WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A major lawsuit could determine the long-term outlook for Iowa farmers.
Here’s the situation:
Lobbyists for the biofuels industry are suing the Environmental Protection Agency and its administrator Scott Pruitt.
They argue the EPA is improperly letting fuel refineries out of a requirement to mix-in ethanol.
Companies are allowed out of the requirement, but only if they’re financially strapped, and a recent report shows at least one billionaire is cashing in.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) responded to that report, “…Hundreds of millions – and in some cases billions – of dollars in profits isn’t my definition of ‘hardship.’ “
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) tweeted her response, writing in part “BAILING OUT BILLIONAIRES ISNT HELPING ETHANOL/FARMERS”
Members of President Trump’s cabinet are also split on the issue.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says he’s concerned refineries may be getting pass when it comes to using ethanol, and that could drive big problems on farms across the country.
Perdue said, “That is demand destruction for our corn growers and I’m very concerned about that.”
Growers have been in Perdue’s ear complaining the EPA is letting twice as many refineries out of ethanol standards than it did under prior presidents.
By Perdue’s count, demand for ethanol this year may be short.
Perdue said, “That could put us more than a billion gallons below the obligation”
The EPA doesn’t deny waivers are up, but in an email, a spokesperson writes, “The criteria used to grant waivers has not changed since previous administrations.”
Nick Loris, from the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees no problem with giving a profitable refinery a financial hardship waiver
Loris said, “I do think it’s a good thing but it’s a band aid for a bullet hole of a disaster of a program.”
He argues the standard hurts consumers and multiple industries and wants President Trump to find a way to scrap it.
Loris said, “There’s a lot of people to win over, including in the Midwest, by coming out against this program.”
Trump has publicly supported the ethanol standard over the last few years.
Grassley’s office confirms the senator has been invited to a meeting at the white house next week to talk about that standard.