Livestock producers back Goodlatte’s RFS reform bill

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Livestock producers are urging Congress to move legislation introduced last year by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would set in motion an overhaul of the renewable fuel standard.A coalition of livestock organizations last week requested that the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hold a hearing on the bipartisan bill introduced last April. The legislation would eliminate corn ethanol targets, among other changes.The Goodlatte bill “addresses some of the unintended, negative impacts the RFS has and continues to have on farmers, consumers, businesses, and the U.S. economy,” the groups wrote in a letter dated Feb. 24 and released Friday by the National Chicken Council.

The renewable fuel standard, which includes targets for both ethanol and advanced biofuel use, has been under congressional scrutiny since the summer of 2012, when corn prices and livestock input costs rose following a severe drought in the nation’s major agricultural states. But while there have been several bills introduced this legislative session to repeal all or parts of the RFS, Goodlatte’s bill remains the only broad reform measure this session.

Under H.R. 1462, the corn ethanol portion of the renewable fuel standard would be eliminated. Ethanol content in gasoline would be capped at 10 percent. Yearly targets for cellulosic biofuel, a fuel made from plant-based materials like agricultural residues and municipal solid waste, would be based on actual production to take into account the small amount of fuel available today in the marketplace.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last year separately sought to reform the 2007 renewable fuel standard and launched a series of white papers and hearings, but members of an RFS task force led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) failed to reach an agreement. The government shutdown last October and EPA’s unexpected proposal to roll back this year’s targets for both corn ethanol and advanced biofuel use dimmed enthusiasm for the effort.

Supporters of congressional action on the RFS, including the livestock groups, say they support the proposal by EPA but that it is only a bandage that will not fix bigger concerns with the policy: namely, that the RFS demands more ethanol be used than is feasible in today’s fueling infrastructures and drives up costs for food producers.

“We understand it is the responsibility of Congress to find a much more lasting solution to this misguided program, and we feel a hearing on the RFS from a farm and food point of view will help Congress move in the right direction,” the livestock groups said.

The nation’s major trade organizations for the poultry, hog, beef and meat industries all signed on to the letter.

The Goodlatte bill has slowly picked up traction in the House. As of today, it has 55 co-sponsors, eight of whom are Democrats. The latest co-sponsor, Rep. Christopher Gibson (R-N.Y.), signed on to the bill Thursday.

Goodlatte cited costs to livestock producers when introducing the bill.

“The federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry has quite frankly triggered a domino effect that is hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers and retailers,” he said. “Extreme drought last summer and record corn prices made it clear that the RFS is not working.”

Most industry participants believe, though, that any RFS bill will be unlikely to make it into law this Congress. Goodlatte has also introduced a bill that would repeal the renewable fuel standard, but Energy and Commerce leaders last year acknowledged that repealing the legislation has little chance of success given the continued regional support for ethanol and advanced biofuels.

Biofuel producers have slammed all attempts by members of Congress to dismantle the renewable fuel standard, which they say helps increase the nation’s energy independence, boost the economy of rural America and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Goodlatte reform bill is a “gift to special interest groups,” ethanol trade group Growth Energy said.