U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue took to the air by helic

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is interviewed by a correspondent during a visit to Iowa last summer. During a tour today of central Iowa cropland damaged by the Aug. 10 derecho, the nation’s top ag leader was reminded of the importance of biofuel. (Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Soybean, biodiesel groups urge Perdue to champion RFS exemption reform during Iowa visit

September 3, 2020 | Aaron Putze, APR

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue took to the air by helicopter today to view crop damage near Luther, Slater, Gilman and Marshalltown caused by the Aug. 10 derecho.

When he landed near Radcliffe to learn more about innovative on-farm water and soil quality practices and visit a nearby aquaculture farm, the conversation broadened to include the devastation to rural communities caused by the Environmental Protection Agency’s mismanagement of America’s biofuels policy.

“The USDA has been there for Iowa’s farmers and helped us manage during the worst of times with much-needed disaster assistance,” says Iowa Soybean Association President Tim Bardole. “This approach stands in stark contrast, however, to the EPA and its continued mishandling of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).”

Bardole, who accompanied Perdue for a tour of Eagle’s Catch near Ellsworth, says the EPA’s consideration of granting another 98 refinery exemptions to the RFS “is wrong and couldn’t come at a worse time.”

Such action, says the farmer from Rippey, would multiply the damage to Iowa’s biodiesel and soybean industries at a time they can least afford it.

“Our farm was in the path of the derecho so our economic outlook for this growing season is bleak,” Bardole says. “Granting more illegal RFS waivers to petrochemical companies will drive biodiesel production lower and turn the economic situation for farmers like me from bad to worse.”

The Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) calculates the RFS accounts for 13 percent of the market value of a bushel of soybeans – or nearly $1.15 in today’s market.

“That’s an economic return Iowa’s farmers can’t afford to lose, especially when picking up the pieces after a natural disaster and continued trade friction with top international buyers of U.S. soybeans.”

Bardole implored Perdue to join President Trump in speaking with EPA and resolving an issue that has consumed an enormous amount of time, energy and resources.

“Trump committed to Iowa farmers that he would speak to the EPA about the exemptions and resolve the situation in favor of America’s farmers, not big oil,” Bardole says. “It’s long past time for EPA to end its delay of the annual RFS proposed rule and close the gaping hole in the statute it has created through small refinery exemptions.”

IBB Executive Director Grant Kimberley says USDA plays a vital role in the RFS program so Perdue as an ideal champion for homegrown biofuels.

“We’re deeply frustrated that, while the USDA supports Iowa’s farmers and biodiesel producers with one hand, EPA directly undercuts that support with the other. It would be helpful to have both the USDA and EPA on the same page.”

Kimberley, who farms near Maxwell and serves as ISA’s market development director, says the flood of small refinery exemptions EPA has approved since 2017 has destroyed demand for more than half-a-billion gallons of biodiesel.

“That’s equal to more than a year’s worth of Iowa’s biodiesel production,” he says. “One of Iowa’s biodiesel producers was forced to shut its doors a year ago, due to the small refinery exemptions, and others cut back production.

“It’s long past time to get it right on biofuels policy,” Kimberley says. “We urge the USDA to join farmers in putting pressure on the administration and EPA to act.”

Farmers are encouraged to contact Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, asking them to immediately reject the small refinery exemptions as invalid and illegal and urge EPA to finalize its annual future volume obligations under the RFS. Emails can be written and sent by visiting: https://www.nbb.org/advocacy/fueling-action-center/renewable-fuels-standard-rfs