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President Trump celebrates E15, touts trade during Iowa visit

Article cover photo
President Donald Trump tells a crowd of approximately 300 farmers and agribusiness officials that he's proud to be able to expand ethanol use across the country. Trump spoke at the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy facility in Council Bluffs on Tuesday. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

President Donald Trump made a stop in Council Bluffs this week, celebrating the final rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lift restrictions on year-round sales of E15. The fuel is made from a blend of 10.5 percent to 15 percent ethanol and gasoline.

The EPA issued the final rule in May, extending the window for sales of E15 from 8 months to 12 months. 

"We lifted the restrictions on E15 just in time to fuel America's summer vacations,” Trump said. Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) served as the backdrop for the president’s speech. The plant produces more than 110 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year.

He took a brief tour of the plant before comments were underway.

During his speech, Trump said sales of E15 are projected to more than double this year. “By fully embracing E15, we will reduce dependence on foreign oil by up to 250 million additional barrels every single year. I mean, quite simply, it means more energy … and it’s very good energy,” he said.

Year-round sales of E15 is a win for corn farmers and ethanol producers, but there’s still more work to be done, National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Kevin Ross told Trump onstage.

“Mr. President, you delivered on E15, but we have more work to do. EPA’s oil refinery waivers threaten to undo your good work,” Ross, a sixth-generation farmer and Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) advocate member, said. “I ask that you listen again because the pain that the ethanol and biodiesel industries have endured is holding back a farm economy that has further capacity to produce clean air and clean liquid fuels for this country.”

Trump was joined by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

Kevin Ross, a 6th generation farmer from Minden, was invited to speak during the president's appearance. Ross pressed officials to end EPA's oil refinery waivers. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Trade talks continue

In his speech to an invitation-only crowd of about 300, Trump called on farmers to continue pushing Congress for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

"The brand-new USMCA expands market access for agriculture products," he said. "You have to get out and push the Democrats to put it up. … Put it up for a vote, and let's get it signed. It's all ready."

He said the USMCA reverses "decades of failed trade policies, opening up new markets and fighting to give our farmers the fair and level playing field they deserve."

ISA District 4 Director Jeff Frank said Trump's speech provided some hope for a future resolution to trade negotiations with China which he hopes comes to fruition soon.

"I'm in the camp that believes something has to be done with China. Right now, we just have to grin and bear it. But it [trade impasse] came at a terrible time," said Frank, a corn and soybean grower in Auburn. "In the long run, I think it's going to be positive; I hope it is. But I'd rather see it get resolved sooner rather than later. And I think everybody is in that court."

Trump was complimentary of farmers, referring to them as patriots.

"We know that our nation was founded by farmers, our independence was won by farmers, our continent was settled by farmers. Our armies have been fed by farmers and made of farmers. ... And throughout our history our farmers have always led the way; they're our special people," Trump said. "America's farmers are not just the keepers of a cherished legacy, you are the guardians of a way of life; a great, beautiful way of life."

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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