WASHINGTON, September 11, 2012- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged his support for the Renewable Fuels Standard at the Growth Energy executive leadership conference Tuesday morning. 

He asked the Growth Energy members to recognize that “within the farm bill debate there is a divide” on energy policy, noting that the Senate bill contains strong commitments in the Energy Title, while he criticized the House Agriculture Committee’s budget reductions in the Energy Title of its farm bill.

He also downplayed the opportunities increased oil drilling would bring, a staple of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan for North American energy independence by 2020, which does maintain the RFS and references support for other alternative energy sources. 

“You guys have a capacity to redefine the American economy,” Vilsack said today. “Is drilling going to create that many jobs?”

“You need champions in all four corners of the country. You can’t rely on Midwestern senators,” he said, including John Hoeven, R-N.D., who spoke to the group in a closed-door address before the Secretary.  

Vilsack also recognized the efforts of several agricultural organizations hosting a rally near the Capitol building Wednesday morning to promote a five-year farm bill before the end of September. While he said he heard no word from either the House or Senate Agriculture Committees on movement of a farm bill, he said he hopes Congress “will respond to those most impacted” by the lack of legislation.

“I know this has been stressful time in the industry,” he told the ethanol sector leaders, citing “inconsistent messages” from Congress and requests to waiver the RFS. “EPA makes that decision, but I will tell you this, I have conveyed and will continue to convey my support for this industry.”

He said he believes EPA will look at the RFS waiver requests from six state governors and additional public comments with a “360 view.” Vilsack insisted the market is responding the way it should to the “conditions Mother Nature has dealt this year.” He said lower exports and ethanol production are natural market responses to the drought and that the credit system built into the RFS, Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), is meant for this type of situation.

“The market is responding as it should,” he said. “It’s why we created the RIN system, for this very type of circumstance. There are sufficient RINs in the system for us to transition in this difficult time.”

“We also ask EPA to consider that even if waiver is granted it doesn’t mean price is necessarily going to come down for the crops involved nor does it mean that less ethanol will be produced, because you all have created a product that the industry needs from an octane standpoint,” he told Growth Energy members gathered at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t want anybody to leave here today thinking that at USDA there is any waiver on our support for this industry,” he added. 


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