By BILL TOMSON
WASHINGTON -- More than a hundred House Republicans and
Democrats are calling on the federal government to reduce its
production mandate for corn-based ethanol in an effort to bring
down prices for the grain that have become much more expensive
for livestock producers during the drought that grips much of
As a result of the drought, corn prices have risen
dramatically over the past few weeks and are likely to remain
at record highs, the lawmakers said in a letter to be
sent to the Environmental Protection Agency.
This means literally billions of dollars in increased
costs for livestock and poultry producers, and food
And at least some of that cost increase is expected to be
passed to meat packers and then, eventually, to consumers in
The USDA predicted that the price of all food will climb 3%
to 4% next year due to the drought.
John Bryant, chief executive of the Kellogg Co., known for
brands such as Corn Flakes, Eggo and Nutri-Grain, said Thursday
he supports requests for a reduction in the mandate.
To continue to have 40% of the US corn crop going into
ethanol production is very
questionable policy, Mr. Bryant said.
The letter follows a petition filed with the EPA earlier
this week by representatives of the US livestock industry,
asking the agency to halt the ethanol mandate for a year.
The EPA, under the authority of the Clean Air Act, does have
the authority to temporarily halt or reduce the mandate for ethanol production that is required
by the federal Renewable Fuels Standard.
The agency, which denied a petition by Texas Governor Rick
Perry in 2008 to reduce the mandate, said it will only issue a
waiver if the mandate is shown to severely harm the
economy of a state, region, or the United States.
Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers
Council, said the coalition of livestock groups filed its
petition Monday, but have not received a response yet from the
agency. EPA officials were unavailable for immediate
The letter from House members will be sent soon, a House
aide said Thursday.
The National Chicken Council lauded the letter from
lawmakers and urged the EPA to exercise the authority Congress
gave it to reduce the ethanol mandate.
The Renewable Fuel Standard requires about 15 billion
gallons of ethanol, mostly derived from corn, be blended into
gasoline this year.
Swine, chicken, and turkey producers are scrambling to find
the feed they need, the industry groups said, while the
government continues to force about 40% of the US corn crop
into ethanol production.
Cattle mostly graze on pastureland and are fed hay for most
of their lives before they begin to consume corn- and soy-based
feed shortly before slaughter.
Drought is out of our hands and is absolutely
unavoidable; however, the ethanol mandate is not and must be
stopped, said J.D. Alexander, president of the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association and a cattle rancher.
But ethanol proponents say the industry can't be blamed for
the drought and there will be plenty of corn for all who need
Higher corn process facing livestock and poultry users
is a result of Mother Nature, not ethanol, said Tom Buis,
chief executive of the ethanol production group Growth Energy.
To try and blame the ethanol industry is disingenuous and
More than a third of the corn produced in the US goes into
ethanol production. The ethanol industry will consume about
4.8 billion bushels of corn this year, according to the latest
US Department of Agriculture forecast, and farmers are expected
to produce about 13 billion bushels.
Dow Jones Newswires