Corn, soy growers seek clarity from McGuinty

Come again? Reports that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty may back off a pledge to require 10 per cent ethanol in gasoline by 2010 have Ontario’s corn and soybean growers looking for clarification.

“It’s disconcerting that the Premier’s office is buckling under media pressure suggesting Ontario’s small ethanol industry is the factor responsible for rising food costs,” Dale Mountjoy, president of the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association, said in a release Thursday.

“In reality rising food costs are associated with increased costs everyone is facing — namely the price of petroleum-based fuels, which reinforces the need for a vibrant renewable fuels industry in Ontario.”

McGuinty yesterday was quoted by the Canadian Press and other media as saying he was rethinking a promise to boost the minimum ethanol content in Ontario gasoline to 10 per cent by 2010. The province had also pledged a low carbon fuel strategy to deliver an increase in biofuels volumes, including oilseed-based biodiesel.

Recent questions of the true environmental benefits of ethanol use in vehicles, as well as biofuel’s effects on the prices of crops and food, were given as reasons to reconsider.

“The issue for us is whether it would be in the public’s interest to stretch it to 10 per cent,” McGuinty was quoted by CP as saying. “I think we’ve got to pay attention to some of the other developments, including food costs.”

The OCPA said it has written to McGuinty seeking “immediate” clarification on his remarks. Ontario farmers grow most of Canada’s grain corn, for use in food processing, feed and ethanol.

The association said it doesn’t expect a shortage of corn in Ontario, stating farmers in the province are now exporting more Ontario corn than they have in the last five years.

Income
growth in emerging economies such as China and India is the key reason for
rising food prices around the world, said Leo Guilbeault, chair of the Ontario Soybean Growers, in a separate release Thursday calling for McGuinty to clarify his stance.

Increasing world demand for food, lowered
farm productivity in some regions due to drought, and current high petroleum
oil prices are also key factors, he said.

“We are pleased to hear Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper is standing by the federal government’s commitment to mandate a five per cent ethanol blend in gasoline sold in Canada,” Mountjoy said, “and we are confident that once the Premier’s office has had the opportunity to review the issue more closely it too will stand by its previous commitments.”

Biofuel production
supports both the need for added food production and demand for fuel, said OSG general manager Dale Petrie. “In the
production of biodiesel, 80 per cent of the crushed soybean goes to soy meal and soy
protein, while only 20 per cent goes to oil. This is very important, in a world where
we are ever dependent on shrinking supplies of petroleum.”

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