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Food industry faces off against EPA over ethanol ruling

November 11, 2010 |  8:00 am

Getprev Should the U.S. government have allowed higher levels of ethanol to be blended into our gasoline?

The food industry and livestock producers say no. Now a legal fight is brewing over the ethanol issue, as the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the National Meat Assn., the National Chicken Council and others have filed suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Their beef: Regulators, they claim, stepped over the line last month when the agency ruled that retailers could sell fuel with up to 15% ethanol -– up from the currently allowed 10% levels. And cars made in 2007 and later could use the gas, which is commonly known by the "E15" name.

The food folks argued that rule will lead to ethanol manufacturers gobbling up more of the national (and perhaps the global) supply of corn, which in turn "will put pressure on the meat and poultry supply, which will lead to higher food prices for consumers," J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, said in a statement.

The federal agency defended its action and said it was confident that it would win the legal challenge.

The petition for review, filed Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, comes at a time when commodity prices are skyrocketing, driven by investor demand, short supplies of some crops and robust demand from emerging markets such as China and India.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: An ear of corn is partially exposed on the stalk before harvest. Credit: Danny Johnston / Associated Press