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Thune, Rounds Join Colleagues in Calling on USDA to Assist Biofuels Industry

Senators urge USDA to make biofuels producers eligible for existing CCC funding

March 9, 2021

Washington — 

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and eight of their Senate colleagues this week sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the department to assist biofuel producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was led by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

“We have been advocating for targeted relief for the biofuels industry since last spring when we were first made aware of the demand collapse for ethanol and other renewable fuels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, additional funding was added to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act. However, the previous administration argued that congressional intent was not clear with regard to support for biofuels and did not use its discretionary authority to assist biofuels producers through available CCC funding,” the senators wrote.

“As the Department prepares a proposal for providing assistance to the agriculture industry using CCC and other resources, we ask that you use this explicit authority to aid the nation’s biofuels industry… We have been encouraged by your recent statements at your confirmation hearing that you will fully utilize USDA resources to get biofuel producers back on track and will aid the Biden Administration in restoring the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard,” the senators concluded.

“We’re grateful to Senator Grassley and all our Senate biofuels champions for their bipartisan efforts in asking USDA to provide the biofuels industry with COVID-19 relief assistance. Biofuel producers, farmers, and others throughout the biofuels supply chain have been hit hard financially over the course of the pandemic and securing much-needed financial assistance would bring relief and certainty as they look ahead to a brighter year and build back what was lost. We look forward to working with USDA on a solution,” Emily Skor, CEO, Growth Energy said. 

“The U.S. ethanol industry has experienced billions of dollars in lost sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and at one point in 2020 more than half of the industry’s production capacity was shut down,” Geoff Cooper, President & CEO of Renewable Fuels Association said. “A year after the initial collapse of the fuel market, ethanol production still remains well below pre-pandemic levels. We thank Senators Grassley, Klobuchar and other biofuel supporters in the Senate for encouraging USDA to immediately utilize its authority to provide emergency relief to our industry, which has been severely harmed by this terrible pandemic.”

“Like all Americans and many other critical infrastructure industries, biodiesel and renewable diesel producers – particularly small, innovative companies – are facing unique, unanticipated challenges from the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. As Secretary Vilsack and USDA weigh how to apply relief funds, we appreciate Senator Grassley and Senator Klobuchar’s strong advocacy and ongoing attention to ensure access for U.S. biodiesel producers who need it,” Kurt Kovarik, Vice President, Federal Affairs at National Biodiesel Board said.

This letter is also signed by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

Full text of the letter can be found here.