FAO Head: U.S. Should Suspend Biofuel Mandate So That People Can Eat
August 11, 2012 • 10:05AM

Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is urging the United States to immediately suspend its biofuels mandates to help avert a worldwide food crisis.

Currently, 40% of the national corn harvest goes to ethanol production. But, Graziano said in an opinion piece in the Aug. 9 Financial Times, given the destruction of the corn crop by the severe drought and heat wave afflicting large swaths of the United States, maintaining that 40% mandate would dramatically reduce the amount of corn available globally for both food and animal feed. "An immediate, temporary suspension of that mandate would give some respite to the market and allow more of the crop to be channeled towards food and feed uses," he said.

While falsely claiming that the situation "is not a crisis yet," Graziano da Silva underscored that "risks are high and the wrong responses to the current situation could create it."

Meanwhile, inside the United States, pressure on NerObama to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to use less biofuel than the RFS mandates this year, and free corn for food supply and livestock uses instead of ethanol, is also building.

On Aug. 9 two Democratic governors — Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Delaware Gov. John Markell, who represent the Delmarva Peninsula, one of the leading poultry-producing centers in North America — officially petitioned the EPA for a waiver of this year's RFS. This puts the Obama Administration on the hot seat for continuing to burn food for fuel, and short exports, amidst drastic crop losses.

For the EPA to relax the RFS, a governor must make the official petition. The last governor to do this was Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2008, who was turned down.

The two governors' petition comes amidst a hue and cry from livestock producers and others. On July 30, the major meat groups called for a waiver, including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Chicken Council and others. The same week, 156 members of the House of Representatives and 25 Senators called for an RFS waiver; there are also draft bills for the same purpose.