USDA, EPA agree on RFS rule

By Ashley Rice

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA and President Donald Trump have announced an agreement on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

“This agreement will relieve pressure on farmers and the biofuels industry as it concludes months of negotiations between the administration and stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” said Richard Guebert, Jr., Illinois Farm Bureau president.

The agreement includes the following actions:

*EPA will request public comment on actions to ensure more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol be blended and that Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) are met for biomass-based diesel.

*EPA will remove barriers to the year-round sale of E15.

*EPA will evaluate options for Renewable Identification Numbers market transparency and reform.

*USDA will consider infrastructure projects to facilitate higher biofuel blends.

*The administration will continue to address biofuel trade issues.

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, discussed his contributions to the agreement. “I recently introduced the bipartisan Small Refinery Exemption Fairness Act to address this issue and re-obligate gallons lost to these exemptions, and I look forward to seeing the details of this plan that will put us on the right path forward,” noted Davis. This act requires the EPA to use the average number of Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) granted in the previous three years when formulating the RVOs for an upcoming year.

Just prior to this agreement, presidents of 23 state corn growers’ associations, including Ted Mottaz of Illinois, sent a letter to Trump. The letter expressed concerns about the 31 new SREs waivers granted, bringing the total waivers granted in the past three years to 85.  

As harvest begins across the country, SREs have caused ethanol plant closures, costing 2,700 rural jobs and impacting demand for 300 million bushels of corn.

While EPA officials did not provide information about how this new agreement will help corn farmers right now, they did say to stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, farmer and biofuel organizations are grateful for this positive news after a difficult year.

“We appreciate the Trump administration, EPA Administrator (Andrew) Wheeler and USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for continuing their support for renewable fuels and boosting sales of year-round E15 fuel,” noted Guebert.

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