Corn growers and ethanol producers have their fingers crossed as President Donald Trump goes to Iowa on Tuesday amid expectations that the EPA could announce a long-awaited decision to allow year-around use of E15.
It was still unclear heading into the weekend whether the EPA would make a simultaneous move to address refiners’ concerns about prices for biofuel credits, or Renewable Identification Numbers.
Trump has scheduled a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the home district of GOP Rep. David Young, one of two Iowa Republicans who are struggling to win re-election and could benefit from the E15 action.
The ethanol industry has been pressuring Trump and the EPA for months to approve the Reid Vapor Pressure waiver needed to permit the sale of E15 in summer months.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said President Trump led her to believe during a Rose Garden ceremony last week that the E15 announcement was forthcoming. “The president has said many times over that he wants to see E15 year-round," she said.
But the refining industry continues its campaign of counter-pressure on the White House. A bipartisan group of 20 senators led by Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., sent a letter to Trump on Thursday that called the E15 waiver “a one-sided approach” that would “do nothing to address the policies impacting refinery jobs,” harm engines and power equipment and “risk worsening air quality.”
Tuesday also is an historic day at the Supreme Court, where the newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, will sit in on his first oral arguments since being sworn in Saturday after he was confirmed by the Senate, 50-48.
Kavanaugh, the 102nd Supreme Court justice, replaces the retired Anthony Kennedy, a key swing vote on regulatory issues and other matters, providing the high court with a relatively solid 5-4 conservative majority.
Also Tuesday, the Senate will vote to advance a compromise version of a water project reauthorization bill which was compiled from a previously passed House measure and separate legislation on which the Senate hasn’t voted. The bill would authorize $6.1 billion in Army Corps of Engineers projects and studies.
Behind the scenes, aides to the Senate and House Agriculture committees are continuing to work on a compromise farm bill that could be considered by Congress after the election.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said after a meeting of the four lead negotiators that they had given the committee staffs the “green light” to finalize compromises on many of the outstanding issues.
The negotiators gave no indication, however, that they are anywhere close to meeting House GOP demands for provisions to tighten work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients.
The lead Senate Democratic negotiator, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said in an Agri-Pulse OpenMic interview that she was committed to working toward a deal that could be passed in the lame duck.
“I absolutely believe there is a possibility for us to come together,” she said.
Asked about settling the dispute over SNAP work rules, she said, “It’s just going to take folks putting the politics at the door,” a clear reference to House Agriculture Chairman, R-Texas, who has said the final bill must have broad support from fellow House Republicans.
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Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Oct. 8
Tuesday, Oct. 9
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Trump campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Wednesday, Oct. 10
8:30 a.m. - U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation forum, “Food Forward,” 1615 H St NW.
Thursday, Oct. 11
Friday, Oct. 12
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