A persistent drought compounds a problem already besetting farmers, they and agriculture economists said. About a third of the country’s corn is diverted to produce ethanol under federal renewable energy standards. Ethanol production already had driven up the price of corn in recent years.
“The ethanol policy is a bad idea because the impacts of a drought are much more severe than it used to be,” said Colin Carter, a UC Davis agriculture economist.
Livestock producers have lobbied for changes to the ethanol policy, but to no avail. The ethanol issue underscores the severity of the problems in the animal industry, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation.