Ernst challenged on ethanol
By CHAD THOMPSON
MANSON – U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said direct financial assistance may be on the way for ethanol producers as she listened to officials in Calhoun County criticize the Trump administration’s support of the industry during an economic development meeting on Saturday.
“We are really struggling in the area of ethanol,” Ernst said at Featherstone Park at Twin Lakes. “People are not traveling because of COVID-19. What COVID-19 did was destroy the market, so we have had plants shut down or barely producing right now.
“We need some place for that corn to go. What we are looking at is trying to find ways through the CARES package and through the dollars provided by the federal government for farmers – also see if there’s a way we can do direct assistance to those engaged in the ethanol industry. That’s something Sen. Grassley and I and others through the Midwest have been working on with the administration.”
Calhoun County Supervisor Scott Jacobs said something needs be done about waivers granted to Big Oil, which frees those companies from blending ethanol into their gasoline.
“Trump keeps saying it’s not him, it’s his EPA directors, but he still appointed them,” Jacobs said. “They still got in there. And that is just killing us right now with all these idled down ethanol plants. It’s hurting our agriculture and it just keeps going. It’s going to trickle down and we are going to start suffering here soon.”
Ernst, who is being challenged for her seat by businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, D-Des Moines, said she spoke with the president before the pandemic about the waivers.
“When I talked to him he said we won’t appeal the decision (to stop waivers),” said Ernst. “They are going to let it stand. But the oil state senators were wanting to appeal and I think that period has already passed. They are trying to look for some other avenue to reinstitute some of those waivers.
“The way I understand it is they cannot go back and reapply. So we will be watching that carefully and making sure President Trump toes the line there.”
Jacobs reiterated his disappointment in Trump’s handling of the situation to this point.
“I hope so because he always said he was going to support ethanol,” Jacobs said. “I hate to say it as a Republican, but (Barack) Obama did more for us for ethanol than Trump ever has when he says he supports it.”
Ernst said, “I could argue all day and I understand – at least we have the E15 and President Trump told the EPA you will do E15 all year round. But this is what we are running into. EPA has not changed the labeling. We are going to have to keep pushing on that.”
In the meantime, Ernst said there is an effort to get ethanol plants to produce a higher quality dried distillers’ grain (DDG).
“We are also trying to encourage the ethanol facilities to continue to develop their technology,” Ernst said. “I just visited an ethanol facility in Shenandoah, and while they do produce ethanol, they are also producing a higher quality value DDG. A higher source of protein that can not only be fed cattle or hogs like the DDGs typically are, but it can be utilized for pet food and fish food and things like that. You actually get paid more for that byproduct from ethanol and they are having a really wonderful success with it. It keeps their plant up and going.”
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