Survey: Majority of Iowans want to expand RFS, Trump to keep promise to protect policy

Source: By Caroline Cummings, CBS2 • Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019

New data from a survey by the Iowa Biodiesel Board this week shows supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard is a key issue for Iowa voters, who say they want President Trump to keep his promise to protect the federal policy at a time when critics condemn recent decisions by his administration as ways to undermine it.

The Iowa Biodiesel Board, a nonpartisan trade association representing the biodiesel industry, commissioned the online survey of 550 Iowans, 470 identifying as voters, in late July and found that 77% of voters said it’s important to them that the president support the RFS, a promise he made on the campaign trail. The Renewable Fuels Standard is a federal mandate requiring blending of some biofuels in the country’s fuel supply. 78% said they want to expand the RFS.

“The president may think he has Iowa cinched up for 2020, but my vote is 100 percent up for grabs,” said Dave Walton, a Wilton, Iowa, who is also the director of the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Biodiesel Board. “Although I voted for him last time, President Trump needs to make a serious fourth quarter comeback on biodiesel and trade to earn my vote again.”

The EPA under Trump granted 31 waivers to oil refineries exempting them from biofuel requirements, a move decreasing the demand for biofuels like ethanol that is drawing the ire from Republicans and Democrats alike.

In light of the waivers and an ongoing trade war with China that is hurting farmers, Democratic presidential candidates are using that as a backdrop to convince voters in states like Iowa that Trump won in 2016 that they will be better advocates for agriculture.

“It was quite shocking that we were gut punched by this administration. It’s another example of him not keeping his promise,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota seeking the Democratic nomination for president, at a recent news conference in Des Moines criticizing the RFS waivers.

One by one Democratic presidential candidates are rolling out plans to bolster rural America, some pledging support for ethanol, of which Iowa is the top producer, and the RFS.

Former Iowa Gov. and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said it’s critical for candidates to speak directly to voters on these issues because “they are open to having a choice.”

“I think by virtue of the trade issues and challenges, by virtue of the waivers, there is a receptivity to that message that may not have been there in the past,” Vilsack said. “Candidates have come out with very comprehensive, very detailed rural plans—more detailed than I’ve ever seen.”

Patty Judge, who served as lieutenant governor to Vilsack and also served as Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, is part of a new nonprofit called “Focus on Rural America,” which aims to boost a progressive agenda that can resonate in rural America. The group is committed to engaging 2020 Democrats with rural issues and has hosted at least half of them for ethanol plant tours during campaign visits.

“These are the issues I believe successful candidates are going to have to listen to and answer,” said Judge about the importance of rural issues for Democrats to make gains in areas Trump won in 2016.