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Lawmakers Join Livestock Groups in RFS Debate

Lawmakers Join Livestock Groups in RFS Debate
Drought accelerates call for Renewable Fuels Standard waiver; congressmen join livestock groups in quest to limit competition for feedstuffs.

A group of lawmakers Thursday joined a coalition of livestock and dairy producers in supporting a Renewable Fuels Standard waiver in light of recent drought conditions and tightening corn supply.

The effort was led by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Mike McIntrye, D-N.C. More than 150 members of the House joined the representatives in signing the petition, which asks the Environmental Protection Agency for a temporary hold on RFS corn ethanol production.

The representatives said the move would "help ease corn supply concerns and protect American consumers, livestock producers, and the economy."

PINCHED SUPPLY: Livestock producers say the RFS is monopolizing the drought-stressed corn supply, driving input costs up

The livestock and dairy coalition submitted a similar petition Monday, which asked the EPA to grant in whole or in part a waiver of the RFS for the remainder of 2012 and for part of 2013.

Ongoing debate over the ability of the corn supply to satisfy all markets has divided the livestock and grain producers. On July 19, a group of livestock producers organized a press conference supporting Rep. Goodlatte in his announcement of legislation to eliminate and/or alter the RFS. Also during the conference, an agricultural economist released a study on the effectiveness of the RFS, finding that it has done little to stabilize grocery staples, including meat and dairy.

The RFS currently requires 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol to be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013, amounts that will see the ethanol industry use about 4.7 billion and 4.9 billion bushels, respectively, of the nation's corn.

The NPPC estimates that corn-ethanol production will use about four of every 10 bushels of corn produced this year. They strongly support an RFS waiver.

"NPPC appreciates the congressional leadership being shown on this issue," said NPPC President-elect Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn. "These lawmakers recognize that the expected low crop yields we'll have because of the severe drought coupled with pressures on corn usage from federal energy policy will devastate livestock and poultry producers. We are pleased that these members of Congress are joining livestock and poultry organizations in formally petitioning EPA to grant an RFS waiver, a tool put in the law to address situations such as this drought."

The members of Congress asked EPA to consider a "fair and meaningful nationwide adjustment" in the RFS. They said prompt action could help ease short corn supply concerns and "literally save jobs across many U.S. industries and keep families fed."

Ethanol proponents remain steadfast in their support of the RFS. Monday, National Corn Growers President Garry Niemeyer stood by the RFS, and said that a waiver was "premature." Niemeyer explained that because the crop was still in the field, it was difficult to determine actual yields, and act accordingly.

The American Coalition for Ethanol also released a statement saying the decision of lawmakers to petition the EPA will cause more pain at the pump.

"Ethanol costs less than gasoline. The bottom line is that any Member of Congress urging EPA to reduce the RFS also supports forcing consumers to pay more at the pump," said Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president. Thankfully, EPA comprehends this fact and knows that reversing the RFS would not demonstrably reduce feed or food prices."

Jennings went on to say that the efforts to block the RFS are misdirected.

"If ethanol producers didn't create a market for low value corn starch, there would be less corn available for all sectors and livestock producers wouldn't have access to large quantities of distillers grains, the high value, high protein feed resulting from ethanol production," Jennings said.

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