NFU Fly-In Focuses on RFS

The National Farmers Union (NFU) 2015 Fall Legislative Fly-In took place this week in Washington, D.C. and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was on the top of the list when growers from around the country met with White House official, Congressional staffers and members along with Senators and Representatives.

NFU members meet with MN Rep. Collin Peters during the fall Fly-In.

NFU members meet with MN Rep. Collin Peters during the fall Fly-In.

Farmers Union members expressed concerned about a stalling of the RFS by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has prevented the RFS from meeting the targets set forth in the law’s statute.

“The RFS has already made significant gains for family farmers, rural communities, consumers and the environment, and the EPA needs to stick to statutory levels for the RFS to continue these successes,” said NFU President Roger Johnson who noted that family farmers and ranchers have enormous credibility with the public and as such, are the most effective to deliver messages of importance in rural America to legislators.

NFU has been holding Fly-Ins for generations; with the only real change being the mode of transportation used by family farmers to come to Washington. This year, roughly 275 Farmers Union members gathered in Washington for the annual event. In addition to meeting with legislators, participants were also briefed by various elected and administration officials.

Illinois Corn Working to Support #Ethanol, E15

Ken Hartman-2I stopped by the Illinois Corn booth during the Farm Progress Show and had the opportunity to speak with Kenneth Hartman, an Illinois corn, soybean and wheat grower. He gave me an update on the their efforts to increase mid-level ethanol blends across the state. One such initiative is working with key players in Chicago to get 150 E15 stations up and running in the city. A piece of legislation is sitting with the Alderman and the mayor and Hartman hopes Mayor Rahm Emanuel will sign on the line for the E15 roll out yet this year.

Speaking of E15, Harmann said they are working with retailers across the state to build the infrastructure. They have been working with the American Lung Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board has allocated money to help with infrastructure through the Prime The Pump program. This program, he noted, provides matching funds for USDA’s BIP program. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the allocation of $100 million in program funds.

Other initiatives include working with pump manufacturers to get equipment standardized and approved for E15 as well as consumer education.

To learn more about Illinois Corn’s ethanol initiatives, listen to my interview with Ken Hartman: Ken Hartman, Illinois Corn Interview

Check out the Farm Progress Show photo album.

NCGA: We Will Not Stand for RFS Attacks

Rob Elliot NCGAThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is continuing to fight back said NCGA president Chip Bowling of Maryland during a press conference at the Farm Progess Show. “It’s about the many people who attack us [farmers] in DC like the DC bureaucrats, radio talk loudmouths and fearmongers on social media.”

Among other issues, Bowling was referring to the attack on ethanol through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He noted that growers must find a way to stay in business when market prices drop below the price of production. “That is why we’re not standing by while government regulators ignore the law when it comes to ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Bowling.

In addition to defending the RFS, Bowling said NCGA is working to help build infrastructure for higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85 while working with their allies at the U.S. Grains Council to increase ethanol and by-products exports such as dried distillers grains DDGs.

To learn more about NCGA’s biofuel and bioproducts intiatives, listen to their Farm Progress Show press conference here: NCGA #FarmProgressShow Press Conference

Check out the Farm Progress Show photo album.

ARF Reacts to Hillary Clinton’s Ag, Energy Plan

Presidential candidate Sec. Hillary Clinton (D) made another visit to Iowa this week where she unveiled her agriculture and rural policy plan. She called for strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) so that it continues to drive the development of advanced cellulosic and other advanced biofuels. Clinton called for more consumer choice at the pump with better access to ethanol blends such as E15 and E85 as well as biodiesel. She also called for more renewable energy to be phased into the electricity sector.

Sec Hillary ClintonAmerica’s Renewable Future (ARF), who is meeting with candidates to discuss the benefits of biofuels, released the following statement in response to the plan.

“We thank Sec. Clinton for her commitment to Iowa’s farmers, consumers, and investors with her call of a strengthened RFS. We enthusiastically echo that call, especially in light of President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) disastrous Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) proposal. The EPA’s proposal is another example of conceding to the oil industry’s demands at the expense of clean, domestic renewable fuels and American jobs.

Billions of dollars were invested by famers and local investors to produce biofuels with the promise of a strong RFS. Reducing the RVO will strand capitol and punish the pioneers who invested in clean, homegrown renewable energy. The RFS has created 73,000 jobs here in Iowa and hundreds of thousands more around the country that cannot be outsourced, reduced our dependence on foreign oil, helped clean our air, and provided consumers savings at the pump.

Iowa’s rural communities and economy depend on the RFS for stability and growth and the EPA must get it back on track and focus on protecting the jobs and economic progress it has yielded.”

Reign in the EPA Say Republican Candidates

The last batch of Republican presidential candidates took the Soapbox stage during the last weekend of the Iowa State Fair.

Chris ChristieNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) took a different approach and only answered questions. His overall statement was that the government needs to enforce the laws currently in place – not just the laws we like- but all laws. Speaking of a law he doesn’t like: the Clean Power Plan. His state has submitted a request to end the program and believes that each state should set their own legislation and develop their own plans. For example, he noted that Iowa is a land of wind, but in the most dense state in the country, solar works better. New Jersey uses solar, natural gas and nuclear and has already met their 2020 clean power goals.

When asked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS), he said he supports the RFS. The problem is that the Obama Administration along with the EPA is not enforcing the law. He stressed that he is a huge supporter of more energy options and the RFS provides just this and he called out to other candidates to make up their mind on their RFS position.

Listen to why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to be president: Chris Christie at the Iowa State Fair

U.S. Senator from Texas Ted Cruz (R) took much of his time to crack jokes about the Democrats andTed Cruz the rest of his time to talk about all the U.S. government executive orders he would rescind along with government organizations he would dismantle including the IRS, Department of Education and all the other ABCs. And Cruz promised he will reign in the regulatory agencies that “descend like locusts on farms and ranches and small businesses.” As for energy, not sure if reigning in the EPA includes revisions (or trying to overturn) the Renewable Fuel Standard, Clean Power Plan or WOTUS.

Listen to why Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz wants to be president: Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair

Bobby JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) went back to the “by the bootstraps” message. He said this election is all about the American dream, like most other candidates, and how to bring it back. He wants to evolutionize the economy, stop illegal immigration, buff up our military power and curb the power of regulatory agencies such as the EPA who is regulating the “water in our backyards”. He concluded, “I ask you to believe again. Let’s rescue the idea of America before it slips away.”

Listen to why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants to be president: Bobby Jindal at the Iowa State Fair

Mark EversonThe very last presidential candidate to take the stage was Mark Everson (R) who is the former IRS Commissioner. Who better to call for tax reform than the person who knows it best. He said that this campaign, this country, needs a new type of politician (one could argue Donald Trump and Ben Carson are proving this to be true). In that he meant one who isn’t a life-long politician but rather one who knows how to run a business. He stressed that tax reform would get the economy going.

Listen to why Mark Everson, former IRS Commissioner wants to be president: Mark Everson at the Iowa State Fair

And thus concludes our #Energy and #Ag coverage of the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair. The election is long so the candidates (especially the Democratic candidates) who chose not to address these concerns head on will have some time to get their messages straight before the caucus tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2016.

Perry Urges Return to “Constitutional Country”

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s main message on the soapbox yesterday at the Iowa State Fair was to get America back to a constitutional country. Citing the 10th amendment, he stressed that power and decision making needs to go back to the state and to the people, as intended by our founding fathers. Power needs to be taken away from a corrupt Washington, D.C.

Rick Perry“I’m mad as hell and I’m going to do something to change it,” said Perry if he is elected.

He also believes that educational curriculum, health insurance and transportation infrastructure should be brought back to the state and not dictated by the government. He wants to secure the border and strengthen the military. “People have belly full of decisions made 1,500 miles away instead of right here in this state,” he said. “I think it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said It’s pretty easy to farm when your plow is a pencil and you’re 1,500 miles away from the farm. And that’s what we’re seeing today as we see this continual consolidation of power in Washington, D.C.,” added Perry.

Throughout his speech he said continually said he would bring the constitution back as a guide for the country – a place we got away from and need to go back to in order to bring back strength, prosperity and the American dream to the people. The former state agriculture commissioner for Texas did not take questions nor did he address energy or ag in any detail while on stage.

Listen to why former Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to be president: Rick Perry at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Prez Candidates Tell ‘Bootstraps’ Stories

I’ve hit on a few common themes in recent posts after hearing more than a dozen soapbox speeches at the Iowa State Fair. Another one: how the presidential candidates’ parents succeeded with nothing to make life better for their children and the children pulling themselves up by their “bootstraps” to become successful.

Marco RubioThese stories were no different when Florida Senator Marcus Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich took the stage. Rubio’s parents immigrated from Cuba. He noted that America doesn’t owe him, he owes America. He also said that he wants to continue living in a country where what his parents did for him he can do for his children. But that dream, he said, is slipping away. How can the country bring back the American dream? He said the first step is addressing the economy. “We’re not just facing an economic downturn, we’re facing an economic revolution….We need to modernize economic policies so we can compete with the rest of the world.”

He also stressed the need to keep our people safe and noted that America is not fully utilizing its energy resources. Like many before him, other than a passing comment, he did not address energy, environment and agriculture.

Listen to why Florida Senator Marcus Rubio wants to be president:Marcus Rubio at the Iowa State Fair

John KasichOhio Governor John Kasich also shared his “bootstrap” story and shared other antidotes rather than really hitting hard on any particular issue. However, during the question portion he was asked his position on agriculture. He answered, “I’m for agriculture. You listen to Terry Branstad [Iowa Governor] and you think about traditional agriculture but what we really have to do is begin to think about how agriculture is going to look like in the next 20 or 25 years. I believe there are so many products that can come from traditional agriculture that can improve the lives of all Americans. And I keep pushing our people to think about that, to use our universities to do the research and to make sure that agriculture and business is closely linked together so that we can spawn new industries out of agriculture.”

“We’re lucky in Ohio,” Kasich continued. “We found natural gas and one of the great things about that is it’s allowing us to become energy independent. So we don’t have to kowtow to the Saudies anymore when it comes down to conducting our foreign policy. We need to look into the future on all of these things, on agriculture, on energy.”

Listen to why Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to be president: John Kasich at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Republican Candidates: ‘We Can Fix America’

The battle cry of the presidential Republican candidates is to fix America through debt elimination, military strength and cooperation. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham took the stage during the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox and spoke to thousands of people at the Iowa State Fair. While the crowd is supposed to be polite, manners took a back stage during Walker’s remarks especially when he said, “If we can fix a state like Wisconsin we can fix America.”

The candidates want to take the power out of Washington, D.C. and bring it back to the state houses and to the hard working people. Walker, somewhat in jest, said Washington is 68 square miles surrounded by reality. Let’s take a look at what the candidates believe is reality.

Scott WalkerScott Walker is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be reigned in. He said they are killing the farmers (he was referring to WOTUS, or the Waters of the U.S.) and is pushing for an all above energy strategy. He approved the Keystone Pipeline on the first vote and continues to do so. In terms of climate change he said that there needs to be a balance between sustainable environment and a sustainable economy. He does not support the “ethanol mandate” or the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but because it is in place and there is an industry based on the legislation the country needs to support the bill. However, he is pushing for consumer choice at the pump through market access and availability at the pump for higher blends of ethanol. His state has offered grants for retail stations, especially those independently owned, to be able to put flex fuel pumps and offer additional ethanol blends.

Listen to why Wisconsin Governor wants to be president here:Scott Walker at the Iowa State Fair

Lindsey GrahamLindsey Graham spent the majority of his time discussing his military strategy. He said there are, “Too many terrorists. Too much debt. Too few jobs.” He has been in the Air Force for 33 years and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan while he was in the reserves. He stressed that he is the first candidate to push to go back to war not end war. “If I’m elected we going to go back and pound them into the sand,” he said of Iraq. He did not address energy, environment or agriculture so we’ll have to continue to follow his campaign to see if and what his stance is on these issues.

Listen to why Senator Lindsey Graham wants to be president here:Lindsey Graham at the Iowa State Fair

Carly FiorinaWhile some candidates didn’t use any of their time to take questions, Carly Fiorina dedicated the majority of her time in answering questions. Like others, she believes the minimum wage should be increased but not uniformly; rather, the pay should be comparable to the cost of living which is different not only from state to state but from city to city. She too took aim at the EPA and stressed innovation rather than regulation will be more effective. And like Walker, she too doesn’t support ethanol mandates and believes they should be phased out. Needless to say, this position is not too popular in country’s largest ethanol producing state. Similar to Graham, she did not directly address agriculture or the environment.

Listen to why Carly Fiorina wants to be president here:Carly Fiorina at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Jeb Bush Kicks off Fair Speech on Energy

Republican Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and presidential hopeful, kicked off his time on the Presidential Soapbox promoting his support of renewable energy and agriculture. Florida has a huge agriculture community and is home to one of the first advanced cellulosic facilities, Ineos Bio located in Vera Beach, that began production in May of 2013. The plant uses wood, plant and landfill waste. And this May, the Advanced Disposal plant began producing gas-to-energy from the emissions created by the Sarasota County, Florida landfill.

Bush began his Jeb Bush at Presidential Soapboxremarks by focusing on an America in decline. But unlike his predecessors, he enveloped his support of two of Iowa’s largest industry’s – renewable energy and agriculture – at the very beginning of his talk rather than waiting until he was asked by an Iowa State fairgoer his stand of the two issues.

Bush noted that the EPA, through its Clean Air Act, “will stifle the ability for industry to be created and agriculture to work leading the world”. “We have serious, serious problems,” continued Bush. “We need to embrace the energy revolution, and be energy secure with North American resources in a short period of time with American ingenuity, American innovation and American technology.”

Listen to why Jeb Bush wants to be president here:Jeb Bush at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Dems Webb & O’Malley Take the Soapbox

Democratic hopeful presidential candidates Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley both appeared on the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox yesterday afternoon speaking to hundreds of Iowans attending the Iowa State Fair. They have some fundamental issues in common, including both the need for better education and to bring the American dream, aka the economy, back to Americans. While Webb’s plans to do so were a bit more fluid, O’Malley pitched his 15 point plan to American prosperity. This includes tackling climate change and fostering global sustainably development.

Jim Webb at Presidential SoapboxIn terms of energy Jim Webb supports agriculture and renewable energy. He supports the pipeline and says that reports show environmentally the pipeline is neutral. He said he supports an “all above” energy strategy and that includes nuclear energy. He noted America has the safest, best managed nuclear program in the world and it is “totally” clean.

When asked if he supported the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) he replied that he supported renewable energy. He said Iowa is the perfect example of a place where it can work. He has visited a wind farm and an ethanol plant and said he was impressed with the technological advancements seen in the ethanol industry.

To learn more about why Jim Webb wants to be our next president listen to his speech here: Jim Webb at the Iowa State Fair

Martin O'Malley at Presidential SoapboxDuring the question and answer portion of the speech, O’Malley was asked about renewable energy, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. He advocates for a clean energy grid by 2050 that he says will be “just in the nick of time”. He noted that in Iowa, 30 percent of electricity not only comes from wind energy, but highlighted the fact that multiple wind turbine components are manufactured in the state as well. He touted Hawaii’s goal of 100 percent renewable electricity and California’s 50 percent goal.

O’Malley also stressed that Renewable Energy Portfolios (REPs/RES) and the RFS should not only stay in place, but they should be expanded. He stressed that these are the drivers of American ingenuity in technology development and the next generation of clean energy technologies.

To learn more about why Martin O’Malley wants to be our next president listen to his speech here: Martin O'Malley at the Iowa State Fair