Ernst to Trump: Stay home until we have deal

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sen. Joni Ernst has a message for President Trump if he’s planning to come to Iowa to announce changes to biofuels mandates: Think again.

“I’ve advised the president that until we have a deal that satisfies our ethanol producers and our corn growers that he probably shouldn’t take that trip,” the Iowa Republican told E&E News yesterday, following up on rumors in the biofuels industry that Trump may be mulling a trip to the state — the nation’s leader in ethanol production — to announce a new policy.

Ernst said she took note of Trump’s remark last week that in addition to helping farmers, a forthcoming biofuels package will also protect small refineries that complain about the cost of complying with ethanol-blending requirements.

Trump suggested a “giant package” will be a win for both sides, but that’s been elusive on policies related to the renewable fuel standard.

“Well, we have ethanol plants that are closing so we need to understand that impact, as well, and how detrimental that is to the Midwest,” Ernst said.

At issue is how the administration responds to criticism over its granting of economic hardship exemptions to 31 small refineries last month — exemptions that allow petroleum refiners to bypass requirements under the RFS.

The ethanol industry blames exemptions for undermining demand for the corn-based fuel and contributing to the idling of some plants.

According to industry sources and a memo from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to Trump, some ideas being considered would increase overall volume requirements for biofuels and possibly make higher-ethanol fuel more widely available.

Trump’s comment that he’ll protect small refineries, as well, suggests the administration won’t tinker much with the exemptions. But biofuels groups say small refinery exemptions are their top concern.

Trump has said a new policy could be announced any day, and Ernst said she, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) want another chance to sit with the president before that happens.

“Sen. Grassley and I and our governor would like to have the opportunity to visit with the president,” Ernst said. “They need to understand just how significant the impact is on all of our farmers, not just Iowans but all of our farmers and then the industry as a whole.”

If Trump does plan an Iowa stop, she said, “We want it to be a good experience, and it needs to be a solid plan forward.”