One of the most popular sessions at the conference was on the whole “food versus fuel” issue. Speakers at the session included Chris Schroeder with Centrec Consulting, Jim Duffield with USDA and John Urbanchuk of LECG, LLC.
Duffield, pictured here at the podium, spoke to the conference last year and noted that at the time he said corn and soybean prices were high. Today they are at all time highs and he says, “of course, they’re not going to go up forever, but at least in the short run, the next year or so, I don’t think we’re going to see these prices drop back.”
You can listen to an interview with Duffield here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/nbb/nbb-08-duffield.mp3]
All speakers made the point that biofuels may be getting the blame for higher prices, but energy costs in general are a much bigger factor. Urbanchuk says raw commodity prices play a very small role in food prices. “In fact, the work that we’ve done indicates that energy prices have roughly twice the impact that any individual commodity such as corn and soybeans do in determining retail food prices.”
He says that food items where corn and soybeans play a major role only account about 25 percent of the food basket.
The panel also drove home the point that additional feedstocks will help alleviate the food versus fuel debate and that it is important for the industry to educate the media and consumers about the real reasons behind higher food prices.
You can listen to an interview with Urbanchuk here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/nbb/nbb-08-urbanchuk.mp3]