Corn industry pushes back against EPA exemptions

By Josh Ellerbrock - [email protected]

LIMA — As the Environmental Protection Agency relaxes ethanol regulations, city and business leaders are worried that lowered corn demand will affect local farmers and the ethanol industry.

During the City of Lima’s weekly press conference, Mayor David Berger highlighted the issue, calling on the federal government to lower the number of exemptions handed out by the regulatory agency.

“Our community is deeply invested in the energy industry,” Berger said. “Fundamentally, we have appreciated and support the state and federal policies that make those industries thrive.”

Since 2016, 12.8 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel have been exempted from Renewable Fuel Standards despite a Department of Energy recommendation to exempt 7.3 billion gallons, according to city press release.

Industry leaders have pointed to the changes in federal policy as the cause of economic stress felt by ethanol producers. A total of 19 plants nationwide have idled since the change in regulation.

“We don’t want Lima to be next,” Berger said.

In August, POET, which owns a bioprocessing facility in Leipsic, reduced production at half of its plants and idled one of its Indiana facilities.

Guardian Lima expressed its concerns Wednesday.

“The exemptions need to stop,” Guardian Lima Plant Manager Jack Wolfcale said. “The program needs to be restored to give our farmers and the industry certainty and stability.”

Decreased corn demand has also added unnecessary difficulties to an already challenging season for Ohio corn farmers that included a late start to the growing season and burdens caused by the Chinese tariffs, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association Director of Communication Brad Reynolds said.

Guardian Ethanol, located in Lima off of Interstate 75, uses 70 truckloads of corn each day, Wolfcale said.

“When they can’t sell their product, they’re not wanting ours,” Dennis Vennekotter, a Putnam County farmer and board president of the Ohio Corn Checkoff Program, said. “What it means to a local guy is about 15 to 25 cents (in corn prices). It’s all about supply and demand.”

It is estimated that roughly 1,000 farmers supply corn to the local ethanol plant, which supports 50 jobs directly and 300 jobs indirectly.

“Currently, what happens in D.C. affects our ability to operate,” Wolfcale said.

Reynolds explained how the change in prices adds up to the struggles seen by corn farmers caused by bad weather and world tariffs.

By Josh Ellerbrock

[email protected]

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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