Corn Growers Defend RFS

Fri. Feb 27, 2015 9:12 AM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

PHOENIX (DTN) -- With another bill introduced in Congress to kill the corn-ethanol mandate, leaders of the National Corn Growers Association said Thursday they remain committed to defending the Renewable Fuel Standard and to getting EPA to release volume levels for the RFS.

Speaking at the Commodity Classic in Phoenix, corn growers said the group's No. 1 goal over the last few years has been to protect the RFS from efforts to minimize renewable fuel levels or eliminate the RFS through legislation.

"That's what our grassroots, that's what our farmers, that's what our delegates from states tell us we have to protect is the RFS," said Maryland farmer Chip Bowling, president of NCGA. "There has been no better success story the last 10 years for the corn farmer or the American grain farmer than the RFS. We are going to try to protect it no matter what."

On Thursday, Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015. The pair argued eliminating the corn-ethanol mandate would clear the way for advanced biofuels market expansion. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., introduced similar legislation earlier this month.

While neither bill has a large number of co-sponsors, corn farmers should not take such bills lightly. "Any threat to the RFS is a threat we take very seriously. Bottom line," said Illinois farmer Martin Barbre, chairman of NCGA.

Barbre noted the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard even generates support from farmers in Argentina and Brazil who have seen how the RFS has helped lift global grain prices. "They understand the importance of the RFS to agriculture," Barbre said.

Chris Novak, chief executive officer for NCGA, said the oil industry is driving a large share of the congressional action and anti-ethanol push in Congress right now. Novak noted, however, that the renewable fuels industry still has a core of supporters in Congress and new lawmakers such as Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who has expressed her support for the ethanol industry.

"We know when we look at the numbers that we have got a core of support in Congress who will step forward and help ensure that their congressional members understand the number of jobs and amount of economic activity the ethanol industry has brought to rural America. We know we have a great story to tell environmentally that's not necessarily being heard right now, but we will continue to push that message."

Ethanol supporters also are coping with the lack of direction on RFS volumes after EPA failed in 2014 to set volume obligations for blenders. EPA has vowed to correct the situation by setting volume levels for 2014-16 sometime this spring. Given earlier promises, corn growers are leery of EPA's ability to adopt a rule.

"We have a hard time understanding why an agency in the American government would want to pull back on something that's American grown and American used," Bowling said. "That's what our task is, again, is to promote the American use of ethanol."

NCGA also is starting a marketing-research project to examine consumer acceptance of ethanol. "That's something we have been involved in a little bit, but we're going to try to put some focus on that to try to understand what the consumer wants," Bowling said. "And if he doesn't want ethanol, then why and what can we do to change that mind?"

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(CZ/AG)

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