As a prolonged drought saps U.S. corn yields, a tug-of war over shrinking stocks has intensified between livestock/poultry producers and proponents of the government-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

While the ethanol industry says that corn and feed prices are minimally impacted by the RFS, cattlemen and poultry producers continue to claim just the opposite — a claim they have made for years.

With many livestock/poultry producers facing exploding feed costs, a coalition of their backers has asked the EPA for a RFS waiver to reduce market pressures. The petition, filed by the National Pork Producers Council on behalf of the coalition, requests that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson waive “in whole or in substantial part” the mandated quantity of ethanol in 2012 (13.2 billion gallons, requiring some 4.7 billion bushels of corn) and at least part of 2013 (13.8 billion gallons, requiring 4.9 billion bushels of corn).

Read the petition here.

“Some agricultural forecasters now are estimating that just 11.8 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year — about 13 billion were harvested in 2011 — meaning corn-ethanol production will use about four of every 10 bushels,” said a coalition release.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is also “looking at” petitioning the EPA to waive the RFS “on a temporary basis,” said spokesman Matt DeCample. “On top of (the concerns of ethanol’s impact on feed prices), we have the extraordinary conditions of the drought we’re dealing with. The governor is considering asking for a temporary waiver of the ethanol requirements. We’ve not formally signed on yet with any grower or farmer groups or multi-state efforts.”

DeCample said Beebe’s decision on whether to proceed with the petition should come by mid-August.

During a Monday morning (July 30) conference call touting the waiver petition, J.D. Alexander, Nebraska cattleman and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president, said members of the organization “do not stand for federal mandates picking winners and losers. We do not stand for manipulation of corn prices. We do not stand for our federal government sitting by patiently, forking over taxpayer dollars to artificially inflate the price of corn for livestock producers and other end-users.

“We also find it concerning to the viability of the livestock industry that these mandates are allowed to continue today in the worst drought I’ve seen in my lifetime. Seventy percent of cattle country is under drought conditions. This is not isolated to a certain part of the country.”

Minnesota turkey grower and National Turkey Federation vice-chairman John Burkel said he buys around 100,000 bushels of corn annually. “The price of corn plays a critical role in my ability to feed my family. The availability of corn this year is uncertain and I’ll have to make difficult decisions when it comes to purchasing my feed. I’ve already cancelled my last flock of turkeys for this year.