Governors, farmers cry foul over federal fuel standard proposals

Source: By Austin Alonzo, Kansas City Business Journal • Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015

Corn farmers, among others, argue that proposed changes to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard by the Environmental Protection Agency will harm the rural economy.

Two governors and hundreds of representatives from the agriculture industry throughout the Midwest showed up in Kansas City, Kan., on Thursday to give the Environmental Protection Agency a piece of their mind.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad spoke against an EPA proposal that would lower the amount of ethanol to be used in 2015 and 2016. The proposed amount would be lower than the standards Congress originally mandated. During Thursday’s public comment period on the proposed change at the Jack Reardon Center, farmers and representatives of the agriculture industry said the move would affect their businesses, livelihoods and rural communities.

Branstad, chairman of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, blasted the EPA and the proposal, saying it would harm his state’s economy as well as the Midwest as a whole. The price of corn and farmland are dropping rapidly in Iowa, he said, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that national farm income will decline by 32 percent in 2015. He argued that changing the renewable fuel standards will make the national rural economy’s problems worse.

The renewables industries that use corn, soybeans and other crops to produce fuel have energized the nation’s rural economy during the past decades, Branstad said. Congress’ creation of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005 and its amendment to the standard in 2007 — which call for steadily increasing the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into transportation fuels until 2022 — led to dramatic growth of the biofuel industry. He argued that tampering with the intent of the RFS would start rolling back progress the industry has made in his state.