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DES MOINES | Speakers dropped the hammer Thursday on the federal government’s plan to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard, charging the change would hurt rural jobs, investments and the environment while increasing America’s reliance on foreign oil.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told Hearing in the Heartland participants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to scale back renewable fuel volume obligations would have a direct impact on Iowa’s 41 ethanol and 13 biodiesel plants.

He estimated the EPA change would cost nearly 45,000 jobs nationally and pose undue financial hardship and stress for thousands of families.

“We’re trying to create jobs, not destroy jobs in this country,” the Iowa governor said.

The EPA in November made proposals to scale back its RFS requirements for the total amount of biofuels blended into the nation's gasoline supply.

The proposal would lower the mandate to 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels, with 13.01 billion gallons from conventional ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. Previous RFS requirements passed by Congress called for 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels next year, with 14.4 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and 3.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.

On Thursday, a farmers, commodity groups, renewable fuel industry and elected officials from Iowa and six other Midwest states took turns slamming the proposal.

“The (Obama) administration’s proposal is a significant step backward – undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption,” said a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and 29 other U.S. senators.

They called on the agency you to modify the proposal.

Grassley backed up the letter by telling the hearing participants the EPA’s proposed action would be harmful to biofuel producers, to Iowa’s rural economy, to America’s national security and the environment. 

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State Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said homegrown, renewable fuels like ethanol are contributing to America’s energy independence.

“Cutting the RFS is the wrong policy proposal at the wrong time,” Danielson said. “The EPA has an obligation to offer a balanced energy policy, and certainly not propose an idea that adds profits to oil companies' bottom line when they are already doing quite well, at the expense of bio fuels.”

Branstad predicted the EPA’s “misguided” proposal, if implemented, would result in corn prices below the cost of production, reduced agriculture land values, and significant job losses for farm equipment dealers and manufacturers.

“I was governor of Iowa during the farm crisis of the 1980s -- a time which brought incredible hardship to farm families and rural communities. I will never, ever, forget the challenges endured during those times -- and the last thing that we ever want to see again in our nation is another farm crisis,” Branstad said.

“We don’t want to go back to those bad old days,” he added.

The EPA’s open comment period on the proposed RFS rules is slated to close Jan. 28.

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