While NAFTA rewrite passes, EPA movement disappoints Heartland farmers

Published: Dec. 19, 2019 at 6:55 PM CST
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Farmers were thrown big news Thursday: A long-awaited trade deal is set to open up some much-needed revenue, but a decision by the EPA is throwing a wrench into the celebrations.

A portion of recent corn harvests will likely be turned into ethanol thanks in large part to a policy that requires oil companies to produce a certain amount of biofuel. It's called the Renewable Fuel Standard, and farmers like Curt Mether rely on it.

“The RFS says we need to use 15 billion gallons a year, that’s kind of the standard,” Mether said.

Two years ago, the EPA started issuing waivers to small oil refineries allowing them to ignore the ethanol requirement. This hurt corn farmers' bottom line, so they began making noise in Washington.

"It's discouraging you know how hard we've worked on the EPA. We've been all over the place trying to get them to understand,” Mether said.

The hope was that the EPA would require big oil refineries to make up for the loss, but that's looking unlikely.

"They still claim they're going to do it, but now they have some wiggle room — that if they don't want to they don't have to,” Mether said.

But it's not all bad news today, Mether said.

was sent to the president's desk Thursday.

"It's a really good deal for agriculture," Mether said. "Mexico is the number one buyer of corn."

"It won't be until next year, but it will be soon next year, but we're confident the Senate will pass it,” said Mether.

Not everyone is comfortable with delay.

John Meier is one of the thousands of farmers to receive a portion of President Trump's $28 billion bailout designed to keep farmers afloat while the president negotiates a trade deal with China.

Meier says the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada gives him hope that a deal will soon be done with China.

"It's better if we can do it ourselves and not have to rely on someone else,” Meier said.