This Thanksgiving is a stressful time on the farm. As farmers plod their way through a late harvest, deal with high-moisture corn and are forced to delay field preparation work, this is an incredibly hectic time. Yet, it’s important to take a minute or two out of your busy schedule to let the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) know that farmers need them to follow the law and uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
If you haven’t already done so, please go to www.ncga.com, website of the National Corn Growers Association, and join the growing list of farmers who are standing up for the corn and ethanol industries. The deadline to comment is Friday, November 29). You can also call the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414, or email by going to https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.
“As more and more farmers speak up to the EPA, the more powerful our message becomes,” said Doug Noem, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “There’s power in numbers. When they see that individual farmers cared enough to comment, that carries a lot of weight.”
Ethanol plants are the lifeblood of the economy in many rural communities, particularly in South Dakota where the industry employs more than 11,000 people and adds more than $980 million to the gross domestic product, according to a study by ABF Economics conducted for the Renewable Fuels Association.
The RFS mandates that 15 billion gallons of ethanol must be blended nationally. That mandate, combined with the Trump Administration’s decision to allow year-round sales of E15, created a positive outlook for the ethanol industry. But then the EPA bypassed the mandate with an August announcement that it had approved 31 more small-refinery waivers equating to 1.43 billion gallons of ethanol–a serious blow to the renewable fuels industry.
To put that in perspective, the waived amount is higher than the 1 billion gallons that South Dakota’s 16 ethanol plants produce. This was the final straw for some ethanol plants that were already struggling. More than 30 biofuel plants across the country have closed or slowed production in recent months.
President Trump announced October 4 that he had directed the EPA to follow the letter of the law and use a three-year average of renewable fuel gallons actually waived by the EPA to account for waivers going forward. A few days later, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency would adjust the RFS to “net out” at 15 billion gallons in 2020 after waivers to some oil refineries.
However, the EPA proposal that was released a week later called for a three-year average of the Department of Energy’s recommended waivers, rather than an average of the renewable fuel gallons actually waived by the EPA. That’s a huge difference.
Based on recent EPA actions, it’s hard to feel confident with any promises that are made. That’s why we need to hold the EPA to a firm policy that can’t be sidestepped. Farmers could use a win this Thanksgiving season.
Although this has been a most-challenging year for farming, we still have much to be thankful for. In most other nations, we wouldn’t have the opportunities and freedoms we have. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to be with family and friends, and reflect on the good things in life.
If you’re hitting the road this holiday, we wish you safe travels. And be sure to fill up with your preferred blend of ethanol before your start your trip.