The president of the National Corn Growers Association wrote a letter Thursday to President Donald Trump, letting him know the EPA small refinery exemptions "sent shockwaves through the corn industry and put us back on our heels."
Lynn Chrisp, a Nebraska farmer, highlighted that POET has idled an ethanol plant in Indiana and a farmer-owned Minnesota plant, Corn Plus, announced closure on Wednesday after 25 years in business. "More plant closings could be on the horizon if you don't step in and address the damage done by your EPA, which has issued far more exemptions than any previous administration."
President Trump has picked up on frustration among farmers. He called into Secretary Sonny Perdue's event at the Farm Progress Show on Wednesday, calling farmers "patriots," who would support him more in 2020 than 2016. Trump did not mention ethanol or the RFS in the call, but focused on China trade talks.
Trump tweeted Thursday morning he will soon make a splash with ethanol. The president also said he saved small refiners, though there was never any indication small refiners were in financial trouble.
"The Farmers are going to be so happy when they see what we are doing for Ethanol, not even including the E-15, year around, which is already done. It will be a giant package, get ready! At the same time I was able to save the small refineries from certain closing. Great for all!"
Trump's tweet prompted responses from the Renewable Fuels Association pointing out 17 ethanol plants have closed in the past year because of EPA's small refinery exemptions, while zero small refiners had shut down because of the Renewable Fuels Standard.
There's belief in the ethanol industry that Trump will reallocate gallons that have been waived in 2021, but biofuel advocates argue that is too late. EPA should be reallocating gallons anyway after a federal court ordered EPA to do so with 500 million gallons, a ruling EPA so far has ignored.
Chrisp wrote, "Corn farmers are wrestling with a perfect storm of poor weather and market disruptions due to ongoing trade disputes. The announcement of more waivers granted to refineries has pushed farmers beyond their limits. We appreciate your efforts to remove the barrier to year-round sales of E15, but you should know these waivers completely undermine the growth potential for higher blends of ethanol."
Chrisp then pricked the president's constant interest in news coverage by pointing out, "Nearly 3,000 news articles have covered this topic since the 31 exemptions were announced. Corn farmers have emailed nearly 2,500 letters to you and the EPA voicing their concerns with your management of the RFS program."
Citing that NCGA is pleased the president is considering some plans to offset the damage done, the letter added, "You should now anything less than a significant change in the direction of EPA has taken with the RFS will be less than satisfying to America's corn farmers who are nearing harvest and losing markets to deliver their corn."
Pointing to the notion of a 2021 reallocation, Chrisp wrote any actions to improve the situation should be immediate. "You should know 2021 will be too late. Plants are closing. Jobs are being lost in rural America. We need these changes to take effect for the coming year, putting meaning back in the RFS now instead of waiting until 2021."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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