WASHINGTON — Twenty-five US Senators have written a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adjust the ethanol mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The letter called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to use her existing waiver authority as soon as possible.
“As stressful weather conditions continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward, the economic ramifications for consumers, livestock and poultry producers, food manufacturers and foodservice providers will become more severe,” the letter states. “We ask you to adjust the corn grain-ethanol mandate of the RFS to reflect this natural disaster and these new market conditions. Doing so will help to ease supply concerns and provide relief from high corn prices.”
A bipartisan group of 156 US House members also urged action by EPA to act. Also, a coalition of livestock, meat, and poultry, dairy and feed organizations sent a petition to Jackson asking for a waiver for ethanol production. The coalition praised the legislators for joining their cause.
"We commend these senators for their leadership and for joining the long list of others who are calling on EPA for immediate relief from the RFS,” the coalition said. “Congress included safety valves that enable the agency to take such action to prevent economic harm. The worst drought since the Eisenhower administration calls for exactly the kind of flexibility that Congress envisioned. EPA has the authority to prevent a bad situation from turning worse — and should act now.”
Advocates from the ethanol industry and some agricultural organizations are also organizing support against any change to the RFS. Garry Niemeyer, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), said in a statement issued in July that the organization "stands firm in its support of the Renewable Fuel Standard and will strongly oppose legislation to alter or repeal the RFS."
"Likewise, we believe it is premature for a waiver of the RFS provisions at this point," he said. "With the crop still in the field, it is too early to determine this year’s final corn supply. In addition, the ethanol industry now has a significant surplus of ethanol and RFS credits that can greatly offset ethanol’s impact on the corn supply."
Niemeyer added that NCGA recognized the drought's impact on farmers and the corn industry's customers. He said the flexibility of the RFS will work and that NCGA supports the waiver process set out in the current RFS and will respect the right of stakeholders that may file a waiver petition.
“In the meantime, NCGA continues to encourage those seeking RFS legislation to, instead, work through the government’s existing RFS waiver petition process in the event they believe it has caused severe economic harm," Niemeyer said.
US Sen. Charles Grassley also spoke in support of ethanol in a speech on the US Senate floor. His speech came in response to an editorial written by Larry Pope, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, Inc. Grassley dismissed claims that ethanol consumes more corn than animal agriculture, and he argued that historically, corn farmers have been underpaid for their crops.
“In the view of corporate livestock producers, subsidies are just fine it they allow them to buy corn below the cost of production,” Grassley said. “Anybody could look like a genius with that business model."