MANCHESTER — Another day, another round in the Ted Cruz-Terry Branstad battle over ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The Iowa Republican governor stood by his comment that he wants to see the Texas senator defeated in Iowa’s GOP precinct caucuses Monday because of Cruz’s opposition to the RFS.
Congress created the standard in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing dependence on imported oil. It requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.
“They asked me a point blank question, I gave them a one-word answer,” Branstad said when asked Monday about his comment last week that Cruz should be defeated. “I gave an honest answer to a point blank question and, you know me, that’s the kind of person that I am.”
He’s the kind of person who will “fight for and stand up for things that are important to my state,” Branstad said, “and certainly farm income and jobs are among those.”
However, Cruz wasn’t backing off his position that ethanol should not enjoy a mandate that, he said, makes Iowa and Iowa corn farmers dependent on Washington.
“The lobbyists very much want Iowa to stay focused on the RFS,” Cruz told more than 100 people who crowded into the Fireside Pub & Steakhouse in Manchester. “If every year Iowa has to go back to the Washington politicians and say ‘keep this Band-Aid in place,’ it means the lobbyists will be paid each and every year. It means the politicians get paid each and every year.”
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Branstad pointed out that since the EPA reduced the volume of renewable fuel that must be included in transportation fuel, it’s been farmers who aren’t getting paid. The price of corn has dropped below the cost of production, he said.
“That has hurt, not only farm income, but it’s caused layoffs by John Deere and Kinze Manufacturing and others,” Branstad said at his weekly news conference.
As a result of his position on ethanol and Cruz, Branstad has been attacked by a pro-Cruz political action committee, Conservative Solutions. It is airing radio ads saying Cruz would stand up to “lobbyist, thugs and the politicians they own. Branstad and Trump. Branstad values, Trump values ...”
“It’s interesting,” Branstad said. “I’m being attacked by Hillary Clinton and now I’m being attacked by a lobbyist group that’s supporting Ted Cruz.
“But listen, I’ve been attacked and I’ve been attacked regularly by a lot of people, but that doesn’t bother me because I recognize that my responsibility is to the people of Iowa and to be an advocate and a supporter of things that are important to them,” the governor said.
Cruz, who is from a big oil-producing state, said he doesn’t have it in for Branstad or ethanol. But he said Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in energy or any other marketplace.
“My view on energy is that God has blessed this nation with abundant resources, and we should pursue all of them,” he said.
That might be exactly Branstad’s point. He agrees there’s room in the marketplace for a variety of energy sources in addition to oil.
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“I’m proud to stand up and support all of those jobs at the ethanol plants, the biodiesel plants, the people who are working to make wind turbines and blades and towers, and the farmers who are getting income from selling their corn to ethanol plants and buying (dried distiller’s grain) to feed their cattle,” he said. “This is important to our state’s economy, and I want to make sure that the voters of Iowa are knowledgeable and well-informed on all of the candidates and that they get out and vote in those caucuses because it’s important to our economy.”
Cruz, who also visited Independence on Monday, will be back in the area before the caucuses. He has a 1:30 p.m. rally Sunday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Building C, 4261 Oak Crest Hill Rd., Iowa City.
On Wednesday, his surrogates, U.S. Rep. Steve King and former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, will be at Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., Iowa City, at 1 p.m.