Nearly 150 individuals, ranging from federal and state elected officials to representatives from organizations representing agriculture, oil, renewable fuel, and the environment, and private citizens participated in EPA’s only public hearing on its recent proposal to cut the 2014 renewable fuel mandate held in Arlington, Va., on December 5. The proposal is open for public comment until Jan. 28, 2014.

EPA gets earful on RFS proposalU.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was on hand for the hearing and said market distorting effects of the RFS on the economy began being felt almost immediately after the RFS was expanded in 2007. Goodlatte has introduced both the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act and the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. “The RFS is clearly unworkable. Under the RFS, the federal government is essentially telling a private industry that they must buy one product, ignoring other groups who also depend on that product and creating an artificial supply-and-demand. I urge the EPA to use your authority to provide the maximum relief possible.”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad defended the RFS and said reducing it would have an “unbelievable negative ripple effect through rural America.” Branstad blamed EPA of caving to “big oil, who has always resisted renewable fuels.”

Steve Foglesong, past NCBA president and Illinois cattle feeder and corn grower, said the proposal is a great step in the right direction. He said at one time, there was a need for the government policies to help the ethanol industry, but said today’s industry is “mature and sophisticated” and should be able to compete in the marketplace without government support.

“I am a corn farmer, I just choose to feed it to cattle, it’s value added. It’s not that different from the ethanol industry who takes corn to feed it into their plants and produce ethanol, dried distillers grains (DDGs), and carbon dioxide instead of beef. The process is identical, all but the RFS mandate, which gives the ethanol industry an advantage in purchasing corn,” said Foglesong.

The National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said NFU members are “incensed” with EPA’s proposal. “At a time when the price of corn is below the breakeven point for farmers, EPA’s proposal slashes the corn ethanol requirement to a level below current production. This will have a devastating impact on farmers and the rural economy.”

EPA hopes to finalize the rule by spring 2014.