There’s an old country saying: Throw the seed down where the chickens can find it.
In that spirit, I’m going to be as plainspoken as possible: The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) move to slash renewable fuels production breaks a solemn promise from President Trump to American farmers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, on the eve of the president’s first year in office, has threatened unprecedented actions to cut biodiesel production under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. They include trimming already set 2018 volumes and decimating 2019 volumes.
All of this despite Trump’s promise to support the RFS and the rural communities who helped elect him.
As an Iowa farmer and president of the Iowa Soybean Association, I’m frustrated and disheartened by this blatant placation of the oil industry.
The timing of this double-speak couldn’t be worse. As the state’s chronic budget shortfalls remind us, we’re reeling from a downturn in the ag economy. Rural communities are suffering from a reduction in commerce and tax receipts to the state treasurer continue to fall far short of revenue projections. Turmoil within the industry caused by the EPA’s capitulation has resulted in foreign competitors greedily flaunting the rules to their own advantage, further undercutting our domestic biofuels industry.
Many farmers in Iowa and beyond are struggling. Commodity prices are already below the cost of production and the EPA’s move to cut biodiesel production doesn’t signal that the tide will turn any time soon. Additional cuts to the RFS increase the likelihood that more farmers will be forced into the red yet again - or worse, out of business altogether. This would push us even deeper into an agricultural recession.
The emerging biodiesel industry has revitalized many of our rural communities here in Iowa. Biodiesel plants provide jobs in many towns and pay a good wage in addition to full benefits including health insurance and retirement plans. Many facilities have spent millions of dollars expanding production based on the promises of RFS increases. Continued growth means more jobs and economic activity.
Rather than look forward with optimism, the EPA’s desire to curb biofuel production has caused manufacturers to pause, wondering if they will have to institute layoffs or, even worse, close their doors.
The EPA, like all federal agencies, should be promoting American-made products. Gutting the required levels for domestically produced biodiesel gives a leg up to foreign producers at our expense.
In August, the Commerce Department found that countries like Argentina and Indonesia were double dipping in violation of trade laws. In other words, they were getting both a subsidy in their own country and taking advantage of a loophole in our own country’s blender’s tax credit. EPA harming a U.S. industry already declared harmed by trade violations would be a double whammy for clean energy production.
Cutting domestic biofuels production does not put America first. If you agree, let your voice be heard from biodiesel.org.
I strongly urge President Trump to keep his RFS promise and reject efforts to curtail the production of home-grown biodiesel. We’ll monitor the actions of his administration’s EPA very closely while mindful of another saying we reference often in Iowa and the Midwest: Actions speak louder than words.
Bill Shipley, who farms near Nodaway, Iowa, is president of the Iowa Soybean Association.