EPA favors oil refiners over corn farmers

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, September 26, 2019
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Montanans love their corn. Corn farmers have had a lot to contend with this year and the weather hasn’t helped.

Montana corn growers have a lot to contend with lately. They are struggling with tariffs, oil concessions, and weather. Farmer's need stability.

Even locally, small growers still have to contend with the wet season. 

Bridget Gallagher of Gallagher’s farm in Clark, Wyoming said, “This year’s corn crop was about a week behind schedule because of the wet/cold spring. As we get into our later varieties we are finding that the cold weather did affect the corn’s pollination. This has caused the corn to ripen at different speeds and makes picking it a little more challenging. We have to really pay attention to each ear and make sure it’s ripe before picking.” 

On July 5, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rule for 2020. It said that once again EPA has failed to account for lost volumes due to refinery exemptions and uphold the President’s commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We are frustrated the EPA did not account for potential waived gallons going forward in the proposed rule,” said National Corn Growers Association President and Nebraska farmer Lynn Chrisp. “If the EPA continues to grant retroactive waivers, the RVO numbers are meaningless and the EPA is not following the law. Farmers are facing a very tough economic environment and the continued waiver abuse chips away at farmers’ bottom line.”

Since early 2018, the EPA has granted 53 RFS exemptions totaling 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuel. There are currently 38 pending petitions for 2018.

EPA also failed to uphold the D.C. Circuit Court’s 2017 ruling, requiring the Agency to account for 500 million gallons it improperly waived in 2016. “There is no reason for the EPA to not account for those gallons,” Chrisp added. “It appears the EPA continues to favor big oil and not uphold the RFS. This narrative is getting old. It is time for the EPA to follow the law to ensure the waivers do not destroy volume requirements.”

NCGA thanks Secretary Perdue and his team at USDA for their continued support and work on this issue. Secretary Perdue has been instrumental in making sure the voice of the American corn farmer is heard.

Founded in 1957, the National Corn Growers Association represents nearly 40,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. NCGA and its 50 affiliated state organizations work together to create and increase opportunities for corn growers.

 On August 26, some good news for corn farmers:

The National Corn Growers Association welcomed the announcement that the United States and Japan have reached an agreement in principle that sets the stage for increased market access for American agriculture products in Japan. 

“This is very encouraging news,” said NCGA President Lynn Chrisp. “Japan is the second-largest purchaser of U.S. corn and has been an important, longstanding trading partner with America’s corn farmers. We hope the next stage of negotiations are successful in enhancing rules of trade and building on this strong relationship.”

Chrisp said NCGA is continuing conversations with the Trump Administration to learn more details on what specifically Sunday’s announcement will mean for America’s corn farmers.

The U.S.-Japan announcement follows recent Administrative actions that have added to growing economic concerns across rural America. On Friday, the Chinese government announced it would levy an additional ten percent tariff on U.S. products, including corn and ethanol, in response to President Trump’s recent increase in tariffs on Chinese products. And earlier this month President Trump approved ethanol waivers to big oil companies, significantly reducing demand for corn.

“An agreement with Japan is an achievement NCGA has long advocated for and a much-needed breakthrough amid some challenging times,” Chrisp said. “There is more work to do. Moving forward, it’s important the Administration continue efforts to gain market access for U.S. products and work to reaffirm its commitment to renewable fuels.”

Back at the farm in Red Lodge, the Gallaghers swear by the stable local market to keep them going. Right in Carbon County, says Bridget, they have found a real life saver for the small farmer in Montana farmer’s markets. Even though small farmers struggle, there is nothing like local support to keep a farm going. 

Gallagher stresses, “The Red Lodge Farmers Market has always been so supportive of what our family does! All the customers that come to our booth throughout the summer months are so appreciative of what we do and we can’t thank the town of Red Lodge enough for supporting all we do. Red Lodge is our best town for meat and corn sales! Yay Red Lodge! You’re awesome!”