A coalition of U.S. livestock and poultry industry associations is requesting a hearing to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) impact on the economy, according to the American Meat Institute, a coalition member. 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 in a letter sent to the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.

The USDA estimates that over 5 billion bushels of the nation’s corn supply will be consumed by the ethanol industry in 2011, making it a bigger user of the grain than the livestock sector. In addition to the RFS, which mandates the production of 13.95 billion gallons of ethanol in 2011, the  ethanol industry also receives a federal subsidy and is protected by an import tariff which penalizes imported ethanol.

“In light of the ongoing pressures that the RFS is placing on the domestic feed grain supplies, something must be done to protect livestock and poultry producers from excessively high corn prices because of the rigid RFS compliance system,” the groups told Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D. Calif.) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.). “Therefore, we request that the Senate hold a hearing to examine the continued pressure on grain supplies and the impact that it is having on the bottom line of livestock and poultry producers.”

The letter notes that 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. While other factors play a role, the RFS mandate is the sole area the U.S. government can control, the groups said.

“Not only are the meat and poultry industries asking the Senate committee to make an attempt to understand the impact on farmers and ranchers, but we also are asking the committee to consider the impact on the American consumer,” the groups said. “The livestock and meat and poultry coalition thinks an EPW committee hearing to examine the continued merits and impact of this broad reaching policy would be timely and relevant.”

Other groups signing the letter include the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; National Chicken Council; National Meat Association and the National Turkey Federation.

The Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter of its own in response to the coalition's request for the hearing. The RFA's letter, also sent to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leadership, refutes statements that were made in a Nov. 30th letter sent to the committee by ethanol critics.

According to RFA, the letter sent by ethanol critics misrepresented the findings of two recent papers on American biofuels and American biofuel policy — one from the National Academies of Science (NAS) and one from United Nations Committee on Food Security (CFS).

Source: AMI, RFA