Farm groups urge Trump to maintain the integrity of the RFS

By Erin Voegele | February 26, 2018

Representatives of the U.S. farming community are speaking out ahead of a Feb. 27 White House meeting on the Renewable Fuel Standard, urging President Donald Trump to avoid seeking change that would weaken the nation’s biofuel policy.

On Feb. 26, the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers sent a letter to Trump asking him to maintain the integrity of the RFS.

“We appreciate the President’s support of the RFS since the early days of his campaign,” said NCGA President Kevin Skunes. “Rural America supported President Trump last year, now we need the President to support rural America.  Supporting policy changes that undermine the RFS will hurt farmers, renewable fuel plant workers, and rural America.”

“The President and his administration have expressed strong support for the RFS since the early days of President Trump’s campaign,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We want to be sure he remembers these promises he made to farmers and rural communities as he meets with senior administration officials and lawmakers. Rural communities are under a lot of economic stress, so there is much to gain from a strong RFS, and a lot to lose by weakening it.”

In the letter, the farm groups cite USDA data that projects 2018 net farm income will decline $4.3 billion, or 6.7 percent, this year when compared to 2017. “This represents the lowest net farm income, in nominal dollars, since 2006 and is a 50-percent decline in net farm income since 2013,” said the groups in the letter. “The heart of America is being left behind when it comes to economic growth and opportunity.”

“For the past ten years, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) has been a strong engine driving the rural economy,” the groups continued in the letter. “The RFS, which sets targets for blending ethanol and biodiesel into our nation’s fuel supply, created new markets for our farmers, created new jobs in rural America, gave consumers more fuel choices, and improved our nation’s air quality. By any measure, the RFS has been successful not only for agriculture, but for our nation. This growth has slowed, however, in the face of past government policies and oil industry opposition.”

While farmers are struggling with declining farm income and a poor agricultural economy, the letter points out that most oil refiners are experiencing a boom. “Refiners are reporting surging profits and significant gains from recent tax reforms,” said the groups in the letter. “The recent bankruptcy claims of an East Coast refiner are not reflective of the state of the refining industry, but rather the hallmark of poor business decisions and a willingness to put investor returns before refinery jobs.”

The letter nots that despite claims that renewable identification number (RIN) prices are adversely impacting refiners, the U.S. EPA actually concluded in November 2017 that RIN values are not causing economic harm to refiners. “The failings of one company should not be used as an excuse for undermining a law that serves hundreds of ethanol and biodiesel plants, tens of thousands of renewable fuel plant workers, and millions of farmers who rely upon the strong market demand created by the RFS,” said the groups in the letter.

As he meets this week to discuss the RFS, the groups ask Trump not to entertain proposals that would undermine the purpose and intent of the program. “There are options to address refiners’ concerns that do not undercut the RFS,” they said. “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.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has released a statement in support of the letter. “Never before have U.S. farm groups spoken with such a unified and clear voice that they don’t want EPA or Congress messing with the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “We applaud the National Corn Growers Association for their outstanding leadership in organizing this letter and endorse the message that any action to weaken the RFS to benefit one or two refiners will be borne on the backs of farmers and rural America.  We encourage President Trump, Secretary Perdue, Administrator Pruitt, and Congress to take notice that rural America is already under incredible economic stress.  Messing with the RFS will make conditions even worse for millions of people.”

Growth Energy is also speaking in advance of the White House RFS meeting scheduled tomorrow between Trump and Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. “Refinery owners are circulating the same old wish list, but their proposals to undermine our agricultural economy will never fly under a president who is truly committed to policies that protect America’s hardworking farmers,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.

“We believe the president and his Administration will keep their commitment to renewable fuels and rural America and focus on the facts,” Skor continued. “The problems facing PES are not caused by RINs or the RFS. Senator Cruz’s plans only help a few wealthy investors like the Carlyle Group, which squandered their last taxpayer bailout and raided corporate funds at the expense of local workers in Philadelphia. We’re going to focus on policies that protect jobs, including hundreds of thousands of workers in states like Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from NCGA website.