Last week was the deadline for comments surrounding a request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — a move touted by several Arkansas politicians to help farmers through this year’s drought and harsh weather.

The standard would allow a suspension of a regulation that requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel, such as ethanol.

The RFS program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and required 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline by 2012. In 2007, the standard was expanded to include diesel fuel in addition to regular gasoline, and it increased the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Cong. Rick Crawford (R) lobbied for the EPA to suspend the RFS in order to help Arkansas farmers who were hammered by drought conditions.

“Put simply, ethanol policies have created significantly higher corn prices, tighter supplies, and increased volatility,” Beebe said in August. “Fortunately, the law provides EPA with the mechanism to grant some relief to poultry processors, livestock producers, and consumers. By granting a full of partial waiver for renewable fuel in 2012 and 2013, EPA can help level the playing field during this crisis. I urge you to begin a formal process for considering a waiver of the renewable fuel mandate.”

Food producers in Arkansas have complained about high feed prices, especially related to corn for animal feed. Corn is used in ethanol production, and the high corn prices and supply shortage caused by this summer’s drought damage have impacted a number of businesses on the fuel and feed fronts.

Nearly 1,500 comments were submitted to the EPA regarding a suspension of the RFS. The EPA is expected to respond to the request by mid-November.

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