As drought conditions become the worst in 50 years and corn yields are expected to drop significantly, a coalition of meat and poultry organisations have asked the US Environmental Protection Agency 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.
“Feed prices will worsen”
In asking Jackson to take prompt action to provide a measure of relief for livestock and poultry producers, the coalition petition said, “[i]t 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.”
“Relief from the RFS is extremely urgent. This very short corn crop will undoubtedly prove to be devastating to the animal agriculture industry, food manufacturers, foodservice providers and consumers,” added Michael Welch, president and CEO of Harrison Poultry in Bethlehem, Ga., and past National Chicken Council chairman. “Thousands of jobs, a continued upward trend of rising food prices and the livelihoods of family farmers are all at risk. The chicken industry is urging EPA to implement the law and promptly grant a full or partial waiver of the RFS. If not now, when?”
Looming drought disaster
“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 stabilise 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.