Livestock Groups Asking for Waiver of Renewable Fuel Standard
Hard-hit U.S. livestock and poultry producers petitioned the government on Monday to reduce or cancel the required use of ethanol in gasoline for a year, asking for "a little help" to ride out the worst drought in 56 years. According to Reuters, the request for a first-ever waiver from the federal Environmental Protection Agency's mandate, which in essence requires that more than a third of the U.S. corn harvest be converted into ethanol, comes as grain prices have surged to record highs, driving up feed costs and squeezing profits for producers.
"We are having trouble buying corn... it's really putting a burden on our operations and many others across the nation," says J.D. Alexander, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, whose Nebraska feedlot is about half full of cattle. "It's time to wean the ethanol industry and let it stand on its own."
The EPA has not granted a waiver since the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) was enacted in 2007. The policy has enjoyed years of staunch bipartisan support, boosting income for U.S. farmers and helping reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. But it is now coming under renewed attack.
Beef, chicken, pork and turkey trade groups said they had delivered a petition to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to waive the mandate "in whole or in substantial part" for the remainder of this year and part of next.
The only groups that can petition the EPA for a waiver are oil refineries or blenders, a state or the EPA itself, Reuters reports.
The request had been expected as livestock groups hit hardest by the 60 percent rise in corn prices over the past six weeks ramped up lobbying efforts. It is far from clear whether they will succeed where Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed four years ago, when he sought a partial waiver.
The groups said the mandate had proved powerful enough to "directly affect the supply and cost of feed", causing sufficient harm to meet the requirement of severe economic or environmental harm. But analysts say meeting that criteria may be difficult to prove.