In an op ed appearing Monday in Northwest Arkansas Newspapers, National Chicken Council President Mike Brown and ActionAid Executive Director Heather Paul outlined the detrimental effects caused by U.S. federal ethanol policies, ranging from increased worldwide poverty and hunger to significant harm and job loss in the U.S. chicken industry. The pair signaled the dire need to revisit and adjust the government-mandated Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

“One out of every six people in Arkansas lives below the poverty line and cannot afford enough food to feed his family, according to the 2011 American Community Survey Census data,” Brown and Paul wrote.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks the state third in the nation for the most incidences of food insecurity.

“At the same time, almost half of American corn is being diverted from food and feed for livestock and burned as fuel. This plays a role in making our meals more expensive since it raises the price of our meat, eggs, milk and other foods, hitting those below the poverty line the hardest.”

The op ed also outlines the significant impact ethanol policies are having on chicken industry in Arkansas:

“At least three chicken companies in the past year with operations in the Natural State have seen consolidations, layoffs, sell-offs to other companies outside the state or even outside of our borders.  Hundreds of jobs, including family farmers who grow chickens, have been lost in Arkansas alone because chicken companies have not been able to endure the limited corn supplies and very high, very volatile corn prices. Yet, the equivalent of 430 million bushels of corn last year was exported to foreign countries–in the form of fuel.”

Brown and Paul called for urgent action to protect corn stocks and alleviate pressure on the corn market. “If Congress cannot muster up the political will to eliminate the ethanol mandate, it should at the very least put in place a safety valve to adjust the RFS when there is a shortfall in corn supplies,” they wrote, while calling for passage of the The RFS Flexibility Act, to protect corn stocks for food producers and reduce global food price volatility.

The op ed concluded:

“The production of corn is subject to a number of variables, including volatile weather, that could increase cost. While policy cannot be made on prayers for rain, Congress can and should address the RFS. Reining in this mandate would not only help Arkansas’ struggling chicken farmers and companies, it would help those struggling to put food on tables from Arkansas to Zimbabwe.”

A copy of the op ed is available via subscription on the NWA website here or contact Tom Super at tsuper@chickenusa.org to request a copy.

ActionAid USA is a nonprofit group that cooperates with communities worldwide to relieve hunger.