Several Iowa farmers along with other stakeholders who support ethanol and biodiesel descended on Kansas City last week to let the Environmental Protection Agency know why the U.S. needs a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The public hearing was held by EPA to gather comments on the agency’s proposed volume blending requirements for biofuels. The amounts are for ethanol in 2017 and biodiesel in 2018. EPA released its volume targets in late May, which are lower than the amounts called for in the RFS law passed by Congress in 2007.
Four farmer-leaders of the Iowa Corn Growers Association who attended the Kansas City hearing were ICGA director Carl Jardon from Randolph in southwest Iowa, ICGA president Bob Hemesath from Decorah in northeast Iowa, Iowa Corn Promotion Board director Roger Zylstra from Lynnville in central Iowa and ICGA director Mark Recker from Arlington in northeast Iowa.
A 200 million gallon decrease would hurt corn farmers
Each year EPA sets targets for the amounts of biofuels required to be blended into our nation’s motor fuel supply. “EPA is proposing to set the renewable volume obligation, or RVO, annual target for corn-based ethanol below the amount set by Congress in the RFS,” notes Hemesath.
While ICGA believes this proposal for 2017 for ethanol is a step in the right direction compared to EPA’s 2015 proposal, “We also believe that this 2017 proposal still needs to be increased,” says Hemesath. EPA is proposing the RVO standard for 2017 be set at 14.8 billion gallons, which falls short of the 15 billion gallons outlined by Congress in the RFS.
A 200 million gallon reduction in ethanol use doesn’t sound like much. But this proposal, if adopted by EPA, would cut U.S. corn use by 71.4 million bushels, according to the National Corn Growers Association. “In a time when corn prices are lingering dangerously near breakeven and our farm economy is struggling, corn farmers cannot afford to lose part of their market which equates to nearly $271 million in lost revenue,” he says.
EPA claims biofuel infrastructure is lacking
EPA says there isn’t enough infrastructure available, not enough tanks and blender pumps at gas stations in the U.S. to deliver 200 million more gallons of ethanol to consumers. That’s EPA’s rationale behind lowering the annual target for ethanol use to 14.8 from 15 billion gallons. Hemesath addressed that argument at the EPA hearing.
“The Iowa Corn Growers Association has shown our commitment to biofuels infrastructure. Iowa corn farmers know that consumers are demanding a cleaner and more economical choice of fuel. Our farmers have invested their own checkoff dollars to get more E85 and blender pumps installed in fuel stations, not just in Iowa but throughout the Midwest,” Hemesath stated in his comments.
More tanks, blender pumps have been installed
Hemesath went on to say, “while EPA claims there is insufficient infrastructure to accommodate a full 15-billion-gallon blending obligation, nearly everyone else in the industry sees a much different picture. It is imperative that EPA restore the RVO numbers to the statutory amount and maintain a strong, sound methodology for carrying out the RFS.”
ICGA is asking all farmers and all consumers who use ethanol in their vehicles to contact EPA and tell them there is no need to change something that is working. “The RFS is one of the most successful energy policies ever,” says Hemesath. “Any change to the law as written by Congress would be detrimental to rural America, the ag industry, the environment and the future success of our nation.”
Even if not a member, you can use this website
Even if you are not a member of ICGA you can voice your RFS support through the ICGA or NCGA website. Visit www.ncga.com/rfs today, or before the July 11, 2016 deadline. “Urge EPA to restore the RVO levels to the original RFS statute and protect the vitality of rural America,” says Hemesath.
EPA officials seemed receptive to his message
Upon returning to Iowa last week after testifying at the EPA hearing, Hemesath was asked if EPA officials were receptive to his message. “A year ago, several of us ICGA members went to Kansas City and testified before at the EPA hearing on the 2016 RVO proposals. This year it seemed different as the EPA officials looked at and discussed the 2017 RVO proposals,” says Hemesath. “They asked us more questions and wanted more information.”
He believes the EPA officials were more receptive this time, looking for information to help them make the final decision on the RVO number requirements. The final RVO amounts for 2017 for ethanol and 2018 for biodiesel are to be decided and announced by EPA before the end of this year, probably in November.
He’s hopeful EPA will raise the target number
What about the other people who spoke at last week’s EPA hearing? Iowans who attended and listened to the daylong testimony of numerous folks who spoke, say it was about 10% negative and 90% positive for the RFS. “I didn’t listen to all the speakers, but of the ones I heard, only one speaker was really negative on ethanol and the RFS,” says Hemesath. “He was an oil industry executive. His entire message was that the RFS is flawed, doesn’t work, etc. He brought up the food vs. fuel argument. Well, you and I know that debate is over and done. We’ve proven that American agriculture is producing enough corn to provide the food, fuel, feed and fiber America needs.
“But the positive thing for me was we told EPA that their method in figuring and setting their proposed RVO target numbers is flawed,” says Hemesath. “We delivered that message loud and clear. I’m hopeful EPA will bring the target number for 2017 back up to the 15 billion gallons the RFS statute calls for.”