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Editorial: Consider waiving ethanol mandate

The federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandates the production of 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based in ethanol in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. But with severe drought conditions across the country, a movement is afoot to waive those requirements.

Last week, 156 members of the U.S. House asked Enivronmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to waive the ethanol mandate of the RFS for the rest of the year. Then, on Tuesday, a group of 13 Democratic and 12 Republican senators made a similar plea.

At least some of the credit for the RFS effort should go to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), of which Edgerton's Randy Spronk is president-elect. "There's nothing the government can do about the drought," Spronk said in an NPPC press release Tuesday, "but it can ease the pressure on corn supplies by granting an RFS waiver, a tool put in the law to address situations such as this drought."

The NPPC desire to waive the ethanol mandate makes perfect sense, but there's more to this than merely easing pork producers' potential economic hardships. Food manufacturers and food-service providers, for instance, are poised to face mounting costs thanks to the corn shortage (50 percent of the nation's corn crop is rated between poor and very poor, according to the USDA), and consumer costs are likely to further rise.

The sought-after waiver should, at the least, be seriously considered.