SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — Leaders from corn grower organizations in 23 states sent a letter to President Donald Trump Sept. 27 asking him to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The letter is response to the Trump administration’s approval of 31 new RFS waivers to big oil companies.
The 85 total waivers approved under the administration amount to around 4 billion gallons, resulting in reduced corn demand due to lower ethanol blending and consumption.
“Corn farmers are not asking for a special deal,” the letter states. “We are simply asking, as we have been for the past two years, that your EPA uphold the law.
“To effectively stop the harm caused by RFS waivers, EPA needs to account for projected waivers beginning with the pending 2020 RFS volume rule.
“Accounting for waivers in the annual RFS volume process restores integrity to the RFS. It also allows your administration to continue granting waivers, as allowed by the law, while keeping the RFS whole.”
A growing number of ethanol plants are idling production, including in Indiana, Iowa and Ohio.
Closures have cost 2,700 rural jobs and impacted demand for more than 300 million bushels of corn.
Siouxland Energy, an ethanol plant in Iowa, is one of the many plants stalling.
“We idled our plant about three weeks ago,” said Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a farmer and president of the board at Siouxland Energy.
“We made that decision after looking at projections of large losses in the coming months ahead. We look at the costs to idle our plant and keep our employees compensated and made the decision to idle.”
The most recent 31 refinery exemptions announced Aug. 9 were the nail in the coffin.
Ethanol prices dropped 18 to 20 cents in two days, Nieuwenhuis said.
“That pretty much knocked the wind out of the sails,” he said. “Losses started to mount pretty quickly.
“You can about imagine the panic right now. We have corn farmers that usually drop corn at our plant during harvest, but we’re not taking corn right now.”
John Linder, a corn farmer in Edison, Ohio, and incoming first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, said the timing couldn’t be worse for farmers.
“The cost of production this year has been such that there’s not a good promise of return, unless you exceed trend line yields,” Linder said.
“If you can’t value-add through ethanol, then you’ve robbed Ohio of some of its opportunity. Farmers depend on about 30% of their corn to be marketed through ethanol. It’s probably closer to 40% in given years.”
The small refinery exemptions also have hit the biodiesel industry.
“We have biodiesel plants that have to shut down to reflect the reduced volume from these SREs,” said Ron Heck, a soybean farmer in Perry, Iowa, and secretary of the National Biodiesel Board.
“This is going on right now and will continue, without a doubt. We cannot have this domestic market undermined by the actions of the EPA.”
Heck was an early supporter of the Trump administration and sits on his advisory committee.
He and other like-minded farmers are demanding action.
“We are urging (President Trump) to overrule the EPA and restore these lost gallons right away, because the damage is taking place right now with closing plants and approximately 63 cents a bushel damage to soybeans at a time when farmers have already lost half of their income,” Heck said.
“Many farmers are losing patience with the president.”
Daryl Haack, a corn farmer in Primghar, Iowa, agreed that change is needed.
“We need these SREs to be replaced, reallocated in the 2020 year,” Haack said.
“Senators and representatives need to be feeling this,” he said. “The president should be concerned about this, also.”