Gov. Nathan Deal is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend the federal requirement to add ethanol to gasoline, joining livestock and poultry farmers and several other governors who’ve made similar requests because of the price of corn.
Most U.S. ethanol is produced from corn. And with the drought in the Midwest pushing corn prices up, poultry and livestock producers in Georgia and elsewhere are paying more to feed their animals.
When Congress mandated in 2005 that ethanol be blended into gas, it gave the EPA administrator power to waive the requirement if it caused severe economic harm. That’s the case Deal is making.
In a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Deal points to a University of Georgia estimate that the state's poultry producers are already spending $1.4 million extra on feed every day. The governor said the resulting higher prices in stores will mean some Georgians can’t afford chicken anymore.
Georgia Poultry Federation president Mike Giles said the drought-induced high corn prices are unsustainable and only getting worse.
“The impact is severe already, and one of the reactions could be producing less chicken," Giles said. "The ripple effects that could have throughout the economy could be severe.”
“It is unsustainable to pay $9 for a bushel of corn for over a certain amount of time," said Tom Super, vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council. "And another negative effect would be the cost at the supermarket being passed onto consumers.”
Georgia is dependent on Midwest grain to feed poultry and other livestock. Deal is joining five other governors and dozens of members of Congress with his request. They hope suspending the ethanol fuel mandate will ease prices and provide more feed.
The poultry industry has a $20 billion economic impact on Georgia each year. The state is the nation’s top chicken producer.