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Fertilizer

“The Farmers are going to be so happy when they see what we are doing for Ethanol, not even including the E-15, year around, which is already done. 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!”

So said President Donald Trump in a tweet last week. Farmers are indeed, ready for some good news about renewable fuels. Up to now, the changes in that realm have been troubling. And Iowa farmers are growing concerned that even if a fix does come, it might be too little, too late.

Farmers met with politicians and ag leaders at the Iowa Capitol last week amid growing concern about slumping demand for biodiesel and ethanol.

Farmers have lost billions of gallons of ethanol because of the EPA’s doling out waivers to so-called “small” oil refineries. The EPA change has been a debilitating blow to corn farmers as ethanol and biodiesel plants slow production. More than a dozen plants have closed or been idled nationwide, including one in Iowa.

Before the EPA exemptions, refineries were required to blend so much ethanol and biodiesel into fuel. Since the EPA began approving waivers, that’s eliminated the need for 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel and the 1.4 billion bushels of corn used to make it, according to reporting by the Des Moines Register.

As Sen. Chuck Grassley bluntly stated at a town hall meeting in Spencer last week, “that’s where we’re getting screwed. When the EPA promised 15 billion gallons of fuel was to be mixed with ethanol, it ought to be 15 billion gallons.”

Instead, some 31 waivers were issued. By comparison, fewer than 10 waivers were granted during “all the Obama years — and we thought that was bad,” Grassley said in an Iowa Public Television interview. While farmers are facing bankruptcy in record numbers, the waivers have been doled out to refineries that hardly qualify as hardship cases. Some of the “small” refineries are owned by Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp.

So what’s the “giant package” the president alludes to? Speculation suggests a deal in the works to roll back the waivers or incentivize the use of flex fuel. But corn farmers have heard promises before, and they’re losing money while they wait for a deal to be negotiated.

Virtually all of Iowa’s elected officials in Washington, along with Gov. Kim Reynolds, have been vocal about the need to preserve the renewable fuel standard for Iowa farmers. Let’s hope whatever move the president makes next is truly “great for all,” as he tweeted.

— Sept. 4