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State Corn Grower Leaders Urge Trump to Uphold Commitment to Farmers

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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State corn grower leaders are asking the president to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard, in a letter sent on Friday. (DTN Photo by Elaine Shein)

State leaders of corn grower organizations in 23 states called on President Donald Trump on Friday to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard and reallocate biofuels gallons not blended with petroleum since 2016.

The Trump EPA has approved 85 small-refinery exemptions to the RFS since 2016, and most recently 31 for 2018 on Aug. 9. In total, the administration has exempted 4.04 billion gallons of biofuels.

The Trump administration reportedly was moving close to a final deal that would have reallocated the lost gallons. Following a meeting at the White House last week with senators from oil-producing states, the administration has been quiet about the timing of or the final details of any agreement reached.

The corn industry leaders said in the letter the exemptions have led to reduced demand for corn. This past year 18 ethanol plants and nine biodiesel plants have stopped production because of unfavorable economics, with many more plants cutting back production.

"We are writing on behalf of the more than 300,000 corn farmers across the country who are being negatively impacted by a perfect storm of challenges in rural America," the letter said. "The 31 new Renewable Fuel Standard waivers to big oil companies, recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and bringing total waivers issued under your Administration to 85, could not have come at a worse time for agriculture.

"Ethanol plants in several states, including Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota and Mississippi have closed or idled. These closures have cost 2,700 rural jobs and impacted demand for more than 300 million bushels of corn. Corn farmers are beginning harvest and continuing to lose markets to deliver their corn. Frustration in the countryside is growing.

"Corn farmers are not asking for a special deal. We are simply asking, as we have been for the past two years, that your EPA uphold the law."

The leaders said in the letter the administration can begin to reverse the damage done by including a projection of future waivers in the 2020 renewable volume obligations. That rule is set for finalizing on Nov. 30.

"Accounting for waivers in the annual RFS volume process restores integrity to the RFS," the letter said. "It also allows your administration to continue granting waivers, as allowed by the law, while keeping the RFS whole.

"While adding gallons and improving market access for higher blends of ethanol are all policies farmers appreciate and support, future waivers will continue to minimize the RFS, unless your administration acts to account for waivers beginning this coming year first.

"We were pleased to see press reports indicating that, following a meeting with farm-state lawmakers, an agreement had been reached to address the harm caused by waivers. With more than 4 billion gallons waived out of the RFS, we appreciate you listening to our elected representatives about what is needed to restore meaning to the RFS. Farmers across the country are anxiously awaiting the release of more details about this agreement. Ethanol plants will continue to close if you don't act soon, creating a rippling effect throughout the rural economy."

The letter is signed by Jeremy Wilson, president, Alabama Soybean and Corn Association; Dave Eckhardt, president, Colorado Corn Growers Association; Rodney Harrell, president, Georgia Corn Growers Association; Ted Mottaz, president, Illinois Corn Growers Association; Sarah Delbecq, president, Indiana Corn Growers Association; Jim Greif, president, Iowa Corn Growers Association; Steve Rome, president, Kansas Corn Growers Association; Mark Roberts, president, Kentucky Corn Growers Association; Jason Condrey, president, Louisiana Cotton and Grain Association; Lenny Evan Miles, Jr., president, Maryland Grain Producers Association; Matt Frostic, president, Michigan Corn Growers Association; Brian Thalmann, president, Minnesota Corn Growers Association; Mike Pannell, president, Mississippi Corn Growers Association; Mark Scott, president, Missouri Corn Growers Association; Dan Nerud, president, Nebraska Corn Growers Association; Jason Swede, president, New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association; Alex Jordan, president, Corn Growers Association of North Carolina; Randy Melvin, president, North Dakota Corn Growers Association; Jon Miller, president, Ohio Corn and Wheat; Elizabeth Hinkel, president, Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association; Doug Noem, president, South Dakota Corn Growers Association; Wesley Spurlock, president, Texas Corn Producers Association; Doug Rebout, president, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

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