June 20, 2024

Ethanol, biofuels drive Farm Progress Show conversation

Nikki Budzinski

DECATUR, Ill. — During the Farm Progress Show, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski of central and southern Illinois stood alongside farmers and biofuels experts to confirm ethanol’s role in lowering carbon and supporting rural economies.

The congresswoman in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District joined a panel of five industry representatives, including leadership from the national and state corn growers associations. The panel discussed the Next Generation Fuels Act, which Budzinski is one of 33 cosponsors.

“I think all of us need to be advocates and tell the story of the importance of biofuels and the Next Generation Fuels Act in particular,” she said.

Originally introduced by former Congresswoman Cheri Bustos in the last session, the Next Generation Fuels Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate in the spring.

The bill sets a low-carbon, high-octane fuel standard and allows auto manufacturers to create vehicles that optimize performance.

Illinois Corn Growers Association President Matt Rush, of Fairfield, and National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Harold Wolle, of Madelia, Minnesota, were two panelists for the event.

Rush pointed to the legislation as a pathway to grow the ethanol industry and combat electric vehicle proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

“If you are wanting to create a change in the environment, corn is the way to do it,” he said. “We have corn available right now, we have ethanol available right now that would take an impact and make the climate better.”

At the Farm Progress Show, ICGA asked its members to submit comments to the docket in a new Call to Action C2A titled, “NHTSA is on a one-way route to an EV future.”

The NHTSA proposal complements the EPA’s tailpipe emissions proposal and would require an industry fleet-wide average of approximately 58 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2032. It also includes a 10% increase in fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks and vans year over year.

The C2A asks farmers to share the negative impact the Department of Transportation’s proposal would have on their family farms. ICGA continues to point to the bipartisan bill as a way to confront the administration’s roadblocks.

Budzinski, outspoken about her support for the biofuels industry, said the act has numerous benefits.

“I often refer to it as a win, win, win. You know, it’s a win for family farmers. It’s a win because it also reduces our carbon footprint. And it also is, and I’m sure we all notice, it helps to save money at the gas pump for consumers,” she said.

At the national level, Wolle said NCGA is working alongside state corn organizations to ensure the bill and the industry is well supported in this Congress.

“Our No. 1 priority is going to be pushing the Next Generation Fuels Act,” he said. “I think how we advance that is by getting more co-sponsors on the bill. … I’m proud to say Illinois has the most co-sponsors on the Next Generation Fuels Act.”

A bipartisan bill since its initial introduction, Budzinski and Rush both agreed the collaboration makes the bill unique and gives it a future.

“I would say one of the things that makes me optimistic is that it’s bipartisan. You have both Democrats and Republicans supporting biofuels,” said Budzinski, a Democrat.

“We’re just blessed to live in a state where we have a bipartisan support for the American farmer,” Rush said.