* Poultry, cattle states say ethanol raising feed costs
* EPA mulling suspension of ethanol mandate
* Ethanol mandate is already flexible, says corn sector
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON, Aug 21 Two U.S. states that depend
on the livestock industry are adding their voices to a string
of states asking Washington to ease pressure on corn prices by
suspending rules that send a large share of the crop to produce
Georgia, the center of U.S. poultry production, and New
Mexico, with its large cattle industry, this week asked federal
officials to suspend a program that encourages converting corn
into ethanol fuel.
Roughly 13 billion gallons of ethanol are due to be blended
with gasoline this year under a federal renewable fuels mandate
meant to bolster domestic energy sources. The rules can be
waived under a formal appeal from a state to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Livestock farmers complain that demand for ethanol wrongly
diverts a large share of the feed corn they need and drives up
prices already inflated by a long dry season.
Poultry farmers in Georgia are spending about $1.4 million
more in feed costs per day due to the drought and ethanol rules,
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal wrote in a letter to the EPA that
seeks a waiver of the ethanol mandate.
But corn farmers note that about a third of the
ethanol-distilled corn becomes livestock feed and that the
mandate has other built-in flexibilities that could be tried
before shelving the program.
"Ignoring (these facts) exaggerates the impact of ethanol on
corn supplies," said Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable
But livestock industry organizations are demanding total
relief from the mandate.
The head of the National Chicken Council, Mike Brown, said a
"full, one-year waiver" is needed to keep high corn prices from
devastating the poultry industry.
In recent weeks, six states have urged the EPA to suspend
the ethanol mandate, although not all of the states have
formally petitioned the agency.
The EPA said on Monday that it would had begun weighing the
requests to waive the mandate.
"New Mexico's agricultural economy is primarily composed of
dairy and range livestock production," Governor Susana Martinez
wrote in a letter to the EPA this week. "I urge you to consider
granting an immediate waiver."
Ethanol is strongly supported by the renewable-fuels lobby
and by lawmakers and farmers in the U.S. corn belt.
The EPA has until around mid-November to decide on the
waiver requests, meaning the agency could wait to rule on the
contentious issue until after national elections on Nov. 6.
The agency will collect comments from the public for 30 days
as it attempts to gauge what effects the mandate will have on
After rejecting a petition from Texas Governor Rick Perry in
2008, the EPA said waiver requests have to prove that the
mandate itself is the cause of severe economic harm to a region
and not just a contributing factor.