WASHINGTON — The National Chicken Council is urging the U.S. Senate to repeal a corn ethanol mandate the group claims is driving up the cost of feed.
“We know all too well from last year that corn crop projections and inventories can be erased from Mother Nature’s wrath. This important legislation will help us ensure this vital resource is appropriately allocated,” Council President Mike Brown said Thursday.
The group is backing legislation introduced Thursday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., that would eliminate a corn ethanol mandate included in the Renewable Fuels Standard that Congress established in 2005.
Feinstein said about 44 percent of corn grown in the United States is diverted from food to fuel, pushing up the cost of food and animal feed.
“I strongly support requiring a shift to low-carbon advanced biofuel, including biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other revolutionary fuels. But a corn ethanol mandate is simply bad policy,” she said.
The National Chicken Council and other poultry and livestock groups have sent a letter to members of the Senate urging them to co-sponsor the bill. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is not planning to sign on. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is reviewing it.
Both Arkansas lawmakers are original co-sponsors of a bill introduced in June by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to repeal the entire Renewable Fuels Standard. Pryor is the only Democrat co-sponsoring the bill along with 17 Republicans.
“There are a lot of bills floating around on this topic, but Senator Pryor believes (Barrasso’s bill) is the most reasonable solution,” said Lucy Speed, a spokeswoman for Pryor.
Boozman issued a press statement in June explaining his support for Barrasso’s bill.
“Poultry and cattle — sectors particularly vulnerable to the drought-related spike in grain costs — represent nearly half of Arkansas’ farm marketing receipts. The RFS is makes it harder for our ranchers to operate and more expensive for all of us to put food on the table,” he said.
Arkansas was among a number of states that last year petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver of the corn ethanol mandate because drought had reduced the corn harvest. None of the petitions were approved, which compelled Congress to act, Boozman noted at the time.
Meanwhile, elected officials from corn growing states are concerned the EPA is weakening the Renewable Fuel Standard by reducing biofuel volume requirements in 2014. The 15.52 billion gallons cap is about 1 billion below the 2013 biofuels mandate.
“The intent of the RFS is to steadily increase contributions from biofuels in our transportation fuels markets to enhance our nation’s energy security, protect the environment and create jobs,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. “Unfortunately, the volume projections released by the EPA for the coming year would reverse these efforts, ignoring the clear intent of the law as well as our nation’s capacity both to produce and utilize renewable fuels.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstand and the entire Iowa delegation to Congress are requesting that the Obama Administration hold a field hearing on the issue in their state.
The EPA’s recent proposal would roll back the original target for 2014 and cap the mandated volume of biofuels.
A major concern factoring into the lowered target is that Americans are now consuming about 25 percent less gasoline than had been anticipated in 2007. So, it would be impossible to blend more than 15.52 billion gallons without increasing the standard 10 percent ethanol level now found at the pumps.