The U.S. ethanol policy hurts dairy farmers

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In the Jan. 6 article "Dairy Dilemma: Pennsylvania's Milk Producers Face Rising Costs for Feed Corn," writer Ann Belser brought attention to rising livestock feed prices -- a threat to dairy farmers not only in Pennsylvania, but across the country. Working with dairy farmers in California, we've seen the devastating impact of increased feed costs.

Demand for corn ethanol is substantially increasing feed prices, but this demand is spurred not by the free market and consumer choice, but by the Renewable Fuel Standard, a failed government policy that, despite devastating impacts, policy-makers fail to address.

Established by Congress in 2005, expanded in 2007 and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the RFS mandates require blending of large quantities of ethanol into the nation's fuel supply. The RFS is not only failing miserably to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also appropriating 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop for fuel use, cutting drastically into the supply needed for animal feed.

Even before last summer's drought, the RFS managed to raise corn prices more than 200 percent since 2005. Farmers everywhere have slashed herd sizes and cut good, long-standing jobs in their struggle to cope with increasing production costs. California alone is estimated to have lost more than 100 dairies last year, largely due to high feed prices, and consumers are seeing higher prices for dairy, meat and poultry at the grocery store.

Rather than continuing to overlook the costly effects of the RFS on farmers and consumers, our leaders must revise this policy and minimize its harm. To let the RFS continue as is would be a disaster -- no matter how you churn it.

ROB VANDENHEUVEL
General Manager
Milk Producers Council
Ontario, Calif.


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