National Chicken Council Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Bill Roenigk told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “is not just broad and complex, but is also a statute that has outlived its usefulness.”

Roenigk testified on the third of three panels the committee heard this week as part of their two-day hearing entitlted “Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard:  Stakeholder Perspectives.”  Other panelists included representatives from the National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants, the Environmental Working Group, and Professor of Agriculturel Economics at Purdue University Christopher Hurt.  The other two panels this week included leaders from petroleum, biofuels, and other energy-related groups.

Roenigk told the committee that “since 2007, all chicken producers, at times, have struggled financially,” as a result of the federal government’s mandate for corn-based ethanol.  “Those business disruptions directly impact the over 25,000 family farmers who grow the chickens, and the more than 300,000 employees directly working for the chicken companies,” he said.  “Since October 2006 through this month, poultry and egg producers have had to bear the burden of higher feed cost totaling over $50 billion,” Roenigk said.   “It is an understatement to say that it has been difficult to pass this increased cost on to the chicken buyers whether they are supermarkets, restaurants, further processors, or buyers overseas,” he said.

Roenigk also pointed out to the committee that, as a result of the RFS,  a dozen of the 40 vertically integrated poultry-processing companies have either gone out of business or have been sold to foreign interests.

“The negative and, perhaps, unintended consequences of forcing a move too far and too fast with corn-based ethanol have become overly clear and overly painful,” he said. “It has also become overly clear and apparent that there is no workable or reasonable provision in the RFS to provide flexibility when the corn supply is severely inadequate to meet all needs.”  Roenigk told Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) that if the RFS cannot be fixed, “it needs to be repealed.”

While the diverse panel offered a variety of solutions to reform or repeal the RFS, Whitfield offered no timeframe on any changes to the RFS, concluding the hearing by saying lawmakers would address purported inequities, but proceed “cautiously.”