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The U.S. House on Thursday passed several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing high fuel and food costs and supply chain issues, including expanding the availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends.
The measure passed the House 221-204 in a largely party-line vote, with five Democrats voting against and seven Republicans voting in favor. Every member of Iowa’s U.S. House delegation supported the legislation.
The legislation allows for year-round sale nationwide of E15 ethanol blend, similar to provisions included in an executive order recently signed by President Joe Biden.
The Environmental Protection Agency in April issued an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 gasoline — gasoline that uses a 15 percent ethanol blend — to be sold during the summer driving season, citing the strain on the nation’s fuel supply caused by the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine.
Eight midwestern states, including Iowa, notified the EPA in May that they will make E15 available year-round.
“Increasing our biofuel blends and transportation fuel will help to bring down the cost at the pump, and also to help replenish our fuel supply,” said bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion. “We are seeing those gas prices at record highs and our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is now at a 35-year low.”
The package now moves to the Senate, where it has support among Republicans who represent ethanol-producing states, including Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.
“Today Iowa’s delegation spoke with one united voice to support consumer access to cleaner, lower-cost E15,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said in a statement.
Shaw thanked U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-West Des Moines, for working with Democratic leadership to ensure the E15 provision was included in the bill.
“We also applaud Reps. Randy Feenstra, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Ashley Hinson for putting aside party politics and standing up for what is right for Iowa and consumers across the country,” Shaw said. “E15 costs on average 10 to 30 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded fuel, providing instant relief in this time of record-high gas prices. It has never been more important than it is today that E15 continue to be available at the pump across the country all year long.”
The House also passed legislation introduced by Hinson aimed to make it easier for farmers to access precision agriculture technology through USDA programs.
The legislation increases cost share and practice payments under existing federal programs to incentivize the purchase of precision agriculture equipment, systems, and technology.
Hinson, during a conference call with Iowa reporters on Friday, said expansion of affordable precision agriculture technologies and applications will help increase crop yields and reduce inputs costs, while also preventing soil degradation and decreasing nutrient runoff into Iowa waterways.
Precision agriculture helps farmers determine which and how much fertilizer is best for current soil conditions, saving money, lowering emissions, and improving soil and water quality with less runoff, supporters say.
“Farmers’ increased productivity, sustainability and efficiency are resulting in record corn yields using fewer resources to meet food, feed, fuel and export needs, helping keep consumer prices down in the face of high oil prices and improving environmental outcomes,” according to the National Corn Growers Association.
However, many of these technologies remain cost prohibitive for the average farmers, Hinson said Friday.
She said the legislation is part of her effort to empower farmers with conservation tools rather than “getting government bureaucrats to tell them how to do their jobs.”
“The bottom line here is farmers are the best caretakers of their own land,” she said. “No one cares more about our environment and preserving it for generations to come than farmers do. It’s my goal we should be harnessing the knowledge and experience within our agriculture community to, again, help provide innovative solutions to the climate challenges that our country is facing and our world is facing.”
The House also passed the Strengthening the Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Act that would create a dedicated task force to shore up the American food supply chain to bring prices down and prevent future shortages.
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