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Cargill partners with sustainability roundtables

In both the US and Canada, beef processing facilities are pushing for more involvement in "sustainability" programs.
While some Canadian producers enjoyed incentive payments for such programs, other producers worry that the programs will be a moving target that become costly and impractical.
In 2016, Cargill announced that 90 percent of the beef it procures from U.S. producers would come from Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified feedyards.
This week, a Cargill representative confirmed that as of mid-October, the company has procured about 87 percent of its U.S. beef from BQA-certified sources this year, and is on track to meet the 90 percent goal by the end of the year.
Cargill is perhaps further ahead with this effort in the north country.
WHAT WAS THE PILOT PROJECT?
In 2017, the company implemented the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot project, in conjunction with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Some retailers including McDonalds made incentive payments for cattle that were owned their entire lives by Verified Beef Production Plus (similar to the U.S. Beef Quality Assurance or BQA program) certified producers. Canada's mandatory animal identification program helped the retailer know which animals fit the criteria, and the retailer was able to pay producers, stockers and feeders $10 to $20 per head for about 9,000 beef animals throughout the duration of the pilot project.
The pilot project has ended and a Cargill representative said that the company has considered continuing it in some capacity.
Cow-calf producer and feeder, Bob Lowe of Nanton, Alberta, said he received some incentive payments throughout the duration of the project.
The Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration (CBSA) pilot project was initially established as a one-year effort. Discussions are underway to potentially extend the pilot beyond one year based on the positive momentum that has been generated, said Emily Murray, Cargill general manager, McDonald's beef.
Lowe said that while he didn't see any affect on last years' market from the incentive program, some producers are advertising their calves this year as VBP plus and some feedlots are looking for calves that are VBP plus.
According to Murray, the beef was promoted using a logo developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and the project itself was developed to meet CRSB standards.
"The CBSA pilot has developed a supply chain that adheres to the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef's framework. The Canadian roundtable is an offspring of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Each nation's roundtable operates within the global framework, but has latitude to shape regional/national programs to the specific type of production system, regulations, culture and other factors that may be unique to that area's beef supply chain," said Murray.
Murray said there are no immediate plans of implementing a similar project in the U.S., but that the company is "open to opportunities that align with our goals of increasing consumer confidence and driving system value."
WHAT IS VBP?
Canadian producers who wish to be involved in the voluntary VBP plus program pay for the audit in order to become certified, said the Vice President of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. The program calls for a number of production and business protocols including responsible drug use, fair treatment of employees, responsible environmental considerations and more, Lowe said.
An auditor travels to the operation to verify compliance with the requirements. Follow-up checks are required every five years, and spot checks can occur any time. Lowe said recordkeeping is a big part of the program. "Most people are doing what needs to be done, but some just aren't keeping records," he said.
Go to verifiedbeefproductionplus.ca to learn more.
COULD THERE BE A DOWNSIDE?
Iain Aitken, a Manitoba cattle producer, said McDonalds' commitment to "sustainable" beef is vague. "At this point they say fifty percent of their product is certified sustainable, but they're happily going to call it all 'sustainable beef' while only a part of it is, at least according to their standards."
Several news stories from July of 2018 report that McDonalds Canada sources all of its beef from Canada, and that in the next year, 30 percent of it's beef would be from farms and ranches certified by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
Aitken said the protocols required for VBP plus certification are pretty low. "There is "nothing wrong with the program," said Aitken. "I'm not against beef being produced to a higher standard – that's a good idea. But there are three levels of achievement – acceptable, good and excellent. You only have to get into the 'acceptable' category to qualify," he said. "I don't like that. The standard isn't very high. There are already people producing cattle to a much higher standard and not getting a premium."
Aitken said the premium paid was not big enough to entice him to get involved. He raises cattle for a direct-to-consumer company. "I know what the margins are from the calf leaving the pasture until it becomes beef on the plate. There is a lot of money that goes missing between the farm and the restaurant table. The idea that you'd go through this for $20 per animal is a joke. If they are serious and they want to represent this product as sustainable, maybe they ought to pay $120 per animal. They can well afford to do so."
Some Canadian producers are concerned about the role that the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef will play in the future of the cattle industry, said Lowe, who has been involved "since the beginning" and who believes that it is producer controlled.
"There has been pushback from the beginning. But it seems to me that it's being more accepted all the time."
Some American producers are concerned about the CRSB's sister organization, the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and potential standards that group could impose on the industry.
Glenn Chitwood, a Hereford seedstock producer from northeastern Texas said that he attended a feed meeting recently where a Cargill representative spent more than half an hour promoting the USRSB.
"I was aware that Cargill was involved in the USRSB," he said. But he didn't expect the USRSB to be the focus of the meeting. "He gave an hour spiel and 35-40 minutes of it was on the USRSB. He said 'you'll be ahead of the game if you get involved in this.'"
Chitwood said that the Cargill spokesman said that producers who aren't working toward sustainability as defined by the USRSB don't really have a future in the industry. "Get on this or get run over. That's basically what he said," said Chitwood, who worries that the USRSB will set protocols for producers to follow, and that those who don't will comply will be penalized.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that's where this is going. When they get mandatory identification, they'll say 'you are on the naughty list' or 'you are on the nice list.’ If you don't play by the rules, you won't have a market for your cattle.'” Chitwood said producers could easily be blackballed for voicing opinions on social media that don't agree with those of the processors or retailers, for example.
Chitwood hopes more producers become educated about the USRSB, which he believes is an effort to enforce mandatory animal identification in the U.S., and encourage consolidation of the industry. "They look at it and think 'I could make 5 more cents if I do this,' but they don't realize it's leading to consolidation."
Producers who survive in today's economic environment are sustainable, he said. "My personal opinion is that sustainability means profitability. If you can do it and make money, you do it. No farmers or ranchers are endangering their livestock or overgrazing. That's our future asset. We take good care of it. We aren't out to abuse our future income strain."
"In regards to BQA standards, as a producer, I am certainly not opposed to using the highest standard of care in all husbandry areas as long as they make fiscal sense but requiring a certain protocol to be observed across all producers in varying geographic regions and with varying herd sizes is a slippery slope," said Chitwood. Certain vaccination or feeding protocols that are logical in one area of the country are not necessarily best in ALL areas of the country. I think in the beginning it will be 'sold' as a premium program and in a few short years we will look back and the producer will be bearing all the costs to obtain a minimum bid. In effect it will be "pay to play."
Lowe said he hopes involvement in VBP plus never becomes mandatory because it would kill the opportunity for incentives, and makes the program less credible. "That's the whole point of this – is to get the bulk of producers on board with this in a voluntary basis so that it doesn't become mandatory," he said.
Aitken said that in the future, those selling cattle might be docked for not being VBP plus certified. "If they limit it to a $20 per head discount for not participating, that won't break many people, but if they give you a $200 per head discount, that should equate to a $200 added value for those that choose to take part."

Q&A: Mark Gordon, Wyoming Republican Governor Candidate

1. Wyoming had a spending deficit of 1.15 billion dollars during the last budget session. Would increasing property taxes be one way you would ensure that government is funded?

No. I do not support increasing taxes as a way to address our funding shortfall. The truth is, the boom times over the last decade have resulted in advanced spending rates that Wyoming simply cannot keep up with. The biggest job of our next Governor is going to be managing spending levels without growing government while still providing the essential services the people of Wyoming depend on. To address Wyoming's funding challenges, we have to prioritize needs versus wants; make reductions to ensure we are living within our means; and look at ways to improve efficiencies and cut costs.

As Treasurer, I have worked hard to set conservative spending policies to make sure lawmakers can be confident in planning for spending money the state may or may not have. My track record in the Treasurer's office demonstrates my ability to do more with less while safeguarding taxpayer dollars. I've been a fiscal conservative all my life and I have the private and public-sector experience to chart this new course for our state.

2. Do you feel environmental groups like the Sierra Club have helped or hurt the ag industry? How will you work with them to ensure Wyoming agriculture is promoted not crippled by their actions?

Wyoming has shown time and again her ability to balance the needs of energy, agriculture and industry with responsible land management and stewardship. When constructive feedback is presented that can help Wyoming best accomplish these shared goals, I think there is opportunity to work collaboratively. However, this kind of reasonable approach is quite different than the mindless obstruction we see too often today.

I know firsthand that there are no greater stewards of our land than our ranchers and farmers. As Governor, I would work hand-in-hand with the agriculture community to ensure we have the policies and resources in place for the industry to grow and thrive.

3. What are some of the solutions you see to the challenges in Wyoming agriculture today?

From beef, lamb, bison and pork, to sugar beets, barley and hops, gluten free oats, organic wheat, and everything in between, Wyoming's ranchers and farmers combine their experience, knowledge and unparalleled work ethic with our unique environment to deliver universally admired products. As a state, we need to step up our support and promotion of the agriculture industry, expanding opportunities for exports, driving new technologies that will drive down costs and improve efficiencies, and fight for commonsense federal regulations that don't tie the hands of our ag producers.

For these reasons, I've proposed a number of policy and regulatory initiatives to address challenges and to foster and grow the state's agriculture economy. Positions and proposed initiatives include:

  • 'Born and Raised Wyo' Products: Branding and promoting livestock and agriculture products grown and raised exclusively in Wyoming.
  • Meat Inspection in Wyoming: Expanding opportunities under the state and federal meat inspection systems for Wyoming producers.
  • Enforcing Wyoming's Constitutional Obligation to Safeguard Livestock
  • Predator Control and Animal Damage: Ensuring Wyoming's wildlife is managed by Wyoming and not the Federal Government.
  • Bringing Commonsense to Federal Agencies: Leading the way to reform regulatory structures so they are implemented in a common sense and locally accountable manner.
  • Meaningful Solutions for Transportation: Fighting back against burdensome regulations and pushing for meaningful solutions that ensure safety of livestock and protection of Wyoming's agricultural industry.
  • Protecting Wyoming's Agriculture Labor Market: Working with Wyoming's Congressional Delegation to make the H-2A Visa program and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements less burdensome for sheep producers.
  • Crops, Opportunities, and Innovation: Supporting Ag Innovation Summits and cohesive agriculture policies throughout state government.
  • Expanding Export Markets: Working to expand overseas export markets for Wyoming Ag products to places like Taiwan, Vietnam and China.
  • Driving New Ag Technology: Encouraging and helping facilitate early adoption of transformative technologies in agriculture.
  • Protecting Wyoming Water: Pushing back against rules that would expand federal authority over our water and defend Wyoming's rights under our interstate compacts.

4. What is your position on a state Country of Origin Labeling law?

I have supported COOL in the past because I think it is important that customers have the opportunity to know where their goods come from.

5. What are your thoughts on the recent return of the grizzly bear to the Endangered Species List? Will this help or hurt agriculture? How?

I'm disappointed that activist litigation has succeeded in superseding the diligent work of Wyoming biologists, wildlife experts and local stakeholders in developing a conservative policy to keep the population of grizzlies healthy and reduce human conflicts. With grizzly bear populations exceeding recovery goals for many years, Wyoming's decision to reinstate a limited hunt was based in science and sound local planning.

This recent decision is unfortunate as it narrows the management options for a species which is witnessing increasingly problematic encounters with humans as both populations grow. By limiting the management options available to a status quo and precluding a reasonable hunting alternative, I believe this decision effectively relegates problem bears to a life of trapping, transportation, and euthanasia where other options might have helped to restore mutual respect between bears and humans thereby reducing the overall incidence for potentially fatal encounters.

6. Do you support any changes to the Wyoming brand law? Specifically, do you support county-to-county inspection?

This is an issue which impacts Wyoming producers across the state. It is crucial we seek input and guidance from the Wyoming Livestock Board as well as key stakeholder groups before enacting any changes to the program. I think a stakeholder engagement process that ensures the issues surrounding Wyoming brand law and county-to-county inspection are thoroughly vetted, and that we can ensure program viability, would best serve our ranching communities.

7. How important are private property rights? Do you believe energy companies should have the right to use eminent domain to gain access to private land for energy development? How should those landowners be compensated?

I believe private property rights should be respected, damages should be appropriate and companies should be required to negotiate in good faith.

Trumps tour hurricane damage

As President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump traveled to Florida and Georgia today to tour damage from Hurricane Michael and meet with farmers in Georgia, news stories detailed the extent of the damage to agriculture, particularly peanuts and chicken.

At the Georgia Operations Center for the Red Cross in Macon, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told Trump, "We lead the nation in peanut production, pecan production, forest product production. We're leaders in vegetable. So that's production. Today we're leading in destruction, unfortunately. We will lead in rebuilding."

Trump replied, "No doubt about it."

Trump also noted that former President Jimmy Carter of Georgia is a "peanut farmer, and a nice man. He is a nice man. Met him on numerous occasions. And if you think about it, that's what he did, right? Peanuts. So it's great."

Asked whether he would ask Congress for supplementary funding to respond to the hurricanes, Trump said "Yeah. The governors know that we're there for them. I've spoken with Rick Scott in Florida. Governor, you know that. We're right with you. And we'll be helping Alabama, we'll be helping all of the — as we have been with North Carolina and South Carolina. So, we're there."

Asked if he was worried about the deficit, which Treasury officials have said is the worst in recent years, Trump said, "I always worry about the deficit. But what are you going to do? You have a hurricane. I have to take care of the people. So the deficit is always a problem for me, but we take care of our people, most importantly."

To a reporter who noted that the president recently said "there is something there" about climate change, even though he has called it a hoax in the past, Trump said, "there's something there. There's no question. There is something there — manmade or not. I mean, there's something there. And it's going to go, and it's going to go back and forth. But there is something there."

Asked whether the hurricane would affect his views on the Paris Climate Accord, Trump said "No, I want crystal clean water. I want the cleanest air on the planet — which, by the way, now we have. It's gotten better since last year — even better. And I'm very, very tough on that."

–The Hagstrom Report

Livestock groups petition the Department of Transportation for Hours of Service Flexibility

WASHINGTON (October 15, 2018) – Today organizations representing livestock, bee, and fish haulers across the country submitted a petition to the Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting additional flexibility on Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. The petition asks for a five-year exemption from certain HOS requirements for livestock haulers and encourages DOT to work with the livestock industry to implement additional fatigue-management practices.

Current rules limit drive time to 11 hours and limit on-duty hours to 14. Instead, the organizations request that livestock haulers be granted approval to drive up to 15 hours with a 16-hour on-duty period, following a 10-hour consecutive rest period. Any livestock hauler wishing to operate under the extended drive time would be required to complete pre-trip planning and increased fatigue-management training.

"We are concerned that the 11- and 14-hour rules were not drafted with livestock haulers in mind and thus do not accommodate the unique character of their loads and nature of their trips," the organizations wrote. The current requirements "place the well-being of livestock at risk during transport and impose significant burdens on livestock haulers, particularly in rural communities across the country."

The strong safety record of livestock haulers demonstrates their ability to ensure the well-being of both live animals and other drivers on the road. A 2014 analysis by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that livestock haulers were underrepresented in truck-involved fatal crashes. Data cited in the petition also shows that, between 2013 and 2015, livestock haulers accounted for 6.6 percent of all commercial drivers but less than one percent of crashes involving large trucks.

Australia already implements rules for livestock haulers that focus on safety outcomes, not prescriptive limits. The petition encourages DOT to work with industry to develop and implement similar measures.

The petition was signed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Livestock Marketing Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, and the National Aquaculture Association.

Key Quotes:

"Livestock haulers are highly-trained professionals who take careful steps to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Through this petition, we hope to work with DOT to build on our industry's strong safety record and provide haulers with some additional relief from overly-restrictive Hours of Service requirements." – Kevin Kester, fifth-generation California rancher and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association

"Livestock auction markets are particularly impacted by livestock transportation. Animals are hauled into and out of markets every day. It is one of LMA's primary goals that such movement be accomplished in a safe manner for livestock and motorists alike. We feel this petition is yet another step toward necessary flexibilities for our haulers while taking proactive measures to preserve safety." – Tom Frey, Livestock Marketing Association President and owner of the Creston Livestock Auction of Creston, Iowa

"When livestock and other live animals are transported, it's important to get them to their destination safely and without delay or disruption. Safety for the driver and others on the road is a priority. That is why we are petitioning DOT to adopt modern fatigue-management practices that provide the same or greater level of safety while avoiding unintended and unnecessary stress on the animals entrusted to our care." – Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President

–NCBA

Budd Falen takes position in Interior Department as Deputy Solicitor for Wildlife and Parks

When Karen Budd Falen served on the Trump Transition Team on interior issues and was tapped for the top job at the Bureau of Land Management, she knew some concessions would have to be made.

After the FBI background check was completed, she was asked to leave her post at the Cheyenne, Wyo., law firm she and her husband, Frank Falen, founded. It was something she was willing to do because she knew the importance of the position and how she would be able to help agriculture, especially in the West.

She then agreed to withdraw from her current cases. Then she agreed to recuse herself from any cases involving the Department of the Interior.

“Then they just kept adding conditions and conditions,” she said.

Budd Falen then agreed to begin the process to change the name of the law firm. The next thing asked was for her husband not to accept any cases having to do with the Department of the Interior. Frank Falen’s specialty is representing private landowners entering into oil and gas contracts, while Budd Falen specialized in federal issues.

“We said okay because this is really important and maybe we can help the livestock industry so we agreed to that condition,” she said.

They then suggested that her husband not remain as a private attorney at all. Knowing the gravity of the position at stake, she and Falen agreed.

“We agreed to all this stuff but then last March they came back and said there’s one more condition,” she said. “The condition is you have to sell your interest in your family ranch in Big Piney that we’ve had for five generations and your husband has to sell his interest in his family-owned ranch in Nevada.”

That was when Budd Falen said she drew the line. A rancher first and foremost, selling her interest and her husband’s interest in their ranches wasn’t negotiable.

Budd Falen’s family ranch — the land, the BLM permits — have all been the same and in the family for five generations.

“There has never been an appeal or a problem with our grazing allotments ever,” she said.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

When asked for an explanation, knowing she would have to recuse herself if a future issue were ever to arise, she was told that if she were ever to do anything good for BLM permittees across the West, her ranch could potentially benefit, causing a conflict of interest.

“With that same logic, a taxpayer cannot be the head of the IRS,” she said.

Budd Falen was then offered the position of deputy solicitor for wildlife and parks, which she accepted. She said she will work on issues relating to the Endangered Species Act, the National Park Service, wildlife refuges and national monuments. But, she said, she will not sell the ranch.

“It’s all related to private property use and less government regulation which I am a strong supporter of,” she said.

A new director of the BLM has not yet been named. Budd Falen said after watching the latest confirmation hearing, she’s doubtful that anyone would agree to go through the process.

“That was such a disservice,” she said. “I don’t care which side of the issue you’re on, if you can’t disagree and be nice to one another while you’re disagreeing … I don’t think either side actually won.”

She said having a discussion with opposing views is good, which is one of the things she looks forward to during her time in the capitol, where she hopes to bring some of the realities of the West to Washington.

“I think there’s lot of good people back there,” she said. “I think unless you’ve lived out here and tried to make a living on the land and really worked with people out here, I think you don’t have the perspective. Not to take away from people who are there now, I just think I’ll have a different perspective from what I’ve done for the past 30 years.”

Budd Falen will begin her time in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, returning to Wyoming as frequently as possible. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 392-4410.

Thune, Nelson praise Senate passage of 5-year federal aviation legislation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who respectively serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statements on the 93 to 6 Senate vote on H.R. 302, the legislative vehicle for the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, a five-year authorization of the federal aviation programs and a three-year reauthorization of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Headed to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature, the legislation will help modernize airport infrastructure, improve service for the flying public, enhance transportation safety and security, and boost aviation industry innovation.

"In creating new protections and enhancements for the flying public, this bill creates five years of stable policy direction for the aviation community," said Thune. "Travelers, utilizing small and large airports, will benefit from investments in infrastructure, more efficient security screening, and the prompt return of fees for services they don't receive. Innovators also get a needed boost from provisions enhancing the competitiveness of our aircraft manufacturers and the continued integration of unmanned aircraft into our airspace."

"There's a lot to like in this bill, especially if you're fed up with shrinking airline seats," said Nelson. "It also goes to show that when folks in Congress put aside their differences, the public comes out the winner."

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is the result of bipartisan negotiations among the leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). Thune and Nelson thank Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who serve respectively as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee's Aviation Subcommittee; Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Sen.. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who lead the subcommittee with responsibility for non-aviation Transportation Security Administration responsibilities for their contributions; and the entire membership of the full committee and the members of other Senate and House committees who contributed to the legislation.

Highlights of H.R. 302:

Modernizing airport infrastructure

Provides funding for airport development.

Increases flexibility to finance projects.

Requires TSA to make available, in airports and online, real-time information on security line waits.

Improving service for the flying public

Prohibits involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded.

Directs FAA to set minimum standards for airline seat sizes.

Requires private rooms for nursing mothers in large and medium airports.

Ensures airlines promptly return fees for services (seat assignments, early boarding, etc.) not received.

Establishes an aviation consumer advocate within the U.S. Department of Transportation

Enhancing safety and security

Strengthens aviation training, reporting, tracking, and cybersecurity.

Provides new risk-mitigation authorities for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Authorizes more canine security teams and, to meet demand, expands ways to test and certify dogs.

Boosting innovation

Streamlines certifications for design and delivery of aircraft to boost competitiveness of aviation manufacturing.

Furthers efforts to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the airspace through traffic management system advancements and research.

Creates an Office of Spaceports to support licensing and promote infrastructure improvements.

Authorizes approval for civil supersonic aircraft that reduce sonic booms.

Disaster assistance

Provides $1.68 billion in supplemental appropriations for disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Reforms Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs to help communities better prepare for and respond to disasters of all types.

Additional resources:

Senate FAA bill section-by section summary (75 pages) available here.

Joint Senate/House highlights summary (5 pages) available here.

H.R. 302, FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, full bill text (1207 pages) available here.

–Senator Thune

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming to hold gubernatorial debate in Riverton, Oct. 24

ICOW (Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming) and WY SFW (Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife) will host a Gubernatorial Candidate Debate on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Riverton. The debate will be in the Little Theater Room, located on the campus of the Central College, at 6 p.m.

ICOW and WY SFW will alternate questions between the two organizations until 8 PM. At the conclusion of the debate, each candidate will be given 3 and a half minutes to wrap up their comments. The event will conclude at approximately 8:30 p.m. Any ICOW members who would like to submit a question for the debate, please submit it to Judy McCullough (jmccullough@collinscom.net) or Bobby Giesse (wyocattle@hughes.net).

–Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Trump announces E15, heads to Iowa as ag groups praise decision

President Donald Trump today told reporters that he has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to allow year-round sales of E15, the gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol, and headed to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a campaign rally to boost Republican candidates.

As he boarded the Marine One helicopter, Trump said, "So we're heading out to Iowa, where we have a big statement to make, as you know, on ethanol and for our farmers. Likewise, we're taking care of our refineries and our refiners, and they've done a fantastic job. But we want to get more fuel into the system, and this is a great thing."

"But they're great for our farmers, and it was a promise that I made during the campaign," Trump said. "And, as you know, I keep my promises. So that's the way it is."

Later when asked about the petroleum industry's opposition to E15, Trump added, "Well, I want more industry. I want more energy. I want more, because I don't like $74. [The current price of crude oil per barrel]. It's up to $74. And if I have to do more, whether it's through ethanol or through another means, that's what I want. I want low prices. So I'm OK with it.

"You know, it's an amazing substance. You look at the Indy cars — they run 100 percent on ethanol. And you look at other certain forms of very modern energy, it's ethanol-based, and that meant a lot to me.

"But what it really means is we're helping our farmers and we're also going to be helping our refiners, and you know that too — because they're both very important. But the farmers have been so terrific, and they produce great product. So I think it's going to be great."

In a reference to concerns that E15 causes air pollution in the summer months, Trump said, "And it has no impact — 12 months. That was a misnomer. There is no negative impact. In fact, there are those that say, you do this and the air is cleaner. I agree with that. But they say, you go 12 months instead of eight — you go 12 months, and the air is actually cleaner."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue joined Trump in the Oval Office for the announcement, Politico said, along with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and John Thune of South Dakota, and Republican Rep. David Young of Iowa.

The article made no mention of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who will be in charge of the rulemaking process of allowing the year-round sales of E15.

Wheeler made news earlier today when the Huffington Post reported that he had engaged in racist, conspiratorial posts on social media. (See link.)

Perdue said in a statement, "This is another case of 'Promises Made, Promises Kept' for President Trump."

"Expanding the sale of E15 year-round is sound policy for a variety of reasons," Perdue said. "Consumers will have more choices when they fill up at the pump, including environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions."

"It is also an excellent way to use our high corn productivity and improved yields. Year-round sale of E15 will increase demand for corn, which is obviously good for growers.This has been a years-long fight and is another victory for our farm and rural economies. Along with E15 expansion, we also welcome much-needed reforms to the RIN market, which will also increase transparency.

"President Trump has again made it abundantly clear that he is unleashing the full potential of American energy production as we retake our rightful place as the world's leader," Perdue said.

"I thank President Trump for his steadfast support of E15 expansion, while also acknowledging the close working relationship we've developed with Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. I look forward to working with the EPA to see rulemaking and year-round E15 completed by the driving season of 2019."

Republican senators and members of Congress quickly praised the president, and Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., held a telephone news conference even before the announcement to say "this is a great day for Kansas agriculture."

Marshall said that his huge western Kansas district is the "largest ethanol-producing district in the country," and that Kansas has 12 ethanol plants, many of which are the leading employers in their communities.

But Democrats also took credit for Trump's decision.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said "it's about time" Trump had taken his advice.

"I've been a consistent advocate for year-round sales of E15, and I'm glad to see a step in the right direction. However, today's action will likely get tied up in the courts, so passing legislation remains the most reliable avenue to finally getting this done," Peterson said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is in a tough re-election race against Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said, "In my longstanding fight for North Dakota farmers, I've repeatedly told the president and everyone in this administration who would listen that year-round E15 would be a boost for rural America, and I'm encouraged they finally listened."

"This victory has been a long time coming for North Dakota farmers and biofuel producers," Heitkamp said. "At a time when the trade war is threatening commodity prices, we need to do everything we can to support farmers, and upholding our commitment to biofuels is one way to give ag producers some much needed certainty.

"After working in a bipartisan way to build support for E15 and protect the RFS, I look forward to continuing to work with the president and the administration to make sure this policy is implemented in a way that protects farmers and biofuel producers in North Dakota."

Farm and ethanol groups praised the decision, but also noted that farmers had lost sales due to the EPA's decisions to allow waivers from the use of ethanol.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "AFBF applauds the president for his support of homegrown biofuels and upholding the campaign promises made to rural America."

"We look forward to working with the Environmental Protection Agency to successfully implement year-round E15 sales."

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, "Allowing use of E15 gasoline year-round is an important step toward realizing a renewable energy future for transportation fuel sector, and we're appreciative of the administration's support for higher level blends of ethanol.

"At the same time, this 'compromise' does nothing to address the billions of gallons of ethanol demand that were lost as a result of the EPA's RFS waiver handouts to oil refiners," Johnson said.

"Family farmers are in significant financial distress right now, and the administration's surreptitious biofuel demand destruction has made matters worse. The bottom line here is that if the president wants to do right by his promises to support family farmers and American grown biofuels, his administration must support net increases in biofuel use. Even with an E15 waiver, family farmers are at a net loss in biofuel demand over the past two years."

National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp thanked Trump and said that regulations requiring retailers to stop selling E15 in the summer are outdated.

"Earlier this year, the president correctly described this barrier as 'unnecessary' and 'ridiculous'," said Chrisp. "The president also faced pressure to fix this regulatory problem through a bad deal that would have been harmful to farmers. He made the right decision to move this common-sense regulatory relief on its own, and farmers are very grateful."

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said, "We thank President Trump for delivering on his promise to rural America by lifting the summer restriction on E15 sales."

"He answered the call from American farmers by removing the single most important barrier to growth in higher biofuel blends," Skor said.

"This announcement is great news for farmers, biofuel workers, retailers and consumers everywhere who want to enjoy cleaner, more affordable options at the fuel pump. This is a critical step toward giving American motorists higher-octane options at a lower cost all year long.

"We sincerely appreciate President Trump's steadfast commitment to rural America. Nationwide E15 sales promise to drive demand for two billion bushels of American corn and help restore growth in rural communities hit hardest by the downturn in farm income," Skor said.

"America's farmers and rural workers are eager to see the President's agenda for rural growth succeed, and today was a critical part of completing that mission."

Skor also thanked Perdue for his advocacy and said Growth Energy's E15 Now Campaign bus would be at the rally in Council Bluffs tonight.

Growth Energy also organized a telephone call to reporters with several Iowa ethanol leaders.

On the call, Skor said Growth Energy expects that the oil industry and environmental groups will bring litigation against the year-round sales, but that she agrees with the Trump administration that EPA will be on firm ground when the cases reach the courts.

Mike Lorenz, executive vice president for Sheetz, a convenience store chain based in Pennsylvania which describes itself as "America's top E15 retailer," said that if EPA releases a rule by next May sales will increase, because consumers will be able to buy E15 during the summer driving season and are likely to continue using the fuel after summer ends.

But Lorenz said he believes other retailers will wait to install E15 pumps until the rule is finalized, which means they will not expand the availability of E15 next summer.

Skor declined to discuss how the administration's promise to make changes to the management of the renewable identification numbers that govern the Renewable Fuel System will proceed. That subject, she said, is "separate" from today's announcement on E15.

CooperGeoff1

Geoff Cooper

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, "Securing fair market access for E15 and other higher blends has been our top regulatory priority for several years, and we are pleased that the first official step in this process is being taken. When markets are open and competitive, American consumers win."

"We thank President Trump for formally initiating the process to eliminate this antiquated, red-tape laden regulation, and look forward to the full resolution of this issue before next summer's driving season," Cooper said.

"This is the right signal to the marketplace at just the right time, as both farmers and renewable fuel producers desperately need new market opportunities and sources of demand."

SommersMike

Mike Sommers

The American Petroleum Institute said the Trump administration's decision to allow for year-round sales of higher ethanol E15 blended gasoline "is a bad deal for consumers."

"Putting a fuel into the marketplace that the vast majority of cars on the road were not designed to use is not in the best interest of consumers," said API President and CEO Mike Sommers. "Vehicle compatibility tests have shown that high ethanol levels in gasoline can damage engines and fuel systems."

"EPA has previously stated that it does not have the legal authority to grant the E15 waiver, and we agree with that assessment," Sommers said. "The industry plans to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies against this waiver."

ActionAid USA said, "This is an attempt to buy off farmers with a giveaway to big ethanol."

"More corn ethanol isn't going to address the real challenges farmers are facing, or make up for the lack of a farm bill," the group said.

"It will continue to worsen the harm corn ethanol is doing to the environment. Our system of agriculture is broken. Instead of giving in to the demands of agribusiness and big corporations for more ethanol, we need to build a system that works for farmers, eaters and the planet." F

–The Hagstrom Report

Q&A: Billie Sutton, candidate for governor of South Dakota

1. Do you believe the current property tax policy needs changed? If so, how?

Tax policy should not dictate farmers' and ranchers' plans for their land. The current system of taxation on ag land is influencing landowners to break up native grasslands and abandon their vision for their own property because it's being taxed based on "highest and best use" of the land, rather than its "actual use." While the legislature has studied the issue for years, it has failed to enact changes that would provide landowners with relief from the large annual increases. As governor, I will promote tax relief through a tax system based on actual use — a change that would help alleviate some of the costs that South Dakota landowners incur for doing business.

2. How important is the cattle industry to the economy of the state and what policies do you plan to implement that will put money in the pockets of cattle producers?

As a rancher myself, I know that agriculture and our cattle industry is the economic backbone of South Dakota. It's not just important to the state economy, it's critical. When ag is strong, South Dakota is strong. As governor, I will promote and implement policies that put money in the pockets of cattle producers like promoting South Dakota's beef through country-of-origin-labeling, expanding value-added ag opportunities, preserving our state's natural resources, and property tax relief.

3 Do you believe the brand inspection laws need any changes?

We've made steady improvement in recent years to build better communication and effectiveness of the Brand Inspection program. The Brand Inspection Program needs to continue working on training inspectors and improving communications with livestock owners to ensure that the program works for them. The biggest frustration that I hear from producers today is the lack of investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of brand law violators. That won't require a change in the law, but will require the next governor to hold the brand board accountable for running the program and support them in hiring qualified investigators.

4. Do you support a state COOL law?

I do support country-of-origin-labeling (COOL). South Dakotans should have access to information that allows us to make informed, deliberate decisions about where our food was raised. COOL allows us to support local farms, ranches, and their family businesses, and ensures our food is safe and produced here in the United States. COOL is one option to help South Dakotans know where our food, including our beef, comes from. This is a part of my "Planting Seeds for Growth," plan to support our family farmers and ranchers.

5. Is there a better fix for the non-meandered water issue? (Particularly for the folks with land under the "section 8" lakes)?

Obviously this has been a difficult and contentious issue, both legally and for many of our residents and small businesses. I continue to support a compromise on the issue — one that protects the rights of the private property owners while also preserving the right of our sportsmen to hunt and fish on public bodies of water. As shown by my vote this past spring on SB 24, I think we need to give the current system a chance to show us what is working and what needs to be fixed. As Governor, I will listen and evaluate the current law from the perspective of all South Dakotans. I will work with the legislature to find a permanent solution that protects landowners and the public and treats both interests fairly.

6. How can we help the dairy industry become profitable again?

The dairy industry growth Governor Daugaard has shepherded in during his time in office should be commended and continued. We need to be good neighbors while recruiting new dairies, continue expanding milk processing infrastructure, expand livestock development, and continue other state improvements that make South Dakota an attractive place for business and family and keep us competitive in the region.

7. Are any changes needed as far as The Electronic Logging Device ELD rules for truckeres?

As Governor, I will advocate to increase flexibility for South Dakota truck drivers and increase safety on our roads and highways. I believe there are common-sense solutions that will provide relief for trucking operations while ensuring there is no added risks on the road. I think it is important for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to listen to South Dakotans and recognize the complexity of the trucking industry. If we can ensure safety, flexible and common sense, ELD rules will positively impact South Dakota's economy.

Thune, Trump announce year-round E15 sales

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, joined President Trump at the White House for today's announcement that the administration will initiate a rulemaking process to permit the year-round sale of E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol-blended fuel) in the United States, a win for consumer choice and energy security that Thune has sought for 11 years, including significant and ongoing engagement with the current administration.

"After spending more than a decade advocating for higher blends of ethanol, I want to thank President Trump for upholding his commitment to America's farmers," said Thune. "Using homegrown resources like ethanol to keep America's economy moving forward is a common-sense, true win-win solution.

"As I have discussed personally with the president and members of his administration on multiple occasions, today's announcement will be welcome news to farmers throughout the Midwest and Great Plains. Since year-round E15 sales would naturally help lower fuel prices, this also means consumers across the country will have more affordable choices at the pump, in addition to reinforcing American energy dominance."

Thune first called for a waiver process to permit higher blends of ethanol in 2007. Most recently, in April 2018, Thune joined 17 of his Senate colleagues in writing to then-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to highlight the benefits of E15, and they encouraged him to address the Reid Vapor Pressure issue that was preventing year-round E15 sales. He also wrote Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler in August 2018 to reiterate his support for biofuels.

Additionally, Thune has actively sought transparency with, and ultimately a resolution to, the EPA's unprecedented use of small refiner exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which have kept billions of gallons of ethanol from being blended and have distorted markets. Year-round E15 sales will lower RFS compliance costs for all parties and inject stability and certainty into the ethanol market.

Click here for a recent timeline of Thune's activity and commitment to the approval of year-round E15 fuel.

–Senator Thune