National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, however, supports the policy.
Johnson said the Renewable Fuel Standard is doing exactly what it was intended to do – create jobs, promote rural development and reduce greenhouse gases.
She placed special emphasis on the economic benefits; her community in rural Iowa has been able to build a new fire station, remodel the hospital and hire additional teachers because of the economic activity created by the local ethanol industry, she said.
As for land used for extra corn production, Johnson said corn farmers have produced more corn on roughly the same amount of land, and have actually decreased land use by 30% per bushel, despite continued demand for corn ethanol.
The food vs. fuel debate was also alive and well during the day's testimony. Hurt explained that the animal sector – which also represents food – has been significantly harmed by the increasing value of commodities, as have the communities tied to meat and poultry processing jobs.
"In 2005 the animal sector of U.S. agriculture represented 53% of farm receipts and crops were 47%, by 2012, animals had fallen to 44% of receipts and crops moved up to 56%," Hurt wrote in his testimony. "Food consumers were also negatively impacted. They had less product available and had to pay higher prices," he said.
But Johnson countered testimony from Hurt that suggested higher food prices are a result of corn ethanol production.
"Because the farm value of commodities represents such a small share of retail food prices, the impact of the RFS itself on food prices is indiscernible," her testimony said, citing World Bank figures that point the finger at rising costs on petroleum instead.
Strong arguments both ways dominated the discussion as Congress members asked questions of the panel ranging from inputs used to produce corn and the potential benefits corn ethanol offers consumers.
Per RFS targets, the 2013 mandate for production of all renewable fuels is 16.55 billion gallons, which the EPA projects to steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022.
Lawmakers said because the RFS was last revised in 2007, it is ready for a review, given that in the years since the nation’s energy landscape has "transformed dramatically."
For complete testimony, click here.