South Dakota corn growers and ethanol producers are frustrated that the Trump administration has rolled back the promise of an ethanol deal that was made earlier this month. The deal would have increased the demand for renewable fuels.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels (ethanol). RFS sets the amount of ethanol that refiners must blend.
Farmers lauded the Trump administration in 2018 after the announcement that e-15 (gasoline that is 15% ethanol) would be available at the pump year-round. Since then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been increasingly granting large and small oil refineries exemptions from mixing any amount of ethanol into their gasoline product, a violation of the RFS.
On October 4, 2019, after consistent pressure from producers and from lawmakers like U.S. Senator John Thune, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced they would uphold the original intent of the RFS and make up for the gallons of ethanol lost. As the details of that plan become public, however, ethanol advocates say the reality falls far short of the promise.
The EPA draft rule states exemptions are based on a three-year average of DOE recommendations rather than the actual amount of gallons exempted. That translates to about half of what the industry expected.
In an email statement provided to SDPB, Kyle Gilley, Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Communications at POET, accuses President Trump of caring more about oil companies than family farmers.
“The EPA rule proposed on Tuesday is a nonstarter. It lacks the certainty, promised by President Trump earlier this month, to provide needed relief to farm families and the rural economy and bring idled corn demand back online. EPA’s proposal outlines a process but lacks any legal commitment to follow through and secure 15 billion gallons on an annual basis, a key component of the President’s biofuels announcement and critical need for the ag and biofuels industries.
“With EPA’s history of choosing backdoor deals over Presidential directives and certainty for farmers and biofuels workers, they have eroded the trust of consumers and policymakers alike. The President must ensure the door remains closed to EPA pursuing more of the same – boosting Big Oil profits over farmers and the farm economy.”
Many corn growers, who are already dealing with flooding in the state and loss of markets over international trade disputes, are disappointed by what they say is the administration’s lack of commitment to renewable fuels.
"It (RFS) has meant a lot for my family farm. It’s a reason I’m still able to farm. But it’s not just a win for farmers, it’s a win for consumers and the environment as well. I’m just flabbergasted.” says Scott Stahl, a South Dakota Corn grower.
Farmers say the impact of the deal could be catastrophic to family farms.
“The RFS is clearly a top target of the oil industry, and they’ve clearly managed to make some friends in the EPA.” adds South Dakota corn grower, Keith Alverson. "This is truly hurting agriculture. I mean, one of the big reasons I was able to come back to the farm was ethanol. It’s an incredible product.”
The EPA issued a statement on October 15 announcing a public hearing on October 30, followed by a 30-day comment period for public input.