Iowa ag, biofuel groups urge Pence to address RFS issues

By Erin Voegele | August 13, 2020

Leaders of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and Iowa Biodiesel Board sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Aug. 13 welcoming him to Iowa and urging him to address several unresolved issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“It would not be an overstatement to say that many rural voters are waiting to see what, if anything, the Trump Administration does to fulfill its promises on renewable fuels. Iowa may very well hang in the balance,” the groups wrote.

The letter stresses the Trump Administration’s U.S. EPA has undermined the RFS by granting dozens of illegal small refinery exemptions (SREs), which have destroyed demand for more than 4 billion gallons of biofuels. “As a matter of fact, despite President Trump’s public commitment to the RFS, it has not once been actually enforced at the statutory levels during the four years of his presidency,” the groups continued.

“Now, the EPA is considering a plan to double-down on efforts to undermine the RFS with retroactive handouts that would allow multi-billion-dollar oil companies to claim ‘hardship’ exemptions from obligations dating as far back as 2011,” they added. “These retroactive handouts are designed to sidestep a January 2020 court ruling curtailing EPA’s abuse of RFS exemption provisions.”

The letter calls on Trump to immediately order the EPA to reject all the gap year SRE petitions and apply the Tenth Circuit Court ruling to all remaining SRE petitions.

The groups also note that Trump promised to protect the RFS at statutory levels. “In fact, we have been told in meetings with senior White House officials that the 15-billion-gallon conventional level for the RFS was ‘biblical’ with President Trump,” they wrote. “Yet, we sit here today without a proposal for 2021 RFS levels that typically would have been released months ago. If the Trump Administration is delaying this important action until after the election, how can we interpret that as anything but turning your back on farmers and biofuels producers?”

In the letter, the biofuel and ag groups stress that rural communities are on the brink following four years of lost export markets, illegal RFS demand destruction, and the recent impacts by COVID-19 on fuel markets. They said the agriculture community has been left facing depressed biofuel and commodity prices and needless market uncertainty. “Plants have shuttered, rural workers have been left jobless, and farmers have seen their markets decimated,” they continued.

“We fervently hope that you can find time while in Iowa to address these urgent matters for rural communities,” the groups wrote. “Make no mistake, these issues are being discussed daily around the state and it is often reported back to us that Iowans are saying: ‘If we can’t trust the Trump Administration to do the right thing before the election, then why on Earth would we expect them to treat us fairly after the election.’

“President Trump has the power to immediately end this frustration and to remove all doubt of his commitment to the RFS and rural Americans,” they continued. “He can and should move immediately to direct the EPA to reject all ‘gap year’ RFS exemption petitions and apply the 10th Circuit decision to all RFS exemption petitions going forward. The RFS is essential to the livelihoods of farmers and workers across our state. There is still time for President Trump to keep his RFS promise and to ensure that proper RFS levels are enforced.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the IRFA website