Federal legislators push for ethanol waiver

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 156 members of Congress is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate, a move that was applauded by several groups representing the meat and poultry industries.

In a letter EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) argue that drought conditions are cause for the EPA to adjust the RFS mandate for 2012 to account for a forecast shortage in corn. They said waiver provisions in the Clean Air Act help protect the US economy and the environment as renewable fuel production increases.

"Clearly, the Congress in 2007 anticipated that unforeseen circumstances would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exercise flexibility with the RFS," the letter states. "We believe the current weather situation in the United States calls for exactly the kind of flexibility that was envisioned."

The letter goes on to point out that much less than half of the US corn crop is in "good" or "excellent" condition, and that improved weather in the future won't repair damage already done to the corn crop.

"We therefore urge the EPA to consider a fair and meaningful nationwide adjustment to the Renewable Fuels Standard," the letter states.

Groups representing the US poultry industry applauded the initiative.

“We appreciate that these Representatives has fully grasped the scope of this crisis,” said Joel Brandenberger, National Turkey Federation president. “Anything other than immediate action would be a blatant disregard for the petition process of the RFS. The emergency is happening now, today. Our turkey farmers need relief and we are happy to have this much bipartisan support.”

Mike Brown, National Chicken Council president, also asked the EPA for prompt action on a waiver of the ethanol mandate.

"Chicken companies in particular are increasingly being severely impacted by the growing diversion of corn into our gas tanks because of government mandated ethanol programs," Brown said. "The chicken industry is urging EPA to implement the law that is on the books and promptly grant a full or partial waiver of the RFS. How bad does it have to get before the administration acts?”

A waiver for the federal mandate would provide critical assistance to livestock and poultry producers, according to the North American Meat Association (NAMA).

"The US is experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history, and this disaster has already begun to devastate the corn crop which is vital to our nation's food security.  We're seeking a waiver to ensure an adequate supply of corn for America’s livestock producers and others who put food on the tables of American consumers," said Barry Carpenter, NAMA CEO. 

A coalition of groups petitioned the EPA for a waiver on July 30. The American Meat Association (AMI) was among the groups that appeared on the petition.

“The US meat and poultry industry appreciates the leadership of these lawmakers in helping press for relief from the current drought,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. “We are facing record-breaking drought and record corn prices, which stand to hurt livestock and poultry producers now and consumers longer term as they grapple with inevitable higher meat and poultry prices that these conditions will generate.”

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