Trump’s EPA chief was in South Dakota. Here’s how local corn growers welcomed him.

Source: By Patrick Anderson, Argus Leader • Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2018

Farmers and ethanol producers rallied in Sioux Falls on Wednesday to voice frustration with unmet promises from the White House.

Houghton area farmer Troy Knecht led off the rally by telling the head of the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency to uphold the renewable fuel standard and President Donald Trump’s vows to allow E-15 gasoline blends year-round.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was in South Dakota the same day as the Sioux Falls rally. Knecht and others speakers used the event to accuse him of undermining the ethanol industry.

“He skirted in behind our congressional delegation and the governor’s office,” Knecht said. “It’s been very quiet. And we’re here today to bring awareness to everyone in the state of South Dakota and the Upper Midwest that the administrator is not doing his job.”

About 200 attended the rally while Pruitt was in the state to speak to farmers in the Reliance area.

Corn and ethanol are pivotal to the state’s economy. Corn prices helped South Dakota make a quick recovery from the Great Recession in 2011 and when they plummeted in recent years it had a cooling effect on the state’s economy—even in Sioux Falls.

Tractors drove through the city Wednesday morning ahead of the rally to underline the importance of the state’s agricultural industry.

Farmers and supporters hold signs in Falls Park to

 

Photos: Farmers gather in Falls Park to support the ethanol industry

Many gathered were employees of Poet, a Sioux Falls-based ethanol company which just became thebiggest producer of biofuels in the U.S. Doug Berven, Poet’s vice president of corporate affairs, sardonically welcomed Pruitt to South Dakota—the EPA chief did not speak or appear to be in attendance.

Pruitt has granted waivers to oil producers, allowing them to ignore ethanol blending rules. The renewable fuel standards have for years been essential to driving ethanol production.

“We’re up against the most powerful marketing force in the country,” Berven said.

Biofuels have taken a hit because of Pruitt’s actions. The changes mean less ethanol production and demand for corn. The reduction is equal to 1.63 billion gallons of ethanol, worth an estimated $2.45 billion in ethanol and $1.96 billion in corn, according to the Renewable Fuel Association.

Orrie Swayze, a corn grower from Wilmot, did not drive a tractor to the rally. He drove his car, which he often fills with E-50 or E-85 blends even though it’s not flex-fuel.

Ethanol has a historical importance to South Dakota farmers because of the amount of corn it consumes. Some of the EPA’s efforts to undermine biofuels have made him cynical, Swayze said. One of the proposals from the EPA would make it illegal to fill-up a standard gas tank with higher blends, Swayze said.

He doesn’t trust the White House’s vows to help biofuel.

“Frankly I think we’re being taken for a ride on this E-15 deal,” Swayze said.

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