Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took center stage at the Commodity Classic today, offering a forceful defense of his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), while trying to settle down concerned corn growers who are counting on the Trump administration’s support.

“I can tell you unequivocally, President Trump stands with corn farmers and he stands with biofuel farmers and he stands with the RFS,” Perdue told the gathering in Anaheim, Calif. “He said that very clearly. I stand with him and I stand with you on those issues. I know how important it is.”

Perdue made his remarks just one day after a White House meeting on potential changes in RFS policy. While no official outcomes were released, the Capitol Hill rumor mill was overflowing with suggestions that Perdue was in some way backing down from supporting the RFS during that closed meeting. And corn growers took some of those rumors to heart.

As Agri-Pulse reported earlier this morning, Perdue rebutted those charges. And during his speech, he described the allegations that farmers had shared as “fake” news.

But hours before he arrived on stage, corn growers were so upset with what they sensed was Perdue’s lack of commitment, they were considering several ways to elevate their messages, including reading an RFS letter of support as Perdue took the stage, airing a video showing Trump endorsing the RFS. and carrying posters in support of renewables into the convention.

Ultimately, leaders of the soybean, wheat and sorghum associations – who are all partners in the Classic – talked corn growers out of what they described as “extreme” actions that did not represent the best interests of the commodity organizations or demonstrate respect for the office of the secretary. And on Wednesday morning, the secretary was the first to speak.

Perdue noted that, “as a farmer first and agribusinessman second,” he knows the importance of demand.

“We are working on demand structure, and RFS is a huge part of corn demand,” Perdue added. “I have not and will not support any policies in this country that diminish the demand, undermine the RFS and are harmful to our agricultural producers. I will not,” he said to loud cheers from the audience.

During a press conference later, Perdue was pressed on whether he supported a cap or changes in the RINs.

“There are a lot of suggestions going around. My bottom line is that I’m not going to support anything, whether it’s export RINs (biofuel credits) or whatever, that diminishes the RVO (renewable volume obligation) standard that we have now,” Perdue said. “My goal is to get to the RVP waiver release and to get to the RVO minimum of 15 and grow. That’s where we are. I’m willing to be educated about anything else.”

The discussions will continue tomorrow, in Anaheim, where Perdue is to meet with the presidents of each commodity association, and at the White House. Perdue said Deputy Secretary Steve Censky will represent USDA at the White House meeting with Trump, and with five representatives of the biofuels industry, five from the oil industry and a handful of senators.

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