Ag, ethanol groups fight for RFS

'President Trump stands with corn farmers, biofuels producers and for the RFS,' USDA secretary tells Commodity Classic crowd.

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President Donald Trump convened a meeting of his staff, senators and ethanol and oil industry stakeholders last week to discuss the RFS. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch and Daniel Grant

Agriculture and ethanol groups last week encouraged the administration to reject proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS.)

“We ask that you not entertain proposals that would undermine the purpose and intent of the RFS. There are options to address refiners’ concerns that do not undercut the RFS,” a group of national agricultural groups wrote to President Donald Trump last week. “Any action that seeks to weaken the RFS for the benefit of a handful of refiners will, by extension, be borne on the backs of our farmers.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wants changes to what he called the “broken RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) system” in the wake of a Philadelphia refinery’s bankruptcy filing. Cruz held up the confirmation of Bill Northey, undersecretary of agriculture, for four months until he got last week’s meeting with the White House and two of Iowa’s senators on the matter.

Trump convened a second meeting of his staff, senators and ethanol and oil industry stakeholders to further discuss the issue. Following that meeting, Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of national legislation and policy development, ran into Cruz at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Nielsen introduced himself and told him: “Don’t mess with the RFS.”

“From our brief conversation, it was clear that Sen. Cruz is convinced his RFS plan would ultimately increase demand for ethanol. I also think the senator recognizes he has a fight on his hands,” Nielsen said.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue told farmers at the Commodity Classic that the president wants to hear about the issue from both sides. “President Trump stands with corn farmers, biofuels producers and for the RFS,” he said. “He said that very clearly.”

Perdue, in an impassioned speech on the issue that generated a standing ovation from thousands in attendance at Commodity Classic, also voiced frustration about what he called inaccurate reports the administration wavered on its support for RFS.

“I know how important demand is, and the RFS is a huge part of corn demand,” the ag secretary said. “I will not support any policy that diminishes the RFS. Anything you read or hear contrary to that is not true.” 

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