Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to answer a phone call from a number marked “Unknown” may lead to movement on the administration’s stalled efforts to allow year-round sales of E15.
Perdue’s phone call ended up being from the White House operator, which led to a conversation where President Donald Trump instructed Perdue to meet with EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and present a deal Trump can announce next week.
“The President called me this morning and said ‘let’s get it done,’” Perdue told reporters Wednesday at the Farm Progress Show near Boone, Iowa. “He wants to get that done, so hopefully he’ll have an announcement hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Perdue first made the announcement at a pro-E15 rally held on the farm show grounds. Surrounded by farmers and biofuel supporters wearing blue “Make the RFS Great Again” hats – one of which found its way onto Perdue’s noggin – Perdue said President Trump was eager to prove good on his campaign promise to support the ethanol industry.
Coming to a conclusion on the debate has proven to be a tricky issue. The administration thought they had a deal earlier this year in a package that would have traded the Reid Vapor Pressure waiver necessary for year-round E15 sales in exchange for allowing exported biofuels to count toward Renewable Fuel Standard compliance. President Trump rejected that deal at the behest of Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, leaving the issue unresolved.
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The administration has sought to trade the RVP waiver for a favor for oil refiners, which has proven difficult to this point. Wheeler said an RVP waiver would require a deal of sorts, something Perdue echoed Wednesday.
“We just have to balance it out and talk with our corn constituency – our corn growers and our ethanol community – about what is the balance for the refineries,” Perdue said of Trump’s instructions. “He needs to have something he can demonstrate to them as well.”
Perdue and Wheeler are now tasked with reaching a compromise that has been previously elusive with a now expedited turnaround time. Previous difficulties notwithstanding, Perdue said he wants to be able to return a satisfactory deal to the president.
“This has been on the President’s heart for a while,” Perdue said. “This is what he wants to do, and he doesn’t give executive suggestions, he gives executive orders, so we’re going to get it done.”
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