Op-Ed:Biofuels help rural economy

Source: By Kevin Ross, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Friday, August 25, 2017

As a farmer who raises corn, soybeans, hay and cattle, I’m troubled by the direction of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Backing away from this federal renewable fuel requirement, as the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing, will affect Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states in ways we may not realize.

I have a strong recollection of the rural economy when I was young, seeing the struggles of my grandparents. The RFS is helping to shape the future, defining a new “bioeconomy.” It is the driving force behind a robust market for agricultural products.

 Feed sources such as DDGs, wet cakes, soy hulls and vegetable oils are all parts of ag processing, but when grains are left unprocessed, the full economic value is never realized. It’s all about adding value.

With biodiesel and ethanol plants now dotted across the landscape, we’ve created American jobs and brought our country more economic stability.

Biofuel production, research and education has helped rebuild our rural economy. This policy is making farmers stronger, which makes our country’s food supply stronger.

Not only do rural areas benefit from the RFS, but urban centers are also big winners. The air quality benefits that we gain from using biodiesel and ethanol have been measurable. City fuel consumers see lower costs at the pump as a direct result of the success of this policy.

Many are also relieved to use less foreign oil. The United States must be a world leader in renewable energies, and we must defend policies such as the RFS.

I have witnessed these important rural economic wins as a founding board member for Western Iowa Energy. Our biodiesel plant in Wall Lake, Iowa, has been a big win for a small town. Not only have we returned to our investors the money they entrusted with us, but we also have returned jobs.

We employ 30 people full-time, and our daily business activities contribute to employ truckers, construction workers, the hairdresser, the packing plant, workers at the diner and of course our farmer neighbors. We have made Wall Lake and the surrounding area a better place for generations to come.

While these dollars are working in our community and beyond, it saddens me to see EPA underestimate the production ability of the biodiesel industry once again.

Its proposed volumes, being well below capacity, are not only disappointing, but also tarnish the reputation of what I believe will go down in history as one of the greatest pieces of American legislation for its wide-scale benefits.

At Western Iowa Energy, we have run below our production capacity many of our years in business, and it is disheartening to see the EPA choke the potential of this industry once again.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With renewed support from the EPA, more investment into biofuels will come. I urge anyone who cares about this American industry to submit comments by Aug. 31 to the EPA to reconsider its position (biodiesel.org) and let biodiesel help move America forward.

Kevin Ross is a farmer from southwest Iowa, is a founding board member of Western Iowa Energy and a director on the National Corn Growers Association board.