White House Ready to Move Forward with Biofuel Changes Unpopular with Farmers. Where are ND Leaders?

Despite verbal commitments from President Donald Trump, the administration plans to go forward with its proposed 2020 biofuel blending requirements. They have ignored the pleas and frustrations from farmers and ethanol producers who say that the plan does too little for corn growers. While farmers struggle, big oil gets a break and North Dakota’s politicians remain silent.

President Trump and his EPA have handed out 85 waivers to refineries that include 31 exemptions granted in August of 2019. Corn farmers and biofuel producers say the rapid handing out of exemptions has deeply undercut demand for ethanol. Two refineries that received waivers are located in North Dakota, Mandan and Dickinson. The impact of these exemptions has led to bipartisan push back over the last year and a half.

Due to increasing public pressure from farmers, Trump announced a “giant package” that was supposed to ease tensions between big oil and agriculture. The move at the time was met with applause from North Dakota’s elected officials who have been trying to sit this one out. They finally spoke! As anger mounted from farmers and ethanol producers, the White House appeared to be shifting to find a balance. Turns out, the push for balance was just empty words. Yet me repeat, while farmers struggle, big oil gets a break. 

On Tuesday, the administration said it was sticking with the EPA’s proposal.  Reuters reports, “EPA has reviewed all comments received during the comment period from the public and we plan to finalize the rule this winter,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said. The plan was expected to be finalized by Friday, December 20th.

The updated news has been met yet again with silence from Governor Doug Burgum, Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, and Congressman Armstrong. Apparently, if they can’t cheer on the administration, the keep quiet. Compare their lack of political courage in this moment – when their farmers need them to speak up on poor domestic policy by the Trump administration – to just days ago when they were tripping over each other to find be the first to release a statement on USMCA.

Leaders in the states surrounding North Dakota and other farm states have publicly taken action against harmful policies for farmers. While the bipartisan pressure mounted against this domestic policy, Burgum, Cramer, Hoeven, and Armstrong sat silently by hoping nobody would notice. Some farmers have threatened to withdraw support for the President because of his administration’s handling of biofuel policy. If that is the case, they need to remember those who enabled this bad policy to move forward.

Tyler Axness
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