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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I am proud to introduce the Renewable Fuel Standard Flexibility Act. I am introducing this bill because I have grave concerns about the impacts the Federal mandate for corn ethanol production is having on the price of food in this country and the cost of domestic food production.

Corn is a staple of the modern American diet that has become a ubiquitous ingredient or additive in most of our food and it is fed as feed to nearly all livestock animals. The fact is, most meals Americans consume either has corn as an essential ingredient or consist of ingredients that required corn to produce. From milk, to eggs, to beef to poultry, to bread, to soft drink, and most prepared frozen meals corn--is essential to American food.

The first section of Michael Pollan's 2006 Best Seller The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is titled ``Industrial Corn'' and it explains just how omnipresent corn, in some form or another, is in American diets. For better or for worse, the vast majority of the food found on American supermarket shelves is made from processed corn. When it comes to the animal proteins Americans consume most of these animals were raised on corn diets.

For decades, America's corn growers were out producing demand for corn and food producers, and consumers benefited from relatively low corn prices that ranged around $2 a bushel. While consumers may have benefitted from these prices, American corn and grain growers were hurting badly.

Since 2007, the tides have been turning significantly. National demand for corn is at an all-time high and corn futures project corn reaching $8 a bushel in the near future. A growing and hungry nation combined with new demands for corn that are the result of technological innovations have created new uses for corn in the form of ethanol as both a motor fuel additive and in plastics. These new uses, combined with expanded traditional uses have fueled the upward spike in corn prices.

Corn growers have benefitted tremendously from the increased demand and high corn prices. Ethanol producers have enjoyed a variety of government supports mandating levels of ethanol production which have helped them weather high corn prices paying a high price for corn feedstocks is relatively easy when you have enormous production tax credits and a federally mandated market for your product.

Food producers, including livestock and poultry producers, who use tremendous amounts of corn to raise their livestock and produce food, do not have the luxury of a mandated market for their products.

In Maryland, our number one agricultural product is poultry. Poultry production is far and away the top employer on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Maryland poultry is hurting and it is because they are competing with big oil, and other non-traditional users, for corn. Corn is vitally important to raising chickens. Unlike other livestock, like cattle or hogs which are ruminants that can eat a variety of different types of feed, chickens' diets are limited to corn. Feed makes up more than 73 percent of the cost of raising poultry and when corn reaches $6.50 or $7.00 or even $8.00 a bushel that cost goes even higher.

I understand the important role domestic ethanol production will play in helping our nation achieve greater energy security. However, the nurturing and growth of our domestic biofuels industry must not come at the expense of our domestic food supply. In other words, we cannot sacrifice U.S. food security for energy security. That is why I do not support the use of food based feedstocks like sugar and corn to be commercially produced into ethanol.

I also believe that as global demand for oil increases, driven by increased mobility and affluence spreads in the developing world, renewable biofuels will compete well with oil and that the government supports we have in place will not be necessary because pure market demand for less expensive and cleaner burning fuels like ethanol will drive growth in biofuel production, not government mandates.

Because domestic food production is reaching a state of crisis driven by the increasing cost of inputs, like corn, that the food producers have to unfairly compete with industries that are operating with under government production mandates I am introducing legislation today that offers a simple change to the Renewable Fuel Standard that will help provide our domestic food producers access to corn.

This legislation will link the amount of corn ethanol required for the RFS to the amount of U.S. corn supplies. This legislation sets up a process so that when the USDA reports on U.S. corn supplies towards the end of each year, based upon the ratio of corn stocks- to expected use, there could be a reduction made to the RFS mandate for corn ethanol. This is a common sense solution to make sure that we have enough corn supplies to meet all of our corn demands.

Once a year, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency will review the current corn crop year's ratio of U.S. corn stocks-to-use ratio in making a determination of the RFS.

By the end of November the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency will make an official determination of the Renewable Fuels Standard, RFS, corn ethanol mandate for the following calendar year, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's November World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate report to determine the U.S. corn stocks-to-use ratio. The administrator shall provide for a waiver for the RFS for the following calendar year according to the calculated stocks to use ratio as directed. Such a waiver, if required, shall be included in the Environmental Protection Agency's Federal Register notice regarding the RFS for the following calendar year. The required waiver, if any, will take effect January 1 of the new calendar year.

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I believe the future of biofuels must be in the development and production of cellulosic and advanced biofuels that are not derived from feedstocks that are part of essential food sources. As a supporter of bringing cellulosic and advanced biofuels to market, my legislation explicitly states that it ``shall not affect the volume of advanced biofuels required under'' the Renewable Fuel Standard. This will leave intact the advanced biofuels production mandate which I believe is critical to growing this still nascent and beneficial fuel product to commercial viability.

Because of corn's many uses it has become a commodity that is in high demand. Assuring our domestic food producers' access to this valuable and increasingly scarce crop is so important to controlling the cost of food in America and maintaining the economic viability of our U.S. food companies. I urge my colleagues to support U.S. food producers and families working to put food on the table by co-sponsoring the Renewable Fuel Standard Flexibility Act.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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