Now imagine demand for this same product has been heavily damaged by corporate interests and a spike in undue small refinery waivers.

Promises unfulfilled. Futures uncertain.

This is where we’re at today when it comes to a host of agricultural-related issues, but presently, the Trump administration’s recently proposed biofuel package is churning the ire within corn farmers and ethanol producers across the Midwest.

Illinois Farm Bureau was among the organizations voicing concerns on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed supplemental rule for small refinery exemptions for the Renewable Fuel Standard this past month.

On Oct. 30, five IFB members, including IFB Vice President Brian Duncan, District 13 Director Dennis Green and farmers GraceLynn Dale and Steve Turner, traveled to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to participate in a public hearing where each provided three-minute verbal testimonies.

Each of the members who spoke at the hearing live within driving distance of one, if not multiple ethanol plants that have the capacity to blend tens of millions of gallons’ worth of corn ethanol-based fuel each.

These plants have boosted the rural economies of the counties in which they reside, provided dozens of jobs and stimulated rural community growth. Not to mention the steady corn markets they’ve provided for area farmers selling their corn crop.

And these facilities, at least those which have not been forced to idle production in the wake of demand destruction, are getting more and more efficient with their corn-bushel-to-fuel-output ratio.

It’s true, though, that an increased amount of undue SRE waivers — a jump from eight to 35 from 2015 to 2017 — has had a crippling effect on ethanol plants, corn prices and, quite frankly, are a breach of the laws set in place to maximize the use of renewable fuels. We saw a small downturn in 2018, but still 31 exemptions were approved.

We have lost approximately 1 billion bushels of corn being crushed for ethanol due to these waivers.

Our members’ testimonies brought forth these various facts and figures as well as their own personal connection to ethanol as they spoke to a panel of those in charge of this biofuels deal.

Quite a few of them shut down their combines — in peak harvest season — leaving their fields in the hands of their family as they traveled to share their story.

We need to celebrate ethanol and uphold the integrity of the RFS. When it worked as it was intended, the RFS was an economic game changer for Illinois agriculture.

But these imposed changes to how waived gallons are calculated — where the volume of SREs in 2020 would be based on a three-year average recommended by the Department of Energy, not the volume of actual exemptions in 2020 — threatens that integrity.

There is too much disparity. It is not the deal we were promised.

Biofuels are a win-win for America, for farmers, for rural economies, for replacement of non-renewable fuels with renewable and for cleaner air.

Biofuels are sustainable. Big oil is not.

I hope that our members’ voices, and the voices of the more than 70 organizations that testified in Michigan are heard. Our rural communities rely on it.

As always, please stay safe and alert as we continue to navigate this extended harvest season. I’ve read news of multiple grain accidents and at least one death. Grain bin safety is of the upmost importance right now, especially as we battle higher moisture content than we’d like.

I’ve also seen many photos of combines covered in snow. If Mother Nature could just give us the weather we need to haul this crop out, we’ll be in better shape by the time the Thanksgiving turkey is on the table.

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