EPA could re­move ethanol man­date

The Covington News - - Education - JEFF GILL The Gainesville Times

The eyes of the poul­try in­dus­try are on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as it ap­pears poised to de­cide whether to stop di­vert­ing more than 40 per­cent of U.S.–grown corn to fuel through 2013.

The move would come in the wake of a drought that has rav­aged corn-pro­duc­ing Mid­west­ern states.

“Thou­sands of jobs are at stake, liveli­hoods are at stake, higher food prices are at stake,” said Tom Su­per, spokesman for the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.–based Na­tional Chicken Coun­cil. “It is past time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment stops man­dat­ing that our food and feed be burned as fuel.”

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency an­nounced on Aug. 20 that it had “is­sued a re­quest for com­ment on let­ters seek­ing the waiver of the vol­ume re­quire­ments of the Re­new­able Fuel Stan­dard,” which re­quires a blend of ethanol and gasoline.

A 30-day com­ment­ing pe­riod on the is­sue could start as early as Thurs­day, when an of­fi­cial notice is pub­lished in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter, said Mike Giles, pres­i­dent of the Gainesville-based Ge­or­gia Poul­try Fed­er­a­tion.

“We’re pleased that the EPA is con­sid­er­ing the (waiver) re­quest, as they are re­ally ob­li­gated to,” he said. “But we’re hope­ful that they’ll act on it quickly. We need im­me­di­ate re­lief. The sooner the bet­ter for those who are suf­fer­ing.”

Su­per agreed with that sen­ti­ment.

“We are hop­ing that EPA fi­nally hears the mes­sage from eight gov­er­nors, 156 mem­bers of Congress, 34 U.S. sen­a­tors, livestock and poul­try pro­duc­ers, food man­u­fac­tur­ers and the United Nations, that it is time to act in or­der to (keep) a bad sit­u­a­tion from be­com­ing worse,” he said.

Among those pe­ti­tion­ing the EPA is Ge­or­gia Gov. Nathan Deal, whose home county of Hall is the epi­cen­ter of Ge­or­gia’s poul­try in­dus­try.

“In ad­di­tion to the di­rect eco­nomic dam­age from drought within the bor­der of our state, Ge­or­gia is heav­ily de­pen­dent on grain pro­duced in other states to sup­port its poul­try and livestock in­dus­tries,” Deal wrote in an Aug. 20 let­ter to EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa P. Jack­son.

Chicken feed is com­posed of 60 per­cent corn, 20 per­cent soy and 20 per­cent other in­gre­di­ents, such as min­er­als, For­rester said.

Terry Barr, a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized econ­o­mist at Colorado-based CoBank, which pro­vides loans and other fi­nan­cial ser­vices to agribusi­nesses, has said that “un­til you get a real good fix on this crop, (corn) prices are go­ing to stay very volatile.”

The chal­lenge for poul­try and other in­dus­tries is whether to “pass (higher) costs through the con­sumer,” Barr said. “To the de­gree they can, they’ve got to continue to make cut­backs in pro­duc­tion.”

In a weak econ­omy, “a lot of folks are not op­ti­mistic about how much more you can push these prices,” he said.

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