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Frustrated Midwest Ethanol Leaders Renew Call For Solution To Waived Ethanol Gallons

Katie Peikes
IPR file
An ethanol plant in western Iowa.

Frustrated by the Trump administration’s waivers that excuse some oil companies from using ethanol in their gasoline, some farmers in the Midwest are calling on the administration to reallocate billions of waived gallons. 
The latest renewable fuels plant to shut down in Iowa because of the Environmental Protection Agency’s small refinery waivers is a biodiesel plant in the southeast part of the state.

Kelly Nieuwenhuis of Primghar in northwest Iowa says there’s “panic right now” as these exemptions create a ripple effect across agricultural sectors. Nieuwenhuis is the board president of Siouxland Energy, which halted production last week.

“We got corn farmers that usually brought corn to our plant during harvest, that we’re not taking corn right now,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We’ve got cattle feeders that are using our great feed product, they’re scrambling to find alternative feed sources right now to replace what we were shipping out of our plant.”

The latest 31 exemptions, announced in August, caused ethanol prices to drop 18 to 20 cents over two days, Nieuwenhuis said.

Niewenhuis and other farm leaders from Iowa and Ohio said on a conference call with media that they need the 4 billion exempted gallons reallocated to larger refineries, to bring back demand for ethanol.

Ron Heck, a soybean farmer from Perry in central Iowa who is the secretary for the National Biodiesel Board, said farmers are pleased to see President Trump starting conversations with pro-biodiesel senators and governors. But he said they are eager for something to happen soon because “the damage is immediate as we approach harvest.”

“Many farmers are losing patience with the president,” Heck said. “And [President Trump] has to rein in his EPA right now or there will be political consequences to that because of the economic damage we’re suffering right now.”

Farmers are facing financial burdens because of these waivers, said John Linder, an Edison, Ohio corn farmer.

“We’ve already seen land sales to try to shore up capital and reduce obligations of annual commitments to making those payments just so that the operations can remain viable,” Linder said.

He continued. “President Trump vowed to support the ethanol industry and fight for the American farmer like no other president ever has fought before. We need him to keep that promise.”

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.