Addressing hunger and poverty have been key issues for former President Bill Clinton since he left the White House. And that focus has now found him issuing a warning about producing crops for biofuel production. Specifically, Clinton told those at USDA's Annual Outlook Forum that producing more biofuels could bring food riots around the globe.
"If we produce more biofuels, that means less food and that will bring food riots," Clinton said, even while stressing that the U.S. needs to become more energy independent.
So how to accomplish this? Clinton pointed to Brazil as an example, noting they don't tear down the rain forests to produce ethanol from sugarcane. But he also noted that sugarcane was starting to push soybean and cattle producers from their traditional areas to more marginal areas.
"The best thing to do is to say we have to be more energy independent, but we don't want to do it at the expense of food riots," Clinton stated. "We have to make intelligent decisions."
But with his urging to not grow more crops for biofuels, Clinton assured those in agriculture "there's going to be plenty for American farmers to do." A key question needs to be asked, he added, "is there some way to produce food in traditional way and still get a good price for it?"
"We know that the way we produce and consume energy has to change, yet for farmers there are no simple answers," he said. "There is a way for us to do this and to do it right."
Citing the work of USDA's Extension Service in the U.S., Clinton said, "the world needs a global ag extension service," saying such a program deployed in foreign countries would definitely help bolster agriculture around the globe.
As Clinton began his remarks, he noted he lived on a farm when he was a young boy. He described conditions as being difficult and quipped he went into politics and not farming "as I didn't want to work that hard."
The Renewable Fuels Association certainly took notice of Clinton's remarks, releasing the following statement:
"Grain demand from American ethanol production represents just three percent of the world's grain supply. American farmers and ethanol producers are cognizant of developing nations, producing more grain and livestock feed for export than in previous generations. Ethanol production returns one-third of every bushel to the feed markets, resulting in the production of more than 32 million metric tons of feed last year alone. The driver behind rising food prices has been and remains oil. Rising oil prices, even before the unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa, have made everything we buy from food to clothes to fuel more expensive. President Clinton is right that ethanol is a key to American energy security and we would welcome his support in advocating for the continued advancement and evolution of this industry to include a wide variety of feedstocks and technologies."