Recent bills proposing the repeal of the Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandates that a percentage of auto fuel come from a renewable source, are ill-informed, ill-founded and would be a disaster for the nation’s rural economy, said the chair of a farm policy institute that has re-committed to farm advocacy in light of recent threats to rural America.

The institute also calls on all other farm organizations to unite in opposition to its repeal and to work to expand the mandate to include 15 percent renewables.

A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times has championed these bills and contains the same discredited and inaccurate information traditionally spread by those opposed to ethanol for reasons that have more to do with lining the pockets of the major fossil fuel producers economic or environmental sanity, Dittrich said.

A recent amendment by Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to a Senate bill on the Keystone Pipeline calls for the elimination of the federal standard. A similar repeal has been proposed in the House. Feinstein represents a state whose economy owes as much to major oil companies as to information technology and Toomey a state with a long history of coal-mining wealth. Their motives should be clear to most people not heavily allied with either industry, Dittrich said.

We are re-engaging to take up this fight and champion a decent income for farmers. We thought about our role in farm policy for a time given an economy in which decent corn prices made most farmers solvent for the first time in many decades. But that appears to be over. The need to recommit to farm income advocacy became obvious as we looked at an economic world again turned upside down, with corn prices below the cost of production. Given that and the threat to the RFS, we want to join the fight to preserve the RFS.

There are many economic and ecological benefits to ethanol, which are carbon-neutral, and very few problems. It creates high-quality jobs in rural areas where development is much needed and does not benefit just “a few farmers,” nor is it a ripoff, as Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, said in the Times opinion piece.

Since its passage in 2007, the RFS has stabilized a rural economy previously in free fall for more than 20 years. Reauthorization of the RFS should be a no-brainer.  

Compared to government support for the fuels implicated in global warming, which are  nearly five times greater than those for ethanol, the RFS has offered multiple environmental benefits, including supplying the clean-air additive, ETBE, he explained. It is biodegradable and works to dilute the effects of fossil fuels in the biosphere.

It produces nearly 90,000 direct jobs and more than 300,000 indirectly. It has been largely responsible for stabilizing a rural economy that saw millions of farms go under from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, Dittrich added. A poll taken a year ago showed that 65 percent of Americans favored it and 26 percent were opposed.

Unfortunately, this more stable economic environment has been disrupted in the last year or so. Because corn prices are again below the cost of production, and with a threat to the RFS looming, American Corn Growers is reaffirming an active role in the farm policy debate.