Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 01/23/14

Debate Heats Up Over EPA RFS Proposal

While talk around the farm bill remains quiet in Washington, discussion about the Renewable Fuels Standard is heating up as EPA's comment deadline on its proposal approaches on Tuesday.

The National Corn Growers Association praised lawmakers in both chambers for sending letters to EPA on Thursday opposing the change in the law.

EPA’s proposed rule would set the total biofuels target for this year at 15.2 billion gallons, nearly 3 billion gallons below the 18.15 billion gallon target set in the 2007 law. The biodiesel target would be 1.28 billion gallons, which is below current industry production levels of around 1.7 billion gallons.

In the Senate, 31 senators signed a letter to McCarthy, led by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. The senators called the EPA proposal "a significant step backward -- undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America's economic future. We urge you to modify your proposal."…

In the House, 30 lawmakers signed a similar letter, led by Reps. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., stating, "We are further concerned that the rationale used by the EPA is inconsistent with the current statute and could jeopardize the future of the renewable fuels industry." The congressmen asked EPA to revise its proposal to ensure it is consistent with the law.…

Todd Neeley's article from the public hearing in Des Moines on Thursday also include some of the following comments that were left in the notebook.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Washington decisions continue to hurt life on the farm.

"I remember a president who said to us to plant fence row to fence row," he said. (Actually that was then-Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz.) "Our producers took out the fences. You can't get out of a downward spiral. It will take you down and take you out unless you've got the capital.

"All new wealth comes from the land. The renewable energy comes out of the soil. We can't allow this to happen again. We can't be put into another downward spiral."

The federal government gave farmers an incentive to build the biofuels industry, King said, and now is willing to walk away.

"You had guys that grew up on the farm that got out their welder and torch and said OK we'll build it," he said.

"The petroleum industry didn't want competition in their de-facto 100% mandate. It took government to crack open that market. Now we have an industry that's built. It has produced 24% of domestically produced gallons in America. They've done their job and now we have an EPA that has jerked that rug out from underneath people again."

Nebraska Secretary of Agriculture Greg Ibach, said his state has become the second-largest ethanol producer in the country because of the RFS. The law has sparked research and development in the state among university and industry researchers, leading to advancements in biofuels production.

"Companies embraced these opportunities," Ibach said.

"Our plants represent $5 billion in investment and 1,200 jobs. Cutting the RFS puts existing and future production at risk. It devalues decades of research and development and creates question marks for our rural communities. The proposal to reduce the RFS leaves little incentive to plants to improve efficiency and look to advanced fuels."

Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said EPA's refusal to hold the hearing in the Midwest speaks volumes about the proposal. "This hearing here today should have been held by the EPA," he said. "But they refused. In truth I don't blame them. The proposed rule is a perfect example of an out of touch and broken Washington, D.C.

"Someone bought hook line and sinker that expanded ethanol production would raise gas prices. Then farmers pulled in a record corn crop and the price of corn went down again. The American farmer stepped up to the plate to agree to cut billions from the farm bill, because they felt comfortable in farming for the market because of the RFS.

"We'll be heading for another farm crisis if this proposal is allowed to go through. All the president has to do is pick up the phone and call the EPA and tell them to leave the RFS alone. I call on President Obama to pick up that phone."

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 3:22PM CST 01/23/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (4)
"The American farmer stepped up to the plate to agree to cut billions from the farm bill" Try telling the truth Monte Shaw about congress's bait and switch hypocrisy. Direct payment cuts for billions in new insurance and investment/profit guaranteeing schemes. See Not all of us farmers are in favor of this idiocy proposed by congress.
Posted by W Kuster at 4:34PM CST 01/23/14
Wes;You missed the point again in favor of your Tea Party rant. Thanks Todd and Chris for keeping us informed.
Posted by melvin meister at 5:47PM CST 01/23/14
Melvin ....If you think Kester is a true TEA partier, you are as delusional as he is.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 8:52AM CST 01/24/14
I know I am going to regret this, but, Craig Moore, what is a true TEA partier? And how would one from the group define delusional? Just have to know. :-)
Posted by Don Thompson at 10:45AM CST 01/24/14
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