BLOOMINGTON — A Bureau County farmer was one of five Illinois Farm Bureau members to voice concerns on Wednesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its proposed supplemental rule for small refinery exemptions for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader GraceLynn Dale of Walnut traveled with fellow Farm Bureau members to Ann Arbor, Mich., to give prepared testimony urging U.S. EPA to protect the integrity of the RFS.
The group joined other agriculture groups and state Farm Bureaus to oppose the Trump administration’s EPA biofuel package, insisting the deal falls short of the promises made to farmers to maximize the use of renewable fuels.
In her testimony, Dale said she knew many farmers who have spent much of this year thinking, “Why bother?”
“Why should we continue to place our bets on this year’s crop? Why should we put in the effort when we aren’t even sure what our global markets might be? A big answer: ethanol,” she said.
“As we look to the future, we should be celebrating ethanol. Young farmers like myself need to feel confident that the markets and opportunities our parents and grandparents fought for will not only be available but abundant. Fossil fuels are finite, but biofuels are renewable. We hear the word ‘sustainable’ every day, yet how sustainable is it to allow so many refineries to limit their ethanol use? It simply isn’t.”
Imposed changes within the EPA biofuel package include altering the method in which biofuel quotas are calculated when oil refineries are exempted from requirements compelling them to use ethanol and biodiesel.
Proposed volumes for 2020 and 2021 are unchanged. Under the proposed rulemaking, the volume of gasoline and diesel that would be exempt in 2020 due to small refinery exemptions (SREs) would be based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by the Department of Energy (DOE), including where DOE had recommended partial exemptions.
Farm groups are concerned
Because of the disparity between projected SRE exemptions and actual exemptions granted since 2016, farm groups are concerned that the volume of actual exemptions granted in 2020 could very well exceed the number of projected exemptions from DOE, putting corn farmers and ethanol plants back into uncertainty on whether the 15-billion-gallon requirement is being met or undermined.
Brian Duncan, Illinois Farm Bureau vice president, also gave testimony, saying the RFS was a game-changer for Illinois agriculture when it worked as it was intended. But he added the recent glut of waivers is chipping away at the integrity of the RFS and is taking an enormous toll on ethanol producers and the bottom lines of farmers in Illinois and across the Corn Belt.
“We’re bleeding because we’re no longer blending anywhere near the volumes of ethanol today as we once did — and it’s noticeable. A running three-year average of DOE’s recommended waived gallons was not on anyone’s radar. This nation’s corn and soybean farmers need a better deal. Once we get a better deal, we can work on writing a better rule that maintains the integrity of the RFS and that many of us in this room would be able to support,” he said.
IFB District 13 Director Dennis Green, Cass and Mason County farmer Steve Turner and IFB Director of Issues Management DeAnne Bloomberg also spoke during the hearing. Each speaker was given three minutes to present testimony.
A 30-day comment period from the date of the hearing now follows. The agency has said they will finalize action later this year.