RFA provides behind-the-scenes information on Trump’s SIRE tour

By Erin Voegele | June 12, 2019

The Renewable Fuels Association held a media call June 12 to provide behind-the-scenes information on President Donald Trump’s June 11 visit to Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in celebration of the U.S. EPA’s recent rule to allow year-round E15 sales. 

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA, opened by the call by noting yesterday was “a really big day for the ethanol industry.”

“For the first time in about 10 years, we had a sitting president visit an ethanol plant,” he said.

According to Cooper, Trump took a 20-25 minute tour of a portion of plant with Mike Jerke, president and CEO of SIRE, several local farmers who are shareholders in SIRE, and some of SIRE’s employees. Following the tour, Trump gave a speech to approximately 1,000 attendees, including lots of local farmers and ethanol supporters, and finished by signing an executive order that directs federal agencies to streamline the process for approving new biotech traits.

“It was a very eventful day yesterday,” Jerke added. In working with the White House to set up the event, Jerke said it was clear there was a strong interest for Trump to interact with people who are tightly connected to the ethanol industry.

The tour started in the grain receiving area, Jerke said. “Disembarking from the limo, the president’s first comments were about the farmers—wanting to know how they were,” he added. Trump met with three farmers who are investors in SIRE and had a brief conversation with each. During those discussions, at least one farmer discussed the impact of small refinery exemptions (SREs) on the ethanol industry. According to Cooper, Trump indicated he would look into the SRE issue.

The tour then moved into the distillers grains holding building. Jerke said Trump was very interested in distillers grains and asked what types of animals can be fed the coproduct. During that part of the tour, he met with several SIRE employees and had a brief conversation with each.

“He was very interested in distillers grains,” Cooper said, noting Trump didn’t previously know that distillers grains were such an important and substantial coproduct that is produced as part of the ethanol production process.

“He did seem to definitely understand ethanol’s deep connection to agriculture,” Cooper said, adding Trump asked questions on how SIRE impacts area farms and its role in the local farm economy.

“He also expressed some interest in higher level ethanol blends, even above E15,” Cooper said. “We talked a little bit about the fact that Brazil today is using 27.5 percent ethanol as kind of minimum in all of their vehicles. He was interested in that. He also wanted to make sure that our industry is doing its part to make our stakeholders aware of this action on E15, which of course we are doing.”