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Livestock and grains and the RFS

The biofuels debate keeps ratcheting up, especially where ethanol is concerned. Livestock groups laid out their frustrations when a bill was introduced in the House last week that aims to tie the Renewable Fuels Standard to U.S. corn supplies. Kevin Kester, President of the California Cattlemen’s Association, spoke on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Kester owns a stocker and cow-calf operation and says they’ve overcome many challenges inherent to the business. The challenge of U.S. renewable fuels policy, he says, is too great.

“I want to be very clear,” says Kester, “The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is not opposed to ethanol. We just want to have a fair shake to compete head-to-head for a bushel of corn.” Kester specifically points to the RFS, saying, “Cattlemen are price takers not price makers. So, therefore, these record high prices and near record tight corn supplies and reserves are partially due to the RFS mandate.”

R.C. Hunt, a North Carolina hog producer, on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council says they support corn’s role in helping the country become more energy efficient but something has to change.

“The current feed grains situation has pork producers very nervous. We have had tight supplies and USDA is estimating a fall harvest smaller than it was initially projected,” says Hunt.

Gary Marshall, head of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, tells Brownfield that agriculture “can’t exist on $2 corn” and the RFS Flexibility Act would be a giant step backward.

“I’m disappointed in these national livestock groups for continuing to push for these types of things.” Marshall says the cost of gasoline would skyrocket if not for ethanol and adds that he’s worked for the past 25 years to help corn growers get higher prices and to go backwards does not make sense.

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week he does not support the House bill. There is no companion bill to the RFS Flexibility Act in the Senate. The House version is sponsored by Represenatative Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, and Representative Jim Costa, a Democrat from California.

Also last week, the National Research Center released a study questioning the environmental and economic benefits of the RFS and biofuels production. Renewable fuels groups say the data that was used is questionable.

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