These are not easy times to be a farmer.
In addition to the age-old challenges weather poses for those who work the land, actions by the federal government — tariffs and certain other regulations — have added even bigger complications.
The most recent challenge dealt to farmers came Friday from the Environmental Protection Agency, which proposed a rule under the Renewable Fuel Standard that would maintain the amount of ethanol refiners would blend into gasoline.
That was the good news: The 2020 proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements for ethanol will remain on track for the target of 15 billion gallons.
The bad news came when farmers learned the rule fails to address the lost gallons when the Trump administration’s EPA issues waivers to “small” refineries. These refineries claim they can’t afford to follow the ethanol rule. The EPA won’t require other refineries to make up the shortfall due to those waivers. The EPA’s free passes hurt corn-growers, in Iowa and other states. Hurts them badly.
Just consider what some of Iowa’s elected officials — President Trump’s fellow Republicans — had to say about it:
Gov. Kim Reynolds: “I am incredibly disappointed to see that the EPA has failed to reallocate the millions of lost gallons due to their brazen and unprecedented use of small refinery exemption waivers. A robust RFS is essential to a healthy ag economy in Iowa and across the country.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley: “... farmers and biofuels producers have told me that they see the president’s advisers at EPA breaking his promises by undercutting the RFS and bowing to pressure from Big Oil and its Washington allies.”
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst: “While I’m glad to see the proposed rule is on track to meet the renewable volume obligations deadline, it simply does not account for the billions of gallons of ethanol our hardworking producers have lost to EPA’s unrelenting habit of handing out ‘so-called’ small refinery exemptions.”
Farmers joined the chorus. All this comes on the heels of President Trump coming to Iowa and boasting about his commitment to ethanol and to farmers.
Barely a month ago, the president visited Council Bluffs to tout his administration’s decision allowing for year-round production to E15. The Iowa and Nebraska farmers in the crowd cheered him.
The president also said, “The best thing that ever happened to the farmers is me. … The farmers are my best friends. Nobody has treated the farmers better than Donald Trump.”
Well, that Donald Trump should have a conversation with Andrew Wheeler, his EPA administrator, and let him in on that secret. Continuing to hand out waivers — done in secret, without oversight, by the way — knocks farmers back in a year when they are already nose-to-nose with myriad challenges.
The EPA must hear the voices of Iowa’s Republican leaders and the farmers of the Midwest and rethink its handling of the Renewable Fuel Standard.