IFB leaders provide trade, RFS update

More than 60 county Farm Bureau leaders across the state participated in the 40-minute call.

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From left, Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation and policy development; Brian Duncan, IFB Vice President; Richard Guebert, IFB President; and Mark Gebhardt, executive director of governmental affairs and commodities, update county Farm Bureau leaders on national issues during a Skype call Tuesday. (Photo by Chris Magnuson)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau leaders updated county leaders Tuesday on issues surrounding trade and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. and Vice President Brian Duncan provided a 40-minute update via Skype. IFB staff joining the call included Mark Gebhards, executive director of governmental affairs and commodities; Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation and policy development; and Tamara Nelsen, senior director of commodities.

Highlights included:

Trade/Tariffs: Guebert thanked members for the “strong response” to IFB’s recent action request. More than 1,5000 members sent more than 6,000 messages to President Donald Trump and members of Illinois congressional delegation urging them to strike a deal with China.

“We’ve used this tariff issue to build awareness of the importance of trade to us as farmers,” Guebert said. “The timing of our media work and action request was very important. We needed to send a strong message before negotiations began on tariffs and raise that awareness with President Trump and our congressional leaders, and I think we’ve done that.”

The United States Trade Representative will accept public comment on the list of Chinese products eyed for tariffs until May 11. Gebhards said IFB plans to issue a targeted action request.

Trump has said publicly he plans to take steps to protect farmers.

Duncan said: “We would prefer to have our income come from markets. We’re skeptical if there’s any amount of money that could compensate us for the losses we’d be looking at for losing these long-term markets. Once we lose our position in a marketplace, it could take a very long time, if ever, to regain that market. … We would simply prefer trade to more aid.”

RFS: Guebert said the administration’s lack of action on the RFS and RINs issue has been “really disappointing to the ag community.”

EPA has come under fire recently for granting small refinery petitions for exemption from RFS volume obligations. “EPA is setting a dangerous precedent” by doing so, Guebert said.

American Farm Bureau Federation continues to work with Congress in hopes lawmakers will resolve the situation.

Nielsen pointed to Trump’s recent comments that indicated he would support a waiver to allow E15 to be sold year-round.

“It’s more than just a tweet or a statement, you have to put that in the rulemaking process, which we know if very lengthy and it could be take many, many months. … Our friends in the oil industry would have the opportunity to challenge it in court. So, it’s easier said than done.”

A legislative solution also has been difficult, Nielsen said.

“Perhaps the president’s comments will spur EPA to move quickly so we can get EPA into the marketplace year-round,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen also provided an overview of the House version of the 2018 farm bill.  The House Agriculture Committee begins markup Wednesday.

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