The leaders of six leading agriculture organizations have written to President Trump urging him to maintain the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
In the letter, the groups pointed out that while millions of Americans may be benefitting from the president’s tax reforms, “times are tough in rural America,” as net farm income this year (in nominal dollars) is projected to fall to the lowest level since 2006 and is down 50 percent since 2013.
“We appreciate the president’s support of the RFS since the early days of his campaign,” Kevin Skunes, president of the National Association of Corn Growers (pictured above), said in a release calling attention to the letter. “Rural America supported President Trump last year, now we need the President to support rural America. Supporting policy changes that undermine the RFS will hurt farmers, renewable fuel plant workers, and rural America.”
Also signing the letter were: John Heisdorffer, president of the American Soybean Association: American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall; National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson; Gordon Stoner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers; and Don Bloss, chairman, National Sorghum Producers.
The letter disputes the recent claims made by an East Coast refinery that the RFS is to blame for their recent bankruptcy.
“Mismanagement of a single refinery should not be used as an excuse for undoing 10-years of sound policy,” Skunes said. “The failings of one company should not be used to destroy a successful energy policy that serves not only millions of farmers who rely on strong market demand created by the RFS, but the hundreds of ethanol and biodiesel plants and tens of thousands of plant workers. The reality is, most refiners are reporting double-digit profit increases.”
“Mr. President, now is not the time to turn your back on rural America. Do not undermine the RFS and risk putting farmers in an even harder economic situation than they are already in,” Skunes said. “There is a win-win here, but it means following the intent of the RFS and increasing the supply of RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) through regulatory parity for E15 and higher blends of ethanol to lower values, as well as bringing more transparency to the trading system.”
Click here to view a copy of the letter.
The letter was written in advance of a meeting Trump has scheduled on Tuesday with four Republican senators involved in a feud over the RFS: Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who are demanding action to cut prices of biofuel credits, and Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst from Iowa, who are defending the program. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is also expected to attend the meeting.
Cruz has been demanding a cap on prices for RINs, the credits used to enforce compliance with the RFS. As leverage, Cruz has been blocking since October a Senate vote on the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm and conservation programs.
Refiners are counting on Trump to be worried about losing support in Pennsylvania, a state he carried in 2016. Trump “recognizes that Pennsylvania is a hugely important state for him,” said a source close to the industry. The state Supreme Court’s recent redrawing of Pennsylvania congressional districts will make it even more difficult for Republicans to hold House seats. Trump noted the redistricting issue in a tweet on Saturday.
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor expressed confidence that the president will continue supporting the RFS.
“Refinery owners are circulating the same old wish list, but their proposals to undermine our agricultural economy will never fly under a president who is truly committed to policies that protect America’s hardworking farmers,” she said in a release. “We believe the president and his administration will keep their commitment to renewable fuels and rural America and focus on the facts.”