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National Restaurant Association - NRA asks EPA to waive ethanol production mandate

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NRA asks EPA to waive ethanol production mandate

With drought and extreme heat decimating the U.S. corn crop, the National Restaurant Association has urged the federal government to waive a mandate that calls for nearly 42 percent of the crop to be used for ethanol biofuel production.

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, dated Aug. 10, the NRA asserted that the mandate should be lifted and that more of the crop be used to bolster the food supply. The letter was signed by the NRA and other food-related associations and organizations who say the current situation could lead to food and feed shortages as well as increased commodity costs.

"The extreme losses to grain yields and other food crops, because of the most severe U.S. drought in 50 years, is already having a ripple effect throughout the food supply chain both [here] and around the globe," the letter said. "Granting a waiver, or partial waiver, from the [Renewable Fuels Standard] mandate would significantly reduce the harm food makers and consumers will feel because of the drought."

Currently, about 4.5 million of a total of 10.8 million bushels of corn is expected to be used for ethanol production this year.

A report issued Aug. 10 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that corn yields dropped to 123.4 bushels per acre from pre-drought levels of 166 bushels per acre, and a production cut of 2.2 billion bushels. In its Aug. 14 agriculture and weather report, the USDA stated that 51 percent of the corn crop has been rated poor to very poor.

The corn crop, a key to the food supply and an important commodity for the foodservice industry, is "an official disaster," said commodities expert John Barone, CEO of Fairfield, N.J.-based Market Vision Inc.

He added that the crop is integral to feedstock for meat, dairy and poultry production and that less of it would lead to a decline in the production of beef, milk and chicken, a decrease in supply and a spike in prices for both the foodservice industry and consumers.

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