Iowa lawmakers and farmers ask for change with waivers to small oil refineries

DONAHUE, IOWA  -- Area farmers say they were dealt another setback after the Trump Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency let small refineries keep ethanol out of their gas blend.

"We are already struggling because of the tariffs, because of the USMCA, and this is just one more thing that sinks us deeper," Cinnamon Ridge Farms owner John Maxwell said.

President Trump approved year round sales of ethanol, set to begin in the summer of 2019. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency granted 31 exemptions to small refineries across the country, giving them a pass on blending ethanol into gasoline. Iowa is the largest producer of both corn and ethanol.

"Billions of bushels go into ethanol," Maxwell said.

Iowa lawmakers say these exemptions are hurting area farmers.

"He made a commitment to Iowa farmers that he would support a robust renewable fuel standard," Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said. "What Administrator Wheeler is doing is completely undercutting what the president told our Iowa farmers that he would do and it's really undercutting what we were trying to accomplish with E15 year round."

These waivers make the demand for corn go down, making the crop less profitable for area farmers.

"They`re saying that there's a hardship. but these are big oil companies that are getting it and there's absolutely no transparency to the process, so that`s part of the problem," Reynolds said.

Maxwell invited Governor Reynolds and Scott County officials to Cinnamon Ridge Farms to discuss problems in agriculture.

"We need Administrator Wheeler, if he’s gonna allow 31 exemptions to the blend requirements, then we need to see some transparency in the process," Reynolds said. "This is supposed to be hardship cases and we don’t believe that is the case. We believe that these are big oil refineries that are making money while farmers are struggling right now, especially with the trade disruption that we are seeing and with the flooding that we’ve experienced this year."

Governor Reynolds, along with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, sent a letter to The EPA, inviting them to Iowa to see the impact of the E15 exemption firsthand.

Click here to read the full letter.

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