As Issues Collide
February 1, 2008
As Issues Collide
Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions, writes Yahia Lababidi, a 34-year-old writer of Egyptian and Lebanese origin.
The words of this young writer/poet captured mecerebrally as I contemplated how to use information that came from conversations at the annual International Poultry Expo (IPE) this year in late January.
Predictably, IPE education programs covered top issues of the day including the impact of immigration on laboravailability, product recalls and industry’s rights and responsibilities, and a strategic outlook of global market supply and demand.
The hot-button issue on the agenda, however, addressed the impact of feed and fuel on poultry production. As Lababidi says, direction is often determined throughcollisions.
The three-prong collision in this case involves oil for cooking and fuel, carbon-neutral environmental aspirations and the escalating costs of food for humans and animals.
Biofuels are considered the best alternative for replacing fossil fuel in transport vehicles, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. On the flip side, a large biofuelsindustry using current technology is linked to increased food prices and food-security issues in developing countries.
Food prices rose by double-digits since mid-2007 in China, primarily due to pork and grain shortages. Based on recent reports, China is taking anti-inflationary measures to stem the tide of these rapidly rising food prices. Its plan calls for boosting farm subsidies, curbing industrial use of corn and increasing supplies of grain, meat and cooking oil.
In my chat with a Canadian beef processor in Atlanta at IPE, I learned of a farmer in Canada unable to sell hisplentiful corn supply for use at a nearby ethanol plant. The corn for this plant is shipped from America. Anticipating your questions, yes, this was a poultry show. The Canadian beef processor often attends, however, for which I amgrateful given our lively discussion about world affairs. And, I realize in a court of law, his story might beconsidered hearsay. The point is valid in this context,however, for it is no secret that in the global marketplace, political decisions that make little sense to many of us are made all the time. This can be anything from issues related to imports and exports, tariffs, subsidies, and wars, among a long list of other matters.
Usable land to increase America’s output of corn and Brazil’s high output of sugar-based ethanol occupied the mind of a poultry-industry chief executive. Cars in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of sugar-based ethanol, run on a 25-percent blend of ethanol gasoline. Brazil produces more than 4 billion gallons of sugar-based ethanol a year,accounting for about half of the world’s total output, but only uses slightly more than 3 billion gallons. That leaves about 1 billion gallons that theoretically could go to other countries — why not America, the world’s predominantconsumer of oil? Moreover, when will the USDA release some of that Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) land for planting corn and other crops to ease the feed shortages?
CREP, which supports increased conservation with such practices as filter strips and forested buffers to protect streams, rivers and lakes from sedimentation and agricultural runoff, is a laudable program, to be sure. Over time, however, acres in this program can return to planting cycles.
In America, these and other issues will come before new policymakers and politicians in the coming year. We can only hope they will tackle them thoughtfully, not through collisions.
Reuben “Rube” Heggestad
Reuben Heggestad’s employment history reads like ameat-industry Who’s Who with company names including Armour Foods, Wilson Foods, Dugdale Packing, IBP, Spencer Foods, American Foods and Heggestad Brokerage to his credit. Mr. Heggestad died on January 1, 2008 at age 86. He retired in 1997 after more than 50 years of industry service. We extend condolences to his family including his widow Betty, sons Gene, Robert, Jerry, Dick and David and daughter Diane.