As drought conditions become the worst in 50 years and corn yields are expected to drop significantly, a coalition of meat and poultry organizations, which included the American Sheep Industry Association, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the federal mandate for the production of corn ethanol.
In a petition delivered to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the coalition asked for a waiver "in whole or in substantial part" of the amount of renewable fuel that must be produced under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for the remainder of this year and for the portion of 2013 that is one year from the time the waiver becomes effective.
The RFS requires 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol to be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013, amounts that will use about 4.7 billion and 4.9 billion bushels, respectively, of the nation's corn. Some agricultural forecasters now are estimating that just 11.8 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year - about 13 billion were harvested in 2011 - meaning corn-ethanol production will use about four of every 10 bushels.
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," said the coalition in its petition.
It pointed out that EPA was granted the authority in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which set the initial RFS, and in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which expanded the fuels standard, to waive because of severe economic or environmental harm the annual volume of renewable fuel that must be produced.
In asking Jackson to take prompt action to provide a measure of relief for livestock and poultry producers, the coalition petition said, "It is abundantly clear that sufficient harm is occurring now and that economic conditions affecting grain supplies and feed prices will worsen in the months ahead. Both conditions provide an independent basis for a waiver of the RFS."
Led by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.), Steve Womack (Ark.) and Mike McIntrye (N.C.), 156 members of the House of Representatives also asked Jackson to waive the RFS for the rest of the year to "help ease corn supply concerns and protect American consumers, livestock producers and the economy."
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."
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.