WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a relentless advocate for Iowa’s biofuel community and member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), is joining her fellow Iowan Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on bipartisan legislation to support biofuel producers negatively affected by the pandemic.
“Iowa leads the nation in biofuel production. With folks traveling less and ethanol plants shuttering across the heartland, this pandemic has certainly taken a toll on our renewable fuel producers. Just like other farmers and members of our ag community, Iowa’s hardworking biofuel producers need relief. This bipartisan effort will help support this vital part of our state’s economy and provide assistance to our farmers, workers, and producers,” said Senator Ernst.
“The biofuels industry works directly with our farmers. And the current disruptions from the pandemic have created ripple effects, including steep declines in corn and soybean prices. We need to continue to support those farmers who feed and fuel our country and the world. This bill will help ensure biofuel producers survive this economic downturn and also ensure corn and soybean farmers have a place to sell their products,” said Senator Grassley.
“At a time when many farmers and rural communities are feeling disproportionate impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important we work to keep our renewable fuel industry strong,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Renewable fuel processing plants employ thousands of people in rural areas, purchase billions of bushels of commodities from farmers, and provide stability in our agricultural supply chain. This legislation will ensure farmers and workers receive our support during these tough times.”
As social distancing guidelines were put into place due to COVID-19, gasoline use in the United States plummeted to 50-year lows around the country. This rapid decrease in consumption has led more than 130 biofuel plants to partially or fully shut down. Forty percent of Iowa ethanol production remains offline today. Ernst’s, Grassley’s, and Klobuchar’s bipartisan bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reimburse biofuel producers for their feedstock purchases from January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).
Throughout COVID-19, Ernst continues to be a voice for Iowa’s biofuel producers. In April, Ernst called for USDA to provide additional funds to the biofuel industry through the CCC, which is exactly what this bill would do.
Ernst led a bipartisan effort in urging the Trump Administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reject requests for the RFS to be waived. During a Senate EPW hearing last week, Ernst pressed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler on his awareness of the impact COVID-19 has had on ethanol producers, how he intends to handle the request for an RFS waiver, and his commitment to expand biofuel infrastructure by fixing ongoing labeling issues for higher blends of ethanol.
Ernst also joined Senator Grassley in urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clarify its temporary policy for the manufacture of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products during the COVID-19 pandemic.