King favors supply, demand decision ethanol mandate

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Iowa Congressman Steve King, R-Kiron, talks with Janet Manning, of Le Mars, about right-to-life issues during King's campaign stop at the Plymouth County Fair Saturday. Farmers said they talked to King about drought and crop insurance concerns.

Iowa Congressman Steve King, R-Kiron, said there's some time before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have to determine if drought conditions warrant a change in required production of corn ethanol.

King campaigned for re-election at the Plymouth County Fair Saturday.

He predicted a debate in the Capitol on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this week.

RFS requires 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol production this year and 13.8 billion gallons next year.

King's debate forecast came to the forefront Monday when meat and poultry groups asked the EPA to waive the federal mandate for the production of corn ethanol.

"RFS has directly affected the supply and cost of feed in major agricultural sectors of this country, causing the type of economic harm that justifies issuance of an RFS waiver," said the ag groups in a petition to the EPA.

Ag group members petitioning included National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Milk Producers Council and National Pork Producers Council.

Saturday King cited his priorities for how the federal agency should decide the corn ethanol mandate petition.

"When the decision comes, if it comes, I'm hoping that it's based on facts and world markets and supply and availability and not based on somebody's political or economic opportunism," he said. said.

Nine ethanol plants have already shut down in the United States and Iowa ethanol plants are running at 80 percent or less capacity, he said.

"That's already restricting the utilization of corn for ethanol," King added.

The fuel issue isn't the only concern for producers King is hearing about.

Possible changes in audits of crop insurance claims brought some producers to the fairgrounds to talk with King Saturday.

Audits determine compliance with government rules and regulations and are made following payments for crop losses.

King described the crop insurance technicalities he's hearing about as "very, very troublesome."

"We'll be addressing the idea that you could be off by one bushel up or down and you might get kicked into a three-year audit," King said.

The congressman said he plans to take up the issue with the U.S. House Ag Committee in Washington, D.C. today (Tuesday).

"Likely what will come out of that will be a letter asking, and perhaps even directing, the USDA to go back to the normal audit process," King said.

The audit proposal could add to stress from drought conditions, according to the congressman.

"There's drought stress on our crops, there's drought stress on our livestock and there's drought stress on our producers and they don't need any more stress put on them by the federal government," King said.

He also said he was frustrated about the status of a legislation to replace the 2008 Farm Bill with a new five-year program.

"I believe we should have passed the House version of the Farm Bill," King said.

A conference committee could have been appointed to begin negotiations in August and bring a five-year bill back in September, he added.

King predicted an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill for another year when he was in Le Mars Saturday.

He also said he expected some drought and disaster relief, especially for livestock producers.

House Republican leaders Monday were told they might not have the votes to pass a stopgap Farm Bill this week, according to the Associated Press.

King is seeking election to represent the new 4th Congressional District in November.

His Democratic opponent, Christie Vilsack of Ames, couldn't be reached for comment on the petition about ethanol mandates and other ag issues.

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