Chinese are going to eat meat and you've got to have corn and soybeans to feed the Chinese their meat, then why isn't it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat rice as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?" [Sen. Charles] Grassley asked in a conference call with reporters.

http://divisionoflabour.com/archives/MikeLesterEthanolCartoon.jpg

The Register adds:

Critics, including the World Bank, say that the rise of biofuel production is contributing to the soaring price of food around the world.

Almost all of the increase in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to ethanol production in the United States, depleting supplies for other uses, the World Bank said in a recent report. Rising food prices may in turn undermine recent income gains in poor countries, the report said.

Whole Register story here.

Kudos to Alex Avery.

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  1. Now I’m going to have to make two trips to costco the next time I’m buying my 50 lb bags of rice. Thanks a lot, you teat sucking farmers!

  2. “If part of our problem is that the Chinese are going to eat meat and you’ve got to have corn and soybeans to feed the Chinese their meat, then why isn’t it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat rice as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?”

    Maybe because the Chinese aren’t using my tax dollars to buy their meat?

  3. As much as I hate to support Chuckles the Clown, other countries do not have a “right” to buy corn and soybeans grown in the US. If US farmers can get a better price by selling their produce to ethanol producers, then the rest of the world will just have to suck it up.

    Of course, that argument is at least partially invalidated by the fact that US taxpayers are subsidizing the ethanol market and disrupting the global market for corn and soybeans.

  4. Isn’t there a beef lobby to avert gaffes like this? Step up, Iowa cattlemen!

  5. On the bright side, corn that is converted to ethanol can’t be converted to HFCS, so Dave W will eventually be able to buy is cane sugar sodas.

  6. I agree with kinnath, but man, Grassley makes a better Antoinette with that comment than Kristen Dunst.

  7. Of course, that argument is at least partially invalidated by the fact that US taxpayers are subsidizing the ethanol market and disrupting the global market for corn and soybeans.

    Only if while I wasn’t paying attention they changed the meaning of the word “partially” to make it a synonym of “completely”.

  8. And the winner of the most pretentiously confusing political cartoon ever is….

  9. Only if while I wasn’t paying attention they changed the meaning of the word “partially” to make it a synonym of “completely”.

    In Bizarro world, where voters are informed, voters could choose to subsidize ethanol with full knowledge that they are fucking over poor people in other countries. And it is still truy that those poor people do not have an actual right to eat US grown corn and soybean related products.

  10. And it is still truy that those poor people do not have an actual right to eat US grown corn and soybean related products.

    And it is still true that it is abusive and tyrannical to take my tax dollars and use them to make the food I buy more expensive.

    The situation is essentially analogous to one where the federal government took my tax dollars and paid large bounties to medical doctors to induce them to quit their jobs and start stamp collecting instead, resulting in a medical care shortage and skyrocketing prices for my medical care. If they did that, the abusiveness of the policy would be obvious to all. It’s somehow different because farmers are involved, and we’re supposed to all sing John Cougar songs and feel happy for farmers when they rent seek.

  11. With biofuels becoming a moral issue, does Ron B. now shill for Big Religion?

  12. And it is still true that it is abusive and tyrannical to take my tax dollars and use them to make the food I buy more expensive.

    And that is an entirely different topic unrelated to the gaffe by Sen. Grassley about whether or not Chinese peasants should stick to eating rice.

  13. I’m with Fluffy–let’s go kick Mellencamp’s ass. He has a weak heart, right? So let’s make him run first.

  14. How about we turn around all the free grain we give away to perpetually poor countries, ferment and distill it and get trashed as we wait for our once-great country to go straight to hell? I’ll bring the cigars and porn.

  15. some fed,

    You’re just shilling for Big Beef… not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  16. other countries do not have a “right” to buy corn and soybeans grown in the US.

    No, but there’s nothing wrong in pointing out that those other countries are willing to buy US corn and soybeans but are being prevented from doing so by US subsidies. Grassley’s response is to avoid talking about subsidies — the real issue, and the one he should speak to as a matter of _US policy_ — and suggest instead that the Chinese change their eating habits — which is none of his concern. The response to critics of US policy should be a _defense_ of US policy. Grassley’s response suggests that he doesn’t actually have a defense.

    But the article does provide a useful shorthand for discussion. Just ask someone indifferent to the farm subsidy issue to imagine how big to subsidies have to be to be more profitable than _selling food to the Chinese_.

    Anon

  17. And that is an entirely different topic unrelated to the gaffe by Sen. Grassley about whether or not Chinese peasants should stick to eating rice.

    Um:

    The question Grassley was discussing was whether subsidizing boifuels was leading to higher food prices.

    Because Grassley doesn’t want to talk about the ways in which my tax dollars are being used to make food more expensive, he answered that the Chinese should just eat rice instead.

    If a Senator from an “ethanol looter” state is going to decline to reconsider the wisdom of getting rid of biofuels subsidies, and offers instead the advice that we should tell the Chinese to eat rice instead, that means he has linked the issues FOR ME.

  18. How about we turn around all the free grain we give away to perpetually poor countries, ferment and distill it and get trashed as we wait for our once-great country to go straight to hell?

    To late we are already in hell…by dumping free food on poor markets you discourage farmers in those countries from growing food…why would you grow food if the US is going to undercut your prices?

    Oh yeah and if those poor countries actually produced food they might produce a surplus and export it into our markets which would lower food prices here….so the US government buys up US food to keep prices high and then dumps it on poor markets to keep them from ever becoming producers.

  19. You’re just shilling for Big Beef… not that there’s anything wrong with that!

    Sounds like someone needs a beef slap. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re the one doing the slapping.

  20. At least he didn’t say “why isn’t it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat cats as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?”

  21. Looks like this is Karma payback for when China told use to stop whining about the Yuan and lost manufacturing and go back to being rural farmers. We feed the world indeed.

    Nonetheless, farming and ethanol subsidies still suck.

  22. Chinese Mother: You eat all your meat young man. There are people walking in America that could have driven with the corn that animal gorged on before it was slaughtered for your dinner!

  23. Abdul,

    I got a better one. Ever read Marco Polo? There’s a reference to “two-legged mutton”.

  24. Yeah, I must have missed it when the U.S. got assigned the job of feeding the world.

    So wait, I forgot why I was supposed to hate the U.S. again?

    Before ethanol, the U.S. was flooding the world market with cheap corn, harming local farmers in third world countries, so it is evil?

    Now, post-ethanol, the U.S. is no longer flooding the market with cheap corn, causing rising food prices, and this is evil?

    Is it too much to ask that anti-American reactionaries at least create an internally consistent set of beliefs for their hate philosophy. This stuff is seriously taxing my suspension of disbelief.

  25. Pork producers in the Midwest are getting killed right now. Look for pork prices to go through the roof.

  26. I got a better one. Ever read Marco Polo? There’s a reference to “two-legged mutton”.

    Ethanol is PEOPLE!!!!

  27. Abdul,

    Now I’m sad. I suspect that someone did indeed take his guns from his “cold, dead hands”. Damn dirty apes!

  28. Look Rex, I don’t care if the US floods the world with cheap grain, or robs the world blind with expensive grain.

    I just don’t want it to do either as the result of deliberate government manipulation of the grain market.

    I especially don’t want my tax dollars going to subsidize ethanol when record energy and food prices mean that producers of energy don’t need subsidies and farmers don’t need subsidies.

    [I don’t think they need them at any time – but it’s more offensive than usual to hear defenses of subsidy in the face of record prices.]

  29. We definitely should end ethanol subsidies. I also have to wonder what the 1990’s would have been like if the US ratified the Kyoto treaty and switched to biofuels back then. Thankfully, we held out long enough for better diets to become the norm in emerging countries.

  30. Anybody bring up Peak Oil as a reason for the increase in food prices, not ethanol subsidies? It takes an awful lot of oil to grow and ship food everywhere.

    *puts on tinfoil hat*
    OH OH OH! conspiracy time. How about that Global Warming is simply a front used by [insert elitist group] to fool us into giving up control over our fuel, instead of revealing the real problem, the demand of oil outstripping supply? Any takers?
    *takes off shiny hat*

  31. “Peak Oil” is a liberal conspiracy, according to the yahoos here. Likewise, higher rice prices are due to corn-to-ethanol conversion.

    Never mind that the Wall Street Journal (those damned Libruls!) say that higher rice prices are due to —

    “rice farmers are hoarding crops, which adds to price increases, reports the Wall Street Journal. Contributing to shortages are rising fuel prices; flooding due to climate change; development of farmland for homes and golf courses; reduced global stocks; rising affluence throughout Asia and Africa; and a pest outbreak in Vietnam, the world’s second largest rice exporter after Thailand. Technology allows instant communication of global prices, and governments, divided over appeasing farmers or consumers, scramble with an array of fixes, including price controls, export bans and high floor prices to spur domestic sales. Protests over rising food prices have already broken out in Egypt, the Philippines, and Mexico. With a growing global population and less acreage devoted to farms, the supply of food products does not always keep pace with demand.”

    Nary a mention of ethanol!

    That, you power traders, is a fucking CONSPIRACY!

  32. From the start of the Ethanol craze, I was questioning the wisdom of attaching the energy crises to food. Why would we want our energy problems to become food problems?

  33. If it costs more to ship, the price of the goods go up. Food is no exception.

  34. Why would we want our energy problems to become food problems?

    Because a problem-free area of human concern is an area where there will be resistance to govt intervention. Our leaders predictably seek to minimize the number of such areas.

  35. Almost all of the increase in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 went to ethanol production in the United States, depleting supplies for other uses, the World Bank said in a recent report.

    Wait, so almost (but not all) of the *increase* in corn production has gone into ethanol recently? Doesn’t that mean there should be slightly more corn available for food now than in 2004, if not all of the increase has been diverted? How could supplies then be “depleted” today?

    I have no doubt that corn prices are higher, but it doesn’t seem to be because of reduced *actual* supply, at least according to the World Bank quote.

  36. Ryan,

    Supply increases could, of course, be lagging behind demand increases due to that diversion.

    Conceptually at least…

    Get rid of subsidies to energy products in the order they were given out…Oil and Coal go first…work your way back to ethanol.

    Corn-based ethanol doesn’t need the subsidies.

    I think subsidies on other biofuels may make more sense.

  37. Wait, so almost (but not all) of the *increase* in corn production has gone into ethanol recently? Doesn’t that mean there should be slightly more corn available for food now than in 2004, if not all of the increase has been diverted? How could supplies then be “depleted” today?

    You’re assuming that demand has remained flat. From what I’ve gathered, it hasn’t.

  38. Neu: Why wait? Let’s get rid of ALL subsidies and mandates period! You know, level the playing field without Congresspeople rewarding their favorite rent seekers be they farmers, electric utilities, oil, coal, solar, wind, or nuclear companies.

    As for how ethanol, oil and increased demand play into the food crisis, see my column here.

  39. We are actually exporting more corn, wheat, milo, soybeans, soybean oil, and soybean meal in 07/08 then we did the two years prior. It is not the fault of the US farmer that other countries are hoarding what they are growing or had rough years. As far as rice goes we are hardly a major producer of rice, so you can’t hang that one on the US either.

    Here are the exports over the last three years (most in million bushels)

    05/06 06/07 07/08est
    wheat 1003 909 1275
    corn 2134 2125 2500
    milo 194 157 285
    soybeans 940 1118 1075
    soybean oil 1153 1888 2700
    soybean meal 8048 8786 8850

  40. Every member of Congress who voted for Ethanol subsidies should have a much larger ear of corn shoved in their cornhole.

  41. Ron,

    Please stop referencing yourself.
    It is annoying.

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