The California legislature has passed a joint resolution backed by Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank), urging the U.S. Congress to eliminate a mandate costing local farmers millions of dollars annually.
The federal mandate requires the use of renewable fuels in gasoline, theoretically reducing America's dependence on foreign oil. A massive 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels must be part of the nation's fuel supply by 2022.
The mandate is currently being met, in large part, with the production of corn ethanol. Five billion bushels of corn were used for ethanol production in 2011 – almost 40 percent of all U.S. corn.
The measure has been a boon for corn growers, driving the commodity's price through the roof. That's bad news for California dairy and poultry farmers, though, who are reliant upon corn as a feedstock.
“California leads the nation in milk production and dairy cows primarily depend on corn as feed,” said Olsen, who represents Turlock in the State Assembly. “Diverting feed stocks to fuel has diminished corn supplies for livestock and food producers, resulting in higher corn prices. These higher prices have contributed to hundreds of California dairies going out of business and have increased costs on consumers through increased food prices in grocery stores and restaurants.”
According to Olsen's staff, the resolution sends “a clear message” that California is opposed to corn-based ethanol. The resolution urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support only biofuel sources that do not compete with fuel production.
“Feeding our livestock and our people should take precedence over creating alternative fuels that have proven to be less energy efficient than gasoline,” Olsen said. “The actions in this resolution will help prevent further job loss and help our entire state’s economy.”
The resolution has no binding effect, as the California Legislature cannot force Congress to take legislative action, nor can California override the Congressional standards.
But the symbolic gesture still sends an important message, California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos says.
“The poultry industry is grateful that our legislature understands the significance of this resolution,” Mattos said. “Using corn for fuel has never made any sense, economically or environmentally, and we appreciate the Legislature's support for Assemblymember Olsen's resolution.”