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US senators step into corn ethanol debate

By Carina Perkins , 09-Aug-2012

Related topics: Industry & Markets, Livestock, Beef, Pork, Poultry, United States

A bipartisan group of US senators has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help the meat industry cope with drought conditions by adjusting the corn-ethanol mandate for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Following in the footsteps of the 156 members of the House of Representatives, who strongly urged the EPA to act last week, the group of 26 senators wrote to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson asking that she take immediate action to address the situation.

The RFS currently states that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol should be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013, which would use between 4.7bn and 4.9bn bushels of US corn. The letter pointed out that, with 50% of this year’s corn crop expected to be poor or extremely poor, this could lead to severe shortages of corn for livestock feed.

“As stressful weather conditions continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward, the economic ramifications for consumers, livestock and poultry producers, food manufacturers and foodservice providers will become more severe,” said the letter.

“We ask you to adjust the corn grain-ethanol mandate of the RFS to reflect this natural disaster and these new market conditions. Doing so will help to ease supply concerns and provide relief from high corn prices.”

The US meat industry has welcomed the senators’ support. A coalition of livestock, poultry, meat, dairy and feed organisations, which recently delivered a petition to Jackson asking for a waiver “in whole or in substantial part” of the RFS mandate, said:

“We commend these senators for their leadership and for joining the long list of others who are calling on EPA for immediate relief from the RFS. Congress included safety valves that enable the agency to take such action to prevent economic harm. The worst drought since the Eisenhower administration calls for exactly the kind of flexibility that Congress envisioned. EPA has the authority to prevent a bad situation from turning worse – and should act now.”

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president-elect Randy Spronk said: “NPPC applauds these senators for looking out for the interests of America’s livestock and poultry farmers.

“There is nothing the government can do about the drought, but it can ease the pressure on corn supplies by granting an RFS waiver, a tool put in the law to address situations such as this drought.

“As stressful weather conditions continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward, the economic ramifications for consumers, livestock and poultry producers, food manufacturers and foodservice providers will become more severe,” the senators wrote in their letter to Jackson. “We ask you to adjust the corn grain-ethanol mandate of the RFS to reflect this natural disaster and these new market conditions. Doing so will help to ease supply concerns and provide relief from high corn prices.”

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