Trump must act quickly on biofuels, farmers say
The Gazette | By Tom Fristad | September 27, 2019

The Trump administration faced swift backlash from farmers and biofuel industry leaders in August after federal officials exempted 31 oil refineries from following the nation’s renewable fuel requirements.

Now, Iowa farmers are waiting with bated breath to see how the president and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will proceed on a biofuels package that could help make up for 4 billion gallons of biofuel demand wiped out over the past three years.

“There’s no reason the announcement can’t be made in the next two weeks or less,” said Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a farmer in northwest Iowa’s Primghar and board president at Siouxland Energy Cooperative, during a media call Thursday.

Nieuwenhuis shut down his ethanol plant in Sioux Center this month, the second in Iowa following Plymouth Energy’s announcement in July it would close its plant in Merrill, also in northwest Iowa.

On Tuesday, W2 Fuels said because of poor market conditions it was closing biodiesel plants in Washington County’s Crawfordsville and in Adrian, Mich., resulting in 50 layoffs.

The EPA more than quadrupled its previous number of small-refinery exemptions granted to oil refiners, including to companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, with 85 waivers issued since President Donald Trump took office.

The waivers exempt refiners from requirements to mix renewable fuels like corn-based ethanol or soybean-based biodiesel with gasoline, or buy credits.

Nieuwenhuis said he believes Trump’s “political future” hangs in the balance.

“We realize that it’s (Trump’s) EPA, but he’s the one they answer to. And when he made that call to grant those last 31 small-refinery exemptions, you can’t believe how many upset farmers I was with that day that said they were done voting for President Trump,” he said. “That was the final straw, and that message is getting out there pretty strongly.”

Daryl Haack, also of Primghar and a board member of the Little Sioux Corn Processors ethanol plant, agreed, saying that, to a man, his board all voted for Trump three years ago and, as of a month ago, “they probably weren’t going to do that.”