As farmers, it’s not in our nature to brag on ourselves. We take great pride in our work, and in how our farm businesses play critical roles in our rural economy. But we get busy doing and would rather let the quality of our work speak for itself. We answer the call when it comes to serving our neighbors and our country, and we have faith that each seed we plant will yield a harvest that goes to feeding, clothing and fueling folks in our communities and around the world. When the call came to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil, farmers were quick to do our part in growing a safe, sustainable energy supply, and today, the U.S. is the leading ethanol producer in the world.
Last year, we produced enough ethanol to take the place of 560 million barrels of gasoline refined from crude oil. American farmers work hard to ensure our country is energy independent. Most of us can still recall the pangs of the oil crisis of the 1970s, but thanks to innovation and home-grown fuel, we are doing our best to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. We are growing fuel that is better for our economy and our environment: It’s time for our industry to do a little bragging here.
Renewable fuels have been a real American success story, creating jobs and boosting our economy. Last year, the ethanol industry supported more than 350,000 American jobs and increased U.S. household income by $24 billion. Thanks to ethanol blends, all consumers are seeing a savings at the gas pump by roughly 10 percent per gallon. Studies show the RFS brings a cost savings of almost $18 billion a year to the overall economy. It seems the only ones who don’t enjoy the cheaper gas prices are the oil companies.
Of course, there will always be folks who think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. That’s what we have run into with big oil pushing to cap prices on Renewable Identification Numbers. Farmers breathed a sigh of relief when President Trump rejected this idea and announced he would not be moving forward with plans to overhaul biofuels policy. While times are tough for America’s farmers, with net farm income down 50 percent in the last four years, oil companies can’t say the same. As of this June, crude oil prices are up 38 percent from last year. RINs were created to hold those companies accountable and allow the market to drive use of biofuels. Capping prices on RINs chokes out growth in a biofuels market that is meant to benefit the environment and rural and urban America alike.
Unfortunately, the market is still dealing with the effects of waivers and depressed RIN prices. Price caps would have made things worse, and the president took a clear stand with farmers by rejecting a bad deal for America. It’s not enough for us simply to call out potentially harmful deals when we see them, however. We also need to champion good proposals. That’s why we’re calling on the administration to move forward with the commitment on getting more ethanol choice to consumers by lifting summertime restrictions on sales of E15.
We’re long overdue to build on the success of the RFS. It makes sense to take things that are working and make them better. We shouldn’t settle for less than the best with our fuel either. The RFS was not meant to stop at an arbitrary blend wall: the 10 percent was a starting point to allow businesses and vehicles to catch up with a new biofuel supply--and now they have. Now we’re starting to see the growth of E15 on the market. It’s time for the EPA to adjust its requirements and allow for year-round sales of higher blends, like E15. Affordable, clean energy should always be in season.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.