Jobe responds to Kraft CEO statement

By Ron Kotrba | January 03, 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 2, 2009, at 1:06 p.m. CST

In a Dec. 10 USAToday.com article, Kraft Chief Executive Officer Irene Rosenfeld stated that 40 percent of the global food supply is being diverted for use in fuel. That "prompted National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe to respond by posting a letter to the editor online on Dec. 29.

"While Kraft's income soars to new heights, the company's attempt to spread misinformation to defend the doubling of its profits has reached a record low," Jobe wrote. "In the same interview she said, Forty percent of the food supply is being diverted for use in fuel.' Almost half of all grains, meats, dairy, vegetables and fruit in the world are begin converted to fuel? This is fear-mongering at its worst."

Jobe's comments posted online at USAToday.com are the latest in the battle between Big Food and the renewable fuels industries. Throughout 2008, food companies and their advocacy organizations blamed biofuels production and government policies promoting them for raising commodity prices to unprecedented highs, causing big spikes in food prices. However, months after the commodity markets tumbled - corn and wheat prices have fallen 50 percent in value when adjusted for inflation - food prices remain extraordinarily high.

In early December, prior to the USAToday.com Letter to the Editor posting, Jobe posted an editorial opinion piece on the NBB Web site. The letter is titled, "With Excuses All Gone, You've Been Paying too Much for Food."

"The average American has been forced to chip in to help Kraft Foods more than double its profits by posting net earnings of $1.4 billion in the third quarter of this year," Job wrote in the editorial on the NBB Web site. "Besides Big Oil, can you name one other industry with such profits in the current economic malaise?"

According to Jobe, unless food companies want to appear as if they are price gouging, they should lower their prices. "Gouging is a serious charge to be sure," he wrote. "However, the immediate actions of the food companies will provide the clearest answer as to whether the charge rings true. Their actions will also answer another question important to tens of millions of Americans. What's more important, the bottom line of consumers or the food industry's billions in profits?"

Amber Thurlo Pearson, communications specialist with NBB, said Jobe's actions are part of a more focused effort to defend biofuels from baseless accusations from the food industry. "[It] is obviously needed to try to stand up against the behemoth interests behind the accusations," she told Biodiesel Magazine.

Jobe is not alone in fighting back against Big Food. The National Farmers Union recently asked Congress to revisit the reasons behind high food costs. The NFU hopes to "set the record straight," and show that biofuels and government policies promoting them are not the reasons for the increase in grocery prices, , according to Liz Friedlander, director of NFU communications.

In Jobe's USAToday.com online comments, he concluded with, "Food companies have blamed biofuels all year for higher prices. Rosenfeld's statement shows how far food companies will go to distract Americans as Kraft raked in $1.4 billion in earnings last quarter. This year, oil companies made more than ever in profits. The difference is, when oil prices dropped, so did the price at the pump. Too bad Big Food isn't living up to Big Oil's standards."