Corn Farmers Disappointed By Tariff Aid, Continue Year-Round E-15 Push

“There's some no-cost things that the administration can do that would add value to corn,” says Kevin Skunes, a North Dakota farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association. ( Farm Journal )

Corn farmers, who will receive the lowest direct payments under a tariff relief program announced by USDA this week are now pushing the Trump administration for a bigger economic boost: approval of the year-round sale of E-15. 

“There's some no-cost things that the administration can do that would add value to corn,” Kevin Skunes, a North Dakota farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association told AgriTalk host Chip Flory, adding that stopping small refinery waivers and allowing ethanol blending higher than E-10 year-round would benefit farmers. 

In his statement following the tariff aid plan announcement, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also pushed for E15 approval. 

“To help corn farmers, the Administration should announce its approval of E15 for year-round sales,” he said. “This technical correction will help farmers and lower the cost of Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) compliance for oil refineries by producing more Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) which are used to ensure biofuels are being blended into our nation’s fuel supply.”

For years, corn farmers and ethanol supporters have pushed for year-round E15. That drumbeat has grown more aggressive over the past few months as corn markets continue to struggle. So far, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is yet to give in to corn grower proposals. During a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler met with corn farmers and ethanol groups to listen to their concerns. 

“Wheeler said the agency is ‘looking into’ those proposals, saying he wants to be certain the agency has the legal authority to take such action,” said Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer’s policy analyst. “He again said any approval of E15 for year-round access likely will be part of a package deal. But ag leaders say any concessions to the oil industry as part of any such deal will weaken the mandate. He also said EPA is looking at the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) situation which is a key on being able to sell E15 year-round, saying they are looking ‘what we can do.’” 

According to Skunes, corn farmers expect the administration to support the RFS as they have previously promised. 

“We know how important biofuels and ethanol are to the U.S. We're helping to clean the air and the fuel supply,” he said. “We have another market for corn growers so we can more profitable.” 

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