This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
The United States Department of Agriculture says high demand for ethanol fuel
made from corn will mean higher meat prices. In its monthly crop report on March
9, the department said feed costs are rising for cows, pigs and poultry birds.
Corn, or maize, is their main feed.
Corn has been selling at more than three dollars a bushel. Last year, the
average was two dollars.
The government says ethanol is using twenty
percent of the American corn crop from last year. With this year's harvests, the
amount is expected to reach 25 percent.
The National Chicken Council has objected to Congress about the situation.
The council is a trade organization that represents the industry. It says the
feed cost of the chicken industry alone has risen by forty percent.
In January, Tyson Foods, the world's biggest meat processor, reported its
first profitable three-month period in a year. But the head of the Arkansas
company warned that sharply higher corn prices have become a "major issue" for
the food industry. Richard Bond says people will have to pay more for food
because companies will be forced to pass along rising costs.
But Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner says demand for corn will
probably get farmers to plant more corn. A University of Missouri Extension
official says ethanol could bring the biggest change in American agriculture
since farmers began planting soybeans.
Some economists have suggested that land from the Conservation Reserve
Program should be used for additional corn production. But the Agriculture
Department says only a limited area of land will be released for use over the
next four years. The program supports the planting of things like native grasses
or trees to reduce the loss of soil from croplands.
The department has appointed a committee to study the needs of biofuel
producers. These are fuels like ethanol that are made from renewable resources.
On March 9, the United States and Brazil signed a cooperation agreement on
biofuels technology. The signing took place in Sao Paulo during the first stop
on a trip by President Bush to Latin America. Seventy percent of the world's
ethanol supply comes from the United States and Brazil. But while most American
ethanol is made from corn, most Brazilian ethanol is from sugar cane.
And that's VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.
Transcripts and audio files of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm