Recently, the US Senate began a performance review of sorts on the Renewable Fuels Standard. This mandate of requiring ever increasing amounts of fuel to be produced from renewable sources has been the bane of livestock producers since its inception in 2006, primarily because the most common feedstock for first-generation biofuels is corn. Scott Prestage of Prestage Farms and current President of the North Carolina Poultry Federation:
“We are elated to see such activity taking place right now. As you would know back when the Renewable Fuels Standard first came to be… in 2006 right after it first began, our cost to grow turkeys was about half it is today. It has effectively doubled our cost to produce finished product. That has been quite a bane to the entire poultry industry.”
Last year the RFS required 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol to be blended into petroleum gasoline, and the mandate is 13.9 billion gallons this year, which will use 4.9 billion bushels of corn, or about 40% of the nation’s crop. USDA officials feel strongly that next year’s mandate of over 14 billion gallons will be difficult to meet.
The primary problem with the RFS is that when it was implemented in 2006, it was believed that second and third-generation biofuel production would be mainstream by now…using non-food materials as fuel stock. That hasn’t happened, and many livestock groups, including hogs and poultry have called on an overhaul of the mandate. Prestage explains what relaxing the RFS would mean to the country:
“We would hope that it would put us on a more level playing field when it comes to purchasing corn. Today corn makes up about 50% of our total cost to grow our animals. It’s a food for fuel policy that our nation has adopted and it puts us in competition with the energy sector. If we could have the RFS reformed, not repealed, then we think it would help us become more competitive producers and it would lower the cost of producing protein across the country.”
Livestock and poultry groups called on the administration last fall to waive the RFS, for the second time since 2008, and for the second time, in spite of the widespread drought and lowered harvest, the EPA refused to use the safety valve built into the biofuels mandate.