Kim Reynolds says ethanol meeting with Trump went ‘great,’ but ‘the devil’s in the details’

Source: By Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019

Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed optimism about a deal negotiated with President Donald Trump last week to mitigate the damage to Iowa’s ethanol industry caused by federal waivers for oil refineries, but cautioned that she’s still waiting to see the final version on paper.

“We’re waiting to see that in writing and hopefully we’ll get that sooner rather than later,” Reynolds told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “And we’ll continue to touch base with the administration and just see where they’re at on it. But I take them at their word. It was a really, really good meeting with a good dialogue and ideas committed to the farmers.”

Reynolds met with Trump at the White House last week, along with other Republican Midwest elected officials, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, to talk about a fix for the 31 exemptions the Environmental Protection Agency recently granted for oil refineries to stop blending ethanol into their fuel.

Industry leaders say the waivers have destroyed demand for 1.4 billion bushels of corn used to make ethanol and wiped out demand for 825 million bushels of soybeans that go into biodiesel.

Biofuels plants across the country — including two in Iowa — have either closed or idled indefinitely because of mounting losses. Most U.S. plants have cut production and workers.

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“We’re seeing ethanol and biofuels plants idle kind of on a weekly basis and so we know that the timing is critical,” Reynolds said.

The most important priority for Reynolds and the ethanol industry is for Trump to ensure that there continues to be 15 billion gallons of ethanol blended each year as mandated by federal law under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“One of the main messages was 15 billion gallons is 15 billion gallons,” Reynolds said. “So if there are small refineries that need an exemption that’s fine, but that needs to be reallocated in the 15 billion gallons, which is law.”

Reynolds said she spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday and Pence didn’t offer new details about the announcement but she said “as far as he knew, things were still moving forward.”

Trump and administration officials are expected to meet with congressional leaders representing oil-producing states this week.

Grassley told reporters on Tuesday that he’s waiting to see the deal in writing because “I’ve been hoodwinked so many times, not just by the EPA on this issue, but by other bureaucracies as well.”

Reynolds was less critical of the administration but echoed that sentiment.

“The devil’s in the details so I want to see it in writing,” she said of the agreement.

If the agreement does take shape, Reynolds said she’s offered to host Trump for an event in Iowa to make the announcement.

“I offered Iowa if the agreement that we verbally agreed to, I said we would be more than happy to host you in the state for that,” she said. “Again we want to see it in writing and make sure we’re all on the same page before we do that.”

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.