WASHINGTON, DC, US — US corn growers offered mixed reviews of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Fuels Standard volume standards for 2021 and 2022 and proposed reconsideration of 2020 volumes.

In December the EPA proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) that would undercut blending requirements for biofuels in 2021 and would retroactively waive 2.96 billion gallons from 2020 RVOs finalized almost two years ago. Under the proposal, 2022 volumes return to statutory levels and the administration pledges to deny all improper small refinery exemption applications. While that proposal drew praise from corn industry representatives who were part of a virtual hearing before the EPA on Jan. 4, its proposal to retroactively waive required blended gallons raised concerns. 

Timely implementation of meaningful Renewable Fuels Standard volumes provides certainty in agriculture markets, reduces emissions and lowers fuel prices, NCGA told EPA officials.

“Corn farmers produce low-carbon feedstock for low-carbon ethanol, offering immediate and affordable emissions reductions and a vital pathway for agriculture to help address climate change,” Chris Edgington, president of the NCGA, said during the hearing. “But our success helping you meet these commitments depends on EPA sending a clear and firm message that volume requirements will be enforced.”

Edgington urged the EPA to move quickly to finalize the strong 2022 volume proposal and the denial of pending RFS waiver petitions, actions that would put more clean fuels in the market and repair “RFS integrity.” He also told the EPA that proposed retroactive cuts to 2020 volumes would undermine the 2022 proposal and reward the use of more oil in place of cleaner renewables, asking the agency to avoid the precedent of reopening final volumes.

“As EPA finalizes and enforces the delayed RFS volumes and puts the RFS on track, we ask you to work with us to achieve greater emission reductions and cleaner air through the use of more renewable, sustainable, affordable ethanol,” Edgington said.

Meanwhile, the American Bakers Association (ABA) offered an opposing view, testifying on Jan. 4 that the EPA should exercise its authority to decrease advanced biofuel quota. The ABA said such cuts are needed to help assure the public will be able to find and afford basic food staples such as baked foods in the months ahead.

“The EPA’s proposed increase in advanced biofuel required volume obligations could jeopardize the ability for our members to meet the constant demand of providing millions of baked goods to grocery stores, restaurants, and federal feeding programs,” said Lee Sanders, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations at the ABA.  “That’s because soybean oil, a critical ingredient for bakers, has been increasingly diverted away from the food supply chain and toward the production of advanced biofuels, as federally directed by the EPA’s RFS program.” 

The public comment period about the EPA proposals will end Feb. 4.