A coalition of the U.S. livestock and poultry industry associations has asked the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to hold a hearing to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard's impact on the economy. The groups cited ongoing pressure on domestic feed grain supplies and a discovery of $9 million of fraudulent renewable identification numbers as justifications for a hearing. They also believe the impact on consumers should be considered.
The coalition, made up of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Chicken Council, the National Meat Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation, and others, believe something must be done to protect livestock and poultry producers from excessively high corn prices because of the rigid RFS compliance system.
In a letter to Senate Environment Chair Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Ranking Republican James Inhofe, R-Okla., the groups cite results of a key government study. A 2011 National Academy of Sciences study found that since 2007, the diversion of portions of the corn crop to ethanol production has been a contributing factor to the increased strain on livestock and poultry producers. The groups say that while other factors play a role, the RFS mandate is the sole area the U.S. government can control.
House Agriculture Committee member Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, urged caution at a September RFS hearing against drastic steps like waiving the Renewable Fuels Standard. Some livestock groups have called for RFS rationing on short corn crops. But American Meat Institute spokesperson Janet Riley argues more is at stake than just the producer's bottom line.
"We're really concerned about the forecast for corn prices and in turn for food prices," Riley said. "There doesn't seem to be much relief. Just recently we saw all sorts of news reports about the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for example. Food prices are up significantly and a major contributor to the increasing rise in meat and poultry prices is the high cost of the inputs."
She says that is from meat and poultry producers competing with ethanol producers for corn. In September, Boswell charged market speculation and other factors may be at play. Also many biofuels groups have pointed to the increased cost of energy as a major reason for the increase in food prices