A tractorcade was part of a biofuel rally Thursday in Sioux Falls, S.D. Farmers and biofuel supports drove about a dozen tractors through part of Sioux Falls to protest the Trump administration’s handling of ethanol policy.
In the past year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has granted waivers to several refineries, which exempts them from the requirement to blend ethanol with their gasoline. The waivers — usually reserved for small refineries in financial trouble — have reduced demand for ethanol by 1.63 billion gallons, which is more ethanol than is produced in South Dakota and North Dakota combined.
EPA also has yet to approve year-round E15 use.
During the presidential campaign and since his election, President Donald Trump said he supported ethanol and agriculture, and that he wanted to expand opportunities for both. But Pruitt, who Trump appointed to head the EPA, hasn’t delivered, says Troy Knecht, a Houghton, S.D., farmer and president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. He drove one of the tractors to the rally.
“It is time to get President Trump to step up and support the people who elected him, and get the EPA administrator to do his job,” Knecht says.
Pruitt is doing real damage to farmers an at a time when they can least afford it, adds Kent Peterson, a Salem, S.D., farmer and state legislator.
Ethanol is a significant impact on the state’s economy, and it supports many young farm families.
The hard truth is the that EPA has been a tool for the oil industry to maintain their market share for too long, says Doug Berven, Poet vice president of corporate affairs, who also spoke at the rally. Poet is the nation’s largest biofuel producer and is headquartered in Sioux Falls. “That's what this is all about," Berven says. "It is about market share. We are up against the most powerful political force on the planet. They are not to going to give it up easy.”
Many of the 200 people attending the rally held signs that read:
• SD Loves Biobuels
• Stop The War On Biofuels
• Fuel Our Economy
• E15 Not Imports
• Farmers Fuel Our Economy
• E15 You Promised
Randy Hascall, South Dakota CornSENDING MESSAGE: Ethanol supporters rally in Sioux Falls.
Watch a video of the rally on South Dakota Corn’s Facebook page.
At same time the rally was going on in Sioux Falls, the National Sorghum Producers was hosting a roundtable with Pruitt at the Adam Schindler farm near Reliance, S.D.
“We appreciate Administrator Pruitt for taking the time to listen to the concerns and challenges facing South Dakota producers,” Schindler says in a statement released by NSP “The changes in blending obligations related to Renewable Fuel Standard waivers are costing South Dakota farmers millions of dollars, and we hope to see the EPA take steps to resolve this issue and maintain the Administration’s commitment to renewable fuels.”
Tom Willis, NSP board director and CEO of Conestoga Energy, the largest end-market user of sorghum in the U.S., told Pruitt that EPA’s policies have brought the renewable energy industry and row crop producers to the edge of abyss, and most plants are struggling to make a profit today.
“Administrator Pruitt said he doesn’t want to pick winners and losers,” Willis said, “but EPA has already picked oil over rural America with his hardship RIN waivers.”
The stop in South Dakota was the second on Pruitt’s tour of farm country.
There are clearly still differences of opinion between the administrator and agriculture leaders on the impact of the waivers, NSP CEO Tim Rust says.
“We look forward to continuing that discussion. … There is undoubtedly a lot of work left to do with Administrator Pruitt, and the administration quantifying how much this issue is impacting commodity markets and affecting our growers," he says.
Randy Hascall, South Dakota Corn Growers Association’s senior writer, and the National Sorghum Producers Association contributed to this article.