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Report: Ethanol disinformation campaign uncovered

Agriculture.com Staff 05/16/2008 @ 10:33am

Is the bad rap surrounding the ethanol business of late accurate?

New information shows that recent reports funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) present an inaccurate picture of the ethanol industry and its effects on food and fuel prices. According to the Kansas Corn Growers Association, speculation about the credibility of the GMA's information turned to fact Thursday after reports and testimony from Capitol Hill uncovered a "smear campaign" from GMA-backed firms promoting the ills of ethanol.

"It seems there is a 'group-think' mentality when it comes to scapegoating ethanol for everything from high gas prices, global food shortages, global warming and deforestation. But, as was recently reported, this anti-ethanol campaign is not a coincidence. It turns out that a $300,000, six-month retainer of a beltway public relations firm is behind the smear campaign, hired by the Grocery Manufacturers Association," Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said on the Senate floor Thursday. "They've outlined their strategy of using environmental, hunger and food aid groups to demonstrate their contrived 'crisis.'"

Grassley went on to say that it's important for "the American people to know who's behind this effort," adding that two groups, the Glover Park Group and Dutko Worldwide, are the firms originating the campaign against ethanol.

At the root of the issue, Grassley said Thursday, is partisan politics. He blamed former Clinton administration officials, now anti-ethanol lobbyists, for the surge of sentiment against the fuel of which his state is the nation's largest producer.

"I fought President Clinton during his eight years in office at every turn when he tried to undermine our renewable fuels industry. Now I'm fighting his former staff and staff that worked for the Gore and Kerry presidential campaigns," Grassley said. "There are a lot of intelligent people who have been misled by this campaign and are just simply wrong. They're using a lot of rhetoric."

Regardless of its bases or reasoning, recent negative publicity for the ethanol business underscores the need for industry members to speak up in favor of the fuel, says Kansas Corn Growers Association executive director Jere White.

"Commodity prices account for less than 20% of the cost you pay for food at the checkout. Even today's higher commodity prices have very little effect on the price of food. The other 80% of the grocery costs which include transportation, packaging and processing are greatly affected by rising energy costs," White said Thursday. "We're not saying it doesn't cost more to produce groceries today, but main culprit is not the farmer, not higher grain prices and not ethanol."

Is the bad rap surrounding the ethanol business of late accurate?

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