Midwest Drought Causes Livestock Feed Price Hikes, Sparks Calls to End Ethanol Requirements

As the Midwest continues to suffer through one of the worst droughts in 50 years, dairy farmers in Massachusetts are seeing the effects on feed prices. And some of the region’s lawmakers are looking for ways to help offset rising food prices.

Robert Fletcher is an owner of Fletcher Farm in Southampton, Massachusetts. He says he’s already seen the effects of the drought on feed prices for his cows. He says in mid-July the price of one ton of grain was $370. Now that’s gone up to $450, and Fletcher says, he expects the price to continue to rise.

“It seems to go up in thirty to fifty dollar jumps on a weekly basis,” he says.

Growing concern over the drought’s effects on farmers and food prices prompted a bipartisan group of congress members to write a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on August 1st. The letter asked Jackson to suspend the requirement for all of the country’s transportation fuels to contain close to 10% corn-based ethanol.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch is one of the letter’s signers. He says requiring ethanol in the country’s fuel supply is taking away corn that could be used to feed livestock.

“It’s contributing to these price spikes that are really hurting Vermont farmers, and farmers around the country, who need that for feed, and it’s also going to have an impact on food prices as well,” says Welch.

Fletcher says he supports ending ethanol requirements, but at this point, any action taken by congress to offset the effects of the drought may be too little too late.

“The drought has been going on in the Midwest since early spring, with the lack of snowfall from the wintertime,” he says. “They don’t address these problems until they become a catastrophe.”

The request to the EPA’S Jackson is currently in its thirty day public comment period. After that, she has the authority to suspend ethanol requirements.