Neither icy nor wind-blown roads have stopped Dave Frederickson, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Agriculture from doing what he wants the Post Office to do. He wants to see no fewer than 100,000 letters delivered to Gina McCarthy, director of the Environmental Protection Agency urging her to drop the proposal to reduce the renewable fuels standard.
“Wrongheaded and wrong directed,’’ said Frederickson of the proposal aTuesday at the Granite Falls Energy plant.
Frederickson and staff are visiting ethanol plants across Minnesota rallying support for the letter campaign.
McCarthy has proposed reducing the RFS by 10 percent. The reduction would represent a $610 million loss in economic activity in Minnesota.
The state could lose more than 1,500 bio-fuel related jobs, according to Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner of agriculture.
Clean air, rural jobs, and value-added income for agriculture are all at stake, according to those who braved the wind-whipped roads Tuesday morning.
There’s the threat of more harm down the road, according to Ron Fagen, founder of Fagen Engineering in Granite Falls, one of the country’s leaders in the biofuels industry.
Second generation ethanol plants “will be dead in their tracks if the RFS is shut down,’’ Fagen told those who gathered.
Three cellulosic ethanol plants are opening using new technology that holds promise of success, he said.
Fagen also emphasized the importance of ethanol to agriculture in the region. When he began equity campaigns for the state’s first ethanol plants, the 10-year average price for corn was $1.85 a bushel.
McCarthy has indicated that her proposal to reduce the RFS is only a draft at this point. The proposal came after 169 in Congress signed a letter urging a reduction. With declines in U.S. gasoline consumption, they argue that we could exceed the 10 percent blend wall if the RFS is not reduced.
The EPA proposal would represent a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in the current RFS for the U.S. It represents a 110 million gallon reduction for ethanol in Minnesota.
Many in Congress continue to support the current RFS. Staff for U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken told the board of governors at Granite Falls Energy that there is strong bipartisan support to maintain the RFS.
“Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under the (biofuels) industry.’’ That was the message that a recent, bipartisan delegation presented to McCarthy in a face-to-face meeting, according to Andy Martin, aide to Klobuchar.
“We have to show them how important it is to rural Minnesota and rural America,’’ said Steve Christensen, CEO and general manager of Granite Falls Energy. He pointed out that the local plant purchased 20 million bushels of corn in the past year while it directly provides 38 good-paying jobs for the local economy.
Frederickson said he believes that the message and letter campaign is having an impact in Washington. He said he’s hearing more from farm and rural groups about the RFS than the farm bill right now. “I think we’re cranking it up pretty good,’’ he said of the campaign.
He made visits to Morris, Fergus Falls and Benson to start this week’s campaign Monday.
He expects to wind up his visits to the state’s ethanol plants in the coming week. He will attend a rural summit being hosted by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Jan. 23 in Des Moines, Iowa, to address the RFS issue.
Frederickson and Poster said letters need to reach the EPA director by a Jan. 28 deadline.
“Unless we flood the EPA with letters, the proposed rule is a 10 percent cut,’’ said Poster.