Farm, Ethanol Groups Angered at EPA Ethanol Rule

An ethanol plant stands next to a cornfield near Nevada, Iowa, on July 20, 2013. Farm groups and farm-state law-makers are expressing anger over final ethanol rules that they say fail to uphold the president’s promises to the industry. (AP)
The Associated Press

Farm groups and farm-state lawmakers expressed anger at the Trump administration last week over final ethanol rules that they said failed to uphold the president’s promises to the industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency released its final renewable fuel standard but it did not include language that President Donald Trump agreed to in meetings with industry officials, governors and congressional representatives during September and October.

“Apparently President Trump doesn’t care about his promise to Iowa’s farmers,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association President Jim Greif. “He had the opportunity to tell his EPA to stick to the deal that was made on Oct. 4.”

The final agreement does not include language Trump agreed to that the EPA will add ethanol gallons back into the nation’s gasoline supply based on the exemptions granted in the past three years. Instead the final rule says EPA will base oil refinery exemptions on Energy Department recommendations.

“President Trump has promised 15 billion gallons, and we will be watching closely to see how the EPA enforces the final rule to ensure this level is blended as required by law,” Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “We will hold the EPA’s feet to the fire if they fall short of delivering on the President’s promise of 15 billion gallons to our farm families.”

The ethanol industry and corn farmers who raise the grain that’s made into ethanol said the agreed upon language would have created market certainty by assuring the industry that it would meet the 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol for 2020 mandated by the renewable fuel standard law.

Roughly 40% of U.S. corn is used to produce ethanol so fewer ethanol gallons means a reduced market for corn.

The EPA issued 85 retroactive small refinery exemptions between 2016 to 2018, undercutting the renewable fuel volumes by a total of 4 billion gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

Ethanol and corn industry groups said language in the rule leaves too much at the whim of federal bureaucrats and could cause ethanol use to fall short.

“The EPA really blew it this year,” said Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “This was not the deal President Trump promised us on Oct. 4. He said farmers were going to be very happy. We’re not happy.”

Ethanol industry officials said at least 20 U.S. ethanol plants have closed at least temporarily since September 2018 due in part to the reduction of ethanol use in the nation’s fuel supply because of EPA policy.

“Every farmer and biofuel supporter I have talked to is deeply disappointed, frustrated, and quite frankly angry,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “I don’t think the White House truly understands the depth of discontent in farm country.”

The EPA said it has modified its refinery exemptions policy to ensure mandatory biofuels volumes are met and contends that the Trump administration has fulfilled its key promise to farmers and the industry.

“President Trump committed to our nation’s farmers that biofuel requirements would be expanded in 2020. At the EPA we are delivering on that promise and ensuring a net of 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel are blended into the nation’s fuel supply,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

Other critics hesitated to point the finger directly at Trump but indicated deep distrust that the EPA would uphold the law.

“I’d like to say I can trust EPA will follow through with their rule, but the agency continues to side with the oil industry,” said David Bruntz, a farmer in Friend, Nebraska, and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.

He said the final rule also fails to include 500 million gallons of biofuels that a federal court in 2017 ordered EPA to restore back into the nation’s fuel supply.

Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds refrained from criticizing Trump but said: “Wheeler should know we are not done holding him to the agreement we reached with President Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 12.”

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer offered a similar statement, praising Trump while saying she’ll fight for the original deal: “President Trump cares about farmers and has made big promises to rural America. I will continue to work to make sure those promises are fulfilled.”


Scott Stewart of The Daily Record contributed to this report.


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