Arkansas News: Womack seeks renewable fuel standard fix

Feb 4, 2015
In The News

WASHINGTON — Calling it an issue for the middle class, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said Wednesday that he is sponsoring legislation again to do away with a federal mandate on ethanol that has driven up the cost of food.

“With the start of Congress this year, both the President and Congress signaled an intent to do something for middle class Americans. I can’t think of a subject more geared to doing that,” he said at a press conference.

Womack has again teamed up with Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., to introduce the RFS Reform Act. The bill is identical to the one they introduced in 2013 that would eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gas at 10 percent, and encourage the use of cellulosic biofuels.

While it failed in the last Congress, the quartet says there is growing support for the measure. Goodlatte noted that 218 House members either sponsored the bill or signed letters expressing their concern with the renewable fuel standards mandate. They’ve got 35 sponsors already on the bill introduced Wednesday.

“We had a lot of progress last year,” Goodlatte said.

Womack said removing the mandate is needed because it has artificially increased demand for corn which has artificially raised the price of feed for farmers, ranchers and dairymen. The result is higher prices in the grocery store for American families.

“Chicken producers have spent $48 billion more to feed their birds since the RFS was enacted. For all proteins, it exceeds $200 billion. These costs trickle down to the consumers,” Womack said.

“The renewable fuel standard has real consequences for farmers and ranchers in my district,” he said. “And, it has a profound effect on poorer Americans as it drives up the price of food and makes it harder for them to feed their families.”

National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said the problem with the RFS mandate is that it does not consider the economic impact that it has on food prices.

“Last month’s crop report from the USDA — the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report – said the projection for ‘corn used to produce ethanol is raised 25 million bushels’ over previous estimates. The reason? Higher demand for gasoline means more mandatory use of ethanol blended into the fuel supply under the RFS,” Brown said.