Farmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal

Iowa farmers and ethanol producers are livid over the latest iteration of the Trump administration's ethanol proposal, saying the president has reneged on a deal struck just 11 days before. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE’s latest ethanol proposal, announced earlier this month, was designed to boost the product, promising a mechanism for ensuring large refineries add the gallons of the biofuel that smaller refineries were excused from adding to their fuel.

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But farm and ethanol groups say the additional details released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were never part of the package they discussed with the White House.

“We’re being told that we’ll trust that the EPA will treat you better in the future when they’re the very agency that has caused the crisis and the economic hardships we see today. I’m sorry, but we don’t need to,” said Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. 

“We had a deal with the president. We stand by that deal with the president. And today we’re calling on the president to step in and get the EPA back online. Don’t let the EPA undermine your policy once again, Mr. President,” he added. 

The formula proposed by the agency for determining how many gallons other refineries would have to blend into their fuels would be based on an average of government projections rather than the actual number of gallons for which small refineries previously received waivers.

“You don’t have to be good at math. You don’t have to be a [renewable fuel standard] policy expert. ... Doesn’t it just make common sense that if you’re going to try to account for something that you should, I don’t know, base it on the real numbers?” Shaw said.

The EPA pushed back against the criticism from farmers, saying its announcement did not depart from what was negotiated by the White House. 

“This proposal, which EPA will be taking comment for 30 days following the public hearing slated for October 30, is the text of the agreement negotiated by President Trump, USDA and EPA that was announced on October 4,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said to The Hill by email. 

But there are already signs the proposal is losing political support. Positive statements from Iowa Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Lobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions MORE and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment MORE, both Republicans, about the original policy were later removed from a press release touting support for Tuesday’s announcement.

Corn Belt farmers and the president have been battling since the summer when President Trump visited Iowa and promised to review the waivers. But in August, the EPA issued 31 waivers to refineries, angering farmers who said it would reduce demand for their products.

The following months led to a tug of war as the White House tried to appease both the fossil fuel industry and those with ties to ethanol. 

But the fossil fuel industry was not supportive of Trump’s ethanol plan, even after new details were released Tuesday.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers association called the proposal "a painful affront to U.S. refiners and the manufacturing workers the president promised to support" and said it does "nothing to address the real source of what currently ails the biofuel and agriculture industries: the trade war with China. These adjustments would be bad for U.S. manufacturing and bad for consumers, and certainly not a 'win-win' solution."

Farm groups have made clear they hope to drastically change the plan before it is finalized.

“No more ‘Iowa nice.’ Now, it’s ‘Iowa pissed,’” said Craig Floss, CEO of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.