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Ethanol demands are down, farmers and producers point to EPA waivers

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (KTIV) – An EPA exception for small refineries has driven demand for ethanol down, upsetting several farmers and ethanol producers

The exemption for certain refineries means those refineries no longer have to blend ethanol into their product.

In August, the Environmental Protection Agency granted 31 small refinery waivers for 2018.

The waivers free refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard to blend biofuels, like ethanol, into their gasoline.

According to officials, since President Donald Trump took office, the EPA has quadrupled the number of waivers it has granted.

Ron Heck is a soybean farmer in Perry, Iowa, and the secretary for the National Biodiesel Board.

He said they are looking for the president to make a change.

“The damage is immediate as we approach our harvest. Many farmers are losing patience with the president, and he has to reign in his EPA right now or there will be political consequences because of the economic damage we are suffering,” said Heck.

One of the plants impacted by the EPA’s decisions has been Siouxland Energy Cooperative ethanol plant, in Sioux Center, which halted production a few weeks ago.

The President of the Siouxland Energy board said they can’t wait much longer for a biofuels package to be approved.

“We’re an ethanol plant. We are designed to receive corn and run it through the plant and grind it. We don’t have that at our loading facilities. But right now we are trying to figure out a way to take the corn that we have in the bins and load them and ship them to local elevators or someplace else,” said Kelly Nieuwenhuis, President of the Board of Siouxland Energy.

During September the Sioux Center plant halted production because of the EPA exemptions.

Nieuwenhuis said their facility is designed to grind up to 60,000 bushels, when operational.

While managers at Little Sioux Corn Processors in Marcus, Iowa, said they grind up nearly 130,000 to 140,000 bushels.

And as harvest ramps up, they said it could be a problem.

“Harvest is just beginning up here in northwest Iowa. And as we get further into it, that problem is going to get much more severe because as Kelly said they grind 60,000 bushels a day, we at Little Sioux grind 130,000 to 140,000 bushels a day. So in his case, that is just corn that won’t be disappearing. So it’s going to cause a huge problem for the farmers in our area,” said Daryl Haack, Member of the Board of Little Sioux Corn Processors.

According to the Board of Siouxland Energy Cooperative, the exemptions have helped to reduce ethanol demand by 4 billion gallons.

And ethanol is suffering across the country as well.

U.S. production has fallen below 1 million barrels a day, the lowest number since April.

Blake Branch

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