The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Livestock, ethanol groups spar over tightening federal renewable fuel standard


Livestock, dairy and poultry groups today used a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the issue of feed availability to call for a tightening up of the federal renewable fuel standard that controls the amount of ethanol that must be used in the feed supply. Corn growers and pro-ethanol groups, which were not invited to testify, complained that the hearing was an attack on ethanol.

“I urge your committee and the House Agriculture Committee as a whole to quickly adopt a plan to provide an automatic waiver of the RFS in the circumstance of a pending crop failure in major corn growing areas and relatively low oil and gasoline prices,” Dr. Steven Roger Meyer of Paragon Economics, an Adel, Iowa, firm testified before the House Agriculture Livestock, Poultry and Dairy Subcommittee.

“I would envision this ‘trigger’ to be a function primarily of supply indicators such as grain stocks, acreages and crop conditions which, when met, would allow the secretary of Agriculture to take action regarding the RFS,” Meyer continued. “I believe it is imperative to give the secretary of Agriculture some authority in this matter since it is so important to our meat and poultry supply.”

The RFS standard is under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The American Feed Industry Association testified that farmers should be able to take idled land out of the Conservation Reserve Program without a penalty before contracts expire.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen called the hearing “a soapbox for those that falsely present domestic ethanol production as creating a choice between food or fuel.”

“Failing to include any representation from America’s ethanol, corn growing, or feed producing industries demonstrates the predetermined outcome of this hearing,” Dinneen continued. “America needs thoughtful energy and agricultural policy that is based on all the available facts, not just those some lawmakers choose to hear.”

Growth Energy, which represents ethanol plants, sent a letter to subcommittee members urging them “to remember corn used in making ethanol creates two products from each kernel. “

“The first is the renewable fuel, derived from the kernel’s starch,” the group wrote. “The second is the distillers’ grain, which contains all of the protein, oil and minerals that remain in the corn kernel. Distillers’ grain provides a significant source of feed to livestock and poultry producers in the United States. Production of distillers’ grains from ethanol processing increased from almost 3 million metric tons in 2000 to more than 35 million metric tons in 2010.”

Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., chairman of the subcommittee, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., were cautious in their comments after the hearing.

"Our subcommittee began this Congress with a series of overview hearings that gave us some perspective about the production practices and public policy challenges of the animal agriculture community,” Rooney said. “At each of these hearings, we heard a good bit about the issue of feed availability, and I am pleased we had the opportunity today to examine that issue in greater detail.”

"California producers have always been extremely vulnerable to the fluctuations in feed prices,” Cardoza said. “Prices have skyrocketed recently, especially harming our dairy, livestock, and poultry producers. It is time for Congress to stop picking winners and losers, which is causing a shortage of feed in our country.”