Following a move by a group of more than 150 U.S. Representatives last week to support a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard, 25 U.S. Senators have also signed a letter to Environmental Protection Agency urging an adjustment to the ethanol mandate.
The Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandates that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013, has been under fire in recent weeks due to the ongoing drought and concerns of limited corn supply. Livestock groups have led the charge, citing the drought for the rising cost of corn and increasing competition for corn supply.
The Senate effort was championed by Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
In the letter, the Senators said an adjustment in the RFS mandate would better reflect market conditions and provide relief from high corn prices.
"As stressful weather conditions continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward, the economic ramifications for consumers, livestock and poultry producers, food manufacturers and foodservice providers will become more severe," they wrote.
Livestock groups also support mandate adjustment. National Cattlemen's Beef Association President J.D. Alexander said his organization supports ethanol, but seeks a level playing field for cattlemen to compete for a bushel of corn.
The National Pork Producers President-Elect Randy Spronk said the interests of America's livestock and poultry producers were taken into account with Tuesday's letter.
"There's nothing the government can do about the drought, but it can ease the pressure on corn supplies by granting an RFS waiver, a tool put in the law to address situations such as this drought," Spronk said.
The ongoing debate over the ability of the corn supply to satisfy all markets has divided the livestock and grain producers this growing season. On July 19, a group of livestock producers organized a press conference supporting Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in his announcement of legislation to eliminate and/or alter the RFS. Also during the conference, an agricultural economist released a study on the effectiveness of the RFS, finding that it has done little to stabilize grocery staples, including meat and dairy.
Senators signing the letter include: Hagan, D-N.C., Chambliss, R-Ga., Pryor, D-Ark., Boozman, R-Ark., Cardin, D-Md., Isakson, R-Ga., Coons, D-Del., Feinstein, D-Calif., Hutchison, R-Texas, Carper, D-Del., Sessions, R-Ala., Mikulski, D-Md., Webb, D-Va., Warner, D-Va., Burr, R-N.C., Murkowski, R-Alaska, Tom Udall, D-N.M., Landrieu, D-La., Shaheen, D-N.H., Graham, R-S.C., Coburn, R-Okla., McCain, R-Ariz., Crapo, R-Idaho, Risch, R-Idaho and Manchin, D-W.V.