LINCOLN, NE—The leaders of Nebraska's commodity groups and membership associations have joined in an urgent call to action to Nebraska farmers to get vocal—and angry—about recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would reduce the nation's commitment to renewable fuels.
In a joint statement, the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Wheat Board and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association expressed great disappointment and concern regarding the recent proposal from the EPA to reduce the required amount of conventional biofuels (mainly corn and sorghum based ethanol) in the nation's fuel supply. EPA proposes to adjust the conventional biofuel requirements in Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed by Congress downward by some 1.4 billion gallons for 2014.
The groups also strongly urged Nebraska crop farmers to submit comment to the EPA expressing their displeasure with the proposed renewable fuels reduction. The 60-day comment period began on Friday, November 29, 2013.
A portal has been established on the Nebraska Corn Board website at NebraskaCorn.org, which links directly to a comment submission form and suggested verbiage on the National Corn Growers Association’s website.
"Agriculture was placed in this unstable position by EPA when they released their proposed cuts of the RFS," said Tim Scheer of St. Paul, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. "It is absolutely imperative that farmers get engaged during the 60-day comment period if we have any prayer of getting EPA to rescind this proposal. All the work and investment that Nebraska corn farmers have put into building the ethanol industry is at risk. We've already seen corn prices drift downward—almost to the cost of production."
Nebraska Soybean Association president Ken Boswell of Shickley said, "This proposal plays right into the hands of the oil industry, which has been pulling out all the stops to prevent loss of market share to renewable fuels such as ethanol and soy biodiesel," he said. "By weakening our nation's commitment to sustained growth of renewable fuels, EPA is saying that increased energy security, cleaner air, domestic jobs and consumer choice don't matter as much as oil company profits."
Dayton Christensen of Big Springs, president of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association, said the robust rural economy for the past few years—spurred in part by the RFS—has been good for all sectors of agriculture. "It doesn't matter if you grow corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans or sugar beets, the RFS has helped create greater demand for ag products, improved on-farm profitability and helped rejuvenate rural communities," he said. " We've seen young people returning to participate in this rebirth of agriculture—and farmers are able to invest in more technology to grow even more with less to meet global demand."
Don Bloss of Pawnee City, president of the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Producers Association, said, "It might be expected that farmers would be upset about this—and we are—but every American should be angry as well," he said. "The RFS is federal policy that has actually done exactly what it was supposed to do—and we should stay the course in order to increase the diversity of our nation's transportation fuel supply and help keep down costs at the pump."
Last week, three Nebraska corn farmers were among those testifying at an EPA hearing on the proposal. Nebraska Corn Board vice-chairman Curt Friesen of Henderson, Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) president Joel Grams of Minden, and NeCGA member Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner all spoke in opposition to the EPA proposal.
"The economic vitality that the RFS has spurred in rural America extends well beyond my farm. I see the impact of increased tax revenue for our county to build roads and provide services. I see main street businesses with customers in the aisles. I see entrepreneurs starting new ventures— many of which are based in agriculture and food production," Friesen said during his testimony. “And I have seen young farmers returning to agriculture, such as my daughter and son-in-law.”