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Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank Chairman Lucas for his leadership on this issue and Ranking Member Peterson for his support of this effort to take action to help livestock producers who are being devastated by the drought. Livestock farmers in the Sixth District of Virginia have been hit hard by the heat and the derecho that swept through the Shenandoah Valley last month.
This disaster relief was included in the 2008 farm bill but, unfortunately, did not last the full length of the farm bill. I am pleased that the Congress has found a way to provide relief for these livestock farmers; and not only do we provide the relief, but we pay for it. And not only do we pay for it, but we also achieve additional savings that are applied to the deficit. If every bill passed by the Congress reduced spending overall, we would be in much better fiscal condition in the Federal Government.
While the Congress is taking an important first step in providing relief for drought-stricken livestock farmers, the administration has at hand a tool that they should use right now to provide drought relief as well.
The Obama administration has at its disposal an easy relief valve that would provide drought relief, if only temporarily--a reduction in the government-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard. I have long been a critic of the RFS that has increased food and feed stocks being diverted into fuel, leading to diminished supplies for livestock and food producers. In fact, last year, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop was used for ethanol production. There is no doubt that this policy has driven up the price of corn, which today is hovering around $8 a bushel. This, in turn, drives up the cost of food.
Unfortunately, because of the drought, we no longer have the luxury of being just worried about the price. This drought is so devastating that we have to be increasingly worried we do not have a large enough corn supply to meet all of our competing demands.
As we confront the reality of the tightening corn supplies, there are real concerns about having enough to satisfy the RFS and the needs of our food producers. We should not be in a position where we are choosing between fuel and food. In fact, the government has chosen: they've chosen fuel over food with a policy that mandates a certain amount of corn production going to ethanol production each year.
As the drought further shrinks the corn supply, we are unfortunately also going to see livestock herds shrink. This shrinking herd will affect consumers' grocery bills, resulting in consumers having to spend more in the grocery store. Rural communities that depend on livestock will be hit hard as producers affected by both the availability and high price of corn are being forced to limit their production or are being squeezed out of business.
The law allows the Administrator of the EPA to reduce the required volume of renewable fuels in any year based on severe harm to the economy or environment of a state, a region or the United States, or in the event of inadequate domestic supply of renewable fuel. This drought and the shrinking corn crop are causing severe economic harm in the countryside and on grocery store shelves.
The Administrator of the EPA has already received a petition to waive the RFS for a year. Today, over 150 bipartisan members, from coast to coast, joined in calling for Administrator Jackson to waive the RFS. The Congress is acting today to help drought stricken livestock farmers, but now the Obama Administration must act to use their authority to help these same farmers. This relief is not only desperately needed, but I believe is required by the law.
I urge all members to join today in supporting this bill to help provide much needed drought relief, and I urge the Administration to join the Congress in acting to provide drought relief by waiving the RFS.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. It is a first start toward addressing a longer-term problem that requires other action.
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