A bipartisan group of 15 U.S. Senators wrote Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday, asking him to direct some of the department's coronavirus relief aid to struggling biofuel producers. In their letter, Sens, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and 12 of their colleagues note that as Americans have followed the advice of their state and local governments and remained at home, fuel consumption has dropped dramatically.
"The decrease in fuel consumption has left production facilities little choice but to idle production or close completely,” the senators wrote in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“Farm income and prices for corn and other crop commodities are directly linked to the health of the renewable fuel industry, as ethanol plants use 40 percent of all corn grown in the United States ," they continued.
"Among other feedstocks, biodiesel and renewable diesel producers currently use over 8 billion pounds of soybean oil a year, creating demand that adds 13 percent to the cash price of a bushel of soybeans," the senators said.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, 41 ethanol plants with an annual production capacity of 3.2 billion gallons have been fully idled, while 66 plants have reduced their output rates by a collective 1.8 billion gallons.
Another 13 plants with 0.8 billion gallons of capacity were closed or idled due to other factors prior to the national health emergency.
“Once again, renewable fuel champions in the Senate are working tirelessly to stand up for an industry that is vitally important to rural America,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, in a written statement.
“We thank them for recognizing the unprecedented challenges facing ethanol producers today and seeking solutions to help our industry weather this storm," Cooper said. "Ethanol prices have plunged to record lows, stocks are at all-time highs, and plants throughout the Heartland are shutting down.
"As ethanol serves as the largest market for U.S. corn growers, the well-being of the ethanol industry is directly linked to farm income and the livelihood of farm families across the nation. We agree with the senators that providing assistance to the renewable fuels industry would be an appropriate and timely use of emergency relief funding appropriated to USDA,” he concluded.
In addition to Grassley, Klobuchar , and Duckworth the letter is cosigned by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Roy Blunt, R-Mont. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and John Thune, R-S.D.