Goodlatte says ethanol mandate boosts food prices

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, says his attention first turned to the federal mandate requiring increasing use of ethanol in gasoline when he started hearing from cattle- and poultry- growers in the Shenandoah Valley about soaring corn prices.


Goodlatte says ethanol mandate boosts food pricesBut worries like those of Roanoke restaurant-owner Chris Pietrzyk’s rising bills also struck a chord for a congressman whose working life started flipping burgers, washing dishes and making ice cream sundae’s at his dad’s western Massachusetts place.

“Federal policy puts fuel above food,” Goodlatte said during a quick stop at Pietrzyk’s Firehouse Subs restaurant. Pietrzyk estimates that the cost of his bread and mayonnaise alone is up by $6,500 in the fast few years because of soaring corn prices.

It’s not that he’s using corn-bread, though. The problem is that as corn prices rise — they’ve touched $8 a bushel this year, double the 2008 level — farmers switch from planting wheat and soybeans, Goodlatte said. That’s affecting the price of bread and the cooking oils used in thousands of foodstuffs worldwide.

Goodlatte said he’s heard from plenty of western Virginians tired of their chainsaw and motorcycle engines getting gummed up from ethanol, too.

He’s introduced two bills — one to do away with the federal requirement to use ethanol altogether, and an alternative that would eliminate requirements that corn be used in ethanol and that would also reduce the maximum amount of ethanol that could be blended into gasoline.

He prefers the first, but thinks the second may have more legs in Congress, since it has 43 cosponsors from both parties, as well as a long list of farm, environmental and food producer groups backing it.

What he doesn’t think, though, is that enthanol use would vanish. It plays a key role as a substitute for an additive called MTBE that caused major water contamination problems. Goodlatte said he’s like to see the market, not Washington, figure out the right amount of ethanol to put in gas, and the right amount of corn, wheat and soybeans planted, whether in western Virginia, Illinois or California.

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