Corn Growers React to EPA Refinery Waivers

President Trump said last week he soon will announce a plan to boost demand for biofuels after farmers reacted with outrage to a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to grant waivers to small refineries that do not add ethanol to their gasoline.

Trump said in June during a visit to Iowa that he would review a national program granting the waivers, but farmers say that the EPA’s decision to grant 31 exemptions to small refineries across the country showed the president sided more with the fuel plants than corn growers.

Lynn Chrisp, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said in a letter to President Trump that news of the exemptions “sent shockwaves through the corn industry and put us back on our heels.”

Chrisp cited the closure of an ethanol plant in Minnesota and steps taken by the nation’s largest ethanol producer, which include idling a plant in Indiana and reducing production at half of its other plants, as indicators of the damage.

“Corn farmers are wrestling with a perfect storm of poor weather and market disruptions due to ongoing trade disputes, Chrisp wrote. “The announcement of more waivers granted to refineries has pushed farmers beyond their limits. We appreciate your efforts to remove the barrier to year-round sales of E15, but you should know these waivers completely undermine the growth potential for higher blends of ethanol.”

The letter called for immediate and impactful change.

“We have heard news reports about waiting until 2021 to redistribute exempted gallons,” it said. “You should know 2021 will be too late. Plants are closing. Jobs are being lost in rural America. We need these changes to take effect for the coming year, putting meaning back in the RFS now instead of waiting until 2021.”

The EPA argues it is following the process for giving waivers to those plants that would face financial hardship by being forced to add ethanol to their fuel.

Trump did not offer details of his plan for biofuels but tweeted this: “The Farmers are going to be so happy when they see what we are doing for Ethanol,” he wrote. “It will be a giant package, get ready! At the same time I was able to save the small refineries from certain closing. Great for all!”
Sources: The Hill, NCGA