Leaders from several food industry associations have backed calls by the Texas Governor Rick Perry to revise current US policies that promote the conversion of food into fuel.

Governor Perry addressed an audience of food producers, environmentalists and consumer advocates at the National Press Club and called on the US Environmental Protection Agency to approve his Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) waiver request. 

Gov. Perry used the occasion to reiterate an appeal to the EPA to reduce this year’s RFS in light of rising corn prices, which, he said, have proved damaging to Texas’s livestock and poultry industry.

Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist of the National Chicken Council, said: “The Renewable Fuel Standard has distorted the market and has imposed severe economic harm on companies in our industry through dramatically higher input costs and is imposing harm on the general public in the form of higher prices for food products. We urge the EPA to grant the waiver requested by Governor Perry.”

Gregg Doud, chief economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), added: “Cattlemen are now confronting $7 and even $8 corn, and that may just be the beginning. Even before the wet spring pushed into June, we were already seeing a lot of acres migrating away from corn this year. By the time conditions improve in many of these fields, planting corn will no longer be an option.”

With corn prices rising, the increase in livestock and poultry feed is putting financial pressure on both producers and consumers.

“The prices for beef, pork and dairy products have risen dramatically over the past few months and this upward trend will continue, as the food used to feed these animals is washed away by flood waters and the projected size of the corn harvest shrinks,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute.

Boyle also emphasised the urgent nature of the waiver request given the recent flooding in the Midwest. “Mother Nature is refusing to adhere to Congressional mandates for corn production. Governor Perry should be applauded for seeking immediate relief from EPA, thereby providing Congress the opportunity to revisit these food-to-fuel mandates.”

Gov. Perry submitted a request to the EPA to reduce the RFS mandate by half – from 9 billion to 4.5bn gallons blended into the national fuel supply – on 25 April. The EPA opened the waiver request for a public comment period, which ended on Monday. Now the EPA has until 24 July to issue a decision.

“The American Bakers Association remains extremely concerned about the nation’s current wheat supply and commodity prices,” said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Association. “The corn-based ethanol programme is one of many factors impacting the current situation. The recent flooding in the Midwest only further exacerbates this situation for all grains. We urge the Environmental Protection Agency to grant Governor Rick Perry’s waiver request to reduce this year’s Renewable Fuel Standard mandate by half.”