Trump, other GOP candidates, try to win over Iowa ethanol supporters
By Frank Holdmeyer
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
ALTOONA, Iowa, Jan. 19, 2016 - Seeking an edge in his tight race with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa, Donald Trump assured farmers and the state's biofuel industry that he would work to preserve the federal biofuel mandates that are important to the state's economy.
Trump, who uncharacteristically read from a prepared statement at the start of his opening remarks, was enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd at the 10th Annual Renewable Fuels Summit. He was one of four GOP candidates who attended the event along with Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina.
Cruz was not invited to speak because of his support for phasing out the RFS, and Iowa Gov. Branstad said during a news conference at the summit that he would like to see Ted Cruz defeated."
Branstad, who has not endorsed or spoken out against candidates in the past, said a Cruz win in the Feb. 1 caucuses “would be very damaging to our state.” Recent polls have shown either Trump or Cruz leading the race in Iowa.
Trump received a standing ovation as he entered the auditorium and opened his comments by pointing out that he had visited the John Wayne birth place in Winterset, Iowa, earlier in the day and received the endorsement of John Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne. He quipped, “That's what we need a little more John Wayne-ing in this country.”
Reading from his prepared remarks, Trump said, “I wrote this down. The RFS, which is the Renewable Fuels Standard, is an important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence in the United States. I will do all that is in my power as president to achieve that goal.
“As president, I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to change any part of the RFS. Energy independence is a requirement for America to become great again, which is my theme -- to make America great again.
“The EPA should be sure that biodiesel RVOs or blend levels match those set by Congress under the RFS.
“So, we are with you and have been since the beginning. I am there with you 100 percent,” Trump added.
He was not alone in his support for clean, green renewable energy.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, touted the fact that he is the only candidate who voted for the RFS when he was in the senate from 1995 to 2007. “I was an unabashed supporter of the FPS in 2005, before I had the vision to run for president.”
Santorum noted, “If Iowa, a state who benefits from the RFS, nominates someone who is not for the RFS, why would anyone else support that candidate?”
Santorum admonished the crowd, “You have great responsibility and a key role in the process. Stand up for someone who supports the RFS.”
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, said “most people don't appreciate the fact that our agricultural system produces not only food but also fuel. We need to make sure we never import one ounce of energy ever again.”
He noted Congress created a mandate and farmers invested millions of dollars to accommodate that mandate, “and it works.”
Several of the candidates blasted the EPA for not adhering to the renewable fuel standards set by Congress and several times referred to the statutory usage targets as a “contract”.
Fiorina said politicians “got pressured by oil and gas and the EPA voted to change the contract.” She noted, “Rule makers are not elected and are not accountable to anyone and that has to change.”
Beyond that, she spent more time talking about “taking government back.” Referring to EPA water regulations, she said “a farmer has more right to protect his land, his family, and his community than nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
Branstad, who also addressed the crowd, said he is “disgusted the EPA has not supported the RFS as envisioned by Congress. It's critically important we restore leadership in the White House that supports the original vision.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also addressed the crowd and he spoke about the need to support not only the RFS, but also initiatives that will create new markets and new jobs in the process.
Vilsack said that USDA will help by providing $5 million to install about 100 blender pumps in the state to enable sales of higher ethanol blends. The state of Iowa will provide $2.5 million and private companies will be required to match state and federal contributions for the installations.
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