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Working to protect America’s farmers and consumers

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

The most recent unemployment numbers were released last week. Unfortunately they confirmed what most Americans already know: we continue to face economic uncertainty. For September the national unemployment rate stayed at 9.1%, the same rate as August and the second highest monthly level so far this year. As our economy remains sluggish, people fear losing their jobs and their homes and they are struggling to provide for their families.

 

As our economy remains stagnant it is even more critical that the government examine all of its policies to ensure that there are no unintended consequences that negatively affect our citizens. For that reason it is time to have a serious conversation about the federal government’s role in supporting ethanol. The federal government’s subsidization of the ethanol industry has created a domino effect that is hurting consumers. This mandate is being fulfilled by grain ethanol that comes from corn. As corn is diverted for ethanol, the higher cost for these crops is passed on to our nation’s farmers. In turn, consumers see that increased price reflected in the price of food on the grocery store shelves.

 

Recently I introduced two pieces of legislation that would alter this artificially created government market. The Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination (RFS) Act simply eliminates the RFS and makes ethanol compete in a free market. Working to build support for a complete repeal of the RFS will take time and consumers need immediate relief so I also introduced the bipartisan RFS Flexibility Act, which links the amount of corn ethanol required for the RFS to the amount of the U.S. corn supplies. It provides a mechanism that when the Agriculture Department reports that U.S. corn supplies are tight there would be a reduction made to the RFS, providing relief to our livestock and food producers and consumers of these products. This is a common sense solution to make sure that we have enough corn supplies to meet all of our demands.

 

Beyond the debate of how the ethanol policy is hurting consumers and disrupting the marketplace in regards to food, we need to take a hard look at the fiscal implications the government’s role in the ethanol industry has on the budget. Some estimates have said that the tax credit for ethanol blenders will cost taxpayers $5.6 billion this year. In a time when our country is trying to tackle a massive federal debt we must look at all of our government programs to determine the effectiveness and cost of all government expenditures.

 

I am a strong supporter of renewable fuels, when they compete fairly in the marketplace but the current ethanol policy is unfair and causing unintended and negative consequences for American consumers, livestock farmers, and food manufacturers. We should not be in a position where government is choosing winners between fuel and food, particularly during this time of economic slowdown. As your Congressman you can be assured that I will continue working to provide scrutiny to the cost and effectiveness of the ethanol mandate and other federal programs.