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EPA should waive mandate

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

With drought conditions this summer reaching levels not seen for more than 20 years, or longer, causing a shortfall in the country’s corn production, legislators and the Environmental Protection Agency should consider all options to lessen the financial blow sure to come to consumers and farmers alike, specifically by waiving the EPA’s ethanol mandate.
Waiving the mandate for a year, or more, would lower the demand for corn by redirecting the corn set aside for ethanol to the general market.
This year, the renewable fuel standard mandate calls for the use of 13.2 billion gallons of biofuels, nearly all from ethanol, or about 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop in a good growing year. And, the mandate slowly continues to grow as the years go by. Next year, about 14 billion gallons of biofuels are required to be used.
Even in good corn crop years, it’s hard to support a government program that mandates the use of 40 percent of a crop so integral to feeding the world’s population.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has urged the Obama administration to waive the ethanol mandate. As of last week, at least 25 senators, 156 House members and several governors have petitioned the EPA to reduce or eliminate the mandate.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that, while immediate cost increases will most likely not occur, eventually moderate increases for everything from cosmetics to cereal, soda, cake mixes and candy bars should be expected.
The biggest price jump is likely to be a 4- to 6-percent increase in beef and pork because many ranchers have sold livestock as pastures dry up and feed costs rise.
Many drought-related assistance and insurance policies are in place for corn farmers, but it’s not the same for dairy, poultry or other farmers relying on corn for feed.
Waiving the ethanol mandate is the fastest and easiest way, across the board, to help ease the burden for consumers and farmers. And, who knows, the economic benefits may be enough that the mandate is left on the shelf for good.