Staff Editorial

Best thing that ever happened to farmers? Not quite

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks during a visit to the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs,
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks during a visit to the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

President Donald Trump deserves credit for his recent move to ease regulations on ethanol sales, which has been a top priority for both Republicans and Democrats in Iowa politics for years. However, the administration still has a long way to go toward offering a truly pro-farmer agenda.

On Tuesday, the president visited Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, where he touted a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that will make E15 fuel — with a higher portion of corn-based ethanol than commonly available E10 — more accessible throughout the year.

Under existing federal regulations, E15 sales were restricted during the summer driving season, which ethanol promoters say has been a barrier to adoption for retailers who are reluctant to upgrade their equipment to accommodate a fuel that’s only available for part of the year.

We join corn growers — and politicians who depend on their tax payments — in celebrating the prospect of expanded E15. However, the president is overstating his case.

“The best thing that ever happened to the farmers is me. … The farmers are my best friends. Nobody has treated the farmers better than Donald Trump,” Trump told a group of White House reporters before his Iowa events on Tuesday.

We suspect most Iowa farmers would be surprised to hear that the Trump agenda is the “best thing that ever happened” to the agriculture industry. The truth is, his protectionist trade policies have imposed heavy burdens on producers already struggling with weak commodity prices.

Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a pro-trade group, estimates Trump’s tariffs have cost Iowans some $110 million so far. That doesn’t account for future lost income because foreign trade partners are finding new sellers.


Additionally, the ethanol industry is frustrated at the Trump administration for approving Renewable Fuel Standard waivers to refineries, which cuts demand for ethanol.

Frustratingly, Trump’s top supporters in Iowa tend to shy away from calling out the bad parts of the Trump agenda.

In a guest column published in the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil this week, Iowa’s trio of GOP standard-bearers — U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley and Gov. Kim Rey-nolds — delivered glowing praise to the president, with no mention of trade policy or ethanol waivers.

Expanded E15 is a step forward for Iowa’s economy, but tariffs and ethanol waivers have been big leaps backward. If Trump wants to be a champion for farmers, he will pursue free trade and enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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