Obama Snubs Request for Food Relief
September 15, 2012 • 9:28AM

A coalition of 26 associations of food processing associations wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency in late August, to request a waiver for a year, of the Federal RFS (Renewable Fuels Standard), under which scarce corn continues to go for ethanol. The groups represent the gamut of food manufacturers, from bakers and brewers to snack, seafood, and canned goods processors. Their letter stated that an EPA waiver of the RFS, "would significantly reduce the harm food makers and consumers will feel because of the drought." They further say that if the RFS is not waived, there will be an insufficient amount of corn on hand for food manufacturing.

This action is in line with a coalition of livestock and animal feed associations asking for a waiver, and with seven governors who have done so (Maryland, Delaware, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia).

The Obama response has been: "No!" Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said to an ethanol-makers meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, "I will tell you this: that I have conveyed and will continue to convey to [EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson and others at the EPA and to the country, my support for this industry." Vilsack was addressing an event held by the Growth Energy group, which represents ethanol distillers.

Obama has repeatedly visited Iowa, the foremost corn state, to court the 'ethanol vote' associated with 41 ethanol plants. Iowa is regarded as an election swing-state.

Secondly, the Obama EPA is conducting a sham 'show of concern' over the appeals for a waiver, while meantime, holding off announcing its decision until after the November elections. On Sept. 11, the EPA announced an extension (until Oct. 11) of its 30 day public comment period, triggered in mid-August, when the first two of the seven governors, filed their official appeal for a waiver—Martin O'Malley of Maryland and Jack Markell of Delaware.

This year's corn crop, at best, will be 13% less than last year, and stocks are in effect, nil. Without the waiver, over 42% of the shrunken crop will go to ethanol, to meet the mandate for 13.2 bil gallons of biofuels to be blended into gasoline. Ethanol-blend now accounts for about 10% of the U.S. gasoline consumption.

Among the food suppliers signing the letter to the EPA are: American Bakers Association; Canned Food Alliance; Grocery Manufacturers Association; American Dairy Products Institute; American Frozen Food Institute; National Council of Chain Restaurants, and state food processor associations, including those of Michigan, Maine, New York, Texas and others.