RFS Drought Debate Continues

RFS Drought Debate Continues

Coalition petitions EPA for waiver of ethanol production mandate; National Corn Growers oppose the move.

Expecting higher corn prices in the midst of the drought, a coalition of meat and poultry organizations today asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive the federal mandate for the production of corn ethanol.

The petition, delivered to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, asks for a waiver "in whole or in substantial part" of the amount of renewable fuel that must be produced under the Renewable Fuels Standard for the remainder of this year and for the portion of 2013 that is one year from the time the waiver becomes effective.

Livestock producers are concerned about rising feed costs and their relation to increasing competition for corn.

The coalition says waiving the mandate will ease the tightening corn supply caused by drought conditions. Livestock producers expect higher feed prices as a result of the shrinking yield estimates.

The coalition says that the RFS has "directly affected the supply and cost of feed in major agricultural sectors of this country, causing the type of economic harm that justifies issuance of an RFS waiver." They maintain that temporarily dropping the mandate will provide some relief for livestock and poultry producers.

"America's pork producers are extremely worried, given the drought affecting much of the corn-growing regions, about having feed for their animals," said NPPC President-elect Randy Spronk, a producer from Edgerton, Minn. "And their anxiety is compounded knowing that the RFS requires corn ethanol to be produced no matter what."

However, NCGA President Garry Niemeyer said the organization believes a waiver is premature because much of the corn crop is still in the field, making it difficult to determine final yields. He said the ethanol industry has surplus of ethanol and RFS credits, which will offset ethanol's impacts on corn supply.

He pointed out that many NGCA farmer members are "in the same predicament as our customers because they have livestock or own ethanol plant shares," and urged American agriculture to work together to find a solution that satisfies all needs.

Still, coalition members aren't happy with the ethanol mandate, and have pushed for legislation as well. Last week, Congressman Bob Goodlatte discussed HR 3097, legislation to reform the RFS, as well as another bill to eliminate the RFS. He was joined by Thomas Elam, an agricultural economist who authored a study on the effectiveness of the RFS.

As harvest moves closer and crop conditions continue to deteriorate, petition supporters say an RFS waiver is need right now.

"As a small, independent turkey grower from Minnesota who buys about 100,000 bushels of corn every year, my family's livelihood is being threatened by the looming drought disaster," said John Burkel, of Badger, Minn. "The EPA granting a waiver from the RFS is needed now. This is the only immediate relief for this country's livestock and poultry producers. We need to stabilize the markets. The reality is, at these volatile, high prices, even the most prudent, cautious farmer can find themselves out of business."

Members of the coalition that signed the petition include the American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industries Association, California Dairy Campaign, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, Dairy Producers of Utah, Idaho Dairymen's Association, Milk Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, Nevada State Dairy Commission, North American Meat Association, Northwest Dairy Association, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, Southeast Milk Inc., United Dairymen of Arizona and the Washington State Dairy Federation..

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