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Ethanol Blog: Trump Gets Earful From Biofuels, Ag Groups on Visit to Iowa

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Agriculture and biofuels groups in Iowa asked President Donald Trump to fix the Renewable Fuel Standard, in an open letter written ahead of Trump's visit to Iowa on Tuesday. (DTN file photo by Todd Neeley)

As President Donald Trump is set to tour derecho storm damage in Iowa on Tuesday, a number of biofuels and agriculture groups in the state are pleading with Trump to make changes to how his administration is handling the Renewable Fuel Standard.

In an open letter to the president on Tuesday, the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Biodiesel Board thanked Trump for the approved disaster relief in the wake of the devastating derecho last week, but called for attention to be given to the RFS.

"The loss of key export markets, abuse of Renewable Fuels Standard refinery exemptions by the EPA, and the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 have combined to stretch rural Iowa to its limit," the letter said.

"While we are appreciative of the disaster aid, rural Iowa will not complete the long road back to normal without robust and stable markets for our crops and biofuels. So we write today beseeching you to fulfill your promise to protect the RFS and to implement the program at statutory levels. One senior White House official has even told us that the 15-billion-gallon conventional level for the RFS was 'biblical' to you. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the RFS has not actually been enforced at the statutory levels during the four years of your presidency."

The letter signed by Jim Greif, president of Iowa Corn Growers Association; Monte Shaw, executive director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; Tim Bardole, president, Iowa Soybean Association; and Brad Wilson, chairman, Iowa Biodiesel Board, said the EPA has "undermined" the RFS in granting many small-refinery exemptions.

"Now, the EPA is considering a plan to double-down on efforts to undermine the RFS with retroactive handouts that would allow multi-billion-dollar oil companies to claim 'hardship' exemptions from obligations dating as far back as 2011," the letter said.

"These retroactive handouts are designed to sidestep a January 2020 court ruling curtailing EPA's abuse of RFS exemption provisions. Mr. President, you have the power to immediately end the frustration of farmers related to biofuels and to remove all doubt of your commitment to the RFS. Please order EPA Administrator (Andrew) Wheeler to reject all of the nearly 60 new, baseless RFS exemption petitions and to apply the 10th Circuit (Court of Appeals) decision to all pending RFS refinery exemption requests. Uphold the integrity of the law by enforcing that 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol means corn ethanol or remove the cap for corn all together so that farmers have access to the market for clean-burning homegrown fuels."

The letter said the groups often hear from farmers, "'If we can't trust the Trump Administration to do the right thing before the election, then why on Earth would we expect them to treat us fairly after the election?' Many rural voters are waiting to see if you will uphold the RFS and your promise before the election. Iowa may very well hang in the balance."

The groups ask Trump to direct EPA to reject "gap year" exemption requests and apply the 10th Circuit court decision.

"The RFS is essential to the livelihoods of farmers and biofuels workers across our state," the letter said.

"There is still time to ensure that proper RFS levels are enforced. Farmers would welcome positive market news this week as we are dealing with a devasting storm that swept through over a third of the state last week."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley