Farmers Continue to Protest Ethanol Cut

    With just seven days left in the public comment period on the proposed cuts to the Renewable Fuel Standard, rural America continues to make a final push to have its voice heard on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal would mean for business on the farm.

    As of Tuesday morning, EPA had received 13,348 total comments on the proposal to cut the RFS by some 3 billion gallons. Just 1,863 comments had been posted to as of Tuesday morning.

    That number is expected to continue to grow, to include comments expected to be collected Thursday in Des Moines during a public hearing organized by Iowa state officials in response to the Obama administration’s refusal to hold an actual EPA hearing in the state.

    Roger Zylstra, a central Iowa farmer and president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, told reporters during a conference call Tuesday that cutting the RFS would make it difficult to produce a corn crop at breakeven.

    He said corn prices already are $2.75 to $3 a bushel lower compared to a year ago.

    “With that drop in the corn price, it makes it difficult for a young man to start in this business,” Zylstra said. “If we dropped ethanol usage, it would cost us another 19 cents per bushel. That puts us below the cost of production. We’re working on this as hard as we can (to get EPA to change its mind.) We’re counting on getting enough comments and science that we can to persuade EPA that this doesn’t make sense.”

    Farmers and others from across the Midwest are expected to offer testimony in Des Moines this week.

    Northeast Iowa corn grower Mark Recker, chairman of the Iowa Corn Usage and Production Committee, said he would encourage farmers and others who support the RFS to make their voices heard.

    “Nothing has improved my business like the ethanol industry has,” he said. “We need to rally the troops and get these rules changed. We want an overwhelming number of comments.”

    Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday in a call with reporters that RFS supporters still are trying to marshal opposition to the EPA-proposed reduction to the RFS.

    He cited Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the push to hold a hearing Thursday in Des Moines despite no representation from the EPA.

    “The Obama administration should have convened this hearing in Iowa as the congressional delegation, and I think the governor as well, asked them to do,” he said. “But the Obama administration declined to do it, leaving it to Iowans to take matters into their own hands.”

    Grassley and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also are drafting a bipartisan Senate letter to EPA this week opposing the RFS change. Grassley said he expects a large number of senators from both parties to join in signing the letter.

    Grassley also said he doesn’t think President Barack Obama will support the EPA’s move. He cited the president’s efforts to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies and other efforts critical of fossil fuels.

    “I would think he would not want to give big oil a big victory, but that’s what he’s going to do,” Grassley said.

    The state of Iowa has planned a public hearing event in Des Moines Thursday starting at 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time, at the Hall of Laureates, 100 Locust Street.

    There are several ways to submit comments to EPA on the RFS.

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