St Ansgar biofuel

As ethanol prices and production slipped on the heels of another round of refinery exemptions announced by the Trump administration, biofuel groups and Democratic party leaders began to fight back in recent weeks.

On Aug. 21 Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, called for a federal investigation into the Environment Protection Agency’s expansion of refinery exemptions. The next day presidential candidate and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke with reporters in a conference call with former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge.

“This has been a rather difficult year for Midwesterners,” Judge said, citing floods, low crop prices and a trade war with China. The expansion of the “hardship” waivers for small refineries has made an already difficult year worse, she added.

“President Trump claimed to be a friend to farmers,” she said.

But she said the waivers have hit the biofuel market hard, putting the reduction to the corn market by the latest waivers, combined with those issued earlier, at about 500 million bushels. The impact has more than offset any help offered to the biofuel market by the move to allow year-round E15, she said.

“This is quite critical,” she said, adding the president has tried to blame his own EPA for the problem but “we all know that Trump made that call.”

Klobuchar said Democrats in Congress will try to work with farm-state Republicans to help the biofuel industry through addressing the waivers and approving an extension of the now expired biodiesel tax credit. But she said those items may face tough odds unless Republicans decide to oppose their own party’s president on this issue.

She pledged to address the issue during her first 100 days as president if she is elected and said that as a Midwesterner she understands the importance of ethanol and biodiesel to the rural economy. But she also said that President Trump keeps blaming other people for the actions of his own administration.

“He has given the green light to the EPA to do this,” Klobuchar said. “He’s in tight with the oil industry.”

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.