Farmers cheer Trump biofuel concessions

Corn, soybean farmers greet proposal as Rep. Davis presses for details

Farmers are hoping new concessions proposed by the Trump administration will get production of biofuels back on track. (Shutterstock)

Farmers are hoping new concessions proposed by the Trump administration will get production of biofuels back on track. (Shutterstock)

By Ted Cox

Farmers welcomed moves by the Trump administration last week to grant concessions on biofuels.

President Trump announced Friday he had reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on adjustments to the Renewable Fuel Standards Program.

Key to that is waivers the administration has been granting to refineries allowing them to avoid demands to process biofuel. Although called Small Refinery Exemptions, farmers charged they were being abused and granted to larger refineries, with the result that ethanol production has dropped 2.6 billion gallons under the Trump administration.

Just the day before the new Renewable Fuel Standards proposals were announced, according to a story published by, Illinois Corn Growers Association President Ted Mottaz joined 22 of his state counterparts across the nation in sending a letter to Trump. It charged that 31 new waivers had been granted, bringing the total to 85 granted by the administration since Trump became president.

The letter stated: “We especially appreciate your efforts to remove the barrier to year-round sales of E15, but EPA’s current use of waivers undermines growth potential for higher blends of ethanol, reduces demand, lowers the value of our crop, and puts the outlook for the rural economy in jeopardy.”

According to another FarmWeekNow story, the new concessions did not include a reference to the refinery waivers, but it did say the “EPA will request public comment on actions to ensure more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol be blended and that Renewable Volume Obligations are met for biomass-based diesel.”

It added that the EPA “will remove barriers to the year-round sale of E15,” fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol — an initiative previously announced by Trump. It also promised the “EPA will evaluate options for Renewable Identification Numbers market transparency and reform,” and that “the administration will continue to address biofuel trade issues,” while the USDA “will consider infrastructure projects to facilitate higher biofuel blends.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Tayorville sponsored the Small Refinery Exemption Fairness Act in response to the waiver controversy. According to FarmWeekNow, “the bipartisan bill would require the EPA to use the average number of (waivers) granted in the previous three years when formulating the Renewable Volume Obligations for an upcoming year.”

Davis welcomed the administration’s new concessions, but also pressed for details. “I recently introduced the bipartisan Small Refinery Exemption Fairness Act to address this issue and reobligate gallons lost to these exemptions, and I look forward to seeing the details of this plan that will put us on the right path forward,” he said.


“I look forward to seeing the details of this plan that will put us on the right path forward.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Regardless, Illinois farm leaders greeted the new Trump proposal.

“This agreement will relieve pressure on farmers and the biofuels industry as it concludes months of negotiations between the administration and stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr.

Illinois Soybean Growers Chairman Doug Schroeder, a soybean farmer from Mahomet, issued a statement saying: “Biodiesel is vital to Illinois soybean producers and supports nearly 2,000 jobs in our state. As a leading biodiesel producer, Illinois benefits from strong biodiesel demand. We appreciate efforts that seek to restore, maintain, and grow this industry.

“Uncertainty around the Renewable Fuels Standard has hurt biodiesel producers and soybean producers in our state. We value today’s announcement that provides support and more certainty for biodiesel producers and the marketplace in Illinois,” he added. “The Illinois Soybean Growers will continue our push for legislation and programs that drive demand for biodiesel and that support a reliable supply of this renewable fuel.”

Mottaz added: “Corn farmers all over Illinois are thanking President Trump and his EPA for following through with his commitment to support corn farmers.  Addressing the waived gallons of ethanol and upholding the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard will give corn farmers the certainty that they finally have additional markets for the corn crop they are currently harvesting.”

In addition to Davis, Mottaz credited members of the Illinois congressional delegation including Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin and Reps. Mike Bost, Cheri Bustos, Sean Casten, Bill Foster, Robin Kelly, Adam Kinzinger, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Darin LaHood, Jan Schakowsky, John Shimkus, and Lauren Underwood.