Iowa Corn Grower Association (ICGA) farmer-leaders had success last week in their effort to get important policy priorities adopted by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), traveling to the 2020 Commodity Classic in San Antonio to do so. The Iowa delegation consisted of ICGA voting delegates and alternates, Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) directors, Iowa Corn Collegiate Advisory Team members and other Iowa grassroots leaders.
One of the policies aims to protect and grow market share for ethanol-blended fuel. NCGA voting delegates approved several resolutions promoting expanded infrastructure such as pumps and tanks to make higher ethanol blends more available, so motorists can fill up with higher blends at gas stations nationwide. Another resolution promotes more vehicle engines to be manufactured that can use high-octane, low-carbon ethanol fuel blends. NCGA also adopted language calling for ethanol fuel incentives to be kept on an even playing field, with incentives provided for electric or other alternative vehicles.
Ethanol is an immediate solution
“There’s a strong push by manufacturers of electric vehicles to get more of them on the road, and those vehicles are definitely not running on our homegrown fuels that we know can be carbon-reducing in helping achieve some of these sustainability goals,” says Kevin Ross, the NCGA president, who farms near Minden in southwest Iowa. “This is a concern for us. We need to focus on promoting ethanol and how we can move our story forward.”
While widespread adoption of electric vehicles is at least several years away based on economics, ethanol provides an immediate solution for states like California that have passed air quality regulations seeking low-carbon fuels, he adds. Those states realize they need to decarbonize sooner rather than later for their transportation system, and the quickest way to do that is to blend higher amounts of ethanol into the motor fuels available in their state.
RFS waivers remain a concern
Other Iowa-led resolutions adopted by NCGA include supporting all federally approved ethanol blends sold in all states; and seeking greater transparency of small refinery exemptions (SREs) such as company names, the volume for each waiver requested and of the U.S. EPA’s reasoning when EPA grants an SRE to a petroleum refinery. After E15 use was approved by the federal government last year for year-round use, it remained illegal in five states, including California and New York.
New waiver rules are coming, EPA officials announced last week. Corn growers are encouraged by the news that the agency is considering rules to reduce the number of SREs it grants. EPA has for several years been granting an increasing number of exemptions to refineries, exempting them from having to comply with ethanol blending obligations required by the Renewable Fuel Standard. “The RFS is a federal law,” Ross notes. “While EPA’s recent announcement is encouraging for corn growers, it’s still uncertain what approach the EPA is planning to take on future waivers.”
Advocating for corn growers
A key task for ICGA at Commodity Classic is speaking in support of policies and actions that NCGA should promote to benefit Iowa farmers. “Here in Iowa, our ICGA policy process starts with the grassroots farmer-members throughout the state through our membership survey and at our local roundtable meetings. The resolutions then move to the ICGA Annual Grassroots Summit held in August, and then onto national policy development during NCGA’s Corn Congress at Commodity Classic,” says ICGA President Jim Greif, who farms near Monticello in eastern Iowa. “Corn Congress allows Iowa corn farmers to bring important actions and policy positions that are top of mind in Iowa to the national platform.”
The Iowa resolutions passed by the NCGA delegate body include:
• Support all EPA-approved ethanol blends E15 and above being sold in all states.
• Support consistent transparency of SREs from the EPA such as company name, the volume of waivers requested, and reasoning if granted. A period of public comment should be a part of this process.
• Support legislation requiring a “good neighbor” policy for federally and state-owned land, including, but not limited to, existing property lines, management of noxious weeds, trees and general care of the land.
• As an alternative to federal and state agencies acquiring land, NCGA supports nonpermanent easements or leases on the environmentally sensitive property for a period, with an option of renewal, so these lands continue in private ownership and on the property tax rolls.
• Oppose mass dumping of silt back into a river by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and urge the corps to pursue new uses of dredged materials in lieu of mass dumping into bodies of water.
“ICGA delegates presented resolutions, and, in turn, voted on these and other resolutions and policies brought forward by other corn states to NCGA last week at the Corn Congress,” Greif says. “These policy positions set the framework for our federal legislative efforts and directly influence our direction for years to come.”
The new NCGA policy document will be posted at iowacorn.org/policy when it becomes available. For more information on upcoming policy development meetings in your area, call the ICGA office at 515-225-9242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.