Rural leaders urge Trump to uphold court’s ruling on SREs

By Erin Voegele | March 11, 2020

A group of rural leaders held a media call on March 11 urging the Trump administration to uphold the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on small refinery exemptions (SREs) and quickly apply it nationwide.

Kevin Ross, president of the National Corn Growers Association and an Iowa corn farmer, opened the call by stressing the U.S. agriculture and biofuel groups are united in the belief that the Trump administration and U.S. EPA should uphold the court’s ruling. “EPA had been abusing SREs,” Ross said, noting the court’s decision backs up that fact and proves ag and biofuel supporters correct.

“A potential appeal of this decision by the administration would only further delay and amplify the concerns across the industry,” Ross said, which would add further uncertainty into the marketplace.

Dave Walton, a board member of the Iowa Soybean Association and soybean farmer in Iowa, called the administration’s actions a “kick in the teeth.”

“Families in my sate are looking at each other across the kitchen table this morning and wondering why the president, through this appeal, would try to prolong this fight between farmers, EPA and the oil interests,” Walton said. “It’s kind of baffling to us.”

According to Walton, the decision to appeal the court’s finding could derail recovery in the agriculture sector at a time when the industry is struggling to maintain a razor thin profit margin. “Many of my fellow producers are running in the red,” he added, noting that the issue could destroy President Trump’s relationship with leaders and voters across the heartland.

“We’re not going to accept a half measure like we got from EPA last October,” Walton said. “We need to fully restore the [renewable volume obligation] to its mandated level.”

“President Trump vowed to product the RFS,” Walton added. “Now he needs to step up and do what he promised for millions of biofuel workers, farmers and rural families. Enough is enough. It’s time for him to make it right.”

Erik Huschitt, CEO and general manager of Badger State Ethanol and a board member of the Renewable Fuels Association, discussed the strength of the court’s ruling.

“The Tenth Circuit Court ruling was a unanimous panel decision on three major pillars in the case and it confirmed exactly what the farm communities have been saying for years,” Huschitt said. “The EPA has been illegally abusing the small refinery exemptions program and using it to erode demand for biofuels and farm commodities.”

If the administration decides to appeal the court’s ruling, Huschitt said it will send a strong signal that the president is choosing two oil refining companies that account for less than 1 percent of U.S. capacity over hundreds of thousands of farmers. He also said the decision would prolong uncertainty in the market and stoke more anger and frustration in the Midwest. “Farmers and ethanol producers are both looking at this court ruling as a chance to clear the slate,” Huschitt said. “Let’s start fresh with the EPA and administration after suffering two miserable years of demand destruction caused by the EPA.”

Mitch Miller, CEO of Carbon Green BioEnergy, discussed the impact the EPA’s SRE policy has caused in Michigan. “It’s clear the president needs to chance course on this decision,” he said, noting that Michigan has five ethanol plants, all of which have either slowed production or shut down due to the impact of SREs.