Obama addresses ethanol, regulation and deficit concerns during last day of Midwest bus tour

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

ATKINSON, Ill. Aug. 17--President Obama completed his three-day Midwest bus tour today in Ill. During the town hall meeting in Atkinson at Wyffel Hybrids, a corn seed manufacturer, Obama addressed questions from the audience about deficit reduction, regulation and ethanol.


He announced that he will present a plan to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction this fall that will reduce the deficit more than $1.5 trillion with spending cuts and revenue, while also acknowledging that some Republican leaders are likely to oppose any revenue in his plan. 


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“When this committee comes forward I'm going to be making a presentation that has more deficit reduction than the $1.5 trillion that they have been assigned to obtain,” Obama said. “It'll have more spending cuts than revenue, but everything is going to be on the table.” 


The President also addressed concerns from Illinois farmers that more regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies might be coming their way. He encouraged producers and farmers unclear or concerned about regulations to contact the Department of Agriculture. 

“Don't always believe what you hear from Washington,” Obama said. “If somebody has an idea and we don't think there's more benefit than cost to do it, then we're not going to do it. I want to make sure that everybody gets accurate information. Nobody's more interested in seeing our agriculture sector successful than I am, partly because I come from a farm state.”

In response to an 11-year-old concerned about his grandfather's ethanol plant, Obama said that the government's budget must continue to invest in basic research.  Keeping bio-based products like ethanol in production and finding more ways to diversify our biofuels with switchgrass, wood chips and other materials is vital, he said. 

“We can do more to make corn-based ethanol more efficient,” he said. “That's where research comes in.” 

He questioned why the U.S. is behind nations like Brazil, which runs one third of its automotive fleet on biofuels, while emphasizing that becoming number one in alternative energy is good for the farm economy.

“Right now the cost of feed keeps going up and as a consequence, the cost of food keeps going up,” Obama said. “Only about four percent of that is accounted for by corn being diverted into ethanol, but as you see more and more demand being placed on our food supplies around the world and commodity prices going up, it's important to figure out how we can make biofuels out of things that don't involve our food chain.”

During his stop in Iowa one day earlier, the President made similar comments regarding energy innovation, which he said is vital for rural communities and the entire country.

“If we can harness homegrown fuels -- whether it's biofuels, wind, solar, geothermal, you name it -- then I think it can generate hundreds of thousands of jobs all across the country.”

Throughout his bus tour from Aug. 15-17, Obama hosted rural town hall meetings in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois to make the case for his administration's rural programs and to hear from locals about the economy. 

At a White House Rural Economic Forum held in Minnesota on Monday, the President announced new jobs initiatives recommended by the White House Rural Council for growing the economy and creating jobs in rural America. The Small Business Administration (SBA) plans to double the capital it provides to rural small businesses, reaching $350 million in the next five years.


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