Top officials of the nation’s livestock and poultry producer organizations issued a petition on Monday urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandated ethanol production as this summer's severe and widespread drought has decimated the U.S. corn crop driving prices to all-time highs.
Groups signing the petition include the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Turkey Federation (NTF), and the National Chicken Council (NCC).
The petition urges EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reduce or waive the amount of ethanol production mandated by the federal government in 2007.
Of note, Texas Gov. Rick Perry attempted to get the EPA to waive the mandate in 2008, but it was denied. “We are under very different economic conditions today,” said Michael Formica, NPPC’s chief counsel. The point being the widespread drought and the extreme level—cited as the nation’s worst drought in 50 years.
Written into the RFS is the opportunity for EPA to waive the ethanol mandate if there is “severe economic harm,” Formica said. “An interested person is allowed to petition,” which he pointed out is what these national livestock groups represent. “We are asking EPA director, Lisa Jackson, to use her position to waive this rule.”
The coalition is seeking relief from record high corn prices brought on by the current drought and aggravated by the RFS, according to the group. “We believe the RFS is causing severe economic harm during this crisis,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications, National Chicken Council.
The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which expanded the fuels standard, granted EPA the authority to waive the annual volume of renewable fuel that must be produced in the event of severe economic or environmental harm. 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 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop.
Beyond the dramatic rise in prices, livestock and poultry producers are struggling to have enough corn, soybeans and other crops to feed animals. It is threatening livestock and poultry producers’ ability to stay in business. “A large portion of the country is suffering its worst drought in more than 50 years,” said Randy Spronk, Edgerton, Minn. pork producer and NPPC president-elect. “NPPC and other organizations are asking for help. We are requesting the EPA to waive all or a portion of the ethanol mandate to address the dire situation brought on by the severe drought.”