House members advocate for COVID-19 relief for biofuels

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020

A group of 32 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to House and Senate leadership on Aug. 7 urging them to include much-needed assistance for biofuels in the phase four COVID-19 relief bill, which is currently being negotiated.

“Demand for biofuels has declined more than 1.3 billion gallons since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the members of Congress said in the letter. “The biofuels sector has suffered from the steep drop in fuel demand that occurred when schools, workplaces, churches and other public places shut were closed by stay at-home orders. Many biofuels plants reduced production to curb losses, while others shut down entirely. Biofuels production is a major piece of the rural economy in our districts, and we urge you to explicitly include much-needed assistance for the sector in the next piece of coronavirus relief legislation.”

The letter notes that biofuel plants contributed $43 billion to the U.S. economy last year and directly supported more than 68,000 jobs. “This sector bolsters commodity prices for farmers who have lost markets from trade disputes through the production of clean-burning renewable fuels and important byproducts such as hand sanitizer, livestock feed, and carbon-dioxide gas for use by the food and beverage industry,” they wrote. “As a result of state mandated closures and stay at home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biofuels industry has already seen a reduction in demand for corn by over 500 million bushels. Biofuels producers must be eligible for assistance in order to ramp production up to pre-pandemic levels in order to mitigate the negative impacts that the industry has experienced as a result of the coronavirus.”

The House members are asking for language to be included in the COVID-19 relief package that would provide direct assistance to the biofuels sector, including language explicitly directing the USDA to provide direct assistance to producers and processors of renewable fuels. The lawmakers explains that the mandate from Congress is necessary to ensure that the USDA has the statutory authority necessary to provide aid to the biofuels sector and to guarantee assistance for farmers and plant workers.

“By providing this assistance, rural America will continue to reap long-term benefits of a strong biofuels economy,” they wrote.

Growth Energy has applauded the renewed push for biofuel relief. “We’re grateful to our congressional champions who are working overtime to stop the bleeding and offer hope for farm communities,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “With continued uncertainty around COVID-19, and states, like California, Texas, and Florida returning to lockdown, the stakes are too high to leave any stone unturned. Leaders in Congress must work quickly to protect rural jobs and give us the certainty we need to rebuild America’s agricultural supply chain.”

The Renewable Fuels Association has also spoken out in support of the effort. “We sincerely thank these leaders in the House for their determined efforts to secure targeted and specific emergency relief for renewable fuel producers in the pending stimulus legislation,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “The ethanol industry has already lost more than $3.4 billion in revenues due to COVID-19 and economic damages continue to mount, as fuel demand and prices remain well below normal levels. These Representatives understand the importance of renewable fuels and they know we simply cannot afford to leave behind our nation’s rural communities and the 350,000 jobs supported by the ethanol industry.”

The letter is signed by Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn.; Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa; Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; James Baird, R-Ind.; Cindy Axne, D-Iowa; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Steve King, R-Iowa; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Ann Wagner, R-Mo.; Jason Smith, R-Mo.; David N. Cicilline, D-R.I.; Mark Pocan, D-Wiscn.; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; Andre Carson, D-Ind.; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.; Robin Kelly, D-Ill.; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; and Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Growth Energy website.