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Trump voices support for ethanol, but no specifics

Grant Gerlock
Harvest Public Media

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter (PDF) to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

Ethanol plants are the top destination for corn raised in the Midwest and Great Plains, so those words of support are welcome ones to farmers. But ethanol policy is carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, challenged the ethanol mandate when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Ethanol policy is also often at odds with other industries expecting support from the administration. For instance, ethanol producers want to expand the sale of E15, a gasoline mixture that contains 15 percent ethanol, which is higher than regular blends. The oil industry says expanding the availability of E15 amounts to a regulatory burden for the fuel supply.

Though Trump rarely spoke about agriculture and biofuels issues on the campaign trail, many farm state lawmakers seem to be warming to the new president.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who is an ardent ethanol supporter, for instance, recently told reporters that he is confident the Trump Administration is “going to pursue ethanol the way the (current) law requires.”

Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer contributed to this report.

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.