Members of Congress seek easing of federal corn ethanol mandate

02 August 2012 23:16  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--More than 150 Republican and Democrat members of Congress on Thursday urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ease its mandate for US consumption of corn ethanol, saying the requirement is aggravating food prices.

Representative Robert Goodlatte (Republican-Virginia), one of 156 bipartisan members of the House who signed a letter to EPA asking to ease the corn ethanol mandate, said the renewable fuel standard (RFS) requirement is only making the record drought impact on food prices worse.

“Farmers and ranchers across the nation are being impacted by one of the worst droughts in 50 years,” Goodlatte said at a press conference on Thursday.

“The nation’s corn crop continues to shrink, increasing corn prices,” he said, adding, “Higher corn prices not only affect food producers, but are felt in the form of higher grocery bills for American families.”

“The RFS only adds to this dire situation by diverting more food and feed stocks into fuels, leading to diminished supplies for livestock and food producers,” Goodlatte said, noting that about 40% of the US corn crop was used for ethanol production last year.

“We should not be in a position where we are choosing fuel over food,” Goodlatte said.

The 2012 RFS mandate requires US refiners to blend 15.2m gallons of corn ethanol into the nation's gasoline supply.  US corn prices have more than doubled from last year, reaching a record $8.28 (6.79) per bushell last week.

The letter from 156 members of Congress seeking an EPA waiver of RFS ethanol consumption requirements followed a petition by various livestock and foods firms asking the agency to ease the corn ethanol mandate.

Among those petitioning EPA for the waiver were the National Chicken Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, various dairy and milk producers and turkey and sheep growers.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) dismissed the waiver request by food firms and members of Congress, saying it is without justification.

“Waiving the RFS will not make it rain in Indiana, bring pastures to life in the Plains or meaningfully lower corn prices,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen.

“Calls to waive any or all of the RFS from the livestock lobby, oil industry or their allies in Congress are not only premature but void of justification,” Dinneen said.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment on the letter from members of Congress.

By: Joe Kamalick
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