NCBA President J.D. Alexander said his organization supports American ethanol. Alexander, who is a cattleman from Nebraska, said corn-based ethanol has done a lot to stabilize many rural communities in his state and yields a co-product, dried distillers’ grains, which many cattlemen use as a feed ingredient. Alexander, like many of the members of Congress urging EPA to issue the waiver, is seeking a level playing field for cattlemen to compete “head-to-head” for a bushel of corn in one of the worst droughts in the nation’s history. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 70 percent of cattle producing regions are suffering from drought conditions.

“We find it concerning that these mandates are allowed to continue today in the worst drought I have seen in my lifetime. Seventy percent of cattle country is under drought conditions – this is not isolated to a certain part of the country. One has to wonder how bad the drought has to get before EPA uses its authority to grant a RFS waiver,” said Alexander. “This isn’t rocket science. Let the market work.”

The Senate letter was also a bipartisan effort led by Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

"In light of the widespread droughts that are causing severe economic harm to our nation’s farmers and ranchers, I am proud that a bipartisan group of senators signed on to the Hagan/Chambliss letter that asks EPA to use its authority to waive the corn-ethanol mandate of the Renewable Fuels Standard,” said Sen. Hagan. “A waiver from the corn-ethanol mandate will provide much needed relief for livestock and poultry producers suffering from record high corn prices brought on by the worst drought in 50 years.”

The RFS requires 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol to be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013, amounts that will use about 4.7 billion and 4.9 billion bushels, respectively, of the nation’s corn. Some agricultural forecasters now are estimating that just 11.8 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year – about 13 billion were harvested in 2011 – meaning corn-ethanol production will use about four of every 10 bushels.