At Tractor Ride, Ag Secretary Discusses Prevented Planting Coverage, Ethanol Policy

Source: By Chris Clayton, DTN Staff Reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Perdue added USDA does not know yet how many acres will end up with prevented planting claims, but USDA’s goal is to use some of the $3 billion from disaster-aid legislation to increase the prevented planting indemnities.

“We can’t tell you how much — we don’t know — but we’re going to be able to top off that prevented-plant percentage going forward,” Perdue said. He added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure you can go again next year.”

Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, told DTN it will likely be at least later into July or August before USDA can make a decision on prevented planting acres. More details on MFP payments should also come later in July after USDA receives planting information from farmers.

Perdue noted he had just been with President Donald Trump in Council Bluffs less than two weeks ago to highlight year-round E15 sales. Yet, the president also picked up from farmers and others who spoke at the ethanol event that EPA’s small-refinery exemptions or waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard are undercutting ethanol demand. Perdue said the president cornered him and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Perdue said.

“He said, ‘Tell me about this small-refinery waiver. We have got to get this settled. We have got to take care of our farmers. We have got to take care of this,'” Perdue said. “So those are our instructions.”

Perdue added the president was surprised by some of the companies that qualified for the EPA waivers. “The president asked him (Wheeler) specifically, ‘How in the world does Exxon Mobil qualify as a small refiner?’ I said, that’s the question farmers in Iowa have been asking, right?” Perdue said.

Perdue said it was hair-splitting for “people in Washington” to use “small refinery” versus “small refiner” in defining the refinery exemption. “I’m here to tell you I don’t characterize Exxon Mobil as a small refinery or refiner when they made billions of dollars last year,” Perdue said. “We’re going to see what we can do about that.”

The small-refinery exemptions have reduced ethanol use by about 2.6 billion gallons, and 39 refiners are waiting for EPA to decide on new exemptions. A dozen ethanol-state senators wrote EPA earlier this month asking the agency to stop granting the exemptions and to reallocate the fuel-blending volumes that have been waived off by the exemptions.

Perdue also told farmers gathered Sunday that the Trump administration continues working on trade. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement needs to be ratified by Congress while negotiations continue with Japan and China, he said.

“China, you can’t disregard them. They are a big country, they have got a lot of hungry mouths, but they haven’t played fair for years, and we’re insistent that they have got to play by the rules,” Perdue said.


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