Biofuels Policy Is Dividing Rural America

National Turkey Federation representative emphasizes areas of concern for industry, says increased corn prices cost the industry more than $1 billion in 2007 and 2008.

Washington: A turkey industry representative told a House Agriculture Subcommittee that increased corn prices cost the industry more than $1 billion in 2007 and 2008 and the current situation is almost as bad.

Paul Hill, chairman of West Liberty Foods and past chairman of the National Turkey Federation (NTF), told the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry that when the Renewable Fuels Standard was implemented, corn prices jumped from $2.50 per bushel to $8. Feed accounts for 70 percent of the cost of raising a turkey, and corn accounts for roughly 70 percent of the feed ration.

“Ethanol is dividing rural America - the corn farmer in me likes the prices, but the turkey farmer in me sees the real damage,” Hill said. “Congress doesn’t necessarily have to abolish all federal support for ethanol, but support for the blender’s tax credit should be eliminated.”

Hill also told committee members that Congress should refrain from making a significant new investment in ethanol infrastructure and Congress should implement a safety net to protect against the vitality in the commodity markets, forcing all industries to pay higher prices for input costs due to the fluctuations in the corn market.

Soaring feed prices caused the turkey industry to cut production by 11 percent across the last two years, and Hill said production won’t increase significantly until Congress creates a safety net that makes feed costs less volatile.

Another area of concern for the turkey industry is the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed marketing rule. “The proposed GIPSA marketing rule creates long-term dangers for many family farmers,” Hill said. “Key issues for the turkey industry are the competitive injury proposal that makes it easier to sure or take regulatory action against processors, the provision that requires processors to virtually guarantee growers 80 percent recovery of capital investments and the series of provisions that would discourage competitive contracts.”

Hill mentioned that these key issues would create significant new legal and regulatory risk for the turkey processors who have production contracts with family farmers. A study funded in part by NTF found an impact of $361.6 million on the turkey industry alone.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to conduct an economic assessment, but appears unwilling to submit the study for public comment prior to publishing the final rule,” Hill said. “There must be transparency in the rulemaking process.”

Before closing, Hill also mentioned that the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to impose new Total Maximum Daily Loads targets in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are based on flawed modeling assumptions.

Hill’s entire testimony is available on the House Committee on Agriculture’s website,