Following ethanol plant closings and slowdowns in states like Minnesota and Iowa, today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA-03) urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices and renewable fuel usage.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Klobuchar and Axne expressed concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to misuse small refinery exemptions (SRE) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the detriment of farmers and rural communities.

The Trump Administration recently approved 31 SREs, or so-called “hardship” waivers, which are intended to help small refineries by exempting them from the RFS. However, the EPA has issued dozens of waivers, including for some of the most profitable oil companies in the world, resulting in lost jobs in rural communities and lost markets for farmers at a time when they are already struggling with low commodity prices and ongoing trade disputes.

Under the Trump Administration, 85 SREs have been approved, contributing to a reduction in the use of over 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel.

“Ethanol plants in states including Minnesota and Iowa have recently announced that they would temporarily close or reduce production, which has cost 2,500 rural jobs and impacted demand for more than 225 million bushels of corn,” Klobuchar and Axne wrote.

“In light of these deeply troubling trends, we are extremely concerned by an EPA spokesperson’s recent statement that, “There is zero evidence that EPA’s congressional mandated small refinery exemption program…has had any negative impact on domestic corn ethanol producers.

“We strongly disagree and believe that a study from USDA on the impact to farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage for the small refinery waivers granted by the EPA will help inform the decision-making process when the EPA evaluates future waiver petitions.”