Ethanol

Fears over what many experts suggest is an inevitable food crisis as a result of the nation’s worst drought in half a century has the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization looking at making biofuel policies more flexible.

Food prices rose 6 percent in July, according to Reuters and widespread drought continues to plague the contiguous United States.

More than two-thirds of the nation is now facing a severe drought situation with one-fifth of that in extreme or exceptional drought states.

The Obama administration has opened up nearly 4 million acres of conservation land for ranchers to make hay or use as grazing. And the USDA just announced it would purchase $170 million worth of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish from some of the nation’s hardest hit farmers.

Drought-stricken farmland has seen immense depletions in corn—a critical crop used in conventional livestock feeding. More than 40 percent of this year’s slim corn yields will be routed to ethanol production instead of the food system as a result of a Congressional mandate passed in 2005 in efforts to reduce our dependence on imported oil.

To account for the ethanol demands on America’s farmers, more than 96 million acres of corn were planted this year—five percent more than last year. Nearly 90 percent of that was genetically modified, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. And while genetically modified crops are proffered as being drought tolerant and hardier in tough climates, the USDA reports that only 31 percent of the nation’s corn crops are currently in good or excellent condition.

Insurers paid out more than $11 billion last year for crop damage due to drought. That number is expected to rise significantly this year.

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