Branstad to EPA: We can’t go back to the bad old days

Source: By Benjamin Herrold, Lee Agri-Media, Midwest Producer • Posted: Friday, July 10, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On a hot June day, farmers, politicians and people in the biofuel industry gathered under a tent in Huron Park in Kansas City. Food covered plates, conversation filled the humid air, and condensation formed on pop cans and water bottles. Music drifted from speakers, Lucy J. Dalton singing “16th Avenue.”

From the corners of the country, from the cities and the farms…

The National Corn Growers Association bused in hundreds of farmers from across Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas on June 25 to attend the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on the agency’s new, lowered requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard proposed in late May. In addition to attending the hearings and providing comments, the farmers and agribusiness people gathered for a “Rally for Rural America” in Huron park, where they voiced support for the biofuel industry and the original RFS levels set by Congress.

The speakers included Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. Branstad said this was an issue both Republicans and Democrats support, and Nixon said Branstad was “a leader on these issues.”

Branstad has been elected governor of Iowa six times.

“I’m proud to be the governor of the number one ethanol-producing state and the number one biodiesel-producing state,” he said.

Branstad urged the EPA to stick with the RFS levels set by Congress.

“Don’t mess with the RFS,” he said. “We’ve already seen farmland drop in value. It’s a critical time. We can’t go back to the bad old days. I know how bad it can be. I was governor during the farm crisis in the ’80s.”

Branstad said the RFS and the biofuel industry have been a success.

“Look what it’s done to provide jobs,” he said. “Look what it’s done to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Look what it’s done to improve the environment.”

Nixon said the RFS was the solution to an energy problem in America.

“This country saw a crisis,” he said. “We didn’t have control over our destiny. So as a country 20 years ago we had a conversation about this, and Congress passed the RFS.”

Nixon said farmers need to speak up on biofuel issues.

“You’ve got to be heard,” he said. “We’ve got to force amplify. If we do that we can win.”

The EPA’s proposed numbers would cut the level of renewable fuel required to be blended into the fuel supply by nearly four billion gallons through 2016.

“It is really kind of fun to come and lecture the EPA about following the law,” Nixon said to laughter from the audience.

The public hearing lasted throughout the morning and well into the afternoon, with comment coming from Branstad and Nixon on through to people simply listed as a “citizen” on the official list of commenters. The hearing room was packed, including FFA jackets, shirts reading “#RFSWorks” and signs reading “American bushels, not foreign barrels.” On the other side of the issue, there were shirts reading, “Get the government out of our gas tank” and “Food not fuel” signs.

In an opening statement to begin the hearing, Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, said EPA is authorized to change the requirements of the RFS under certain circumstances.

“We believe those circumstances are upon us,” he said. “More specifically, due to the fact that cellulosic biofuel has not come on line as fast as we hoped, coupled with the current constraints in the fuel market to accommodate increasing volumes of ethanol, the volume targets specified by Congress in the Clean Air Act for 2014, 2015 and 2016 cannot be achieved.”

Grundler said the reduced standards were still “consistent with Congress’ clear goal of increasing renewable fuel production and use over time” and that the RFS program is “very important to the agency.”

The agency conducted simultaneous hearings in two rooms, with six individuals at a time sitting at the table with an allotted three minutes each to speak.

Robert Anderson with Chevron USA commented in opposition to the RFS, calling the newly proposed, reduced renewable fuel totals “a step in the right direction.”

“The program is fundamentally unworkable and should be repealed,” he said.

Several farmers commented in favor of restoring the original RFS levels, including some from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland and Texas. Many farmers said the EPA shouldn’t mess with a program they say is working.

Gary Porter, a farmer and gas station owner from Mercer, Mo., farms in both Missouri and Iowa. He said corn prices right now were below his break even point, and corn farmers need more markets, not less.

“I cannot understand cutting a program that is homegrown, better for the environment and working just like it was intended,” Porter said.

Missouri Corn Growers Association President Kevin Hurst also commented.

“Today I should be planting,” he said. “Instead I have to remind the EPA they are ignoring the law with regard to the RVO numbers.”

The EPA is scheduled to set final RFS numbers by Nov. 30.

Written comments may be submitted online at and type “EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0111” in the search box. When the “Renewable Fuel Standard Program” item pops up, click on the blue “Comment Now!” button.

Nebraska, Kansas are included in Clean Water Rule lawsuits

The regulation defining Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act was officially printed in the Federal Register the week of June 29. This public printing designated a final action that starts a 60-day countdown for implementation and cleared the way for legal action.

In response, four lawsuits comprised of 27 states and state agencies have been filed against the EPA.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed suit in U.S. District Court in Georgia.

Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming filed suit in U.S. District Court in North Dakota.

Ohio and Michigan filed suit in U.S. District Court in Ohio.

Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Texas.

Additional lawsuits from agriculture and business organizations as well as environmental groups are expected in the coming weeks.