U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he does not support legislation which would cut the federal ethanol “mandate” which requires a specific level of ethanol production.  

“I think it’s ill-advised,” Vilsack says. A bill introduced in the U.S. House Wednesday would cut the ethanol mandate by up to 25 percent if corn supplies dip. Under current requirements, the ethanol industry must produce 12.6 gallons of ethanol this year. The ethanol target for next year is 13.2 billion gallons.

“This is an opportunity for the country to wean itself off of foreign oil and to build a domestic industry with new job opportunities in rural America as well as increasing income levels for farmers and producers,” Vilsack says.

Livestock producers are pushing for the reduction in ethanol production to reduce the cost of the corn they feed their animals.  

“We’re moving away from a sole reliance on corn-based ethanol, so I think it’s also ill-timed,” Vilsack says. “We’re in the process of trying to identify alternative feed stocks including corn stover which won’t necessarily conflict with our need for feed or food, so my hope is this proposal will not be passed and I certainly would not be supportive of it.”

The federal mandate requiring a certain amount of ethanol be produced gets support from groups like the Farm Bureau and the Corn Growers Association as well as the ethanol industry. The separate federal subsidy, worth 45-cents-per-gallon for ethanol producers, is due to expire at the end of the year.  The subsidy has been cited by environmentalists and even the National Council of Chain Restaurants as a prime example of the kind of federal spending that should be cut. 

Vilsack made his comments this morning during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.