Poultry industry sheds light on Renewable Fuel Standard ramifications

This summer, a brighter light has been shone on the federal requirement that diverts much of the nation’s corn into fuel.

August is traditionally a more quiet time in Washington relative to the rest of the year. Congress is out on summer recess; during election years representatives are back in their districts campaigning for votes. 

The worst drought since the Eisenhower administration changed that this year – especially for the chicken industry. 

While the shortage of rain and dry conditions have and continue to wreak havoc on our nation’s farmers and livestock and poultry producers, there was one good thing that emanated from this summer’s crippling drought: a brighter light was shone on the federal requirement that diverts much of the nation’s dwindling corn crop into fuel.

Renewable Fuel Standard ramifications  

The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol to be blended into gasoline this year and 13.9 billion gallons next year, regardless of how much corn is available.

The worst drought in half a century has made a bad situation worse. Record high and extremely volatile grain prices have been the norm since the introduction of the Renewable Fuel Standard and have greatly impacted our cost of production, severely harming our economic well-being. 

The expected smaller supply has pushed corn prices to about $8 a bushel from about $6 in April and, more importantly, will have ethanol producers using 42 percent of the country’s corn crop, according to USDA’s September crop report. But due in large part to the active involvement of the chicken industry – national trade associations, state federations, company employees and growers, alike – we’ve opened a window for some relief and a more level playing field for the end users of corn.

Voicing concerns to EPA  

That’s because in 2007, Congress gave EPA authority to waive in part or in whole the Renewable Fuel Standard requirement if the agency’s administrator determined that it “would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region or the United States.” Eight governors – from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico – joined National Chicken Council, 156 U.S. House members and 34 U.S. senators in writing to EPA stating that severe economic damage was occurring, caused by the Renewable Fuel Standard and exacerbated by the drought. 

The EPA responded in September by opening a comment period on the possible waiver of the standard. The comment period closed on October 11. 

National Chicken Council’s official comments filed with the EPA provide a detailed account of how and why a waiver will directly relieve the harm caused by the standard by lowering the price of corn, up to $2 per bushel using data from Purdue University. (National Chicken Council’s comments in their entirety can be read at www.nationalchickencouncil.com.)

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank each of thousands of company employees, the state federations, the growers, our allied industries and consumers for calling your governors, writing to your members of Congress, petitioning EPA and joining us in this fight. 

It is my hope that the administration hears our collective call and will act to fully waive the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2013. Jobs, family farms and the affordability of food are all at stake.