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EPA Administrator Wheeler Visits Farmers at Iowa State Fair
In his first trip to Iowa as acting administrator of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler sat down with commodity and agribusiness leaders during a small roundtable event at the Iowa State Fair. Wheeler was welcomed to the Hawkeye state by Governor Kim Reynolds and Representative David Young (R-IA).
During the closed session, Iowa farmers shared their perspectives on trade, ethanol, and Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).
In a press conference immediately following the roundtable, Young praised Wheeler for being “accessible and transparent” on the issues that are important to agriculture.
“We talked a lot about the RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure), E15, and higher blends year-round, thanked the administrator and EPA on their actions that they've taken with waters of the U.S,” explained Reynolds. “It was a great opportunity for our all of our commodity groups to really talk to them about how trade and tariffs are impacting what they're doing and impacting the family farm agriculture in the state of Iowa.”
In his brief comments after the round table, Wheeler noted Reynolds was the first governor he spoke to in his new role.
“I’ve really learned a lot today. I've enjoyed being here at the fair, not the least of which was helping to judge a pie making contest this morning. I really enjoyed that, but more so, I enjoy the roundtable we just had with the different ag groups here in the state, the commodity groups, listening to them, hearing what their concerns and problems are, and telling them a little bit about what we're trying to do,” Wheeler said.
Under Wheeler’s leadership, the EPA is working to provide more certainty on WOTUS issues.
“We have a proposal coming out over the next 60 days that will help provide more certainty to farmers and landowners everywhere as to what is a wetland and what is not a wetland, so you don't have to hire attorneys and consultants to make those decisions for you. You can make them yourself or at least you can understand the law better to make the decision yourself,” Wheeler explained.
He praised Iowa for leading the way on water quality issues saying, “Other states north of Iowa can certainly learn a lot from what you've done here in Iowa. We’re using Iowa as a model for other states in the region.”
Reynolds added, “He’s referring to the nutrient reduction strategy that we have in place. That was implemented by former secretary of ag in conjunction with the governor's office.”
Wheeler also stressed he wanted to provide more certainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), emphasizing its importance across the entire country.
“So far with this administration, we've been on time with our RVOs each year. That provides more certainty to the biofuels producers and to the American consumers. We're going to continue that,” Wheeler said.
RVOs are reported volume obligations that the EPA must announce before the end of November each year. “RVOs are set annually by EPA to dictate the amount of renewable fuel that is blended into the motor fuel supply. The RFS is a federal law that requires domestic, renewable, cleaner-burning fuels to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply,” Iowa Corn Growers Association President Mark Recker explained.
While this is important, farmers are more concerned about the small refinery waivers issued by the EPA that destroy demand for over 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol, said Mark Recker.
“Iowa’s farmers deserve greater honesty and transparency from the EPA as their actions have created a back door that allows oil companies to sidestep their blending obligations, costing farmers and ethanol $5.3 billion in lost markets,” he said.
Curt Mether farms near Logan, Iowa, and is currently serving as vice president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “We’re concerned that Wheeler is not fighting for us hard enough,” he said.
Wheeler acknowledged he knew the small refiner exemption was an issue in Iowa, simply saying, “We're trying to provide more certainty around that.” No further plans or details were discussed.
The administrator also briefly noted the EPA is looking at the RVP and making E15 available year-round.
Reynolds expressed her support for year-round E15 sales saying, “It was reiterated over and over that you need to get something done sooner rather than later. That would be something that immediately would have an impact on markets, raise the price of corn, and infuse some certainty into the markets as well, and optimism.”
When pressed for a timeline for a decision on year-round E15, Wheeler responded, “I can't tell you the timeline. We are mindful of needing to have a decision on that before the growing season next year.”
Young added, “Because of what President Trump said and thinking it was a fabulous idea, there's an expectation that that's going to happen and whether it's administratively or legislatively, we want to make sure that if it's done administratively, it sticks. It's not court challenged and there is certainty out there for a long time to come to make sure that this is there for the consumer and producer. If that's not the case, then we will work with the administration and in a bipartisan way with Congress. There's a bill out there to do E15 year-round and they'll push on that front, but it's going to happen.”
Wheeler said he continues to meet with associations involved in the issue in an effort to figure out what can be done to provide more certainty around the RFS.
“The important thing is that the Trump administration wants to move forward with implementing the RFS, both the spirit and letter of the law,” Wheeler said in closing.