It is obvious that President Donald Trump’s right hand doesn’t know what his left hand is doing when it involves agriculture.
His right hand promises $16 billion, and perhaps more, to help farmers deal with financial losses stemming from the Chinese trade dispute while his left hand slaps farmers across the face by granting biofuel waivers to 31 refineries. It defies common sense.
The Environmental Protection Agency, at the direction of the White House, is also refusing to reinstate 500 million gallons of RFS-mandated product allocated in 2016, despite a court order to do so.
“So, they’ve basically thumbed their noses and said no,’’ said Randy Doyal in response to the EPA in Noah Fish’s article that appeared in the Aug. 22 edition of Agri News.
Doyal, a national figure in ethanol and the manager of the Al-Corn plant in Claremont, Minn., has seen the ups and downs in the industry through the years. Minnesota’s cooperative-based approach has been a model for the nation ever since farmers took a chance on the fledging industry.
Routinely granting Renewable Fuel Standard waivers to Exxon, Chevron and others depressed ethanol demand and prices, harming rural economies.
The waivers will have a huge impact on Minnesota's corn growers. Approximately 20 percent of the annual corn crop is consumed in ethanol production.
A major ethanol producer — Minnesota-based Advanced BioEnergy — has sold two South Dakota facilities and closed another. The company says the China trade mess and the White House’s stance on waivers were reasons for its actions. Other ethanol producers have curtailed production. POET, one of the giants in the industry, has also announced production cuts.
The National Corn Growers Association, which has generally supported other Trump initiatives, says the cumulative waivers have cost the industry more than 2 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of fuel.
“The billions of biofuel gallons lost through the issuing of waivers to oil refineries only benefit big oil companies while lowering the value of our nation’s corn crop,’’ said Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.
It’s a wound that’s been inflicted by a careless White House whose agriculture policies have been a net negative for farmers and rural communities. While Trump delights in bragging about how eliminating regulations has helped farmers, he should not be allowed to be silent about the damage he’s done to ethanol interests and to the rural Midwest.
Congress — if it wasn’t so feckless and divided — would act to produce a remedy. With the 2020 general election on the horizon it appears that the leadership in the Senate and House have little stomach for a fight.
Their reluctance is easy to grasp but hard to swallow. Democrats fear criticism from environmentalists, who by strange reasoning have failed to embrace ethanol’s many environmental benefits. Republicans fear any and all criticism of the president’s actions will cause primary challenges. Both parties lack the courage to pursue things that are good for the nation.
Trump’s wanton mistreatment of ethanol, his disdain for the RFS mandate, and his failure to honor a court order speaks volumes concerning his ignorance of their importance to farmers and Midwest economies.