Trump RFS decision a relief for farmers, but negotiations are far from over

After weeks of rumors and speculation, the Trump administration announced last week it would not move forward with changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard that would attach Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to biofuel exports. The news was welcomed by the nation’s corn farmers, while refiners and oil-supporting legislators vowed they would continue their efforts to overhaul U.S. biofuel policy.

The deal President Trump ultimately decided to reject last week included allowing year-round sales of E15, which is currently restricted in most parts of the country during summer months. While that is a win for the nation’s corn farmers, the deal also included attaching RINs to biofuel exports, which would continue to drive down biofuel volume obligations for refiners. In short, the positive impact of increased access to E15 during the summer months would pale in comparison to the disastrous effects of attaching RINs to biofuels exported out of the country.

While last week’s news brought some relief to the nation’s corn farmers, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has already publicly expressed that he would continue to push for reform to the RFS that would lessen the financial burden on refiners.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), along with National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its biofuel partners, will continue to push for year-round E15 and higher blends sales without concessions that would undermine the RFS.

While the two sides have been negotiating over the last few months, the Environmental Protection Agency continued to issue waivers to refineries nationwide exempting them from purchasing RIN credits to comply with the RFS. Normally meant for small refineries experiencing severe financial hardship, waivers have been granted to refineries of all sizes at an unprecedented rate. The result of the rise in waivers issued has been significant lost volumes of biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply.

In an attempt to account for the collective lost volumes, NCGA, along with a number of other commodity and biofuel organizations, petitioned the EPA to change its regulations resulting in the high number of waivers issued. The goal of the coalition’s petition is to bring more transparency to the process used by the EPA to grant exemptions that have already cut more than a billion gallons from the renewable fuel obligations for 2016 and 2017.

MCGA, NCGA and its partners in Washington will continue to advocate for a strong RFS.

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