Biofuel factory aerial view i-Stockr/Thinkstock

NFU, NCGA call on EPA to keep the RFS whole

With depressed farm economy, now is not the time to reduce RFS volumes, groups say.

The National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 17 on the proposed rule for the 2019 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard program.

The rule proposed an implied 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional ethanol, but does not account for nor consider comments on retroactive exemptions granted to refineries.

“To uphold the full clean air, cost-savings, energy independence and rural economic benefits consumers and farmers receive from the RFS, EPA must also use the 2019 volume rule to make and keep the RFS whole,” NCGA President and North Dakota Farmer Kevin Skunes said.

In the proposed rule, EPA disclosed the agency granted retroactive exemptions to 48 refineries for 2016 and 2017 RFS obligations, amounting to 2.25 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons. Through this proposed rule, EPA has the tools to ensure retroactive exemptions do not further reduce volumes. However, EPA stated the agency is not soliciting comments on how to account for exemptions going forward to prevent exemptions from lowering RFS volumes. 

“While EPA may not want feedback on how the agency is failing to maintain the integrity of the RFS and administer the volume standards in accordance with the law, corn farmers will provide that feedback nonetheless and make our voices heard,” NCGA’s comments state. “The process for accounting for these volumes is central to the integrity of the RFS, and it is offensive to farmers that EPA does not believe our comments on this issue are worth soliciting and considering.”

“As family farmers navigate a severely depressed farm economy, this is a time the administration should be raising expectations for a policy that drives America’s rural economy,” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “We urge the administration to increase proposed volumes for the RFS in 2019 and to reject any calls to further reduce the volumes.”

Johnson cited the numerous benefits of enforcing the RFS as it was written, including job creation and investment in rural communities, economic opportunity for family farmers, increased competition in the transportation fuels market, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and lower transportation fuel prices for consumers.

“Biofuels create a price-stabilizing mechanism, encourage much-needed reinvestment in our rural communities, and contribute significantly to net farm income,” said Johnson. “President Trump and his administration should follow through on their assurances to family farmers and rural residents that this administration will support biofuels and uphold the intent of Congress as it relates to the RFS.”

Johnson urged EPA to ensure the RFS increases the use of renewable fuels in the U.S. transportation system, noting that this is “the fundamental objective of the Renewable Fuel Program” as written by Congress. Therefore, the agency should true up volume requirements to account for the lost demand caused by the agency’s previous handling of the law. Recent actions, such as “hardship waivers” to companies that reap windfall profits each year, have destroyed billions of gallons worth in demand for American farm products, further exacerbating already low commodity prices for family farmers.

“Recent wavering on the RFS has caused enormous setbacks in advanced biofuels, including cellulosic biofuel development, and, consequently, delayed important greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said Johnson. “But, EPA can still regain some lost ground, and NFU would be supportive of and most grateful for such efforts.”

Source: NCGA, NFU

TAGS: Farm Policy
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