WASHINGTON, DC – “How bad does it have to get,” was the collective sentiment during a July 30 media teleconference hosted by a coalition representing the interest of livestock and poultry producers whose businesses are struggling to cope with dwindling supplies of corn. The group of 19 trade groups announced details of a petition delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the coalition, urging legislators to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which it claims serves to threaten supplies of corn crops, which are already being devastated by this summer’s historic drought.

The petition requests the EPA consider a whole or partial waiver of the required amount of renewable, corn-based fuel that would be mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2012, and extending for 12 months after the initial waiver.

Based on corn production forecasts and the RFS mandate that a total of 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced this year, as many as four of every 10 bushels (4.7 billion bushels) of corn produced in 2012 will be used for ethanol production. An additional 13.8 billion gallons is mandated for 2013 under the RFS, which will require 4.9 billion bushels of corn. As few as 11.8 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year, according to some estimates, the coalition said, while about 13 billion bushels were harvested in 2011.

One of the most widespread droughts in five decades, combined with current RFS mandates “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,” the petition said.

Delivered to EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, the petition suggested the agency has the authority to issue a waiver of the RFS because of economic or environmental harm that would be caused by the additional renewable fuel production. This authority is granted by the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The threat posed by the drought and the RFS mandates has already caused economic hardships in the food chain and the economic effect on grain supplies and feed costs are expected to get worse in the future.

“Both conditions provide an independent basis for a waiver of the RFS,” the petition said.

“America’s pork producers are extremely worried, given the drought affecting much of the corn-growing regions, about having feed for their animals,” said National Pork Producers Council President-elect Randy Spronk, a producer from Edgerton, Minn.

Former National Chicken Council Chairman, Michael Welch, president and CEO of Harrison Poultry in Bethlehem, Ga., added: “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.”

“I support American ethanol and what it has done for rural communities in Nebraska and in many other states throughout the country,” said J.D. Alexander, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president and a Nebraska cattleman. “What I do not support are federal mandates picking winners and losers and a federal government sitting patiently by, forking over taxpayer dollars to artificially inflate the price of corn for livestock producers and other end-users.”

John Burkel, a turkey producer from Badger, Minn., who also serves as the National Turkey Federation’s vice chairman, said, “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 stabilize the markets.”