At the beginning of April, I wrote about how two of North Dakota’s refineries received a waiver from the EPA. The waivers claimed it was too difficult and expensive for Andeavor, one of the largest oil refiners in the nation, to produce ethanol in North Dakota. Let that sink in, too difficult and expensive to produce ethanol from corn in farm-state North Dakota. Governor Doug Burgum failed to take a public stand with six other Republican Governors. He isn’t alone in his silence.
Where is Senator John Hoeven? How about Congressman Kevin Cramer? I haven’t heard where they stand on this administrative change. Have I missed it? This weekend, Republican South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds expressed his concerns over the EPA changes. North Dakota’s Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp has spoken out on changes to biofuel standards. Hoeven and Cramer, still silent.
It hasn’t been that they’re silent on ethanol entirely. Both released statements in support of Japan’s change to begin importing U.S. corn-based ethanol. That is a great development. No, they’ve been silent on ethanol when it is negative for farmers and when it appears to benefit oil production.
There is no doubt lobbyists and prominent oil businessmen have a large influence on North Dakota politicians. The Legislature rushed through a permanent tax cut that will cost the state billions over the long-term. Their lobbyists hold successful fundraisers for legislative leadership in return. Harold Hamm of Continental Resources is the finance chair for Kevin Cramer’s Senate bid. Ron Ness of the North Dakota Petroleum Council is a big backer and friend of Congressional candidate Kelly Armstrong who also is heavily involved in the industry. Is this heavy influence keeping them silent on changes that pit our top two industries against each other?
It isn’t enough for elected officials to simply cheer when positive developments happen. Our farmers are concerned with threats to their pocketbooks on multiple fronts. Congress is stumbling on a long-term farm bill. Trade disputes like proposed tariffs from China have shaken markets. And now, domestic changes from an embattled EPA Administrator has some producers wondering who has their back in Washington.
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