Livestock Farmers Oppose Ethanol

Livestock farmers are joining consumers’ advocacy groups in opposing ethanol production as unnecessary and counterproductive, citing threats to food prices and increasing feed costs.

With farmers across the country struggling in the middle of one of the worst droughts in years, many agricultural coalitions are finding themselves fraying at the seams as individual industries try to maximize their profits. In particular, a struggle between livestock farmers on the one hand and corn growers and ethanol producers on the others is rapidly heating up in the middle of debate over the farm bill and in the midst of a contentious presidential election.

Current Environmental Protection Agency policy requires that a certain percentage of corn grown in the U.S. go towards ethanol production. This requirement was part of the Washington’s effort to support renewable fuel production. Exemptions to this regulation may be granted when the ethanol requirement threatens a state or regional economy.

The current drought is testing that exemption. Livestock farmers are claiming that diverting corn to ethanol production is diverting corn away from animal feed and driving up their operational costs. “We do support the American ethanol industry,” said an official at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “All we are asking for is that competition for that bushel of corn be on a level playing field.”

Livestock farmers argue that a coalition of energy producers and corn farmers are blocking the waiver of these regulations in order to maximize their profits. With the 2012 election hinging on several Midwestern, corn-growing swing states (including Ohio and Iowa), however, many livestock farmers are pessimistic about their future.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer