This week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made stops in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota to visit with farmers and ethanol refiners. The farmers held nothing back and told Administrator Pruitt exactly what they think about his recent action regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
What Administrator Pruitt likely expected would be a jovial discussion with producers in Kansas turned into a fire storm by all accounts.
“Our concern was that Administrator Pruitt thought he could come to Kansas, take a few photos with smiling farmers and tell the President that corn farmers are OK with his actions,” says Ken McCauley president of the Kansas Corn Growers Association. “That would be a gross misinterpretation of what happened here today. I told him that EPA’s attacks on ethanol don’t just hurt plants like EKAE (East Kansas Agri-Energy), they hurt farmers, rural communities and American consumers who benefit from ethanol with lower prices and cleaner air.”
In addition, Utica, Kansas farmer Dennis McNich told Administrator Pruitt how his actions were hurting farm families.
“To be honest, Administrator Pruitt, we’re mad as hell,” McNich said. “Today, the American farmer is struggling to make ends meet and our industry is on the cusp of financial ruin in many areas of the country. We are under attack once again from the oil industry as they try to unravel the RFS using their latest scare tactic claiming that RINs are about to put them out of business.”
Renewable identification numbers (RINs) are credits are the “currency” of the RFS program. Renewable fuel producers generate RINs.
While in Kansas, Administrator Pruitt spoke strongly in favor of reallocating waived RINs to refiners back to the RFS obligations. Currently, those waived gallons represent lost demand.
“Whether we have an agreement or an understanding going forward on these issues, I think it’s really important to us to enforce that if we grant an exemption, those RINs are recaptured and reallocated to the RVO (renewable volume obligations). That’s a huge change that’s never been done. That’s a regulatory process. That’s just out of fairness,” Pruitt said.
Following the meeting, Pruitt tweeted, "Just finished up a candid and productive discussion with Kansas corn and grain sorghum farmers on #RFS. I strongly believe the most effective way to make decisions is to hear directly from stakeholders. The Trump Administration is committed to standing up for the American farmer."
Candid is an accurate word and it’s a word that also described his visit in South Dakota. While many producers there participated in a rally to boycott the administrator, he did get a private audience with 50 area farmers.
According to Inforum.com, the two-hour event was not open to the public and farmers took advantage of having Pruitt’s attention.
"We want to be respectful, but we want to very forcefully convey to the administrator that we've got real challenges in rural America and we have to preserve the markets that we have," said John Duff, strategic business director for National Sorghum Producers, the organization that hosted the event. "There are real challenges on the farm, and demand destruction for biofuels is not good. It is something that we do not need in the face of ag processes the way they are today, and we want to convey that message."
One farmer shared his confusion around hardship waivers with Pruitt.
“Two of these companies that they handed waivers to made over a billion dollars last year," farmer David Fremark commented. "I don't know what kind of hardship that is, but it's not like the hardship that I'm used to on the farm."
Even though Pruitt tried to explain his actions, farmers were largely unimpressed, and one even suggested revisiting the formulas used by the Department of Energy.
Still, Pruitt maintained his optimism saying, "It's important to hear directly from the community that EPA regulates, and today we heard from farmers and utility workers about the impact of the Agency's work. From the Renewable Fuel Standard to the so-called 'Clean Power Plan,' we are working hard to fulfill the agency's true mission while providing certainty to stakeholders in South Dakota and across the country."
Pruitt’s final stop of the trip was in Nebraska. According to the Hastings Tribune, the main focus of this stop was to discuss the Waters of The U.S. Rule. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and leaders from the ag industry planned to discuss the regulation with Pruitt.
The Nebraska meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Nebraska Farm Bureau.