The American Bakers’ Asso- ciation has condemned the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) refusal to release land from its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to allow farmers to meet food demands and help curb soaring cereal prices.

It said it was "extremely disappointed" that Agriculture Secre- tary Ed Schafer had rejected calls for even a modest amount of "non-environmentally sensitive" land from the CRP to be allowed into production.

ABA president and chief executive officer Robb MacKie said: "It is outrageous for USDA to continue to ignore the plight of consumers, bakers and even farmers by refusing to take action to help alleviate the food price crisis. How expensive does bread have to get for action to be taken - $5 or $6 a loaf?"

ABA said input costs for bakers have "jumped significantly" since its initial request to the USDA in June 2007 to release productive lands from the CRP. In the year from June 2007 to June 2008, wheat was up 66%, flour 58% and bread and rolls 15%.